From unemployed to teaching English online: Isabel’s TEFL story

I’ve been interested in travel and meeting people from other countries and languages since my school days. I have also been an animal lover, so I studied to become a vet.

I was unemployed with very little money to enjoy my summers and long breaks as a student. I am bilingual in English and Spanish, and my friends suggested that I teach English. I did not look for English teaching jobs straight away because a job at a bar came along, so I took it. Unfortunately, the bar I worked at had long hours, and I came home in the wee hours of the morning. I was always tired, and getting up for my morning classes became hard.

Then 2020 arrived, and the whole country was quarantined! So the bar had to shut down temporarily, and there was no need for me. I didn’t know what I would do next because, by this time, my bar work earnings had helped me with many of my University expenses.

Teaching English online came to mind, so I contacted some language schools in Madrid; they are commonly called “academias”. About 95% of those I spoke to asked for a TEFL certificate. I argued that I was a native English speaker (I was born in New York and spent my early years in London). My family moved to Madrid in my teen years, and we spoke English at home. The “academias” suggested the Online Trinity College certificate course.

I found only one Trinity CertTESOL school in Madrid. The school was EBC. They told me that I could do the course Online, which was very helpful because everything was online by this time. It wasn’t a straight entry into the course, as I soon found out. They had pre-admission tests. You had to meet the entry requirements and pass the pre-admission tests, or you couldn’t take the course.

I also spoke to other TEFL schools, but the British Council didn’t recognise their TEFL certificate, which wasn’t a good sign. The other schools did not have any testing to see if I could do their course. Some schools made me feel that they just wanted my money! Long story short, I studied with EBC and got my Trinity College CertTESOL certificate. After I finished my course, EBC helped me find teaching work. I had so much work; I had to say no to many “academias” because I was also at University.

Getting TEFL qualified

My friends at Uni led me to think about TEFL, and it looked like something I could do. So I researched, spoke to many schools, and decided to do The Online EBC Trinity College CertTESOL certificate course. What I found very appealing was that the Trinity CertTESOL is one of only two TEFL certificates accepted and recognised by the British Council. So as I interviewed for TEFL jobs, I discovered that this accreditation meant a lot to language schools looking for teachers.

I have never done language teaching, but the course looked doable because I was a student when I decided to get my Trinity CertTESOL certificate. Assignment deadlines, Zoom, and online work did not scare me. I thoroughly enjoyed the course, and it felt good to have a TEFL certificate that is adequately moderated and accredited. A Trinity College moderator interviewed me on the last Friday of the course because the CertTESOL course is externally moderated. All students must pass this moderation interview to get the CertTESOL certificate. I liked this selection process because it showed that my certificate was something and that I got the certificate. After all, I deserved it. The British Council only accepts and recognises 2 TEFL certificates, and my Trinity CertTESOL certificate is one of them. After all, the course was intensive, and we worked a lot. I felt I got more than what I expected.

Finding a job

I got my 200-hour Trinity CertTESOL certificate in four weeks, and in May of 2020, I started looking for online teaching jobs. I heard horror stories about other TEFL graduates not knowing how to find a TEFL job. Their TEFL schools did not provide job help after the course. There were so many companies and scams on the internet, and the more they looked, the more confused they got! I was so thankful I chose  EBC Trinity CertTESOL. At EBC, we received the Job Placement Service Service, and all we had to do was type in our CV on EBC’s pro forma in the student management zone. They have partner schools in Madrid and all over the world. I was in Madrid, so I asked them only to put me in touch with Madrid “academias”. I was interviewed straight away, and I lined up enough online teaching jobs in the first week after the course. The nice thing I liked was that EBC screens the schools receiving my CV. It was hard to choose, so I decided on those who paid the highest and fitted in with my Uni’s hours.

