Adventures in India (Teaching English)

Calcutta - 1st Impressions

I’m here! Rajesh my host met me at the airport, he works at the City school, he took me to my lodgings and promised to meet me on Saturday morning for a tour. I pretty much just unpacked and fell asleep, that’s jet lag for you!

When I woke up I had a bit of a wander, the café just up from my lodgings has Wi-Fi, so I quickly messaged everyone to say I had arrived. 

Rajesh took me on a tour of the Calcutta, interestingly it was the British Capital which is where the name Calcutta comes from, locally it is known as Kolkata. I’ll have to remember that when I’m teaching phonetics and pronunciation! I’m not sure how to pronounce the name of the local river Hooghly river, Raj found it really funny trying to teach me!

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My first day went well, I’m teaching English to adults, mostly factory workers from a nearby company who is sponsoring the training as they want to promote people into positions where they will be trading directly with English speaking companies. I’ve done my lesson plan around commonly used business words like trade, factory, sell, sale, invoice, and cost. They all have the very basic English that they teach in the schools here so I’ve asked them to slot the right word into sentences. I think the main area I need to concentrate on with them is ensuring they get the right context and grammar, both in their written and spoken English. One of the things my tutor recommended was using TV soaps, as these help the students understand accents I now have a class full of Eastenders fans!

I went out for a meal with some of the other tutors tonight; I also had my first ride in a rickshaw. I can’t get over how cheap things are here the tuk tuk cost about 50p and the three course curry (which was in a very posh restaurant) about £3. I also hope to get out to the countryside at some point and see some tigers, I’ve spotted a few working elephants in the city.

Right I’d better start looking at writing a few more lesson plans!

At the airport!

Got there with my Visa eventually, I had to go up to the India Embassy in London with Clare, and queue for 2 hours! At the airport now using the free wi-fi, my flight leaves in an hour I have butterflies ! Just left Mum and Dad at the gate, Mum got a bit teary! Clare came to the airport with them to see me off, she is teaching in Korea, but doesn’t leave for another month yet, I’m really excited for her. I’ve promised to stay in touch with people via email and Facebook. I think I’ll try and keep this blog going as well, as it feels like it’s been there for me all the way through the TEFL process. 

Got a job in India!

I finished my online last week, and applied for several Asia based jobs that were on The TEFL Academy website. I had a few replies and a couple of telephone interviews but just had a call this morning to confirm I’m working in Calcutta in India, in a city school. Interestingly the official languages of India are Hindi and English, however this is mostly due to the colonial occupation by the English. The TEFL tutor said many of the people I’ll be teaching are those that want to learn business English in order improve their grammar. Lots of European companies are basing call centres and offices in India, and people are desperate to do anything they can to improve their chances of getting a job there.

Just got off the phone after ringing Shaun and Clare to tell them. Poor Shaun both his girlfriend and his best mate are leaving him behind to go halfway across the world. Also updated everyone on Facebook, everyone is really pleased for me. Oh and I almost forgot to tell Mum and Dad, Dads excited for me Mum is a bit sad I’m going to be so far away from home I think.

I can’t believe only 6 months ago I finished my History degree. It’s been hard work doing my course at the TEFL Academy; especially the online coursework which I thought would never end, but totally worth it. I think my degree was harder work, but not as intense in such a short period of time.

I need to sort out my Visa, glad my passport is up to date. The Visa forms are a nightmare, they even want to know where my grandparents were born! I’ve heard lots of stories about getting Delhi Belly, but the best bit of advice I’ve heard is avoid the water, not forgetting salads washed in water, and to clean your teeth with bottled water. My flight is booked in four weeks’ time so hopefully I’ll get my Visa sorted by then.

Life online

Right time to log on tune in and get studying! The TEFL Academy website is really user friendly and it is clear that I have a lot of work still to do! It feels odd to not physically be learning in the classroom still with Clare though. She has promised to pop over and be a study buddy!  

Most of the work seems to just be expanding on the things we learnt in the classroom and going into them in more depth, lots of reading to do. I need to concentrate on perfecting my English Grammar as I think that this is the hardest thing to learn in English and therefore will be the hardest thing to teach! Breaking it down into smaller segments and thinking of fun ways to plan the lessons seems to be key for me I think.

