Published 12th October 2015
The UK is considered by many to be the home of tea, cricket and TEFL. Logically, the UK is the top destination for foreign language students to study English, rivalled only by the US. Consequently, the UK is saturated with language schools and overflowing with students. Learners come to the UK throughout the year and for a range of reasons: to brush up on their English, to have summer holidays or to prepare for university.
Young Learners and Young Adults are sent over for the summer from Europe and Asia, to play games in the English sunshine… or play English games anyway, and play football, squash and tennis with other learners. During summer school you can expect to teach lessons, of course, but also spend time with your students on a social basis. Sometimes you may even stay on the school premises, or be asked to carry out pastoral duties as well.
There are a lot of bonuses teaching in a summer school: 1) It’s usually quite easy to find a job; 2) Accommodation and board are often included; and 3) You are expected to go on excursions with students which means you will be “working” while eating ice cream on the beach at Brighton or checking out the latest exhibitions at the portrait gallery. These lessons are a lot of fun, too, because they are quite different from normal lessons and involve a lot more activities and a lot fewer books.
Besides summer courses, there are a ton of different language schools for adults all over the UK, especially in London, Cambridge and Oxford. These are either small, boutique schools or bigger chain schools but the working environments are pretty much the same. You’ll work 3 – 6 hours a day, 5 days a week, possibly evenings. Your lessons will be Conversation English, General English, Business English, Exams English, English for Specific Purposes – Aviation, Hospitality, Nursing – or, more particularly, Reading, Writing, Listening, Speaking, Grammar and Vocabulary. Your learners will range in age from 16 to 50+ and your class size shouldn’t exceed more than 12. You are usually paid an hourly wage.
Teaching adults can be both rewarding and challenging, but the great thing about adults is that they bring life experience, opinions and values into the classroom and are able to contribute in a more meaningful way than younger learners and are always eager for a chat. Language classrooms in the UK tend to be very mixed multiculturally, which makes for interesting conversations and lively debates. Be warned though, the downside of teaching adults is that they know how to complain – about their lessons, their homestays, English food, English weather. In some cases you can sympathize (it’s difficult to explain to a Spaniard or a Brazilian that it’s not going to get any hotter or sunnier, even though it may be summer) but sometimes they just need someone to listen to them rant.
Above all though, teaching in the UK is a great way to get a range of experience under your belt, get to grips with the methodologies behind TEFL and focus on your own teacher development. And drink a lot of tea.