Tefl approved…. (technically)!

approvedI have now finished my 120 hour online TEFL course! I’m of course extremely happy about this; I’m now officially qualified to teach English as a foreign language. BUT…. there’s always a but isn’t there? I say ‘technically’ in my title because doing the online course means I’ve had no actual teaching practice.

I’ve loved the course and I don’t want to make it seem like I’m criticising the TEFL qualification; however, there are some big downsides to doing the course completely online. I think I’d be incredibly nervous before teaching a lesson for starters. Also there were lots of grammar related questions/problems I had, that really needed the presence of a proper instructor to solve. Anyone who has looked even briefly at the structure of English grammar can attest to how complicated we seem to have made our system. But (yes there’s a 2nd more positive ‘but’)… I feel that I made the right choice and I will stick to my original plan. If you’ve been reading the blog for a while you will know that I planned on doing the online course to familiarise myself with the grammar and to get a feel for what’s expected of me before applying to do the more formal CELTA qualification at the university I currently study. I’m glad I did it this way round. I now have a rudimentary understanding of grammar. Although I will say that if I was only planning on doing this course then jumping straight into teaching, I would need some immense organisational skills to fully prep all my lessons in advance in order to make sure I could answer any questions my students had. 

On saying that, I think preparation and advance planning and a huge amount of lesson plans and worksheets all done in advance of the lessons will be key to being a good EFL teacher. I can see why there’s so many complaints about of terrible quality of teaching. If you’re just bumming around and do the TEFL course as a thing to make money, but it’s not something you put any effort, energy or passion into, then you will be a terrible teacher. You will also end up hating your job as much as the students hate you. Sorry, I know that sounds harsh but having done the course I know that it’s completely true… you only have to read some forum and blog posts to know the level of appalling teaching that’s out there and I think this is the reason why. They’ve gone into it thinking it’ll be a doss and it couldn’t be further from the truth.

I think you could do the online course and then build up lots of experience through voluntary work if you wanted. This could be a viable option for anyone who can’t afford the far higher price of the CELTA course. I think I’ll try and do some voluntary stuff anyway as it will help me to get over those initial jitters about standing in front of a class, and it would be nice to have experience before accepting a proper job too. The online course is pretty easy, I don’t want to belittle anyone who found it hard… by that I mean that with a bit of effort I think most people will find it manageable and would be able to complete it. The assignments start off as multiple choice quizzes on the grammar and then build up to written assignments you submit for proper marking. However, these begin as small, manageable quick pieces of work and it’s only the final 3-4 assignments that pose a challenge in any way. These last ones do require you to apply what you’ve been taught and to prepare some full lessons from start to finish. They take time and care and are worth doing well, after all this is what you’ll be doing as a teacher!

Once you’ve done the course you’ll find that along the way, you’ve had to do so much research you’ll have hopefully built up some great resource links from external websites – these will be a huge help when actually teaching. One of the best I’ve found to date is the great blog found here on WordPress called ‘tefltastic’ – http://www.tefltastic.wordpress.com there’s tons of resources, worksheets and lesson planning advice and tips along with a large amount of activity ideas. There’s also hundreds of activity worksheets available to download. Well worth a look! The tefl community is in general very helpful and inclusive – everyone has been in that starter position before, so I think that makes everyone really willing to help and create an open community of sharing when it comes to academic resources. 

Below are some good websites I’ve found during the duration of my course:

http://www.teachingenglish.org.uk This is a BBC/British council site offering loads of tips and lesson plan ideas along with grammar help.

http://www.teflteachertraining.com is a great blog by Ted, offering untold amounts of advice and help on all things TEFL

http://www.bbc.co.uk/worldservice/learningenglish/ A good resource if you need some grammar explained in plain english whilst completing the course. It helps to fill in some of the gaps that are there in the TEFL course book.

http://www.onestopenglish.com Again, this is a good site for filling in some of the gaps, the TEFL course is OK but I must admit I did find some explanatory gaps in their books. Although I suppose a bit of self-study is never a bad thing either!

http://www.tefl.net A general resource and advice site

http://www.businessdictionary.com This is a great resource to use for vocabulary you might need in a business english class, providing definitions and also ideas around which to plan your business english lessons.

