Why l almost didn’t take the TtMadrid TEFL Course–and why l’m glad l did.
The good ‘ole TPJ (Teaching Practice Journal) and I spent a lot of time together
Why I was hesitant to do the TtMadrid TEFL course
One of the things that appealed to me about the Insituto Franklin master’s in Bilingual and Multicultural education was that we also had the chance to get a joint TEFL certificate through TtMadrid. I wanted a master’s degree as well as to become TEFL certified: two birds, one stone. I started the 2012-2013 school year with no doubt that I would have a TEFL certificate by July.
As l was doing the course in conjunction with the master’s in Alcalá de Henares, I wasn’t TtMadrid’s typical student. In a regular TtMadrid TEFL course, students have an intense month of grammar sessions, lesson-planning, teaching practices, a whirlwind student project, and a final exam. I had all of that too, but spread out over a few months because my master’s course load also included 25 hours of teaching, online classes, and a thesis.
Bogged down with so much school work, by March l wasn’t sure l could balance the master’s with TEFL training. For days I rolled the pro-con list over with my co-worker Victoria–should I do the TtMadrid TEFL course? She eventually convinced me that I should do it (mil gracias, amiga mia!). We were interning at the same Spanish school and could support each other, as well as commute to the TtMadrid school together. (This was actually a critical point as our internship school monitored our every move.) It was a very hectic June as we dashed to TtMadrid after our morning internship duties were over, happily leaving behind the (bleak, master’s internship) school for the world of TEFL.
Victoria and I on our TEFL graduation day
Taking the TtMadrid TEFL course
Even more challenging than the tight schedule was the mental leap we had to make between teaching schoolchildren to properly teaching adults. All of the demands the Spanish high school put on us didn’t jive with TEFL methodology. There was no standing up in front of the class, no huge chalkboard, no droning on and on while the students silently took notes. It was a welcome change.
Victoria’s soap opera lesson was a change of pace from primary school activities
Whether designing lesson plans, learning grammar tenses, or working through the phonetic alphabet, the TtMadrid TEFL crew was quite helpful. They perused lesson plans before the practice classes to make sure everything was in order, and if it wasn’t, they offered concrete guidance on how to tighten it up. Their arsenal of teaching materials was helpful, but even more so was being able to call on their own teaching experiences. This previous experience wass indeed what made them a sympathetic bunch.
Giving classes at Tt was the first time l’d been critiqued when teaching. Although l’d had private lessons with adults for the previous two years, l learned a lot of helpful pointers from these honest critiques. I hadn’t realized how much my time working in Spanish schools had affected the way l interacted with adult students. It helped that we taught volunteer students who were excited to be in class. This was another welcome change from high schoolers–no matter the level, the students at the TtMadrid TEFL school came to class ready and willing to learn. It’s an ideal situation when you’re nervously trying to teach an unfamiliar topic (for me this was business English)!
Why I’m glad I took the course
In addition to looking dandy on my résumé, the TtMadrid TEFL course was a boon for the many adult classes that I continue to give. Recently l started a summer class with a friend of a friend of a friend. Par for the course, we met to have an informal chat about previous language study, goals, and class availability. I also administered a spoken test to establish the student’s English level. Concerned with numbers and labels, my newest pupil wrung his hands as nervously as if he expected me to send him back to language kindergarten. He needed my opinion–What level did l think he had?
If you’re not familiar with the European Framework for Language, complete beginners are A1, followed by A2, B1, etc all the way to “native-like fluency,” the ultimate dream of C2. I responded that he sat at the B1 level. At our next meeting, my new student sheepishly admitted that he went online to take a second level test. Lo and behold, the more “official” test also placed him at the B1 level. I grinned–I had learned how to gauge a student’s level in my TtMadrid TEFL course, and I relied on the skill as much today as I had when I learned it a year ago.
While it was hard to know it on graduation day, the knowledge I learned during the course would served me well. Organizational tips, teaching pointers, and English-teaching specifics like the one I mentioned above are all areas l have come to appreciate after finishing my TtMadrid TEFL training. Furthermore, the friendly team makes for an encouraging atmosphere for even the greenest of English teachers. Need another reason to choose Tt Madrid? They give all their grads a hand by helping them groom their CV as well as point them in the right direction for jobs. I signed up for their job list serve, so as a grad I get emails with information about private lessons, in-company classes, and even contracted teaching positions.
Of course, not everyone needs a TEFL certificate to teach in Spain. I don’t need it to be an auxiliar, nor do I need it for private lessons. But the TtMadrid TEFL course definitely helped to whip my teaching into shape and helped me become a more nuanced educator. It could help me find a job if or when I move from Spain. Even more importantly, I hope one day to get a job as an textbook editor. You would be surprised how many language editorials require and/or look favorably on a TEFL certificate! In the end, I am very glad that I balanced a crazy school year to go through with TtMadrid’s TEFL course. This past year, it has served me well.
Victoria and I snap a shot with John, one of the Tt trainers
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*Ps. I was not compensated for writing this entry. All opinions are my own.