Feeding Me In
When I entered the world of TEFL/TESOL/ESL teaching I had heard various stories of what to expect once I finally made the leap in to the unknown and although the internet can be a great wealth of knowledge there is also a lot of objective fear mongering. Naturally I tried to be as selective as possible when I conducted my interviews and there were more than a couple that had my alarm bells ringing.
What drew my attention to York School of Foreign Languages was that they seemed to get the basics done right. I was offered an example contract, a 24 page brochure on the city, the area and the schools themselves as well as offering me current teachers’ e-mails. This all seemed very well organized and above board and continued once I had landed at Fuzhou airport by one of the Academic Co-ordinators and the school driver, despite it being nearly 3am in the morning.
My first two weeks were spent observing classes, getting to know the processes and the philosophy of what was expected at York and not expected. This all seemed to be a very gentle introduction to my new job and given the horror stories of a handful of my friends about being given the curriculum on the very first day and thrust in to a classroom I was very happy to be eased in.
Learning to Drive After You Pass Your Test
Once I had finished my TEFL course earlier this year (it was a four week intensive scheme run in Prague) I felt very confident of my abilities as a teacher, so leading up to my first team teaching role I thought it would be fine although I have to admit I had more than a few butterflies in my stomach. I was going to be taking approximately a thirty minute slot out of Antasha’s class which I would eventually be taking over. Antasha introduced me as the new teacher for that class after she would leave and then it hit me like a ton of bricks. Stage fright! I was speaking but I suddenly felt sixteen pairs of eyes weighing me up and being more than slightly skeptical.
My first taste of teaching was going extremely slowly and jerky but I was making do. The old adage that you only learn to drive for real after you pass your test suddenly came in to my head and things seemed to be going pretty badly. Antasha comes from New York and I am from Colchester in Essex. The transition of her accent to mine seemed to be more that a small hindrance and I was finding myself enunciating my words more like an American just so that they could understand me. After a while they warmed to me and things flowed slightly better.
This reconfirmed that feeding me in slowly was much to protect the school as it was me. If they had teachers coming in and straight away teaching badly then repeat business would be extremely low.
From Learner to Teacher
Luckily Antasha was very kind in terms of her appraisal and claimed it had gone just fine. I wasn’t so sure but becoming more than an observer was something I had waited for, for the last twelve weeks since I had flown out to Prague to start this big adventure. After a couple of weeks of team teaching and helping out here and there I finally received my first classes for real and it really was make or break time for both me and the students.
Fortunately neither the students nor I broke down and everything went along smoothly. The T.A’s (teaching assistants) are also fantastic when you are in need of a hand to either communicate instructions or gain control of the classroom. Their job is to mostly discipline and make sure that the students know what is going on in case their English really isn’t that great.
The acceptance of my accent will also eventually come and I just need to be patient with them. Going from a strong North America one to mine must be quite a challenge for their ears and the thought of me mimicking a New Yorker accent for a long time seems more like torture for both of us. If every cloud has a silver lining it would be that it will vastly improve their listening skills and this can only seem as a bonus for their concerned parents.