Each two weeks of our course, TEFL trainees are invited to give us their written opinions of the course itself, the course materials, and their trainer. Comments by several of our trainees appear below.
Despite the fact that our course runs for six weeks, it is nonetheless intensive and challenging, and so generally does not motivate persons to describe in weekly detail how they have found the course thus far. The following analysis is an exception
, and this trainee's comments were written and submitted by himself weekly to the Teacher Discussion Page, TEFL Courses, of www.ajarn.com
. Calling himself "Sodum 57", the writer's comments – which were intended to be helpful to others considering what TEFL course to choose – were entirely voluntary, and were written and submitted without either the knowledge of our academy, or through any consultation or approval by us. As such, his remarks constitute a wholly objective blow-by-blow view of our course by someone actually engaged in doing it. We trust that his comments will be useful to you also, if you are thinking of doing a TEFL, TESL or TESOL course.
Ok, it's started. My first day in the TEFL course. Started fine. Instructor on the ball and professional. Tasks, conditions, and standards of the course were clearly spelled out and started the first module. Not gonna be a lot of tea time, apparently. That's okay ... gotta hang ... one more for the gipper. Classroom small. Chairs a bit small for my lard ass. But the aircon works so we're in the money.
My fellow students ... well, pretty much it is predominantly a group representative of the broad spectrum of society (British society and their former colonies, apparently), with a dash of Europeans, East Asians, even a Muslim, and of course me the token American. Why can I understand the lady from India and the gentleman from Sri Lanka's English better than my British cousins'?" Not that they aren't speaking proper English (hell, they invented it, right?) ... but damn hard to follow ... must be me.
I've read so much on this board and others about the different courses available, the types of folks you're liable to run into in the teaching business, etc. Plan to keep an open mind and see for myself. But some of what I've read has been SPOT ON (see what I learned already -- gonna have a bagful of British expressions by graduation day). I'm off to do my homework.
RESPONSE FROM "ERIK".
Excellent thread! So far, I hope it's the same school I think it is.
Exam from last week came back -- I aced it. Took the Module 2 yesterday ... not going to be so fortunate, I think. Should have expressed my thoughts more clearly. Wasn't happy with myself.
The class ahead of us graduated yesterday. One young fellow was intent on showing us his certificate. He received a D, D+, and a few C's as best I can recall. The instructor comments on it were politely blistering. He slammed the guy pretty hard, among other less than glowing comments: something like, "would best be suited to teach children and lower level classes". Ouch. I think I would just leave THAT TEFL certificate at home instead of showing it at an interview. The fellow was pissed at the school and trembling, he was so angry. Word in the hall, though, was that he deserved the low grades, and was more focused on booze/broads/being late than the course. Bottom line: If you're considering taking the TEFL then I recommend saving party time till graduation, and don't make the assumption that just because you paid big bucks you'll be given a free ticket to high grades and instructor remarks. That's a lot of money to let a prospective employer know you didn't cut the mustard. Study grammar before you come! Not a day goes by I don't flagellate myself for not having done so. It bites, playing catch-up. Make no assumptions!
Been a busy week. One thing you certainly don't want to do is to get behind. Bear in mind that the end of course test is comprehensive and will cover ALL the modules - so keep good notes or you'll be wading through a ton of material on D-Day.
Began the week with another Module exam. Actually, did much better than I originally thought I would. The week was spent slugging through Module 3, in-class presentations, preparing lesson plans, and preparing for our observed teaching to Thai students starting next week. The current requirement is minimum 6 hours actually teaching, and 6 hours observing a classmate teach Thai students. I think it will be an excellent opportunity to perform the tasks we've been taught. Actually, I think the amount of time 6 plus 6 will be sufficient for us, bearing in mind that when you're teaching you'll pretty much be putting in a 9 hour day, not counting transit times. Of course at the same time you'll be doing homework, preparing for exams, etc.
Instructor gave some good advice concerning the job market, resumes, interviews. I don't know if it was part of his lesson plan or just some pearls of wisdom, but if it wasn't part of the lesson it should be. Excellent ideas from someone who has been there. The instructor also came in on his day off to assist anyone who felt they needed help. He did this on his own, and I doubt he's being paid for it - which he damn well should be!
End of the second week you'll be given a course evaluation sheet to complete. I'm sure the school received some good feedback. We'll see if it makes a difference. I'll not mention the issues now, but will give the school a chance to address them. That's the fairest way. Update to follow!
