Posted in Thoughts about TEFL Teaching

The Next Big Thing

I was recently invited by Liverpudlian artist and writer Derek Dohren to participate in ‘The Next Big Thing’, a set of chain posts from bloggers to bloggers around the world.

Derek, a former TEFL trainee of mine, has recently published The Cats of River Darro a witty account about the trials and tribulations of living in Granada. It’s a great read and I’d definitely recommend it to any TEFLers out there.

http://thecatsoftheriverdarro.wordpress.com/about/

So, thanks to Derek for passing the baton to me. I’ve got a steaming mug of black coffee in front of me and am ready for whatever is thrown at me.

What is the working title of your book?

Talking in a funny lingo – The Insider’s Guide to TEFL or 50 things you should know about TEFL

Where did the idea come from for the book?

man in suitcase

Many people dream of upping sticks and heading off to foreign climes. One way to make a living and get to know members of the local community is to become an English teacher. And if you do it well, it’s good for the soul and you make a positive impact on people’s lives.

However, there is not a lot of regulation in the TEFL industry, especially here in Spain. This means that there is a good deal of misinformation (inaccurate information that is spread unintentionally) and disinformation (inaccurate information that is spread intentionally) and far too many charlatans, swindlers, shysters, con artists, confidence tricksters and snake oil salesman around!

diploma

I’ve spent 15 years working in  TEFL and have spent time, effort and a substantial amount of cash getting professional qualifications. A TEFL course is quite an investment so I’d like to think that people can read my book and be able to make an informed decision about whether it’s for them or not and what they should do during and after the course.

What genre does your book fall under?

I suppose it would fall under the ‘How to’ genre. I’ve tried to include lots of anecdotes and interactive tasks to make it more accessible to the general reader. It’s not a dry, academic text!

What other books would you compare this work to within your genre?

I’m a fan of writers such as Malcolm Gladwell and Daniel Pink. I may not agree with everything they write but their casually informative prose style makes reading their work a pleasure. I’m certainly not in their league though!

Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?

Ha ha! I consulted a few close friends on this one about who could play me in the dramatic re-enactments of some of the classroom experiences I refer to in the book. I bought a beer for the chap who suggested a younger Al Pacino but poured a beer over the head of the wag who suggested Ronnie Corbett (bespectacled, diminutive British comedian).

Of course, I’ll need someone to do a narrative voice-over. Morgan Freeman, Sir Ian McKellen or Clint Eastwood. Someone with gravitas. Or Brian Blessed, he’d be fantastic and keep viewers awake for sure.

What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?

50 things you should know about TEFL but were too afraid to ask in case the person you asked happens to be an insufferable egomaniac.

How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?

I’ve been collecting questions for a couple of years but the actual writing only took about a month. Unfortunately, I’m not very detailed-oriented so proofreading and editing feels like pulling teeth. Anybody fancy doing it for me in exchange for a few beers?

Who or what inspired you to write this book?

Positive inspirations would include many of the trainees I’ve taught over the years. To see somebody undergo a remarkable transformation from a trembling, gibbering pupa in front of a group of students into a calm, cool and collected educational butterfly in a month is a wonderful thing.

dodo

Then there are those TEFL charlatans I mentioned earlier with their negative inspiration. Any Tom, Dick or Harry can set up a language school or teaching training centre and convince people to part with their hard-earned cash and I would love to see these opportunists go the way of the dodo!

What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?

Well, I’m currently writing an additional part about TEFL teaching here in Spain. It will include lots of useful tips about working in this marvellous, if frustrating, country, and links to online resources and lots of other goodies.

Phew, time for another coffee. Next week, we’ll be crossing the Atlantic and hearing from a couple of young American writers.

kellie

Kellie Joyce and Brittani Mann have been best friends since they were kids in the United States. In the summer of 2012 with college freshly them, they moved to Granada, Spain to spend a year teaching English and learning about a new culture, and maybe even picking up the language along the way. Sometime while they were looking for work as teachers, they managed to hatch fledgling careers in writing, a life-long passion. Both have novels being published in January.

Posted in All about TEFL (Courses and Finding work)

What to ask at a TEFL interview

You sit back, take a deep breath and relax. The person sitting opposite you has asked all of their questions and you have acquitted yourself pretty well. Your interview for a TEFL job has been a success.

Your interviewer thinks you are motivated, enthusiastic, creative, professional, responsible, dedicated. You give yourself a mental pat on the back and have the urge to make that ironic, self-congratulatory gesture when you close your palm, breath on the top digits of your fingers and rub them on your chest .

