Teach Enrich Empower
My TEFL Journey - From the Highlands to the Land of Fields
From feeling totally lost with my career direction as a new graduate to where I am now, here is what got me into TEFL and how I did it!
Hey! I’m Robyn, a Scottish ESL Teacher currently located in Poland! It’s been almost 2 years now since I got my TEFL certificate from The TEFL Academy and started teaching English. All I can say is – what a journey it has been – so many amazing experiences, interesting people, self-development and confidence growth. Here’s a brief summary of my 2-year journey as an English teacher so far…
What got me started with teaching English?
As a kind of lost-soul after high school, I took the standard route of going straight to university to study business. Needless to say, I felt pretty uninspired and unmotivated for most of those 4 years, which made one thing clear for me; I would not be happy continuing on this path and had to find something more exciting to do! Luckily at university I did enjoy a fantastic year abroad and made the most of other exchanges and trips which taught me a lot about myself and how much I love traveling, culture and languages. Hence the idea of teaching abroad! Upon graduating in 2018, the whole teach English abroad concept was growing in popularity and popping up on the internet more and more. Which obviously caught my attention. As someone who never considered being a teacher, the more I thought about it the more I realised my personality and interests could really be an ideal fit for this kind of job! I signed up for the Level 5 TEFL Course, (168 hrs) which included 20 classroom hours, with plans to work in East Asia as I had never been there before and that’s where it all began!
How was the course?
The course itself was super straightforward. Being mostly online with interactive modules, videos, exercises and regular quizzes to check your progress it’s pretty interesting and gives you lots of insight into what to expect. Additionally, it goes a bit deeper into the actual structure of the English language as most of us native speakers (especially those with no second language experience of their own) don’t know why we use certain tenses and the different grammatical terms essential for teaching English. Learning how to make an effective teaching plan was also a critical part of the course as it’s not uncommon for potential employers to ask you to make a teaching plan for a specific kind of student as part of their selection process. Finally, I would recommend taking a course with the in-house hours as it stands out a little more on your CV and is generally a really fun weekend. I was able to meet a bunch of like-minded people in my local city each with their own goals and purpose for taking the course. You learn lots of fun classroom activities and exercises for students of different ages and levels.
I am now in my second year teaching English abroad and currently in Poland! Everyone asks me “why Poland?”, especially my students as Polish people are stereotypically known to think life is better everywhere else other than Poland. Well, I really wanted to move back to Europe after a year in Japan as my job was a bit full-on there and I missed the more familiar cultures and lifestyle of my home continent. However, I hadn’t lost my sense of adventure and didn’t want to take the more familiar option of somewhere like Spain, Italy, etc. I noticed the high demand for teachers in the more central-eastern European countries like Czech Republic, Hungary, Slovakia, Ukraine which I had never ventured before. Poland stood out as a great option as I found it featured on more and more recommended travel lists and has been growing as a popular tourist destination substantially these past 5 years. Especially as a Christmas holiday to experience the ultimate festive Winter which is something I really wanted after spending the previous 4 years’ Christmases in the sun.
What is my job like?
Working in the small city of Gliwice for a private English company for kids and adults my lesson schedule is pretty varied and is currently comprised of 50% online lessons and 50% face-to-face. Every day is different, but generally, it looks something like this:
6am: Get up, make coffee, check blog and emails.
7am: First lesson online (business english)
Before noon: Half the time I am free until after lunch, the other half of the time I have up to 3 x 40 minute lessons either in school (5 minute walk away) or online.
1-3pm: Have lunch and prepare any kids/teens classes for the afternoon
4-6pm: 1 kids/teens class lesson (1 hr, with up to 8 students) and 1 online 1-to-1 lesson
6pm: Adult evening class at school (no preparation required)
7:30pm: Come home, work out, dinner and relax.
This off and on schedule is not for everyone, but I really like it as it makes me feel more free and able to enjoy the nicest parts of the day.
How is the day-to-day life in Poland?
As for the general day-to-day, it’s pretty relaxed. When I arrived in late Summer 2020 the weather was amazing (who knew Poland had such hot Summers!?), covid restrictions were mostly lifted so I enjoyed a couple of months of local attractions, going out for drinks and meeting new people at intercultural and ex-pat events. I started Polish lessons and felt like it was really going to be an interesting year. However, since the second lockdown wave from November I have spent most weekends in the flat doing the typical lockdown hobbies of cooking/baking, crafts and virtual meetups. But the ultimate disappointment came in December when I realised all the Christmas markets and festivities I had come here for were all going to be cancelled. Obviously, none of this could have been avoided though, so no regrets!
How long will you stay in Poland?
As the global pandemic and lockdowns have really affected my ability to fully embrace Poland, I haven’t become as attached as I might have been otherwise. The past year has shown how uncertain the current times are and have motivated me to try working as an independent English teacher online at the end of my 10 month Polish contract this summer. That way I will be able to work anywhere I please with my own students, which will give me even more freedom and flexibility with my weekly schedule.
Teaching abroad has got to be the most limitless career choice you can take in 2021 with the lowest and most flexible requirements, infinite location possibilities and altogether a great option if you are feeling stuck in your current lifestyle. I recommend it to anyone needing a change and more rewarding job!
Thanks to my flexible teaching schedule I was able to start my own blog during lockdown where you can read more about teaching, studying, and working abroad – all from my own personal experience!
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