I’m planning on continuing to post any useful information I find including useful resource sites, so keep an eye out if you find this kind of stuff useful. I’m also hoping to get a little site started up with my own worksheets and lesson plans etc once I actually start teaching. Although this will be a couple of years down the line save for some voluntary work. It is most definitely in the pipeline though – you can hold me to it! 

I just want to end by saying that the TEFL course provided by http://www.tefl.org.uk was well worth the money. Although I found some of the instructions to be a little bit ambiguous I did get through it with a grade point average well over 90%. They also marked all my assignments in the agreed timeframe and gave me advice when I asked for it. I’m very glad I did this, and I think it will be extremely valuable when I do the CELTA to have had access to the knowledge and the lesson plans. And if you are very self driven and motivated you could definitely get along into teaching without the CELTA – but I would suggest doing a substantial amount of voluntary work if you can to get the experience and to put into practice all the theory you have been taught. Also it’s worth remembering that knowledge of the subject is only one part of what it takes to be a good teacher and that will come more easily the more you do it – however what really matters are the qualities employers and students will look for :

tefl qualities

Happy TEFL-ing guys, I can’t wait to actually get going with my travels and put my knowledge into practice!

TEFL-ing through the week

tefl scotlandI found that the 30 hour grammar section on the TEFL course took me a long time to complete. Not 30 hours, I think in total hours it probably took less than that but I ended up doing it over the course of a few weeks and in reality I should have had it finished in 2, maximum!

The TEFL 50 hour methodology section is the exact opposite. I’ve only been doing it for a couple of days and I’m already nearly halfway through. The assignments are small and there’s the same quizzes there was on the grammar bit. I’m hopeful I’ll actually have this done by the end of next week or the week after at the latest.

I think the way I’ve decided to approach learning how to teach english as a foreign language is probably going to end up being the right way for me. The online TEFL course has exposed me to the complicated grammar. After doing a series of online tests I’m in no way an expert (not even close), but I have at least been exposed to the language of grammar. Previous to this I wouldn’t have had a clue if someone asked me for examples of sentences in the present perfect continuous. I would still have to look it up, but I would know they weren’t just making up phrases now! The TEFL course is also giving me a lot of resources and lesson plans and getting me to think about how I should teach and approach the subject. Because I’m not getting any actual teaching practice though, I still think it will be best to do the CELTA course next year which will give me a lot more applied practice. It also won’t be quite so stressful and intense as I can refresh my memory from all my workbooks from TEFL before I do the course.

I also know what my weak points are so I can make sure to ask someone to explain them better at the CELTA course (transitive and intransitive verbs spring to mind here for sure)!

So basically I’d say if you’re thinking about doing the training and have to wait before starting the CELTA like I have, then definitely do the 120 hour TEFL course if you can afford it. You can even access the videos on youtube if you want. Some of the grammar videos were strange but I am finding the actual teaching videos very helpful – here’s a link to the 1st online TEFL video. They’re meant to be supplementary to the course but probably give some helpful tips anyway on teaching practice, certainly the later ones do.

It is possible to power through this course in far less time than it says too – I think if you didn’t have any other obligations you could even get it done in a week if you did a lot of work (obviously)!

How big should a safety net be?

Casting-a-Net-IrrawaddyI’m such a lazy blogger – I know this! I’ve been putting it off and putting it off and really it’s just because things have been ticking along nicely. It’s not much to write home about I’m afraid.

I’ve finally finished the grammar section on the TEFL course so I’ve just started off on the methodology section. I’m hoping to get this done a bit quicker if I’m honest. I really need to discipline myself to at least an hour a day and more if I can. I’m about to start doing the research for my dissertation, as it’s a frightening 2 ½ months until I go back to uni. I’ve also been getting on well with driving – apparently I can do perfect manoeuvres, including a perfect 1st attempt at parallel parking. However I’m rubbish at clutch control – as always it’s the small things I struggle with so nothing new there. I’ve been known to get the most complex of stuff straight away and be flummoxed by the beginner stage of whatever it is that I’m learning. So this is the mission for next weeks lesson: get to grips with the stupid clutch!

