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My TEFL Journey


Most of you will have heard of TEFL teaching, ‘Teaching English as a Foreign Language’ to
non-native speakers. Some of you will have pursued this as an ideal opportunity to travel and
experience life in another country. Whilst others will have always thought of themselves as
teachers. I, on the other hand chose to embark on studying an online TEFL course because I
felt I was in a crossroads in my life and thought this would be another career option for me. I
have always loved the English language and the thoughts of passing on this passion to a non-
native speaker appealed to me. I decided to do the 120 hour online TEFL course through the
TEFL academy. I chose this option because it was much cheaper than CELTA, and both are
well recognised.

However, unlike the CELTA course which is mostly classroom based, 100 hours of the TEFL
course is done online and you only get 20 hours of practical classroom training. The TEFL
course is good in the way that you can repeat your exams as many times as you want if you
fail them, and this doesn’t affect your overall score. There are also a lot of tutorials available
on YouTube and this can help you when you are doing your lesson plans as part of your
assignments. Personally, after completing the TEFL course and gaining my certificate I still
didn’t feel confident enough to teach a room full of students. This is because I had only 20
hours’ classroom experience and it was in front of other trainee teachers not actual students.
So, I decided to look for volunteer experience. I came across a company in Valencia, Spain
called ‘My TEFL experience’. It is a non- profit organisation which helps Spanish people to
learn English from newly qualified TEFL teachers or native English speakers who are
thinking about becoming TEFL teachers.

Spanish students only pay 10 euro per month to become a member of the academy. Teachers
pay for their accommodation and training in the academy but I felt this was very worthwhile
because it still worked out cheaper than doing the CELTA. I was fortunate to have two
lovely roommates, one from Holland and the other girl was half Cypriot and half English.
When you are living together in another country and doing the same training you become
close very quickly (if you get on well!) and we all helped each other with our lesson plans.
Our days were filled with emotion, some days one of us would be over the moon with how
our lesson went, another day there would be tears and we would berate ourselves for not
doing better that day. When one of us had a bad day, which didn’t happen too often, but
obviously in life it happens, the rest of us would do our best to cheer that person up and focus
on how they could improve the next lesson. It is all a learning experience. Nobody wants a
lesson to go badly but we all at one point have messed up our lesson, but learnt from it and
moved on to do a better one the next time.

We were observed on certain days from the course owner and I felt this intimidating. Even
though it is necessary in order to know where I have gone wrong in the lesson. I, like most
people, don’t like been watched when I’m doing something. One of the things he told me
after observing me was that I needed to work on my assertion and soft voice and not let them
talk over me or anyone else in the classroom. While I agreed with this, they are adults and
they should know not to do this! He said I needed to give clear instructions. Sometimes with
a language barrier you actually need to talk to them like they are young children. This isn’t
meant to be condescending but rather that they understand exactly what you are saying to
them. E.g. ‘On page 16 look at 2B and answer the questions.

He said on a positive note that I had a lovely manner and he could tell that the students liked
me. He said that this is something that couldn’t be taught and that I had it naturally. I think it
is vital that a teacher engages with her students. It is also important to include games as part
of your lesson plan. Games will lift their energy and help to keep them interested in the
language. Games are a fun way for them to improve their grammar and conversational skills.
Spanish people are usually quite good at grammar but are poor with conversation. That is
why the majority of TEFL exercises are conversational for Spanish students. The first week
of teaching I found extremely tiring and I wasn’t entirely sure I liked it. The second week I
settled in and felt like I had found my feet. I felt I had gotten to know my students’
personalities. I knew the shy students and the ones who liked to speak. Although you don’t
want to put the shy ones under pressure to speak, it is still important that they do speak, so
lots of encouragement and praise is needed for them. I was unfamiliar with one of the
exercises I had to do with my students. This, was on ‘Word stress’. Word stress is usually
about the intonation of a word in a sentence. It would have been quite easy to explain about
intonation when it was a strong word stress but when it was a weaker word stress they just
didn’t understand, and to be honest it was difficult to explain to them.

I asked Paul, the academy owner and he explained that in Spanish their emphasis was on
syllables and not word stress and that is why they find it so difficult to understand. He wrote
down where to emphasise the words and I found this helpful. I was still dreading teaching
this the following day but I remained calm and told them honestly that it isn’t just Spanish
people who find word stress confusing, that native speakers do too because we just speak and
don’t think about where the stress goes on a letter. It also depends on how someone
pronounces a word. I told them not to worry about it and the most important thing was their
grammar and their conversational skills.

On my last day of teaching I felt like a proper English teacher. I was organised, felt quite self
-assured and calm. I really enjoyed my last day and felt a twinge of sadness that I wouldn’t
be teaching my students again. I told them it was my last day and said it was lovely teaching
them and they had the ‘potential’. I said do you know what ‘potential’ is? They said no. I
said ‘ability’ which means if you keep coming to English class and practicing your English
you will be able to speak and read English fluently soon. Most of them left with smiles on
their faces and some gave me hugs and kisses goodbye. Some even said that I was a good
teacher and they would miss me. This was heart-warming and it made the ups and downs of
my TEFL journey all the more worthwhile.


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