How did TESL@ TFLI prepare you for teaching?
Without the TESL course at TFLI, I believe that my best efforts in the classroom would have maxed out at mediocre. TFLI taught me how to plan and adapt lessons based not on rules and maxims, but rather on thoroughly-explained guidelines, which, with some tweaking, always seem to work. As I gain experience teaching with various classes and individual students, my confidence increases and I find I am able to adapt to more closely follow the ideals presented in the TESL course. It’s a lot of work, but it’s incredibly rewarding. The students love it, and even the three-hour classes tend to fly by.
What advice do you have for students who want to teach in in Russia?
Do your best to find someone who knows the ropes. I’ve been here for a year, and I feel incredibly lucky to have found my current employer. The market in St. Petersburg is huge, which results in a lot of schools that are just in it for the money. They don’t care about the students, the teachers, teacher development or working conditions. The owners rake it in, but at the expense of the students’ happiness and to the detriment of the teachers’ quality of life. One of the bigger firms, which is international, has the teachers work for an unreasonable number of hours a week, not including planning and including clerical duties. On top of that, you are not allowed to take any of the books home with you. Other schools may not have adequate libraries or easy access to printers. If you can try to clarify why the school is in business, it may be helpful. The facilities can be a tell-tale sign.
In other words, be careful before you jump in with both feet. Learn about general living conditions and the police and things like that. Life in Russia is expensive. You won’t be saving too much money. There’s lots of other advice under the general category of “living abroad.” Russia is different, but you can get used to it. If you find a good school, they’ll take care of you, but be ready to take care of yourself.
What is your best experience so far teaching?
There are a few good ones. One of my students, who had invited me to a bar to celebrate his birthday after class, introduced me to his wife as “the best English teacher in the world.” At a kids’ English camp (which are everywhere here), my class of 10-11 year olds lined up and shook my hand at the end of one class. Some of the end-of-course reviews I’ve gotten from my students have been really nice, resulting in immediate nostalgia. There are more, but I promised “a few.”
Tell us an interesting classroom story.
One of my favorite parts of teaching is the improvement in the students. I sometimes focus so much on building cohesive and interactive classes that student progress seems to just spring up all at once. I can’t really think of a single, eye-opening or amazing story, but this general trend of improvement among my students really makes me proud of them. They don’t stumble over words, they use what they’ve learned, and they are obviously more confident in their language. It makes me believe that what I do works. I could not be happier with my choice to take the TESL course at TFLI. I sincerely believe the trainers there are the absolute best. They work to make their students into excellent teachers, and when you leave, you are ready for anything.