Wednesday, 17 November 2010

Goodbye España... for now.

For any budding traveller, Spain will be on the list of countries to head to at some point in their travelling career. Evidently it was on my list. Except it would not disappear from my list, so I always found myself back in the land of tortilla de patatas, patatas bravas and cafe con leche, por favor. To say the least. I have been lucky enough to visit a fair amount of this stunning country - more I often think, than some Spaniards - and I have found it to be so very diverse in the cultures and ambiance which fills the different regions. Maybe this was one of the reasons I was always drawn back into its grasp. The differences cannot be described simply through written words; it is about feelings and experience. And even after all my travels I know that there lies much more culture to be discovered, and more ambiance waiting to be inhaled around some corner. After years of study, its enigmatic language still enthralls me. Languages are the most interesting and the most perplexing of things. However, under a pile of rich beauty and culture which resides throughout the country, hides the small yet decidedly annoying faults.
Spain and I have developed a somewhat bitter-sweet relationship over the years. Yes, it is often more my homeland than my native land, but its vices dig in deep. Most revolve around its inability to adapt its traditions to a more modern world. Simple things, such as smoking or litter. Evidently Spain is not the only sinner, but here I feel a lack of desire in some respects. The small yet important blunders grate on my magical perception of this country. I do not wish these small faults which lie within everyone and everything to destroy all of the wonderful memories which I have of my time in cortado and caña land, so this signifies a call for change is about due.
Meaning a new country, and a big chunk of new things to get my teeth into. Ready, steady....

Tuesday, 16 November 2010

Learning to teach through a CertTEFL in Prague.

August 2009. Summer in Prague, and a teaching English course. Sounds like a plan for a fresh-out-of-university languages graduate in the middle of a financial crisis.
A new country, language and culture all patiently waiting to be explored, and a new batch of eager trainee teachers to meet. I had been impatiently waiting for the day to arrive when I could set foot onto some new territory and experience that unique but somewhat magical feeling of being some place new. Everything waiting to be discovered. I definitely needed something exciting and new after the university era came to an end.
The weeks running up to my course, I completed my 'pre-course task' for the course, and even tried my hand at studying 'the English language' along with 'teaching techniques' to not much avail, in retrospect. Even so, I was excited and ready for action.
Prague is beautiful. Reading about it in a guide book beforehand
no way compares to the enchantment which runs through its cobbled streets. What's more, living in the centre of such a rich and charming city when studying definitely can make you forget why you are essentially there.
Spending four and a half weeks learning the ins and outs of the English language and taking our first steps in English teaching was an experience which I will honestly always remember. I met some wonderful people, learnt a great deal more than my own botched attempts before the course, and was supported by some tremendous staff in my teaching attempts. Work was somewhere in there, but sometimes you would have to search a little to find it; it was well hidden amongst a whole lot of good times.
With work in the 'real teaching world' ready and waiting, I managed to find myself work in Prague. Many of my classes involved advanced children, which I initially found a challenge, as the course didn't address too much this group; it is most definitely not a major learner group. My adult classes were, however, exactly what we had been preparing ourselves for during the course. On top of this, I also had some one-to-one adult classes, which were addressed in the course, but personally I think should be concentrated on a little more, as one to-one-classes are widespread. But time is limited.
Four and a half weeks cannot make someone into a professional teacher. It takes time and experience and practise. The course is a great first step in that direction. There are many more to be taken. After teaching a while, the three main points of advice I would give to any budding teacher are: to prepare classes well, expect the unexpected in a class, and get to know the students as much as possible; they are humans too, not just students. Teaching English can be as much as a challenge as learning it; it takes practise as well as some trial and error before it is in any way conquered. Everyone is in the same boat and everyone starts somewhere, so don't be shy to call for help should you desire. We are all human:-)