We have a new TEFL instructor sitting in on our classes. He'll start teaching the next class. Super guy. Extremely bright, knowledgeable and helpful. Gotten a lot of valuable insights to teaching and teaching Thais from him during breaks. The next class will be in good hands I think.
I don't think a day goes by that I don't learn some valuable aspect of TEFL or the teaching business in Thailand. It all seemed so simple and transparent 6,000 miles away, staring at it on my computer monitor. Now, I really can't imagine coming here and just winging It. As informative and insightful as this site and others like Stickman and Bangkok Phil's (both of whom I can quote in my sleep) are, there's nothing like actually being here in a structured environment with solid experienced folks to help point the way - at least for me. Not going to specifically recommend this particular school until the dust settles and I've seen all that they can do. But after two weeks I can definitely recommend taking a TEFL course if you're the serious type and want to be good at what you do. Hell, if I quit and walked out today it would have been worth it.
Some good observations. I'm looking forward to a detailed review of the practice teaching sessions...
This is indeed an interesting thread and should prove beneficial to those lurkers here who are seriously considering a course, or three.
Been lurking for a couple weeks now, this thread is very interesting and helpful. Keep it coming, and pace yourself; as you saw, good grades and evaluation look nice on certificate.
Week 3: Working on the third Module, preparing for exams, preparing for and presenting classes to Thai students. Very busy weeks to follow.
Our classes started teaching Monday. Tuesday we reviewed the performance of those who had taught Monday evening. Some folks felt more successful than others in giving their first presentation to Thai students.
A recurring theme was nervousness because they were being evaluated, or being thrown off by the many Thai students showing up late. Apparently, Thai students showing up late, or not at all, is not uncommon, and even though we had been warned about this, when it actually happened some TEFL students were thrown off track. The evaluators were apparently very thorough, and some of my classmates are very anxious about being evaluated. We discussed ways to minimize the distraction and nervousness.
I taught the second hour of a two hour class (pre-intermediate) last night. The TEFL student who taught the first hour was extremely nervous before the class began, but did an excellent job once he started. He was almost frantic before the students arrived, and I was worried he would freeze up in front of the students. Once he got started, though, he was impressive and justifiably pleased with himself at the end.
I was happy with my presentation. I have extensive experience as an instructor and senior instructor (in the military), and that made it much easier for me, as there are many methods and techniques which are actually quite similar. I enjoyed it. Our evaluator was very patient and experienced. He gave some excellent pointers after the class. Once you start the third week, there's very little free time, and we are not even half way there yet. Some courses run for four weeks. How they cram this much material into that short amount of time must be amazing.
I am glad I chose the six week course. For me, it's intensive, but I still have time to focus and keep my bearings. Don't think I could do that in four weeks myself.
Good stuff, Sodum. Quote: "Thai students showing up late...some TEFL students were thrown off track". This made me smile. I feel for you. I did my cert in a UK school which refused entry to students coming later than 10 minutes. That Thai-style lateness must be a nightmare when you're training.
I'm interested to know what advice your school gives about this, as it's something that puts me off even now.
Just an off-topic lateness story: My Thai boss got complaints that I showed slight annoyance towards latecomers. By late, I mean turning up an hour late and then having the balls to whinge, "mai kao jai". Later, I asked students to complete an anonymous survey about my courses. About half the students only had one comment: Sort out the latecomers! After that, I just locked the door ten minuites into each lesson.
Quote: "That Thai-style lateness must be a nightmare when you're training ... I'm interested to know what advice your school gives about this as it's something that puts me off even now." Several points were made. It was explained that the Thai students who attend our teaching practice do so for free (except a small fee for materials) and are more likely to be late than a paying customer.
That said, our discussion was primarily focused on the paying customer, and not the Thai school system. When students do show up late the recommended way to deal with it was to acknowledge them with a smile or "Hello" when they enter. Don't stop your presentation or get side tracked; you owe it to the students who were responsible enough to arrive on time to continue giving quality instruction. Take it in stride and don't take it personal.
I taught my second class last night and had 9 students. Three were about five minutes late. An evaluator told me that the first class the Thai students attend requires them to sign in/register (?) downstairs before coming up to the classroom. If that's so, it explaines the nightmare some of my classes encountered during their first presentation.
Halfway point. We're getting there! The third week was hectic. Preparing for and presenting classes, slugging through the third module, and taking another exam. Next Monday we start the fourth module, take a Module Exam, and teach Thai students in the evening. It will not slow down until graduation.
I smooched the pooch on my third exam. Received a 7/10. Really disappointed in myself, as I had a case of "vapor lock" on a question that had been presented in class, and that I had read and reviewed at home!
