If you read our blog post about choosing ITA as our TEFL Certification school of choice, then you’ll know that we settled on doing our course in Cambodia. Well about two weeks after we had officially signed up for the TEFL course, I was vacationing with two of my friends in New Jersey, when I received a call from the ITA Student Affairs Office. It turned out that the school in Cambodia was not living up to ITA’s name and ITA had decided to terminate their partnership, after our course.
I immediately called Josh after hearing this news, and we weighed our options. Although our course was still being offered, did we really want to go to a school that ITA no longer deemed worthy? And would our certificates be worth anything? Another major concern for us was that we wanted to enjoy our time and make friends. I decided to call Student Affairs to see if anyone had dropped out of that TEFL course. At the time, only one other person remained, so that sealed the deal for us; we had to choose another location.
As I had already resigned from my position as a College Admissions Counselor, we needed to find a course that was being offered during or near the same time the Cambodia TEFL course was being offered. This timeframe, and open spaces in the courses, left us with: St. Petersburg, Prague, Florence, and Barcelona. Our top choices were St. Petersburg and Prague. St. Petersburg was a top choice because Josh absolutely loves everything Russian and he’s always wanted to visit. I really just wanted to go anywhere abroad so I was ok with his choice… Until we found out it was too late for us to get visas for the course we were looking at. So we could either wait for the next course, or choose another. Waiting wasn’t an option so…
Teaching TEFL in Prague was what turned us on to the idea of teaching abroad (not to mention I was slightly obsessed with the picturesque qualities), so this was where I wanted to go. I successfully talked Josh into going and that was it! We were going to Prague!! …Until we made the phone call to sign up and they told us we had missed signing up for the last two spots by mere seconds. God I was so pissed.
Well our remaining options were Florence and Barcelona. Josh is Italian, so he really wanted to go to Florence. I had already spent some time in Italy and was really hoping to add another country to my list of places I’ve been. So I, selfishly, convinced Josh that we should go to Spain. Don’t get me wrong, I had legit reasons (like how Expatistan said Barcelona would be cheaper than Florence) but it was 100% for selfish reasons aaaand I hope he never reads this…
Anyways, we settled on Spain and soon we were on our way. I’ll fast forward and get to the ACTUAL point of this post: the TT Spain course itself. They’d set us up with an apartment in the Eixample district, only 5 metro stops from the school. We arrived about an hour and 40 minutes early for class so we spent that time wandering around the neighborhood. We did head into the building about 20 minutes early, and started chatting with the other students. As you can imagine, everyone was pretty friendly and outgoing. One of the perks of this course was that our class of ten students really did all get along.
First, we took a trip to a cafe to get all of our preliminary questions out of the way. Then we set up our Moodle and Google Drive accounts for the classwork. We also received the syllabus and learned about the basic structure of the course. Classes started at 10am every day (unless the teachers decided we could start at 11). Then a coffee break came at 11:30am, and classes ended at 1:30. If you were teaching that night, you had to come back two hours before your class to work on your lesson plan. If not, then you were free! Your teaching schedule will be decided by the end of the first week, so you’ll know in advance when you’ll be teaching.
The coursework consisted of several assignments (two essays and three lesson plans), quizzes on book chapters, six teaching practice classes, and a huge project. The project required you to assess an ESL (English as a Second Language) student and create lessons geared towards their learning needs. With this course being only a month long, this was a freaking lot of work to cover. I assumed our teacher, Niamh, was exaggerating when she said we should get our fun and tourist-y plans out of the way before the class began. Well you know what they say about assuming. This was a very intensive course and there were days we were at the school from 10am to 9pm.
There were four teachers throughout the course, all experts in different subjects. It seemed like they were available 24/7 for help and guidance. I’m a heavy procrastinator and can’t get work done until the absolute last minute, but I’d (usually) have comments on my work within a half hour of turning it in, very late at night. I also received responses to my emails within an hour or two. I loved that the teachers made themselves available after classes for questions, too. With this being such an intensive course, it was really nice to have their support.
As for the teaching practice, this was something I wasn’t really prepared for at all. We all taught a class during the very first week. We each had to observe a class, then teach the same class the next time it was held. My first class seemed to go very well, other than a couple hiccups. I also didn’t have to make my own lesson plan that time, so that made it easier. After the first lesson, we had to choose our own topics and make our own lesson plans, so it was much harder after that.
My first lesson plan turned out pretty well but I completely f***ed up the next one. If there was one thing I learned during this course, its that you need to know your shit before you can teach it. I didn’t know my topic inside and out, so I wasn’t able to properly teach it. Our teachers gave us feedback after each class, so we knew what to work on for the next class. After my f*** up, I received really good advice and I did so much better after that. As I said before, I was not prepared for these lessons and I didn’t really think about what needed to be done. After having taught during this course, I feel like I know what is expected of me and how to carry it out. I hope.
Final Thoughts on TEFL in Spain
Now, I’m honestly a huge nerd and I had actually been missing schoolwork, so I feel like I thrived. Josh, on the other hand, absolutely hated the course and ended up quitting. But that’s another story for another time. The point is that this course might not be for everyone. I don’t know how it compares to others, but this one is intense. There is a lot of work, very little free time, and very supportive teachers.
Our teachers continuously told us that we won’t know everything after this course, but this would give us the basics. If you feel like you need more than that, don’t opt for any one month courses. If you can’t handle the pressure of working constantly and teaching immediately, this isn’t for you. But if you enjoy fast paced environments, teachers who care about how well you do, and getting your certificate quickly, this just might be your best bet.