Meet Alycia, an educator with years of experience as a teacher and school counsellor in the United States. After two years as an English Language assistant in Spain, she decided to further her career. Her first step? Getting TEFL course certification by enrolling in the EBC Trinity CertTESOL course.

What made you decide to take the TEFL course?

So, I had been here in Madrid for three years–two years in the “auxiliar” programme, and then my next year, I was taking Spanish through a Spanish school, still staying on a student’s visa and continuing to teach privately. In my private classes, I do something a bit different–not focusing on the grammar, and the bookwork like a lot of Spanish academies do.

I was a teacher in the States, and I was “teaching”. I wasn’t qualified, so I wanted to make sure that I knew what I was doing. So for the next year, I wanted to pursue the CertTESOL. And then I found EBC and was able to do that…and was able to stay in Spain and continue Spanish classes. It was really all around and it was a really great programme for me.

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What were some challenges and highlights of the TEFL course?

I had a really special group–it was all young ladies and me. I really enjoyed the actual class time. I liked having our trainer lead us by modelling the lesson and teaching us through modelling. The Unknown Foreign Language was a very cool part of the course. It definitely was more of that internal talk in recognising the things that you can’t teach–you just really have to experience. That was a very unique part of this version of the course.

The thing that I found most challenging was–we were told that it was going to take a lot of time. For me, personally, and maybe it’s because I’m a perfectionist…I will admit that. It took me a lot of time. It was between 9 am to 10 or 11pm between the class and the work and the preparing. So it was very time-consuming. And at some point, I felt like there was too much due at one time.

Also, there were times I wasn’t able to really focus on something with all of my effort and energy…which I guess is very realistic to the real-world experience, right? We don’t get to just have one thing at a time. That was the most challenging piece of it – the time management

It was very much more than expected. Like, I knew it was going to be intensive, and I was ready, and it was so much. But at the end–we talked about this in the closing conversation with my group–at the end…it was like…oh, we did that. It was doable. Now in the moment, we were all like, “This is not doable!”, but in the end it worked out.

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Would you say you got your value for money from the TEFL course?

I would say yes. I know that a month is great marketing. I know it can fit all in. I know there are other options. For me, I felt like it was so intensive–we were like a sponge. We just absorbed everything, and then it was done. And so now, unless you go straight into continuing that kind of level of intensive studying of how to teach and immediately put it into use…I feel like even now,  it’s only been a month and a half and I’m like…well, how do we go about…just having to really think about it…

So for the value of money, absolutely. I think I would have paid the same amount of money. And I think just kind of spreading it out over a month and a half–like six weeks–instead of four, would have given me the opportunity really absorb and really dig deep into studying and really absorbing it versus just kind of looking it up and then not knowing what to do with it after.

What made you choose to take the TEFL course with EBC?

So to be very transparent, I was looking for a programme that could give me a student visa in order to stay. Cause I wasn’t at that point yet where I could stay without one. So that was a part of it. But even within those programmes that would give you that student visa piece–that Spanish piece…I went with EBC because Tita is the person I spoke with.

I liked that she was straight to the point. She was super engaging when we had the conversation. She didn’t sugarcoat anything. She really–I don’t want to say sold the programme, because it didn’t feel like she was marketing. It was just like, “Hey, this is what we have. This is how it compares…”

I had looked previously even before the auxiliar programme. I had looked at like–a TESOL or a CertTESOL course through other programmes and it just didn’t seem to be as personalised or as focused. It was more like “Hey come here, we’ll teach you this, and then we’ll put you to work and you don’t have to worry about anything. And to me, that doesn’t seem realistic.

And especially if you’re looking to be certified in something, you want to make sure that you are accurately portraying what you know and what you can do, and I don’t feel like all of those programmes may have given me the self-confidence to say with certainty “Yes, I’ve been certified in this, and I know what I’m doing or I know how to figure out how to do it.” And again, that’s kind of a gut feeling too. And then those first initial interactions with those programmes versus Tita, who is very Tita. She’s fantastic.

