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:-)

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