The only thing I’ve been thinking a lot about recently is a bit of an inner dilemma I’m having about how big a back up plan a person needs. To explain that a bit better – Now I’ve decided that I want to travel I’m so focused on that, that I’m reluctant to apply for the usual graduate jobs in case I get sucked into the trap of feeling obligated to take them as it’s secure money etc etc. But it also feels quite scary to not apply for anything throughout the whole of my final year just in case the worst happens and for any reason at all I can’t go travelling and then find myself jobless, with another year to wait before I can apply for all the schemes.

How big should my safety net be? This question has been bothering me for a while.

My plan up until now has been to move back to Manchester and take an opportunity I have to live with a friend without the massive expense of rent and bills in order to save up for roughly a year or maybe 18 months so I fund a RTW trip and have some money behind me to then settle wherever life takes me without having to immediately worry if I’m not making a full time wage straight away. I guess it just feels kind of scary to let all the deadlines go by for the jobs and the graduate schemes without applying for a single one even though that if I follow my dream I’d turn them all down anyway. So what I’ve decided is that whilst in Manchester for a year or more I may as well apply for the Masters at the University – there’s an interesting one called an Ethics and Political Philosophy MA. I don’t think I’d go for the Mres as it’s so geared up towards getting you to write a PhD proposal and I feel it’d be super stressful whereas the ethics and political one is my main area of interest and actually sounds kind of fun. There is a bit of funding available at Manchester too, whereas in Glasgow there’s none for a Masters. So my back up plan if the travelling never happened would be that I could always go for the doctorate if I did well. Pretty nice sounding back up plan in a way hey?!

The bonus as well is that I know having a degree and an MA can be hugely beneficial in getting a visa to some countries especially if they operate a points based system. So I know Hong Kong gives you lots more points for every degree and MA you have, and the University teaches in English. Glasgow philosophy department is actually linked to Hong Kong University so I know I could apply there to study in the future if I decided it was a route I wanted to travel down. Also the MA would be good as a bridge between philosophy and sociology. I adore philosophy but I think deep down it’s sociology and in particular visual sociology I’m very interested in – I’d love to do a big photographic project whilst travelling with a sociological theme to it for example and then possibly take something like that further academically….

I guess what I’m saying is that I need to just take this leap, don’t apply for the jobs that will take me too far from the path I truly want to follow, but I’ve realised that if there’s something I can do whilst directly working towards my goal that can act as a back up plan – well I’d probably be daft not to do it – I should be grabbing all the opportunities I can and accepting all the help offered to me.

So that’s how big my safety net should be – big enough to make me feel secure but small enough it doesn’t ruin the view I have of mine and my daughters future.

Verbally challenged!

frustration

I finally finished my TEFL section on verbs!!!! This probably shouldn’t warrant so many exclamation marks but F*@! Me that was difficult. OK, so the verb section is much more complicated than the noun section (kinda obvious when you look at how complicated the English system of verbs actually is); but there were some glaring gaps in the teaching and the odd question was completely ambiguous. I mean, I sat looking at one question for about 30 minutes and I’m still not sure what it was asking of me… This was the section on the present participle of verbs. In the exercise book I’m told that one way in which verbs can inflect is by having an ‘–ing’ on the end, and that we often use these verbs to describe an ongoing action. There are various examples given: ‘I’m watching a TV program’, ‘they are building a new hotel in my street’, ‘I was cooking spaghetti in the kitchen’. I’m then told that all the verbs have 2 things in common, firstly, unsurprisingly, they all have an –ing on the end and secondly they all have an auxiliary verb in front of them. This auxiliary verb is always the verb ‘to be’.

So far so good. This is all the information I’m given about present participles. When we get to the exercises at the end of the whole section I am asked the following:

“Write in the present participle of the verbs in the order they appear in the passage. Only write the participle, for example: 1. going 2. reading

I’m then given a passage and there are two boxes after the passage to fill my answers into – giving the clue that only two verbs are required. This is the passage:

“The three of us were sitting around the dinner table during lunch break. “I like Wendy McMinn,” I ventured. I was hoping that revealing my own secret would encourage Michael to start opening up about who he liked in the class.”

Now I happen to think that the instruction given to me is incredibly ambiguous. I initially take it to mean that I should write any verbs that appear in that passage in their present participle form. However I quickly realise this can’t be the case as I’m only given 2 boxes to fill out. I can immediately spot the verbs ‘sitting’, ‘liking’, ‘hoping’, ‘revealing’, and ‘opening’ – although I think maybe in this sentence ‘opening’ isn’t a verb but I’m still not sure on that one.