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What was your teaching experience prior to the language assistant programme?

I was a teacher in the States for seven years, and then I was a school counsellor for nine. So I had a lot of experience in the classroom and outside the classroom, but administratively working with kids and just the basic education communication. But teaching English–I actually loved the classroom because I didn’t teach English in the US. So…teaching English is a new experience for me.

I took the TEFL course with EBC because I wanted to continue to pursue teaching English in some capacity. And like I said, I needed that guidance. As a professional educator, I value proper training. And I think it’s really important that if you say you are a teacher…that you have been trained…if you say you’re a teacher of this specific subject area, I believe that it’s really important to say that you know what you’re doing.

How would you say the course is helping you now?

To be quite honest, because it was quick, it was intensive, I wasn’t able to work. So as soon as that class was done, I went right back to the classes I was teaching before. As I mentioned previously, the families that I work with, I’ve been working with for two to three years, and it’s all play and activity based…project-based.

And so every week we come in, and I know what they’re studying in school and so we do games, activities, art projects, science projects, whatever…to build off of whatever they’re doing in school–all in English. So the families that I’m working with, they’re young kids, which is not what the certification course is pointed towardS–we’re not doing a lot of grammar…I mean was and wasn’twere and weren’t…those basics that I’m working with, cause I have littles.

Actually, I take that back. I have a new student. She’s 18, and she needed to have a full grammar review. And so, for four weeks in a row, we did a lot of grammar review. Again, I didn’t get to do the class kind of things–preparation like we did for the training with EBC…

Because she just had a list and said I need to go through all of these things, so we literally just reviewed each section, but having the experience from the grammar–cause I didn’t do grammar in school, I learned it through this programme. And I’m continuing to. That was really helpful and it was something I used right away with my new student.

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Would you recommend the TEFL course?

I would. I would recommend it to a person who is serious. I would not recommend it to anyone who is okay with doing something just to get a piece of paper. I would recommend it to someone who is really wanting to learn it and is willing and able to. I was in a position where I was able to–like, I quit my job for a month. Like, I can’t imagine working during that month.

And so you have to be in a financial situation that you can quit your job for a month. And so, there are people I could recommend it to based on desire, and there are people I could recommend it to based on the time commitment. But overall, I would say yeah. Like I said, in the course, we all were freaking out and being like “This is horrible!” – but in hindsight, I would definitely say it was well worth it.

What advice would you give to people interested in taking the TEFL course with EBC?

I would say if you didn’t go through university for education and already have the lesson planning piece… Like, obviously, when you go to university and you’re studying an education degree, you have that as part of that experience.

And to go back and do it so formally was…well, for me, it was a challenge because once you learn that process and you do that formally for so long, then when you’re in the real world, most of it’s not done like that. You usually know your sections, and you know your bullet points until you have to write a formal plan for submission.

So I would say if you don’t have any teaching experience, I think it absolutely should be a requirement to be able to understand from all the different perspectives. From the teacher modelling to how to present “present continuous” to modelling a lesson plan and you participating in it to the unknown language and being in that person’s shoes to the time management to having to just jump right in and start teaching it was super intimidating.

And it’s very different to do it online–I did the CertTESOL online, which is a very different experience than if you’re doing a classroom version. So I think if you have experience as an educator, it’s a really great refresher course, and then you get all the additional grammar-specific things you need to do to teach English.

If you’ve not taught and you’ve just participated in the “auxiliar” programme – not to dismiss that – but if you haven’t had any formal training beforehand…I think that this is an invaluable course to take. It really puts you in the mindset and gives you the experience of real-time (and) real use.

How do you feel about your new job interview?

It’s for a business English position, so I’m pretty excited. It’s something I haven’t done before. Like I said, I don’t have the experience, but I’m feeling pretty confident in the fact that I know I can do it. And it was something that’s really interesting to me.

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