The interviewer turns to you again, peers over the top of their glasses and smiles:

So, is there anything you’d like to ask me?

You think for a moment, an image of a cold beer pops into your mind. In a few minutes, you could be sitting in the sun feeling proud about your performance in the interview, how you didn’t bat an eyelid when confronted with the question about the best way to teach the Past Continuous. All you have to do is say: “No questions actually, I think we’ve covered everything”. Hearing these words, the interviewer will shake your hand and offer you work, starting on Monday.

WARNING – NOT ALL LANGUAGE ACADEMIES HAVE YOUR BEST INTERESTS AT HEART AND YOUR ELATION AT BEING OFFERED WORK WILL SOON TURN INTO DISGRUNTLEMENT UNLESS YOU CONFIRM THE FOLLOWING:

What, if any, type of contract are you being offered?

How much and how often will you get paid? Gross? Net? Holiday pay? Sickness? Cancellation by students?

Where and when are the classes taking place? At the academy? On-site? At student’s homes? Will you get travel costs?

Do the students have a coursebook? If not, are there materials available at the school? Are you expected to create your own lessons?

Is there a photocopier at the academy? Reference materials? Board markers? Internet access?

How many students are in each class? Have they been level-tested? Age?

Does the school provide teacher training? Observations? Teaching mentors?

If you feel that the interviewer is being evasive, think twice before accepting a position at the academy. There are some unscrupulous employers in the TEFL industry and asking simple questions like the ones above should help you make an informed choice about whether you want to accept the job or not.

Posted in All about TEFL (Courses and Finding work), Thoughts about TEFL Teaching

What is TEFL anyway?

What does TEFL stands for?

a) Tax evasion for fraudulent lawyers

b) Talking excitedly to foreign ladies

c) Teaching English as a Foreign Language

If you answered c, you have come to the right site and you probably are a TEFL teacher, a prospective TEFL teacher, or a single male TEFL teacher or prospective single male  TEFL teacher that is frantically googling `Talking excitedly to foreign ladies‘ as it sounds far more exciting!

What about TESOL, CELTA, ESL, EFL etc.?

There is many acronyms and intialisms in the world of English Language Teaching (ELT). Some of them are used in the UK whereas others are used in other English speaking countries such as the USA, Canada and Australia. For a detailed discussion of the precise meanings of these terms, I refer you to Mr Wikipedia. Quite frankly though, I wouldn’t bother, it will give you a migraine. For the purposes of this blog, I will generally refer to TEFL (Teaching English as a foreign language as opposed to teaching it to native speakers) and ELT (English language teaching).

Well, what is a TEFL course then?

Again, there is some confusion over the precise terms but they all refer to initial training courses which enable adults to become English teachers to non-native speakers. They can be done full-time (4 long and intensive weeks), part-time (over a period of between 3 and 9 months) and can be done F2F (face-to-face in a traditional classroom setting) or online (like distance learning over the Internet) or as a blended course ( a mixture of F2F and online).

What does the course consist of?

Most course combine input sessions (lessons where you learn about the English language and how to teach it), written projects (such as creating a set of classroom materials or planning a course of study for an individual student) and the dreaded Teaching Practice (where you get to practise your teaching skills on local guinea pigs  before being savagely torn apart by your tutors who observe and obsessively note down every minor mistake you make). BEWARE: 100% ONLINE COURSES DO NOT TEACH YOU HOW TO TEACH! In order to learn how to teach, you have to teach – that’s called experiential learning. I love watching movies, reading about movies and watching documentaries about movies. Does that make me the next Martin Scorsese? If you complete the course fulfilling the requirements – all the assignments, tests and your tutor thinks you can teach a class of learners without physically, mentally, emotionally or linguistically scarring them for life – then, and only then on any decent course, you will be given a certificate and let loose in the ELT world.

What can I do with a TEFL certificate?

In the words of a former trainee, an inveterate inventor of malaproprisms,: `With a TEFL certificate in my pocket, the world is my lobster!’ A cursory glance at a website such as TEFL.com : http://www.tefl.com/ will reveal hundreds of English teaching jobs all around the world. We recommend that you look for work in Spain as there’s a huge demand and, crisis notwithstanding, it’s a great place to live.

Well, there we are. I hope I answered a few questions about TEFL. In future blogs, we’ll be (adopts best David Attenborough voice)  going deeper and deeper into the mysterious TEFL world. Hope you join us..