I had no idea what I was getting myself into when I sent $500.00 to Prague. I think it was sometime around July. Wanting a little adventure and excitement, and a chance to make some money when I travel in the future, I decided to sign up for this TEFL Worldwide course in Prague, of all places. I hadn't the slightest idea what the city was like, only that it was near Germany and used to be communist.
As the fall rolled along, my mind was focused on going to Sweden, not Prague, and I didn't give it a second thought until literally the morning I left Uppsala for the airport. It only hit me then that I was heading off for a month in a new city to go to school for something I knew next to nothing about, and wasn't sure if I really wanted to know anything about.
So here I am, two weeks into this business, and am still not sure what to think. I'm excelling at the English teaching bit...so far I've been observed twice by our professors while I student taught, and both times they had excellent things to say. I'm finding that i actually really enjoy the teaching as well. All the training and the theory cannot create the feeling of standing in front of Czech students, who really want to learn, and successfully being able to facilitate that. It's a cool feeling. But it's also a ton of work.
Class starts at 10:00am sharp everyday, and Terry and Pete, the two British guys who teach the course, are very strict about their time schedule. Their great teachers, two of the best I've ever had for anything, and they command the attention of their students. It's an added bonus that they both speak with that enchanting British accent...Pete sounds like John Lennon and looks a bit like Keith Richards, while Terry sounds like Prince Charles and looks a bit like a 12 year old kid. They've been doing this for over 12 years, and have taught all over the world, from the UAE to Japan, Spain and Russia. Their stories alone were worth the price of admission to the school.
So anyway, school begins at 10, with the first session lasting until around noon. After that we get a 15 minute break, followed by the afternoon session from 12:00 - 1:30. On Mondays, school resumes at 2:30 after lunch. But the rest of the week, the afternoons are reserved for student teaching, when the Czech students come to the school for their lessons. We only teach twice a week, either T-Th or M-W, having the other two afternoons off to plan our lessons. So on any given day, I'm at school from 10am until at least 7pm, sometimes longer. But it's rewarding work, and to me is like solving a little puzzle. Planning the lessons requires a lot of thought to actually make them interesting (despite following a book as a syllabus). And successfully implementing a lesson is enjoyable.
The biggest challenge is getting your points across while not actually being able to say anything. Our training follows a theory of student-centered tactics...meaning essentially that the students do all of the work, and the teacher is only there to facilitate the learning process. For example, when presenting a new vocab word, we must first try to elicit the word from the students through visuals and sometimes elaborate and quite humorous modeling. A lot of English teaching is really just acting, and once you realize that and embrace it, it can be quite fun.
The planning bit is the difficult part. I spent 2.5 hours planning my first lesson (each lesson is 45 minutes long). Which is roughly 2.5 hours longer than I spent on anything I did in college. The difference this time round is that I really enjoy it. I'm not doing it for the sake of getting it done, I'm actually looking at my lessons as a little problem I have to solve, and when I get to present them and fit in that last piece of the puzzle, it's very satisfying.
I've written and discussed before the notion that all deeds are essentially selfishly motivated. I think this teaching thing is a prime example. My initial motivation for coming to Prague and to this school was so that I could potentially get a job while traveling the world, and finance my adventures. Which obviously is a selfish motive. Since I've been here, however, I actually enjoy more than i thought the actual act of teaching. So while I'm fulfilling my own selfish needs by simply feeling good about myself when i complete a lesson, I'm also helping those Czech students learn English, which they are paying to do. So I think sometimes it's ok to have selfish motives when in fact you're helping others at the same time.