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"What it's Like to Train New TEFL Teachers
for TEXT- AND-TALK Academy"


By: Keith Jackaman, TEFL Course Trainer

Knowing something about what goes on ‘on the inside’ can have its advantages, hence the title and the purpose of this piece. First, a bit about the trainer: It could be argued that a day in the life ofa typical trainer is rather dull and uneventful. That would be the case if we were discussing the average Nike or Adidas kind (sitting on a shoe rack all day can’t be much fun, even if you are with your ‘sole’mate, laces entwined, etc ….), but we’re not. Quite the contrary; we TEFL trainers are up on our feet for the best part of the day, and are constantly being kept on our toes by sharp minds. You’d be forgiven forthinking that a pre-course stint in ballet-dancing might be in order, but rest assured it’s not. As a TEFL trainer, I am pleased to say that a typical day is neither dull nor uneventful.The idea is to make our trainee teachers aware that being active and mobile is a big part of EFL teaching. That’s where the Nike or Adidas "trainers" come in, not for use in the classroom, unfortunately, but for aftera hard day’s teaching. So, it surely makes sense for the prospective TEFL course trainer to invest in three good pairs of (foot) trainers: - two for the shoe rack and the other one for use in the TEFL training room!

As our TEFL course is rather demanding, it is essential that an air of fun pervades the course on a regular basis; the earlier in the course the better...

Let's work hard, but let's enjoy it, too.

Hard-working TEFL Course TraineeThe new internees (sorry, trainees) invariably bring along with them plenty of humour, and providing it is used constructively, can nake the overall proceedings really pleasant. Ultimately, it is up to the trainer to ensure that everyone enjoys the course, and armed with a good sense of humour and plenty of games and fun activities, the trainer can make pretty sure that that is the outcome. Again, hopefully, this aspect of teaching will rub off onto the trainees, and they will begin applying it in the classroom themselves:


How can I make this lesson fun for the students? By not turning up, maybe?!).

Obviously, nobody can give anyone else a sense of humour, but maybe you can bring out whatever's hidden in the depths to the surface. On the other hand, a recent course member confessed to the class that he was completely bereft of a sense of humour. The rest of the class considered this for a moment, nodded in collective agreement and moved swiftly on. (We trust he might develop one on his own, of course, perhaps from being part of some amusing experiences he is bound to have as a teacher in Thailand!) Anyway, besides having a sense of hunmour, a must for both the trainer and the teacher is a good deal of patience. Oh, and I almost forgot: Knowing what you are talking about can come in handy, too!

The typical TEXT-AND-TALK TEFL course brings together a wide diversity of interesting and sometimes unusual characters from all over the world

(and occasionally other places), all probably initially a little bit nervous about what and who to expect on the course. I know I am (well, about the ‘who’ bit, anyway. I think I’ve got the ‘what’ bit pretty much sorted out). Will everyone get on with each other? Will there be any awkward customers? We’ll soon find out. Day one of the course tends to be a cordial affair, with everybody being introduced to the course and one another (and the ‘weighing-up of each other’ process begins). I normally introduce a few games and ‘getting-to-know-your-classmates’ type of activities which act as a sort of gelling agent. Light-hearted banter soon follows, and this is great as long as the work gets done. As the trainees start getting better acquainted some of the banter can get a bit sandpapery, but the pervading ‘keep-it-fun’ atmosphere usually keeps it ‘fine-grade’. Anyway, what’s the point in going to the fairground if you can’t handle a few bumps here and there?

The introduction to grammar (the ‘Big G’) often meets with quite a mixed response. With some trainees, we get a ready acceptance and eagerness to embark on a fascinating journey of exploration of this wonderful topic (although, I must admit, this type is pretty rare). With others, we get what can only be described as ‘the total loss of control over facial expression syndrome’- nervous twitches, quivering lips etc., or in extreme cases, the total withering away of an otherwise promising teacher (a bit like Dracula being exposed to the sunlight for the first time). However, there’s no need to worry; a little tissue is all that is required to remove the residue of the unfortunate individual from one of our practical blue chairs.

For the grammar buffs – Why can I say ‘a practical blue chair’ but not ‘a wheel blue chair’ (unless I‘m drunk, of course)? Answer that and you have a head start or a smart head. So, why does your head smart when you’ve had a bit too much to drink?

Anyway, you may have gathered that by having a bit of fun with the language ( e.g. you can walk, but you can't walk on the grass with a can of beer), you can start developing an interest in English grammar, and will begin thinking about why we say things the way we do: - grammar in a nut-shell (apart from the terminology, of course – there’s always something, isn’t there?). A former graduate informed me that he hadn’t got a clue what he’d been talking about for the past thirty years until we introduced him to grammar. So, even the ‘Big G’ can be fun, and that is the way we approach it on this course. Soon comments like ‘What was all the fuss about?’ abound, facial spasms disappear, discarded tissue papers suddenly burst into life (‘tis you ….’). I’m quite sure our friend Dracula would do OK with the grammar if he got his teeth into it.

Cracks in a newly-built house generally start appearing after a few months. On a TEFL course they can begin to surface as early as week three. During the first couple of weeks everyone’s getting into the nitty-gritty of lesson planning etc. At the beginning of week three comes the realization that what’s gone down on paper in theory must come out in practice in the classroom with real Thai students. Everyone, understandably gets first night ‘jitters’, but (and you may therefore be surprised that) everyone actually enjoys the experience. You only have to do the first one once. All our trainees do actually get all the help they need with this. We reach week four and new fissures can often be seen as the demands of the course firmly take hold. Nerves can get frayed, people can get a bit edgy, quips can take on a sting as they cross the room, but overall the fun atmosphere prevails. Ultimately, the vast majority make it through, and live to see the inside of a real Thai classroom, and that’s where the real work starts. I don’t just mean in the obvious sense of ‘Of course it’s real work. I’m getting paid aren’t I?’, but more in the sense of how tough it can be when you first start teaching. Being confronted with fifty kids can be rather daunting, unless of course you are prepared for it. That’s exactly why we make our course as demanding as we do, so you actually feel ready when you get out there, and consequently enjoy what you’ve been trained to do.

A slight divergence here, but the talk of cracks and enjoying the job brings to mind my Thai brother-in-law, who deals with cracks (not in crack) all the time, and clearly enjoys his job. He is in fact a plasterer, and for him every day begins with a bottle of rice whiskey close by, the contents of which gradually disappear as the day passes. The strange thing I’ve noticed, though, is – the better he gets plastered, the better the walls get plastered. That having been said, I’ve also noticed that the walls respond rather more favourably to the overnight drying-out process than he does. Clearly not a methodology we would subscribe to on our course!

On that note, I think it’s time to wish you the greatest success when you do your own training course.

EDITOR'S NOTE: We believe you can see better now why our TEFL Course is so much fun!

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