I got calls quickly. I was invited to an online Zoom interview by all the language schools that contacted me. The interviews varied. Some were very thorough, and the others were not. I will not forget one interview with a well-known language school in Madrid. They asked me to do a grammar class. I was so lucky to remember the class I taught in Week 2 of my Online CertTESOL course. I taught modal verbs. I took my Week 2 lesson plan and did my demo class on it. I felt confident because it was like my teaching practice class on my Online CertTESOL course. The interviewer said my demo class was excellent! She offered me the job. I had a lot of job offers, but I decided to work for EBC. You see EBC Trinity CertTESOL has a sister school –  EBC y Asociados Idiomas. They work a lot with the corporate sector in Madrid. I was pleased with their TEFL course, so I decided to work for their language school. I chose to stay with the EBC family, and now all my online TEFL work is through them.

Working for EBC y Asociados Idiomas Internacional

With EBC, online teachers can decide what hours they want to teach. I currently teach Mondays to Friday from  3 – 7 pm. I work a total of 20 hours a week. I can work more if I want, but I have my vet studies, limiting my workload to 20 hours. I could work more hours if I wanted to because they work with clients worldwide. I teach a group on Monday and Wednesday, followed by an individual class, another group class, and another individual class. On Tuesday, Thursday and Friday, my workload is composed of company classes, university students preparing for official exams and children with their after school English classes. What I like about my schedule is that it is fixed. They end around July 15, and I can either carry on working summer hours or come back in September when the classes are again in full swing. Unfortunately, I am in my third year at Uni, so I can’t take on much teaching work.

Now that I have more money earned from teaching English, I want to take a holiday to a faraway country like Australia. Of course, it will be a long and expensive trip, but what the heck? I have some savings now to treat myself to some Aussie experience from down under.

I teach all my classes via Zoom. The Skill Focus can be Grammar, Speaking, Reading, Listening or Phonics. You will find that if you teach in Spain, your students would want to focus a lot on Speaking. All they did was grammar in school, and they didn’t have enough time to practice speaking. EBC does a student-level test analysis so teachers know the group’s level, needs, objectives and expectations. We are also given a brief background of our students, so we know how to deal with the group’s quirks and eccentricities. The classes I teach are 1-hour classes. We follow the same Lesson planning structure we learned at the Trinity CertTESOL course, so I have used my old lesson plans a lot of times. I learned a lot of structure and planning on the Trinity CertTESOL course, so now I find Online English teaching straightforward. The only surprises are the students themselves. Their personalities, learning styles and expectations.

My typical day

My day starts with plenty of coffee and Uni. I leave Uni between 1-1:30 pm and am home at 2-2:30 pm. I have all my lessons and material ready the night before. I get my cup of tea and go to my laptop. The first thing I do is my Tech Check. I make sure that my browser, camera and microphone are working. When I first started teaching English online, I was pretty nervous, and I wasn’t sure if I would be good. It didn’t take long for me to be confident, and now I feel relaxed. EBC tells me that my students are happy with me. I guess this is also due to me being a trained English teacher. Students can tell if you know your stuff. I must give it to the Online Trinity  CertTESOL course; they train you well. There were 5 Units, and we worked hard on all 5 Units. Many of what we were taught I now see happening at work.

We had Unit 5 – Unknown Foreign Language, where our tutor taught us only n the foreign language chosen for the course. On our course, the UFL was Polish. We were taught that you could teach effectively using only English. I saw what I learned with a group class I teach from BBVA. It’s a mixed ability class, so the lower level students would always ask me what the English word was in Spanish. I smiled and said I only teach in English. They knew I was bilingual, so they tried to make me teach English in Spanish. I followed what my tutor taught me in Unit 5, and after four weeks, the Director of Studies at EBC told me that my students liked my “No Spanish” rule in class. They felt that they were learning more with this rule and loved me!

I have lovely students, and they are friendly. I have gottrn to know their personalities, hobbies, sports, pets, likes, dislikes, pets, etc. Many of my students are regulars, so I can build rapport and see how they improve.

Two years ago, if anyone told me that I would be a good English teacher, enjoy the job and earn enough to have money to enjoy my summers and holidays, I would have thought they were pulling my leg. I enjoy the challenges my classes bring and the money I now have to have fun-filled summers and holidays. My parents are so proud of me and relieved that I now have my own money. I am in my third year of Vet studies. The life skills I have learned by being an English teacher will help me a lot in my future. As an English teacher, you learn planning, structure, empathy, and patience, and these traits will make me a better vet.