RAY English speaks with Katie Lydon, a TEFL teacher from Ireland who is teaching with EF Education First in Bijiang, Hangzhou.
 
1. Can you say a little about yourself and where you are from? 
 
I'm from a small village in rural, west of Ireland. I grew up on a farm and went to a primary school with only 27 pupils and two teachers. My secondary school had 180 pupils and 14 teachers. Everyone knows everything about each other in my village. 
 
I have a degree in Education and Training and have experience teaching in Ireland and England. I love running and swimming and played for the local Gaelic Football team growing up. I love hanging out with my family and close friends. I always imagined myself staying local, possibly teaching in the secondary school I went to. I hadn't experienced anything out of the ordinary before moving to China.
 
2. What made you decide to become a TEFL teacher?
 
I finished my studies in 2009 and had been searching for work in Ireland. Teaching posts were becoming difficult to secure at that point. Unless you had connections in a school there wasn't a hope of getting a job. 
I decided to find a different job that would involve teaching kids, and TEFL courses were very popular back then. So TEFL it was!!
 
What was your TEFL training like? Where did you do it?
 
I completed a 160hour TEFL course online with i-to-i. This was a very convenient course for me to finish whilst working full time in a restaurant. There was a practical portion also which helped put all of the theory I had learned into practice.
 
3. Why did you choose China as a destination?
 
I must admit, I didn't choose China. It kind of chose me. I submitted my CV a TEFL recruiter and they recommended China as an option for me. 
I had imagined myself doing a couple of years of TEFL teaching in Europe, but it was difficult to secure a well-paid position there without any TEFL experience.
 
4. Have you ever taught in other countries besides China?
 
Yes, I was a teacher in Ireland and did a nine month stint in England as a substitute teacher
 
5. Why is Hangzhou a great choice for people to live and teach in?
 
Where do I begin with the pros of living and working in Hangzhou?
With regards to work, the kids in Hangzhou are very well behaved and really enthusiastic about learning English. The school that I work with have a very reasonable wage and bonus structure. There is also a lot of support from the school when you first arrive and get settled. 
 
I honestly have a better quality of life in Hangzhou than I've had anywhere else. Hangzhou has cheap accommodation, great food, wonderful locals, absolutely no antisocial behaviour and enough western comforts to keep me ticking over. I'm happy here and can fully relax on my holidays or days off. I know that my teaching job is enjoyable and there's very little to worry about.
 
6. What school are you teaching in now?
 
I'm teaching English at EF Binjiang, Hangzhou.
 
7. What is it like working at EF Binjiang? 
 
It's amazing. I have so many opportunities to develop professionally and to progress to management if I would like to. EF Education First don't have the highest wage or the easiest workload, but you are respected and highly regarded by your regional managers and the boss herself. Working for EF is the most rewarding job I've had.
 
8. What are the students like and how are lessons?
 
Lessons are generally an hour to two hours long. All course material is readily available and an endless amount of classroom resources are at hand to make a fun and motivating class. My favourite classes are EF Small Star classes (3-6years old). The kids are so open and enthusiastic and they learn so quickly. It never ceases to amaze me how much English a 3year old can learn in a month.
 
9. What’s your best memory from teaching?
 
That's tough to decide. I think it changes over time because I'm always developing as a teacher and therefore creating better teaching memories. 
At the moment a Life Club lesson springs to mind. We often teach lessons in EF that are based on a real life situation. This particular club was based on living in New York and graffiti culture. It concluded with the kids and parents making their own graffiti wall. It was great fun and everyone was excited to experience something so culturally different.

by Katie Lydon
 
 
 
Sunday, 24 January 2016 06:36

Starting Out as a TEFL Teacher

 




   by Peter Whitfield 
 
Starting out for the very first time as a TEFL teacher can be very daunting indeed. Not only signing up to do a TEFL course, and all the difficulty involved in the coursework and teaching on the TEFL course, but the uncertainty of finding a job at the other end and where in the world you might end up!

Maybe you have a concrete plan of where you'd like to teach, but what will the school be like? Will I have enough money to get by at the start? Will I regret becoming a TEFL teacher in another country?
 
The 5 Steps of TEFL
 
Looking back, I've decided that there are about five steps to TEFL;

1) Deciding you want to.
2) Taking a course.
3) Actually completing the course.
4) Getting a job.
5) Going.
 
Step 1 is the easy part, from then on it's gets a lot harder.
 
Anyone reading this will know that searching TEFL will bring up a multitude of sites offering you a varying array of courses, intern-ships and jobs. Choosing who to trust, who is best and what's best for you is likely to be your biggest challenge.
In my own experience I've found that having a degree is a big plus. Many places do require a degree as a Visa requirement, but it's not essential in all places.
 
Step 2 - Taking a TEFL Course and knowing the differences between a CELTA, TESOL and TEFL Certificates.

There are differences in the type and cost of the courses you can choose from. The one you choose will depend on your budget, the time you have to do a teaching course and how seriously you want to get trained and come across to employers. To choose between these can simply depend on where you want to teach. You can find out more about TEFL course differences here.

Most English speaking countries require a Celta (or equivalent) as a minimum, the same is true for most European countries and Japan.
 
