Story telling 8: Life is too short to waste time

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The day had come, the Trinity College CertTESOL course was about to start, and I, Melanie from Perth in Australia, was in the bathroom getting ready for the first day of training of how to teach English.

I was born in Perth 25 years ago, and I haven´t travelled a lot. I´ve only been to New Zealand on holidays with my parents.

I have always wanted to see the world, and before university I thought about living in the UK for a while. Then I fell in love with this guy from here, and plans changed. I began my university studies in tourism and ended up with a Masters in hotel planning and administration.

Well, the love affair came to an end, and I went back to my old dream. I spent a lot of time online, looking for jobs in hotels in England, but they were all about receptions and cleaning, and I didn´t want that.

While looking aimlessly around for a while, I discovered this web page about teaching English while discovering new continents/countries and different cultures. A new idea was born, and the more I thought about it, the more realistic it became.

My big question was, how do you do that, I mean, how do you teach somebody a language, and how do you get hold of these jobs?

I found this school called EBC in Madrid, and they would give me a four weeks training course in teaching English as a foreign language, including teaching practice classes, and the Trinity College CertTESOL certificate.

I contacted EBC, spoke to a very helpful and knowledgeable lady (turned out to be the Director of the school, the Boss lady!) and she answered all my questions and I was hooked.

Big questions

I completed the application, entry procedures, paid, sorted out things regarding visa and tickets, and set off to Europe.

Europe! How exciting! In my imagination, I recalled pictures from school materials about Athens, and the antique culture, Rome and the Vatican, gorgeous Paris with the Eifel tower, London and the Tower of London, and so on.

However, I was going to start in Madrid, Spain, where I could enjoy the good weather, nice architecture, cheap food, happy people, plenty of bars and restaurants, and a lot of arts.

With shaky nerves and butterflies in my stomach, I took the underground up to EBC, and found the street and the office.

I didn´t feel very brave when I opened the door, but I was met by a young guy in the reception, smiling at me and wishing me welcome. I entered the classroom, and found seven other people, and a tall, skinny guy who was the trainer.

“Oh god”, I thought, “I hope they are nice and friendly people, and that the trainer is patient with me.”

Spend time

It took some time before we all settled, and the trainer wished us welcome, went through the materials we had been given, and gave us an overview of all the work we had to do. I think all of us realised soon, that we wouldn´t get this certificate for free. The trainer pointed out several times, that there was a lot to do, a lot of report writing, and when he said that we were going to teach our first real, 60 minutes classes the same week, in four days’ time, most of us sighed a nervous sigh.

When the first day was over, we all felt quite overwhelmed, and I started to ask myself if I had done the right thing. How could I get through all of this in only four weeks? Besides the confusion I felt, what I first of all remember from the first day was the Norwegian class the trainer gave.

How stupid you feel when you are trying the best you can, but you still can´t get it right, but also how many ways there are to make words and expressions understandable to language learners.

The trainer said that it was totally normal to feel confused and overwhelmed at the start, but he was right that during the second and third week most things would make sense.

On the second day of the course, we started to plan our teaching practice classes. Teaching our practice classes were every Thursday and Friday afternoon with real non-English speaking students. I will never forget how nervous I was. When I entered the classroom, I just wanted to lie down and weep. What especially made me nervous was the grammar teaching. I realised that I wasn´t alone on this issue, most of the others were also quite blank on the English grammar. I remember I taught the present continuous for a beginner class, and I messed up one of the examples a bit, but the trainer thought I had done a good job, anyway.

My peers were great people, and we became good friends, having a lot of fun both on the course and at the weekends. I am sharing a flat with two of the other course students and we hang out together on our free time.

The others were four Americans, two Brits, one Dutch girl and a guy from Sweden. All of them very eager to get to know each other, to have a great time together, and to find a job and start earning some money afterwards.

Not all of them were going to stay in Madrid. Some of the Americans and the Brits thought about going to Valencia or Malaga (on the Mediterranean coast), one of the Brits was heading towards Korea, and the two from The Netherlands and Sweden were planning to go to South America. It was not a problem at all for EBC to help us find jobs in all these different places. My flatmates and I had decided to stay in Madrid, at least the first half year, to see what was in store for us. I was going to attend a Spanish course here, and I also felt intrigued by the city. Since we were working so hard, both at the school and to finish everything at home, we didn´t have much time to go out and discover the city. Well, at the weekends, we would normally go to some of the thousands of bars and terraces you find here.

Destinations

I must say that I really learnt a lot during this course. I had no idea that teaching could be so difficult, and that there is so much work before (and after) each class, and I am extremely happy I didn´t just come here to start teaching right away. Some of my peers thought this was ONLY going to be fun filled 4-week course! They didn´t take it too seriously in the beginning, but they learnt their lesson – so to say.

We had to write reports from our teaching practice classes, we had to make a needs analysis of one student and find out what he/she would have to be taught, we had to analyse and discuss the materials used in our classes. All these became quite easy towards the end of the course, and now that I have started to work, I realise how useful most of these things are.

What I personally learnt most from, were possibly the teaching practice classes, the observations of classes at different levels given by experienced teachers, observing the peers´ classes, and I will never forget the four Norwegian classes. And I am really very happy that the trainer sat next to us and helped us while preparing the grammar to teach in our practice classes.

Teaching English jobs

During the last week of the course, we were mainly working with three things; to get all our reports done, to prepare for the language test, and for the interview with the external moderator from Trinity. For those of us who had worked hard from the start, this wasn´t any problem.

I must admit that I had never thought that it would be fun to teach. It is very rewarding to see that the students are improving, that they understand what you are teaching. People here are friendly and outgoing, and they never give us (the teachers) a hard time. They like to speak and are willing to participate.

I have learnt a lot about my mother tongue, I had no idea that it could be so hard to explain some of the concepts in English. I learnt to see my “own” language with foreign eyes, which was both daunting and exciting at the same time.

In addition, I appreciate that we spent so much time together, most of the classroom activities were done in groups or pairs, and I learnt a lot from my peers. Another consequence of this is that it didn’t take long to get to know the other students and we had a lot of fun.

At the very end of the course, we had something called a “Job Workshop”, where we discussed important things regarding going for job interviews and getting jobs. We discussed what questions we might be asked, and how to answer them professionally. We also discussed what questions we should ask and not ask. We also talked about working as teachers in general, different types of classes and students, and how to deal with problems that might occur.

On the last day, when everything was completed, and we all had become teachers with the Trinity College certificate, we went downtown to have something to drink and some tapas, and we were told to be contactable from Monday morning on, when the first phone calls for job interviews would come.

Certificate

And they really did come!

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Learn how to teach English in Madrid, Spain


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