Clare and I off out for a meal tonight, we have decided to sample food from as many different cultures as possible to prepare ourselves for our TEFL year. It’s Ethiopian tonight and Lebanese next week!

I think motivating myself to study online is much harder than classroom learning. I guess I just have to keep my eye on the goal, and get my head down.

Clare suggested we both write a lesson plan and then film each other as if we were teaching it to a class; we can then play it back and see where we could improve.  There is loads of useful information on the TEFL Academy site, I plan to save some of the worksheets and quizzes to adapt to use when I’m actually teaching in the classroom.  My tutor marks the assignments I’ve completed within a couple of days so I can see where I’ve gone wrong and work on the areas I need to improve like grammar! Tonight’s bedtime reading is past present and future tenses!

I must give Shaun a call I’ve not spoken to him in ages, with juggling studying and seeing Clare. I’ll see if he fancies going to the pub to watch the football this Friday.

Second Day

TEFL Academy day two here I come! I wasn’t half as nervous today, I guess I knew what to expect a little bit.  Today was a lot more of the practical stuff, learning how to stand up in and teach a room full of people, and planning and organising lesson plans. We also went over some of the stuff we learnt yesterday. Clare and I partnered up for some of the exercises which made it all a bit easier I think!

I got chatting to the tutor over lunch and she was telling Clare and I how valuable English speaking skills are considered, particularly in Asia and China. She said it was important to be aware of the cultural differences especially within the working environment, and that it was essential to be adaptable and open to change. Often the style and way to teach people would be different depending on the age range, culture and environment you were teaching in.

After lunch we covered lots of different areas like managing a classroom, teaching pronunciation, vocabulary, spelling and grammar. My favourite part was making the lesson plan fun, and motivating the classroom. I think I found standing up in front of a class the hardest part, but I’m sure the more practise I get the more confident I will be. I’m looking forward to the UK teaching placement as I think actually doing all the things I’ve learnt in theory will help.

Although the TEFL course is intensive and I have all of the online hours to do before I complete it, I’ve really enjoyed these past two days. I met some great people (not just Clare) who are all doing the course for different reasons and hoping to teach all over the world.

Meeting up with Clare tomorrow night so will probably talk through what we have done so far. Then next week it’s time to start on the online coursework, the tutor gave us her email address so if we get stuck anywhere we can just drop her a line. The website also has a Student advice centre which I must have a proper look at as it has all sorts of tips and advice.

Absolutely shattered tonight though, parents just ordered a takeaway curry, so it’s a night vegging in front of the telly I think. That’s just got me thinking though, I bet if I end up teaching in Asia as I hope do, I will get to try some amazing food especially curries!

First Day…

First day on the TEFL course today! I was really nervous it felt just like my first day at school when my mum dressed me in my school uniform and started crying as she left me at the school gate! Here we are over 20 years later and I’m on my own now!

To be honest once I’d sat down and got chatting to all of the other students I was fine, I made a point of sitting next to a really cute Irish girl called Clare which probably helped be relax a bit! The tutor did the usual ice breaker exercises to help us all get to know each other and relax as well.

Clare and I paired up for some of the exercises which helped. We covered loads of stuff on how to teach absolute beginners English vocabulary, grammar and pronunciation. My favourite bit was making a lesson plan and trying to think of ways of making it fun and engaging for the students.

The tutor also covered the more practical stuff like getting our teaching practise placements, and setting up our CV’s to get a job. She also told us some great stories of where some of her past students were working now, and the different types of teaching placements. One of the things I need to decide is where I’d like to teach when I’ve finished, the placements seem to be in either developed or developing nations. I think I’d rather work in a developing nation and give the students a better chance in life by teaching them English. I’m leaning towards Asia, but don’t fancy China or Japan.

It was a really long day and we didn’t finish till 7pm so I’m hoping my brain took it all in, especially as I was distracted by the lovely Clare, who I’m off on a date with this weekend! Now I just need to decide where to take her.

The parents took me out for Fish and Chips and I told them all about the course and what I had learn’t on my first day (I missed out on the Clare bits for now though) They both said they wish they had done something similar before they settled down into a career and had me!

The TEFL academy did say that the course was life changing, it certainly feels that way. I’m looking forward to the second day, and not just because Clare will be there!

