The Mysterious World of Teaching English: Insights from the First Week of My TEFL Course

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It feels like a wedding day! A year of planning, saving money, dreaming, anticipating and… It flies by so fast that you fail to actually enjoy the happy moments! But fortunately unlike a wedding day our TEFL course enjoyment lasts almost a month. I still remember the first excitement of getting a confirmation of the ticket to Barcelona and… Ta da!!! It has now already been a week since we arrived in the “best beach” city to dive into the mysterious world of English teaching! We all had our dreams, imaginations and of course sweet anticipation about life in Spain, but not so many of us would have actually thought that studying would be the most enjoyable part of this absolutely unforgettable trip!:)

Our first day at school was supposed to be the most feverish. But as soon as we entered the room we realized it was going to be a great day. Everyone is just “a box of fluffies”. Excited, enthusiastic, ready to rock! There are no long speeches about discipline and theory. The introduction talks are short, sweet and IMG_9260to the point! We meet our friendly team of teachers: Lisa, Erwin and Jamie. God bless them! They are passionate about their work, friendly and open, with a good portion of charisma. We also got to know each other through games and different activities. It was quite surprising to see how multicultural our group was: South Africa, America, Catalonia, Zambia, Britain, Romania and even Russia.

The funniest thing was to see that Americans and Brits could sometimes have difficulty understanding each other. We all are so different, but so similar in our passion for languages and desire to travel and help people to learn how to speak English!

keep calm

The way we are taught is very inspiring and gives you a lot of confidence.

“English has become an international language and you can’t say that it belongs to a particular culture or has a particular accent. You guys can all do it!”

How great is that!? We don’t have to pretend to be related to the queen anymore!

Five key things that we learned from our first class:

  • To be honest and open
  • To enjoy what we are doing
  • To use our creativity
  • To be welcoming and hospitable
  • To laugh and have fun

In the second class we are given a great portion of experience straight away! Our first teaching practice! We are divided into two groups. Each of us has to teach anything we want to. What a move to boost creativity! I’m quite surprised with the ideas the students come up with and also with the variety of things we can actually teach: How to peal an orange, count from 1-10 in Urdu, smile, make your husband happy… Can you imagine how many things we actually learned from each other?!

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This exercise gave us a general understanding of the process of teaching and a rough formula of success, which is:

  • confidence
  • ability to build a rapport with students
  • sense of humour

The other ingredients are a matter of learning and practising. We are amazed by the efficiency of the practical method of learning: from practice to theory. It saves so much time! It feels like we have already learned much more than we had during 5 years of University. 🙂

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At the end of our first day Lisa invited us all to tapas at a local restaurant. We really enjoyed the delicious
Spanish tapas and Sangria. It was a great day! Great team of generous people!
During the following couple of days it was all about grammar, sweet grammar. We learned:

  • parts of speech
  • tenses and their aspects
  • sentence structure
  • phonetics and its transcription
  • how not to go bananas trying to remember all of the rules
  • keep calm and carry on

The highlight of our first week of classes was a foreign language learning class. We were taught Valencian without using English. No one had ever heard how Valencian sounds. But the teacher spoke to us only in Valencian. We felt the pain of learning a foreign language, and the pain of being a TEFL teacher. We realised that we were in trouble…

Another portion of knowledge we got from this experience:

  • Use gestures and mimics (especially if you teach the first level students)
  • Show feelings
  • Make soundsIMG_8606
  • Draw
  • Smile
  • Enjoy
  • Don’t go bananas

Another surprise! We started to have practical classes: giving REAL students REAL lessons! How exciting is that?! It was an awesome experience!!!

But yes… We got tired! After a week of hard work we decided to go to Valencia and enjoy Paella with squid ink and snails. It was a bit silly because you can get it in Barcelona as well. But most of our group mates stayed in Barcelona to explore the mysteries of this great city… It was a great weekend! I think Salvador Dali would describe it in one sentence: “There are some days when I think I’m going to die from an overdose of satisfaction.”

by Daria Glesser  (Russia)

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