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Talking TEFL – A day in the life of a TEFL student

Students often email us asking what it’s like teaching English as a foreign language before signing up to a TEFL course, so to find out more sent our own writer Jane along to the TEFL academy.

Jane McGuire
12th February 2016
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Currently completing a 120 hour certificate, Jane was more than happy to come back to the office and teach us a thing or two about life as a TEFL student.

As someone who lives for the weekends, signing up to a 20 hour TEFL course over my Saturday and Sunday seemed quite a sacrifice. With two days of learning ahead of me I arrived at five past nine (late as usual), coffee in hand, unsure what to expect. My passport to anywhere in the world, learning how to teach English as a foreign language couldn’t be as hard as it sounds right?

Wrong. Despite studying the language for three years at university and writing for a living, I found myself struggling to get my head around teaching a class full of students who couldn’t speak a word of English. Thankfully, our instructor Agi was there to offer guidance and support, showing us some key techniques to use by teaching us in Hungarian (a language none of us could understand). Using pictures, repetition and pronunciation training, half an hour later we could all say three simple phrases.

In the afternoon it was our turn. Split up into groups we all had to plan a lesson in another language and then teach the rest of the group six new words. Deciding not to rely on my secondary school level French, my partner taught me three words of her first language – Punjabi, which I then related to the class. Learning from my mistakes, I soon realised how meticulously planned you had to be before standing in front of the class. After being given my individual feedback, I was off home for a well earned rest.

On Sunday things kicked off with the English grammar system as taught to foreign students. Not part of the national curriculum here in the UK, for many of my classmates this was the first time they had touched on the complex grammar systems. Understanding the phonetic alphabet is another important module, a tool that helps students with our English pronunciation.

After a quick break for a cup of tea, the course moved on to its final taught module, Agi focusing her lesson on reading, writing and talking games to help students of all levels. Each lesson needs to follow a clear structure, so knowing how to plan them is important. We then looked at an example of a TEFL CV and received some top tips about applying for jobs abroad.

The afternoon consisted of our final challenge – a ten minute lesson (thankfully, in English this time). Dividing ourselves into pairs, we decided on the age group we hoped to teach and picked a random subject for the lesson appropriate to our choice. I decided to focus my planning on primary school level and was soon working out how I would teach them six common ‘occupations’.

A few hours later it was all over. I no longer found it nerve wracking trying to deliver a lesson, but can’t imagine what it would be like doing it, without the security of a shared language. Saying goodbye to my course mates and tutor it struck me how much we had all bonded over the weekend together. Promising to keep in touch with a few of the girls, I was reminded just how sociable a course can be, meeting people of all ages from all different walks of life.

By the time I got home on Sunday evening, I felt like my brain had been fried. With my certificate proudly in hand, do I feel as though I could start teaching now? Definitely not, but with 100 more online hours to complete, I’m in no doubt that teaching is not something you can master overnight!


If you want to find a TEFL course and get learning, why not take a look at some of the weekend and online options listed here. Who knows where it might take you! 

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