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Alumni Stories – Asher

We spoke with one of our graduates,  Asher, 2 years after completing the TEFL course. He talks about his experience since graduating. 

Do you teach for language schools or do you have your own students?

I started teaching with Spevacek and spent the first year gathering students and getting better at the job. Now I have only a few classes with Spevacek, a decent amount of private students, and a lot of in company courses, and I work part time at an elementary school. I teach all age ranges, from 7 to 55. Each age range and level has their own benefits and flaws.

You are actively teaching at the moment, so how many hours per week do you teach? How many hours per week are doable?

I am actively teaching yes. I believe my weekly schedule is between 25 and 30 hours a week. It is a comfortable amount to work. I have friends that work 40+, but that seems difficult to me, but it’s possible. I have a full schedule Monday to Thursday, and my Fridays are blocked off as an online working day and is often used for rescheduled classes.

How long did it take you to prepare one lesson when you started teaching?

When I first started teaching lesson planning took me quite a while. At the beginning it probably took me between 45 minutes to an hour. It gets easier over time and you slowly learn how to streamline your planning.

How long does it take you now?

Depending on what I am teaching it can take me 10 – 20 minutes to plan a lesson, or it can take me an hour. I have taught a lot of adults and can plan those lessons very fast. Kids still take me some time to plan out, maybe 45 minutes to 1 hour, and I am still working on making that shorter. You start to have a backtrack of lessons saved up and a list of websites and resources. If you’re using a textbook it’s very easy, you just need to know the topic and the exercises and supplement that with some related topics and ideas and games or in a group, a creation component.

What materials do you use in your lessons?

Yeah, this is a great question. I use a lot of the online resources. Firstly, I use the textbooks provided to me. They can be really nice, and the New English File is a very nice book. I even have private students who have a copy of the textbook and we go through the book together for our lessons. Other than that, Google… Google, Google, Google. There are so many resources I have found that I love: Linguahouse, ESL Brains, ISLCollective, LiveWorksheets, Blooket, Wordwall, and Kahoot.

Here are two slightly more obscure sites I use for adult lessons a lot. These lessons plan themselves; they are very easy to create a larger conversation around when teaching adults.

  • English-grammar.at = this is a site full of web based grammar worksheets. I use this alot with adults because it cuts out a lot of the fluff of other websites. This week alone I have done many lessons on conditionals with my in company courses.
  • BreakingNewsEnglish.com = this site takes recent news articles and turns them into a two paragraph reading exercise. I use this when teaching older learners as well. We all end up learning about the world. I have had a very positive reception from lessons that use these.

When you think about your beginnings, would you say that the TEFL course was useful? Are you using some things that you learned during the course?

Yes. It was helpful. I definitely learned a lot while teaching after the course too. But you learn more important things than teaching. You relearn your grammar, which is actually pretty amazing and super bizarre; english grammar is crazy. You also learn very useful things like how much you should talk versus the student, so in a way you learn how to shut up. And very valuable, is the importance of error correction. Learning the flow of a lesson is incredibly useful as well. Really, the entire course was helpful. But more than the course itself, which was very useful to begin teaching, is the community it gives you access to.

The TEFL community in Prague is big and small. There are tons of teachers, so there are many people in the exact same situation as you. Living in a new place, not knowing anyone, and being out of your comfort zone is incredibly hard. But TEFL Worldwide always has new people taking the course. And they host regular graduation events which are great opportunities to meet people and make friends. And I cannot stress the importance of building a community around you when you move to a new city, and TEFL WW is a great resource to meet people.

Did you have any struggles you had to overcome? 

Naturally, of course I did. Teaching is hard. Even now, I recently started a new job teaching kids again and that comes with its own struggles and problems. Teaching may not pay a lot at the beginning, depending on your first job; but there are ways to make an income. On top of that, I had to deal with the stress of waiting for my visa, and with the stress of finding an apartment, and the stress of the course for the first thirty days all while in a new country. So my advice is to look to the people around you and how they can give you advice. We have all gone through a similar process. Don’t be scared to ask for advice, or at least hear their stories and learn what you can do to make it easier. Keep your head up, learn to roll with the punches, and just go with the flow at times. But granted, I am a very carefree person.

Have you experienced any culture shock in Prague? 

Yes kind of, it was the little things though. Going to the grocery store is weird. I spent an hour early on living here looking through the spices and translating many things.

The language is hard, but I do like it. Lots of fun can be had with czech, at least learn to order food and beer and how to communicate the basics.

A bit of a pleasant shock is how much beer people drink here. Like I knew they drank a lot of beer and you can drink outside in most European countries, but wow. It is awesome… if you like beer.

Also the easter traditions were pretty shocking, but to whoever is reading this, you will discover that on your own.

What advice would you give to new teachers? 

Put yourself out there. Teaching is hard and it may come to you fast or maybe it will be slower. But don’t get stressed. But be ready to be out of your comfort zone at first. Learn how to speed up your lesson planning and make sure you enjoy your afternoons. Make sure you meet people and make friends. And charge accordingly for private lessons! So get out and meet people. The lesson planning and stress is natural and you will find ways of streamlining your preparation. But more importantly, enjoy your life in the new country you’re moving to.

No matter where you decide to go after TEFL WW, get out and meet people. Say yes to things. Or host things and have people over. But find people and make friends, explore new cafes, bars, restaurants, parks, events, and festivals; and in a new city surrounded by others in a similar experience away from home, it is easy to meet people. So just get out there! And Prague has everything you need. I have been able to start a band since moving here. I picked up hobbies and found an artist collective space to display my works. I have friends that do English speaking stand up comedy! Make the most out of your experience with this city.

Living abroad is a crazy experience, and the first few months were hard. When you are still getting to know the city and meeting people, it is a lot. So just seize the opportunity when it is in front of you, or even just create the opportunity. Dealing with the stress of the job is natural with any and every job. Make sure you enjoy the afternoons and weekends and are going out to see the city. Obviously not every day either. Early on I had the need to be doing things constantly, so I also recommend taking nights in and watching a movie or playing a game or something lowkey.

Is there anything you wish you’d known when you started? 

The main thing I wish I had known before I moved is what the visa application process was like. It isn’t that hard or difficult, just a lot of bureaucratic red tape.

Also, they do tell you this early on….start looking for a flat during the course. Also reach out to the Alumni; My landlord keeps telling me that there is an apartment for rent in my building. You never know what kind of advice or resources you can get from the alumni that are already here.

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