I myself have a 150 hour combined course and I am on the verge of taking up my first paid position in Jakarta, Indonesia. My friends on the same course currently reside in Thailand, South Korea, Vietnam and China, so it's plain to see it is possible to find work without the top Celta or TESOL qualification.
 
Step 3 - Completing Your TEFL Course
 
Once you've decided on your TEFL course, you must complete it. Which is probably will not be as easy as you would have thought. Many people enter the process with the attitude of “I speak English, therefore I can teach it.” This is far from the case and at times you will find yourself; as you once were in the back of a French classroom with the stuff of schoolboy nightmares - “verb conjugation and past participles” wondering why you've subjected yourself to this torment.
All I can say to you is, persevere and don't be too downhearted, because I can guarantee you won't be alone. In this instance I can really recommend a combined course, because I really found the classroom based learning more productive than many of the online modules.
 
Step 4 - Finding Your ESL Job
 
Finally you must find a teaching job
 
To help in your job search I suggest; a complete rewrite of your CV highlighting all your the reasons why you'd make a fantastic teacher,  attaching a professional photo of yourself,  something always asked for from Asian countries and finally, downloading Skype for your Skype interview if you don't already have it, because how else are they going to interview you?
 
Come Armed with Questions
 
Moving onto the interview process, remember this is as much you testing them. You should be armed with questions for your TEFL interview not only for your own information, but also to show them that your taking the process seriously, but that your organised and interested in it as well.
 
Some ideas for questions would be - “How many students to a classroom”, “what age (and skill) ranges will there be” and even “what are the facilities like” these really are essential questions to help you decide if this move is right for you.
 
Once you've decided on your job, then you've got to book those flights and get out there, which is exactly where I am now. So wish me luck and keep your eyes peeled for how I get on – fingers crossed!
 
By Peter Whitfield

Peter wrote this as a brand new teacher   just moving out to Jakarta in 2011. He is now an IELTS teacher and free-lance writer still living in the Jakarta area.

Peter welcomes ELT teachers to contact him and you can contact him through Linkedin here.
 
Monday, 11 January 2016 19:25

Preparing for your TEFL Skype Interview

Preparing for your TEFL skype interview

Preparing for your TEFL Skype interview

Well then, you have slogged out your guts and completed your TEFL course (hardest four weeks ever, right?), have applied for English teaching jobs you've found online, sent off your documents and now have been offered an interview for a teaching job. Exciting stuff! But also a little bit scary! How should you prepare for your TEFL Skype interview and what should you be mindful of?

Firstly, we need to consider what is it that schools are looking to find out about you in your Skype interview and how can you adequately prepare so that you come across well and you get the job offer you are looking for?

So let’s look at what the average school is looking for and this will help you to get your mind focused on your Skype interview for teaching jobs a little better and how to ace your interview!

What are English schools looking for in an average Skype interview?

Having managed English schools myself in China for more than five years and having interviewed many teachers for TEFL positions using Skype, the first thing I need to say is that schools are generally not looking to test you on grammar skills or trying to trip you up on your theoretical knowledge. It is not in an English school’s interest to freak you out and try to make you fail. English schools in China, or in any country, have enough trouble getting the required numbers of TEFL teachers as it is. Schools should be friendly, approachable and hoping you’ll tick all the boxes and really want to come to their school.

Your interviewer knows that you have qualified as a TEFL teacher and that you have the basic knowledge as an English teacher. So instead they will be focusing on getting a feel for what you might be like to actually work with for a year and have on the team.

Are you really keen on teaching English or are you mainly looking for a way to subsidise your travel and see the world? Are you likely to get on with the students in the school? Will you mix well with the other teachers? What is your classroom style? You will not find schools purposely trying to trip you up or testing your theoretical knowledge, so don’t worry. Concentrate on being yourself and coming across positively and being the ideal choice to teach the type of students the school has which is interviewing you.

Preparing yourself for the Skype interview

The most important ways you can prepare beforehand for a Skype interview for a TEFL job is to focus on the two following aspects:
a) Find out online as much as possible about the school or company you are looking to join. This could include:

- How the school/company started
- The type of curriculum the school follows
- Does the school/company have other locations?
- Are they looking to expand further in the next few years?
- Does the school run extra-curricular events such as Halloween parties, Christmas parties, field trips, etc?
- Job descriptions for ESL teachers at the school
- Places of interest in the city (hey, you aren’t spending 24 hours a day in the school and knowing something about the city will show the interviewer that you are really interested in the job and the surrounding area)
 
b) Find out the type and ages of the students in the school and then research good approaches to teaching this age group. This could include:

- Reading articles about ELT for this student target group
- Some common problems these groups have and solutions
- Popular websites for worksheets, games and activities
- YouTube videos
- Classroom management articles and videos

Spend time preparing

Spending an hour or two online to find more about the above will pay dividends in your TEFL Skype interview. You will come across to the interview as keen, knowledgeable and interested in landing the teaching gig. Be friendly, smile, and don’t be afraid to ask questions about the school, too. The Skype interview is a great chance for you to learn more about the job.

Finally, look smart, as you may be doing it with the video on, and get online at least ten minutes before your interview is to take place in case there are connection issues between yourselves.

Follow the above and you’ll blow the other candidates out of the water and land your English teaching job!

Good luck!

by Stuart Allen
 

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