Finished my second round of teaching. Was a bit leery, as I'd been told by other classmates that it would be a very low level elementary class. It went great, though. I was teamed up with the same classmate I had taught my first class with (you alternate being the first to teach in a 2 hour session).
My partner has an extremely effective introduction and manner in the classroom. I think an American would classify it as something like the "car salesman/shit eating grin approach". But I was amazed. The Thais friggin ate it up! He was very gentle and encouraging (to the nth degree) in his approach and had them eating out of his hand after awhile. Something to learn there. I admire his ability and considered trying it, but it just isn't me, so I used the modified version. Just can't paste that shit eating grin on my face for an hour. Besides it shifts my dentures. I'm a bit too rough around the edges in appearance and demeanor for that, but I do know how to work a classroom with humor, and get the students' particiation, and that's critical. Different strokes. Whatever works for you, and what you're comforbable with - as long as it's effective.
Before I wrap this post and hit the books and bottle, I want to address (first/last time on this thread) the complete sludge you have to wade through about selecting a TEFL course. It really is a pain in the ass. Each course touts itself on their websites - free market, buyer beware, fair enough. On this site, there is an obvious turf war, and many have no qualms in going to great lengths to beat the living hell out of each other (or use someone else that's a handy pawn to serve as a poster child or punching bag) - which is confusing to anyone trying to figure out which one to attend, or if they even should attend here in Thailand.
In the end, I think they are all probably very similar (if I find out different later, I'll post). I do think it's worthwhile to take a TEFL course. In your home country or here. If you're even slightly interested in teaching here (and motivated) there is so much to learn. I have extensive education, training, and experience (albeit years ago) in adult education, but I know I will be more effective in the TEFL classroom for having taken a TEFL course. Bottom line. If you read enough threads on this site it becomes apparent that teaching English in Thailand is a world all its own. For some, it appears to me, it is a very dark, sad, and twisted world - man, they do like to "share", don't they? Don't let it get you down. There's a lot to learn, a lot to do, and a lot of fun just around the corner.
Quote: "I'm a bit too rough around the edges in appearance and demeanor for that, but I do know how to work a classroom with humor and ..." Add this to your avatar image (Forrest Gump) and you might make a wrong impression - like you are a sincere and honest dumbnut people can't stop laughing at.
Keep on. Learn the ropes.
All the best.
RESPONSE BY "SODUM 57".
Thanks for the advice, I think. Well, I am sincere and honest, but, yes, I'll leave the avatar at home when I go for an interview. Not much I can do about being rough around the endges, though. I'm just not the lean green, mean, fighting machine, stud muffin, Mac Daddy I was in my younger days. I've learned to accept that my spandex and tank top days are a bit behind me -- won't see me jiggling around Sukhumvit in a skin tight Nike jump suit and hair dyed jet black -- sorry ladies, you'll just have to suffer and dream of what could have been. And damn, I just never was very good at smiling like a possum without a reason. I am, however, clean, well dressed, "middle aged", and qualified --hopefully that'll get my foot in the door.
Closing in on graduation. Started the fourth module Monday. The focus is on teaching to non-native English speakers and Thais in particular. This module book is much more "user friendly" than the others so far. Better layout and organized. Very interesting subject also, as it identifies problems and provides solutions to frequently encountered difficulties teaching Thais.
Took another exam Monday --9/10. Really find it hard to focus at times. So much material, so many requirements. It isn't overwhelming -- but easily can be if you allow yourself to get distracted.
I find myself focusing more and more on my classes to Thai students at the expense of my exam scores. I still have an A average, but I've let it drop to a low A. On the other hand, my teaching evaluations are consistently high. I can still do better.
New class started this week. They also have a good instructor (he observed our class for a few weeks), so I'm sure they'll learn a lot.
One week to go. Finished our last teaching practice and observations last night. For me it was the most enjoyable, interesting, and demanding aspect of the course so far.
Thai students are unique; their language, culture, and learning styles are so different from anything I've experienced before teaching American students or military trainees. It was an eye-opener and extremely helpful.
I think the current time alloted for practice and observed teaching is adequate for the majority of TEFL students, but not all. By the end of the day today we will have taken three exams this week. This has certainly been the most intense week yet.
Our final comprehensive exam will be Monday. It's supposed to be a 3-4 hour exam for most. Definitely not the time to head to the bar this weekend.
The course so far has gone by very quickly. Not much drag time, as there has been so much to do. No "stystem over-load" periods, but certainly intense if you're trying to learn as much as you can and want to do your best in all phases of the course.