This is the major downside of an online course – there’s no one to ask. I was sent a snappy, friendly message from ‘Tim the Tutor’ when I electronically handed over my £215; that informed me the grammar section was a self taught section but he’d be around to answer any questions on the next bit. So basically “don’t email me stupid questions about grammar”. I looked on the TEFL.org forum – no luck for this particular question.

So despite what the question says I start to think that it is asking me to identify the actual present particples of the verbs that are used in that sentence in that form, rather than what I think it actually asks which is to write the verbs, as they appear, in their present participle form. By the way, at this point I have genuinely wrung my hands through my hair and possibly growled at my computer. So if the request is the latter then I think ‘sitting’ and ‘hoping’ are the verbs that are already in their present participle form, so I put these down.

There’s 9 more of these….

The next one has me even more flummoxed:


“Yeah, we know,” replied Michael. Both he and Pete were grinning wildly. “Speaking of whom …” He was gesturing behind me and as I turned I could see that Wendy and her gang of friends were wandering past, carrying trays. I caught her eye and she smiled ever so slightly before turning away.”

What do I start with? Grinning? Knowing? Gesturing? Wandering? Carrying? Turning?

There’s only 4 boxes – the other problem with these exercises is if you get the first one wrong, you basically get them all wrong because it has a knock on effect. I think I started with ‘grinning’ and I got all these wrong…

The rest of the test isn’t too bad – comparatively – and I eventually get through about 12 exercises on various forms of verbs in about 2 hours. I hand it in and find out that although I got the ‘grinning’, ‘gesturing ‘ section wrong I actually did OK on the bit that had me pulling my hair out. However I did incredibly badly on transitive and intransitive verbs – still, I managed an overall 90% as I got full marks for nearly everything else. Present participles frustrate the hell out of me but intransitive and transitive just plain don’t like me…. More work needed there then!

Anyway, I’m just happy I’ve done that section – I have learned a big lesson though… it’s maybe not a great idea to do some intense verbal workout just before bed – I lay there wide awake until about 3am, totally pumped up with all that new knowledge flying round my head and the frustrations of the TEFL instructions. You’d have thought an English language course would be able to articulate in a less ambiguous way wouldn’t you?! I’m still annoyed actually!

On a side note – any help or advice from some Verb Masters would be very gratefully received!

Who knew verbs could be so exhausting? And paradoxically insomnia inducing.

Just as a little positive but unrelated end note before I sign off. I found a lovely blog today that I think will prove extremely helpful over the next couple of years so I wanted to share the love – I suspect any well seasoned bloggers/travellers will have heard of them already but if not take a look!

http://www.goatsontheroad.com

Thanks again for reading!

Finding the time…

Time1I must be honest; I’ve found it difficult to get the time to do anymore TEFL this week. Thursday and Friday were taken up doing household jobs, voluntary work and I had University meetings about writing a dissertation proposal. Today it was a rare sunny day in Glasgow so I took advantage and went out walking with my little girl and we enjoyed a bit of Asian food for lunch. By the time we got home (walking is a leisurely affair with a 19 month old toddler) she was knackered and so was I!

Anyway, I have a confession – I could have been doing things in the evening but my favourite guilty pleasure was on TV all this week… Britain’s got Talent semi-finals! I know, I know, I think people either love it or hate it but I really do love it. When you read so much negative crap in the papers about the kids of today and just people in general, I find it so heart warming to watch how hard some young kids are working towards achieving a goal. Even the ones that aren’t that great I still find it inspirational that so many people are out there working away towards achieving something they want.

So I really need to get back working towards mine I guess!

I have been doing some stuff towards my theory test this week, there are online practice revision tests and mock tests that you can do for free. I took the mock test having done no revision at all and got 41 out of 50. The pass mark is 48 I think, so I’m pretty positive that if I do plenty of revision I’ll be able to pass it in about a month…. So watch this space!

My plan is to do some TEFL tomorrow night as there’s no BGT on the telly and then I’ll really step up a gear next week and try and do at least 2 hours a day. It’s early days but I’d really like to have this done by the start of August I think. Then I need to spend August getting a proper head start on my dissertation so I can go back to Uni feeling relaxed instead of frazzled within about 2 days of going back. That’s the plan Batman…

As always, thanks for reading!!

