Thoughts on ELT, English and whatever else comes into my head
I often see questions in ELT forums and Facebook groups with people asking if they should fork out for a full TEFL or an online version and whether they really need them to get a job teaching abroad. Answers range from “depends where you’re going” to an absolute and unbending “YES!” with offence taken at the idea anyone might try and teach with no 4 week qualification.
Funnily enough, no-one minds that authority figures in in ELT might have been not only have been teaching with no TEFL qualification, but writing books that are used on those same TEFL courses. Maybe you get immunity after a certain number of years or books? Or there’s some other reason I can’t think of why Michael Swan has got away with saying this on his website:
I feel bound to confess that, as I drifted into English language teaching and applied linguistics with no professional training in these areas, I have no qualifications whatever for the work that I do. If I applied to myself for a job as a research assistant, I would have to turn myself down.
Swan’s not the only one either and I suspect there were plenty of other ELT luminaries keeping quiet when Hristina’s announcement she was off to Vietnam to teach with only an online TEFL set off a storm in an ELT cup. That was two months ago and I thought some of those concerned about the ethics or practicalities of Hristina’s situation might be wondering what happened to her.
So I asked.
So, Hristina, did you find a job, despite only having an online course?
Yep! A job teaching primary English (and science) in a public school where kids come not from underprivileged families, struggling to scrape a dollar together, but from wealthy upper middle class families. The school also offered teacher training. The school system is very different from mine, and maybe a lot of Asian countries, in that there’s an enormous focus on ‘fun’ and games rather than hard-core drilling, though this may be just for the English and Sciences classes that I teach.
I also teach at several private schools where the kids are usually quite young (anything between 3-6).
I reckon I’m doing a good job so far and probably to do with the 10 months I spent at ELTjam.
People were concerned you would be undercutting a qualified teacher. Do you think your job came at someone else’s expense?
No way. The demand for teachers in Vietnam is, as I expected, huge. So there is no ‘undercutting’ going on here.
Are you legal? I mean work permits and the kinds of protection a qualified teacher would expect?
I was immediately — the very same day — offered help with acquiring a work permit and $24 US** an hour.
You say you reckon you’re doing a good job so far. How can you tell?
I’ve been able to sit in on other classes where English is taught as a second language so I’ve been able to observe and compare what I do with what others do. A lot of them have had years of experience and it’s been great to have that sort of guidance. I also have a Vietnamese TA who isn’t exactly a TA but more of an assessor. So if I’m not doing something right she will step in and tell me what to do. (I later found out my TA is the head of the English department which explains why she’s a lot more demanding than the other Vietnamese TA’s.) The TA’s provide invaluable feedback which is why I think I’m doing an OK job.
What aspects of teaching are you enjoying the most? And what do you think you’ll improve at?
I’m actually really enjoying teaching Science in English. I also really like the kids. Sounds like a bit of a clichéd thing to say but the young little ones are super cute.. And bright. Really, really bright. They love to be challenged. I like to get them all hyped up, then I know they’re enjoying themselves.
If I decide to keep teaching however, I would definitely consider doing the CELTA or equivalent. I think it would definitely help if I were to competently teach adults and give private lessons, which is probably what I would want to do if I decide to keep teaching.
Big question … you’ve only been there a month but how do you feel about your decision not to take an official TEFL qualification yet?
I’m quite happy with the decision I made. I’m glad I didn’t dish out a grand and a half on a CELTA. It’s just way too much money and at this stage, it really doesn’t feel like I need one.
** This is approx. £15.40 or €19.77 which makes it equivalent to the last time I taught in the UK (2010 with my TESOL and 10+ years’ experience) and more than last time I taught in Spain (2012 with an added MA in ELT).