Book it!

Reading the TEFL Academy site has really helped me decide what I want to do next I spoke to the parents and they think it’s a good idea as well. I think they are just pleased I’ve finally decided what to do with my future, although I think mum might be a bit upset that I’m going to be out of the country for a while.

I called the number on the TEFL Academy website and after eventually getting past the receptionist, I spoke to one of the course reps. Daniel said the 120 hour course can usually be completed in a couple of months at the most, and then once I’ve received my TEFL certificate, I can start posting my CV and looking on the TEFL Academy’s own job board and others, which they say they will show me.

Daniel suggested signing up to the next Brighton course as its not far from my parents at the Jury’s Inn Hotel so at least I can stay at theirs and save some money before I go. I might as well get mum to feed me and wash my clothes while I can! He also said to make sure I had read some of the reviews on the website; to get an idea of what previously qualified students were doing now, and what teaching was like in all of the different countries.

So once the classroom based section in Brighton is completed, it is the online coursework. Hopefully it won’t take long to find a job when I’ve completed the course. 

So in a week I’ll be in the classroom learning how to teach, it’s scary yet exciting!

Research…

Right I’ve got a couple of spare hours before I head out to the pub with Shaun, so time to research TEFL courses!

There seems to be loads of places offering the TEFL training so I thought I’d work backwards and see what the TEFL jobs specifically ask for.

I must have looked at hundreds of different websites and courses but I like the TEFL Academy as they are internationally accredited which seems important given that eventually I could be pretty much any working where in the world! Many of the potential teaching placements are really specific about the course format and I think the TEFL Academy ticks all the boxes there.

The TEFL Academy website is really well set up http://www.theteflacademy.com/, it has a jobs board and reviews by students that have completed their course at the Academy, the placements and stories are amazing. 

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I really like the idea of a weekend classroom course not just all online learning I know learn better when face to face with a tutor and it seems the job market also look for this. I think the online support and back up need to be there to work alongside the face to face learning, the TEFL Academy seem to do this as well.

I’ve been reading the reviews and profiles of the TEFL Academy tutors and they have all travelled and studied extensively since they themselves got their TEFL qualification. Perhaps one day my CV will look like some of theirs. You never know in 10 years’ time I might end up being one of their tutors!

Shaun’s here so I’m off to the pub, I’ll ask him how Steff is dong on her teaching placement in China, and what she thought of her TEFL course. I think I’ll give the TEFL Academy a call tomorrow and ask a few more questions.

What Next?

Finally finished my History degree so glad it’s over and I’ve done reasonably well but not sure what to do next. Shall I take a year out and travel, or do what the parents want me to do and settle down and get a job? It feels like a pivotal point in my life and whatever I decide next will affect my future. I’ve always fancied teaching but not sure where to start or what ages to teach. Just buying a ticket disappearing off with a backpack around the world is tempting but I need to earn money along the way really.

I’ve heard a lot about teaching English abroad which would combine working and travelling, UCAS sent me an email with some information on how you get your Teaching English as Foreign Language (TEFL) qualification. It would be a good way of pleasing the parents and getting some solid work experience on my CV.

I’m still not sure if I’d rather do my teacher training in the UK and end up teaching in a secondary school? Mind you if I do my TEFL I could always come back and do teacher training and it might make getting a place on a course easier. I know that I want to travel and see the world a bit before I settle down and now might be the only chance I get to do that! 

I have had a proper look at the stuff UCAS emailed me, there seems to be loads of countries you can work in and I already have the first qualification I speak fluent English! I think I’d like to work Asia eventually and really immerse myself in a completely different culture and way of life.

I need to properly research all the TEFL courses I think and see which one is best for me and check out the reviews. Shaun’s girlfriend Steff recommends a place called the TEFL Academy as they do a 120 hour course which includes 20 hours classroom based training. She said the tutors were friendly and helpful and she is now out teaching out in China, I think Shaun misses her loads though, he is travelling out there during his summer break from University.

I’ve had a quick look at their website http://www.theteflacademy.com/ but I think I’ll do some proper research into all the different TEFL courses next week. I need to have a proper plan before I speak to my parents as they are really not keen on the idea of me just backpacking aimlessly around the world.