A productive start….

give way

Well today has been an exciting day! I’ve had my 1st driving lesson and I opened up TEFL online and completed the section on nouns – clearly it was those nouns that really got the adrenalin pumping 🙂

A bit of background might be good (again) … As may be clear by now, I’m trying to best qualify myself to live and work abroad. I think at the moment my opinion is that the best way to do this is to become a bit of a Jack of all trades so I’m going to build up a CV that will allow me to do anything and everything whilst travelling as a single parent. Of course the biggest tool in any workers box when travelling would arguably be a qualification to teach English as a foreign language so… I decided to do the TEFL this summer because I looked into CELTA (the Cambridge qualification for teaching English as a foreign language) and I’d missed the deadline to do it at the University this summer. However, as I looked at various forums and whatnot online to see what the difference is academically (CELTA is significantly more expensive that TEFL for starters); I was reading quite a few things saying that CELTA is really tough in terms of the teaching and the grammar knowledge you’re expected to learn. So I thought it might be a good idea to give myself an introduction to the grammar side of things and get a lot of lesson planning advice via TEFL first. There’s also the handy fact that on completion TEFL gives help on tailored CV’s and there’s also their jobs section that you get lifelong access to. But I can’t deny that by the sounds of it CELTA really is the more prestigious certificate to get. They give you 150 hours face to face teaching and you get actual experience everyday in the classroom teaching a group for small periods. I also figured that getting it from the University will look better on paper too; unfortunately over life you quickly realise that keeping up appearances has more weight that it should. I don’t like it, but sometimes it’s prudent just to play the game!

I’m doing the 120 hour TEFL course because there wasn’t that much difference in the price – It should be £269 but as a student you get 20% off so it’s £215 – also it’s worth noting that you get that discount up to a year after graduation. I reckon TEFL will be great for just familiarising myself with the grammar and structure of language so I don’t feel like I’m thrown in at the deep-end when I apply to CELTA. That being said it is a stand-alone qualification as well so it really can’t do any harm – that’s been my thinking anyway. It felt worthwhile to dip into the savings for.

So… on to my 1st experience of TEFL:

I’ve discovered there are a few gaps in the teaching of the noun section in comparison to what is asked on the test; so it really did require me to think outside of the box. For example it really wasn’t clear to me whether day, night, days, hours and words along these lines were abstract or concrete nouns even after going through the lesson and watching the little video tutorial (on a side note – hilariously weird voice-over on the video!). Anyway, I did some investigations online and ‘concrete’ seemed to be the view although my instinct was ‘abstract’ I put concrete and got it wrong.

Lesson 1: don’t trust Google too much.

Lesson 2: trust my instinct a little more!

Despite this I still got 91% on the test so I’m pleased with how today went.

Driving was great fun though. It was nerve racking to start off. I think I’m going to make my instructor demented by apologising for every tiny mistake. Hopefully she’ll learn that this is an unfortunate side effect of my upbringing and I may struggle to swallow the ‘sorrys’. I should also work on this though; I’m one of those people who constantly apologises for apologising!

I had about 11 driving lessons a few years ago and I thought I’d forgotten it all but quite a bit just kicked in naturally so she let me drive for the full 90 minute lesson and said I should be proud of how it went. It’ll be same time next week now and I really need to boot myself up the bum to start revising for my theory test. I’ve set myself the limit of 4 weeks to sit it; once that’s done I’ll push up to two 90 minute lessons a week to try and get the driving test done by September. I want to go back to Uni with two new qualifications under my belt (driving and TEFL) as I think it’ll be such a nice little boost to the ego before entering the final year of my degree.

Today has definitely felt productive. I always find that once the first few steps are made I find my motivation just keeps coming. I can procrastinate with the best of them sometimes (that washing up looks so damn attractive when there’s academic work to be done); but once I’ve sat down and started I hit a flow pretty quickly. Tomorrow I’m going to start the online revision tool for my theory test and maybe tonight I’ll start reading the TEFL section on verbs – it’s a lot bigger than the noun section unsurprisingly so it’ll take a couple of sessions to read through that I think.

As always, thanks for reading!