The TEFL Zone

For those who are passionate about teaching and learning.

My work stories

Volunteering for Syrian Youth Assembly, February-March 21

 I had the pleasure of volunteering for a  project led by the Syrian Youth Assembly. Syrian Youth Assembly e.V. (syrian-youth.org)

I observed 4 Syrian teachers teaching online and provided  oral and written feedback. This was invaluable, as I had just completed the Train the trainer course and it helped me practise what I’d learned, as well as identify and focus on some of my weaknesses. Huge thanks to Ahmad Zaytoun for his support.

Running the Lesson Jams, September 20-March 21

When Myles Klynhout asked me to join a Lesson Jam session back in September 2020, I said yes enthusiastically as I’m keen to participate in any teaching and sharing-related event. Feedback from participants was so positive that we promised to run these sessions twice a month. Since Myles has chosen  a new career path, I happily accepted to fill in his shoes as the ELT Lesson Jam leader. I organized and ran 9 sessions with the help of 4 great teachers. You can read more about the lesson jams here.

Teaching online in Tarragona.

In October 2019, I started teaching at a local academy in Tarragona. Then COVID hit us sometime in March and we switched to online teaching. It’s now September 2020 and I don’t feel ready to go back to the physical classroom. I became a freelancer and I’m working exclusively from home. How? Teaching online of course!

Teaching in summer schools 2014-2018

Now this is something every EFL teacher  must do at least once! Basically, you are not a real EFL teacher unless you’ve taught at a summer school! 😛

My very first EFL job was with EF Oxford. It was right after the CELTA course ,   thanks to my  colleague Angelos Bollas  who published the  job post  on our facebook group. Some positions needed to be filled ASAP and without second thoughts, I called them and got on a plane to the UK a few days after.

It was just a two-week contract. I was  skeptical about  asking for an extension, since it was my first real teaching job. It was not easy at first, but once you pick up the pace, learn the ropes and the routines , it really grows on you. Intense, fun and unforgettable are the words that best describe my first summer job in Oxford.

You meet other great teachers, you network, you land good references for your next job and you share incredible moments with international students. If you enjoy teaching teenagers like I do, summer schools are like the TEFL heaven!

They also provided me with  a single room with en-suite bathroom, full board and partial ticket reimbursement. So, I was really satisfied.

EF in Malta was also something an interesting experience. Malta has incredible beaches, breathtaking islands like Gozo and Comino and of course, great sunny weather.

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Teaching there was more or less the typical EF experience; students were lovely and the staff really hard-working. The accommodation was about 40 minutes away from campus though – not so convenient! I think the monthly bus pass cost 80 euros, so a lot of time and money spent. Not to mention that  I wasn’t exactly fond of Maltese bus drivers! A lot of speedy zig-zagging, horns, no patience..

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I later worked for Intenational House Oxford in 2016 and I must say  was impressed by how hard-working the senior staff were. They were constantly on call, even at midnight, to tend to every need and support us with whatever it was we were struggling.

International House didn’t use any coursebooks then, so we planned project-based classes and were free to create or print out available resources. Classes were great fun and I had a really positive experience there.

And then there is Bedes’s summer school. I worked at their centre in Lancing Sussex. Fantastic school! The king of summer schools to be exact. The only problem was that the Lancing centre is kind of isolated, up on a hill. Unless you have a car, it’s  rather difficult to get around. You need to walk some 40′  to town, as there are no bus stops anywhere near.. Not great when you have to work 12 hours a day!

And this is why I think Bede’s is simply the best:

  1. Great senior staff: Centre and Academic manager were just fantastic. Always polite and with a big smile, despite their heavy schedule and long hours, doing their best to accommodate our needs.
  2. Experienced and qualified colleagues:  I had the privilege to work with incredible teachers! They all taught  me something new. The CPD sessions we had were really useful and I’ve learned so many tricks and fun activities from them.
  3. Consistency: The management  did not tolerate continuous misbehaviour. They punished students who crossed the line by taking away free time or not allowing them to go on an excursion. As a result, we really didn’t have many discipline issues.
  4. Great salary and always paid on time.
  5. Single accommodation provided.
  6. Senior teachers helped with lesson planning, so anyone who felt insecure or just ran out of ideas could count on their help.

Teaching in Zagreb, Croatia -2018

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Zagreb is the capital of Croatia and an amazing city. It is so vibrant and welcoming and most of all..safe! You can find cafes and hangouts just around the corner pretty much everywhere, as the locals and expats enjoy a slow pace and plenty of time to relax!

I found Croats to be  well educated and talented, particularly when it comes to languages. It seems that languages are taken seriously in their education system and most of them know German and English, maybe even Russian, quite fluently by the time they graduate.

The place I found work, almost as soon as I set foot in Zagreb was a  Helen Doron School. Helen Doron is a British linguist who first opened a language school many years ago and now runs  about 800 centres globally. HD schools focus on young learner education and the majority of the students are between 4-10.

What I enjoyed at HD school was the fact that learning was really fun, both for students and teachers. Students experienced the language through all senses. Sight, hearing, touch, smell and taste. It was fun and natural, just as they acquire their mother tongue. We created lots of amazing props, we read great stories, we sang and we danced!  It was unforgettable. My first time teaching 3-year-olds and I loved it.

There are quite a few Helen Doron schools in Zagreb and the rest of Croatia and I highly recommend them for newly qualified teachers, as there is abundance of support. HD schools organize frequent teacher training programmes to help their teachers grow professionally and face the challenges of teaching different ages and levels. The team in Zagreb is amazing and really friendly. Great job ladies ! 🙂

Teaching in Tarifa, Spain -2014-2017

I taught in Tarifa for 2 and a half years. It was a life-changing period. Why?

The first of many challenges was that I had to adjust to a small- town environment after having spent 30 years living in a chaotic capital city. As soon as you overcome that, life is great!

Low cost of life: renting a furnished studio was quite affordable. However, a lot of people shared flats in order to save some cash, which is totally fine if you are in your 20’s and seeking adventure, or a keen socializer.

Great food: Amazing tapas and house wines, again for really low prices.

Welcoming people: The Andalusians are really easy-going and friendly.  They do everything with  a smile and they will try their best to help and accommodate you.

Amazing landscapes and sunsets: Tarifa is a unique place. The Atlantic is on your right and the Mediterranean on your left. Literally. The only place in Europe which can boast that. The sunsets were all purple and pink, simply spectacular. It really helps a lot to witness such beauty when working abroad, away from friends and family.

Full immersion in Spanish: You learn by living, by interacting  with the waiter, the cashier at the supermarket, watching the Simpsons with subtitles.

Being close to Africa: How often do you get to get on a ferry and be in Africa in less than an hour? Quite often if you live in Tarifa.

The school: I worked for English Time Academy, ran by Nika Aull. I highly recommend this school for a number of reasons. First of all, the local students are simply the best I’ve taught. The Tarifenos are very nice people. I enjoyed every single class. Nika is an amazing person with a lot of experience teaching English and Spanish as a Foreign language. She is friendly and open and creates a wonderful atmosphere for teachers. Nika and her sister, Bethany, taught me tons of tricks and techniques and helped me develop as a YL teacher. Miss you a lot girls 🙂

 

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