Found a nice air conditioned restaurant just around the corner during lunch break yesterday. After five weeks of sweating into Thai street food it was fantastic. I need to learn to read Thai! One of my priorities after graduation.
Thank you, Sodium, for this thread. You are answering many of my questions by talking about your experiences.
Don't let the competition of some get you down. I take it for what it is worth, with the understanding that they come from their own place of interest. There is some use from their remarks, but not much.
I am looking forward to the end of your course and your final evaluation of it.
I will be coming to Bangkok in September and take a course, and this will help me a lot.
I have a Thai friend that is interviewing some of the Thai students, I believe, at the school that you are attending. Their evaluation along with yours will be very important to my consideration of what school to go to.
Ok, buddy, when can we expect the grand finale? The suspense is killing me, and I have a zillion questions to ask!
Sorry, The missus and I rushed off to Hua Hin after graduation to enjoy the beach and she ended up getting her purse snatched -- been a bit busy. Will have something posted next day or so.
The course I attended was Text and Talk in Bangkok. The course cost 995 dollars and I think it was money well spent. The course was professionally run and delivered what it said it would. For anyone considering teaching in Thailand, I recommend taking a TEFL. Of course, you can just walk in off the street and wing it as many do - there is no shortage apparently for this type of "just a farang warm body needed" employment in LOS. On the other hand, if you check the job ads, you will also see that many do in fact require a TEFL certificate.
Despite extensive experience as an instructor and having a degree, I felt I could do a better job in the TEFL classroom by taking a TEFL course. It certainly helped me.
The teaching practice to Thai students was the best part of the course for me. It gave me six hours to put into practice what I had learned. I had an additional six hours to observe my classmates' lessons. More time was offered to those who felt they needed it.
I also came away from the course realizing that there is so much that I need to re-learn about my own language if I want to be a better English teacher. That will be an ongoing process and one I take seriously.
The staff were helpful, professional, and responsive to feedback or suggestions.
The materials given to students are very helpful and will be valuable references in the future. Some of the printed modules, however, could be more user friendly. Too many fonts and not organized as well as they could be, etc.
I'm glad I took the course. Will it make you a super teacher? No, only experience can do that, but it will provide you with the tools to make an excellent start if you're motivated.
Congratulations on your graduation, and thanks for all the useful information! Just a few questions. Could you give an example of what was covered in the practice teaching sessions (without revealing too much). Also, did you encounter any difficulty finding suitable housing near the school? I noticed that the school is located between the airport and downtown Bangkok. Have you taken advantage of any graduate services, such as job placement, visa assistance, etc? Finally, having finished the course, is there any prep work that you would recommend prior to taking the course?
LAST ENTRY BY "SODUM 57".
For each teaching practice you would be given the following information: time/date of lesson to the presented; size/ages of group; level of proficiency; and unit of instruction to be presented. You would be given lesson materials such as the teacher book, student book, and workbook, although you were free to use additional materials. The teaching practices were distributed between intermediate, pre-intermediate, and elementary levels. The class normally lasted between 50 and 55 minutes. An evaluator was located in the rear of the class and did an extensive written assessment of everything you did or failed to do, starting with how you were dressed and encompassing your lesson plan, methods, techniques, delivery, etc.
I already had lodging. However, some students didn't. The school assisted those folks and they found inexpensive lodging within walking distance of the school. The school was helpful in assisting students with job interviews and visa issues (myself included).
I was offered two jobs but turned them down because it either wasn't the level I wanted to teach or I didn't like the location (money was good on one job offer - 50,000 baht per month). The admin guy, Leigh, was very helpful and responded quickly to student needs.
As far as prep goes, it all depends on your educational background and current proficiency. Grammar rules were ancient history for me (still are, but I'm working on it), and I wish I had done a better job of preparing for it.
One British lady in my class didn't have the academic credentials or experience I had, but she did just as well as I did, in my opinion. She started off with the normal stage fright and lack of confidence, but blossomed as the course went on.
I do think that any persons with a decent education and motivation can pass the course. The course is intense but not overwhelming. The course isn't designed to weed you out, it's designed to help you to succeed. If you're motivated and possess the basic skills, you'll do fine. They don't pull punches on your grades or evaluations - that's the way it should be. Honest feedback is something you can work with to improve yourself.
I liked the six-week version. I've been through some intensive whirlwind courses in the military, and many decent courses also, but the whirlwind courses always left me with a million pages of notes and very little time to digest what I had learned. I wanted to avoid that this time around, and I'm glad I did . . .
The following are (briefer) comments made by our trainees at various stages of their development: