What I Know Now About Teaching English in Japan

When I was 25, I made the move to Japan to teach English at the junior high school, elementary and kindergarten levels. Prior to crossing over the Pacific pond, I had very little experience as a teacher. Needless to say, I learned on the fly. Each and every day revealed a new teaching tactic but also taught me a lot about myself. Here are five things I know now about teaching English in Japan.

1. Being Open-Minded and Patient Is Paramount While Teaching English in Japan

It’s your first day of work as an Assistant Language Teacher, ALT, at your base school in Japan. You arrive, introduce yourself to everyone (in whatever broken Japanese you can manage), hand out the gifts you were told you should bring to your co-workers, sit at your desk, and…now what? What does one do when they have no idea of what is actually expected of them? I knew I was there to teach English, but how?  

In this situation, I suggest going with the flow. Observe the Japanese English teachers in the classroom, learn from them, and ask them what they want from you. If you’re asked to prepare an entire lesson about your home country, do it. If they want you to stand in front of the class and act like a human tape recorder, do it (with flair, of course!).  

Be open to their suggestions and patient in regards to the initial simplicity of the tasks that you are asked to perform. With time, you will gain understanding, experience, and the trust of your co-workers. Once you have these (especially the latter), you will pretty much be allowed to add whatever you see fit to any English lesson. 

2. Take the Initiative

At the junior high school where I worked, the two Japanese English teachers offered me insight into two very different teaching styles: the traditional and the flexible. The traditional model labeled me a human tape recorder; the native speaker whose sole purpose was to show the students how a word was perfectly pronounced. It was mind-numbing work. 

Luckily, I also had a more flexible/modern model of teaching. This was a co-worker who wanted to do things differently. They encouraged me to think of ways to motivate the kids to learn English. All I was given was the grammar point to be taught and the rest was up to me.   

So off I went. I created games, speaking and listening activities, worksheets, and skits (to name a few) which made English fun for the students. My advice is that once you’ve gotten the lay of the land, don’t just sit there and wait for instructions. Stretch your creative muscles and think of innovative ways to teach English to your students. This will a) impress your co-workers and leave them with a positive image of the hard-working foreigner, b) keep your brain cells active, and c) hopefully make the kids actually like English rather than just see it as another academic obligation to fulfill.

3. Be Yourself: Put Your Own Personal Spin on Everything You Do

When I first arrived to teach English in Japan, I wanted to be uber respectful and I tried really hard not to offend or commit any cultural faux pas. I tried so hard that I found that I was censoring myself. As I got more comfortable in my surroundings, I started to let my true colours show. At work, besides putting my personality into all of the lessons I created, my empathetic self came out as I decreased the distance I had put between myself and the students (in Japan, at the time I was there, teachers did not invest in the emotional well-being of their students). 

I started to show the kids that I actually cared about how they were doing. Believe it or not, this can be done even with the existence of a huge language barrier. The end result was that they, even the troublemakers, respected me. Not going to lie, this impressed the principal who asked me how I got the “bad” kids to do what I asked. My answer was simple: “I listen to them”.

I did go a little wild (by Japanese standards) with being myself. In my second year there, I incorporated some fire-engine red highlights into my naturally dark brown locks. This did not go over too well in my super-conservative workplace. I was constantly asked why I had done that to my hair. To tell you the truth, I didn’t really care what they thought. It made me feel happier and more authentic. Eventually, they got over it and probably realized that my hair colour had no direct correlation to my work ethic. As I mentioned before, it’s important to be respectful of cultural differences, but don’t lose yourself in order to please everyone else, especially while teaching English in Japan.

4. Many Heads Are Better than One: Ask Fellow ALTs for Tips

One amazing thing about the JET programme is the tight-knit community that exists between the ALTs. You’re never alone. The Gunma JET Association offered annual conferences where seminars were held on effective team teaching, staying happy and healthy in Japan and a variety of other useful topics. These information-filled events also provided networking opportunities: a chance to make friends and professional connections. We shared ideas, resources, experiences, and laughter.  

I was also fortunate enough to be placed in a town with some of the best human beings that I have ever met in my life. (If you all are reading this, I miss and still think of all of you often!)  Each individual was kind, fun, talented, and hard-working. My three-year English stay in Japan was one of the best years of my life so far. If I needed help, whether it was lesson planning, where to buy ingredients for a recipe, or where I could find an English-speaking doctor, my fellow ALTs were there for me. They were even available for random rant sessions (all foreigners know that sometimes venting while abroad is, at times, very necessary). We created an atmosphere of support. I know now that without this human connection, I would not have survived three years, let alone six months, neither professionally nor personally, in Japan.  

5. Accept: Don’t Let Differences Frustrate You

It’s really easy to only focus on what’s better in your home country when you are living abroad. I say, don’t do it! It only breeds negativity and makes your overseas experience less enjoyable. If you look at the experience from a difference, something positive can emerge. Almost always, an opportunity to enjoy or learn something new crops up. 

What do you mean I can’t find a lot of the ingredients to make my favourite foreign dishes? No worries, I’ll try new foods, maybe even learn a few traditional Japanese recipes. So, you’re saying there is no gym that offers Zumba, GAP, or pilates classes in this small town? However will I stay in shape? Perhaps signing up at the local dojo for some martial arts classes is a viable plan B. There was always a bright side if I chose to look for it.

Sure, Canada is way more multicultural than Japan, but does that automatically make it better?  Something I learned from living in a mostly unicultural society for three years was what it was like to stick out like a sore thumb. In Canada I’d always blended in. I was always able to remain anonymous in any crowd. In Japan, not so much.

I was the only foreigner in the neighbourhood of Kiryu, where I lived. Many Monday mornings at work someone would make a comment about how they had seen me shopping at that store buying [insert embarrassing item here] eating at that restaurant, or drinking (sometimes a bit too much…oopps!) at that bar. The lack of privacy was annoying, but it did teach me to be more respectful of others’ space and private lives. Rather than announce to the world that I saw this person buying condoms at their local convenience store, I just kept those little tidbits to myself.  

Wrap Up

Even though I have taught English for the last 14 years, I did not study to be a teacher. So,  when I made the move to Japan, my goal wasn’t to hone my teaching skills. It was, in fact, to live in a foreign land, try new things, and travel. That is exactly what I did.  

What I know now is that that desire for adventure, that surrender into the new and different is what kept me happy, healthy, growing, and learning during my three-year stint in the land of the rising sun. The best advice I could give is to embrace and enjoy all of the trials and tribulations that living abroad throws at you. You’ll develop as a person and have some pretty awesome stories to tell.

Interested in learning more about teaching abroad? Check out this article about one writer’s experience teaching English in Korea and Taiwan.

How I Became a Language Assistant in Spain

It was 2018. I was a few months away from graduating from Durham University with my languages degree, and I had to decide what to do next. Since I was six years old, I’d wanted to be a teacher. I always assumed I would go straight into studying for a PGCE, then on to a standard teaching job. However, for some reason, I didn’t feel ready for that. I wanted to do something else instead of plain old teaching straight away. This is how I fell into being a language assistant in Spain. But I had to make a decision about my future first.

Being a language student, my possible plans mainly involved travelling. I drew up a list of five options, including: 

  1. Becoming a language assistant through the British Council.
  2. Doing a masters in translation, potentially abroad.
  3. “Bits and Pieces” — volunteering at a local Steiner school, volunteering abroad with refugees, and working with a mountain activity company in Italy. 
  4. “Another year abroad” — two six-month placements abroad in countries where they spoke a language I’d studied or wanted to learn.
  5. Another degree! I studied two languages and two sciences at A-Level. I felt tempted to go abroad (double benefit of practising my languages and cheaper fees!) and study something related to Biology, Chemistry, or Linguistics.

What to Choose

As I can see looking back on this list, I obviously didn’t feel ready to start a standard full-time job! In the end, I chose the first option. Apparently, I’m drawn to teaching so much that even when I don’t want to teach yet, I end up being a teaching assistant! I think I chose this option because it was the easiest to organise. Plus, I’d be paid rather than paying for it. It also seemed relevant to my career path, so I guess it was easier to justify and to feel confident enough that it was a good decision!

There’s a lot of pressure to go straight into a full-time job after graduating. But I would strongly recommend going abroad first if it is something you’re considering. There will be plenty of time for a standard job during the rest of your life, and you will get so much out of living abroad! 

Graduating from Durham University

The British Council

Many English speakers from all over the world decide to spend a year (or more) abroad helping teach English through the language assistant programme. It is a great way to immerse yourself in another country’s culture and language while working part-time to cover costs. As a native speaker, it’s also easy to find private lessons on the side to earn a bit more money.

Depending on where you’re from, there are different ways to get a placement. However, for those of us coming from the UK, we usually apply through the British Council. This involves a fairly long but simple application form. Along with this form, you will also need a reference, and, for some countries, a video interview (but not Spain, where I ended up applying). The British Council currently organises placements in 15 countries around the world, from South America to Asia. 

Where to Go

I decided that I wanted to stay in Europe to be closer to my friends in England. However, I couldn’t decide whether to go to Spain or Italy (having studied both languages). Much as I love Italy, in the end, I chose to be a language assistant in Spain. This is because there were many more placements available there, and I would be able to practise not only Spanish, but also Catalan. Through the British Council you can also put preferences of the region of Spain you would like to be in, whether you want to be in a city or a small pueblo, and what age you would like to teach. They say they take this into account, but there’s no guarantee that you’ll get your first choices. 

Leaving home ready to start a new life in Spain

Application Sent

So, I sent off my application form in December, my reference was sent off by February, and then I just had to wait. In April, I heard back from the British Council that my application to become a teaching assistant in Spain had been successful. Now they would pass my application onto the Ministry of Education in Spain. Both of those agencies would work together to assign me to a specific region. In May, I found out I’d got my first choice region and would be heading to the Comunitat Valenciana in October. All that was left was to wait for the ministerio to allocate me a school.

Spain is notorious for taking a while to tell you where exactly you have been placed. They are working on this, but some people only found out which locality they would be in a few weeks before starting teaching! Luckily, I found out at the beginning of July. I was originally placed in the city of Alicante, but realising that they don’t speak much Valencià (the Valencian dialect of Catalan) in the city, I was lucky to be able to swap schools with my friend. She had also applied for the programme and was keen to be in Alicante. You’re not officially allowed to swap, but sometimes it’s possible! So, my confirmed destination was Castelló de la Plana.

Castelló de la Plana

I had never heard of Castelló when they assigned me to a school there. But it turns out that Carme, my Catalan teacher’s friend, was from there. I got in contact with her to find out what it was like. She put me in touch with a student who had been there on Erasmus. They convinced me that it would be better for my Valencià than Alicante and that it wasn’t too small, so I decided to go for it. Looking back, I had no idea what it would really be like, but I figured eight months wasn’t too much of a commitment. 

Moving Abroad to be a Language Assistant in Spain

As a previous language student, the whole experience wasn’t as daunting as it might have been for some people. I’d done placements and Erasmus abroad before as part of my degree, including in Spain. I spoke the language fairly well. I also knew Carme, and she helped with logistical things like the strange workings of the RENFE train websites (yes, plural: there are different web pages and places to search for different kinds of trains, even between the same two stations!). I’d found a flat online but only rented it from the start of October. Fortunately, I was able to stay with her parents for a week first. Her dad helped me carry my big suitcases up the three flights of stairs when I finally moved into my flat.

Before flying over there, my dad helped me sort out as much of the paperwork as he could from the UK. I carefully read the auxiliar guide and country notes I’d been sent by the British Council. Nonetheless, I don’t think you can ever be that prepared to move to a place you’ve never been before. I guess that’s all part of the adventure. So, I set off with an open mind and as much patience as I could muster for the inevitable challenges. I had a better time than I’d ever imagined. 

And that’s how I became a language assistant in Spain. 

by Kira Browne

Finding Resilience: Working Without Pay Abroad

Kevin Mascitelli in front of a fort.No matter how often you travel, you’re bound to have unexpected challenges. We sometimes revel in these obstacles. Learning how to navigate a new place is exhilarating. Small, menial tasks suddenly offer a newfound sense of accomplishment — navigating public transportation, chatting with strangers, going to the grocery store, and so on. It’s great. What’s not so great? Working without pay for months on end while living in a foreign country.

Thrills and Chills of Traveling

If things go wrong, they eventually become glorious battle scars. Travelers can’t resist sharing their disaster stories, whether it’s being trapped in an airport for 12 hours or an infamous food poisoning saga. These situations are unpleasant but they’re par for the course.

Knowing all this from past experience, I felt like a confident, seasoned traveler. But when I started teaching English in Spain, what I wasn’t prepared for was working without pay for nearly five months.

The Customer is Always Right

Embedded within the cultural ethos of the United States is the phrase, “the customer is always right.” From Sears, to Amazon, to the mom-and-pop pizza place down the street, this saying influences how people treat each other in transactional situations. People don’t always act like this, of course, but this idiom establishes an expectation within the United States.

I knew that outside the land of stars, bars, and backyard BBQ, the relationship between client and server or worker and employer doesn’t always favor the “customer.” Nonetheless, I had built up an intrepid confidence in my abilities to adapt. This was put to the test when I decided to return to Spain to teach English.

Kevin Mascitelli looking down at the street from the roof.

Working Without Pay Abroad

In October 2019, I returned to Valencia, Spain to teach for a reputable English exchange program I had worked for in the past. Although I was warned about delays in payment, I trusted that things would be fine. Besides, my paperwork was flawless. Documents notarized, background checks completed, and files delivered to the proper authorities. But by December I hadn’t received a single Euro. As my savings dwindled, I became worried.

My first instinct was to visit my bank. Maybe they delivered the wrong account information to the government. In Spain, no matter what anyone tells you, banking is mostly done in person. Yes, there are apps and online account portals, but these programs don’t allow you to change or sometimes even verify critical information. This can only be done in person at your bank branch — not just any bank branch — the bank branch where you first opened your account. Because I had previously lived in Valencia, my bank branch was, of course, on the other side of the city. Very convenient.

Euros.

I visited my bank so many times that I thought about getting my banker, Edu, a Christmas present. Eventually, I discovered that the bank had done everything right. There shouldn’t be an issue, and I should be getting paid shortly. When this didn’t come to fruition, I knew I needed to move up the bureaucratic food chain. My next stop: the Spanish Ministry of Education and Sport.

January

Kevin Mascitelli looking down from the rooftop.

My new year’s resolution was to get paid. I was running out of money, and frustrated because for months I had continued to work without pay. A new year forced me to reevaluate the financial stress this was causing. I considered packing my bags for a return trip home. At this point, persistence was my only shot at salvaging this mess.

The Spanish Ministry of Education and Sport was the agency that administered my English teaching program. It took me many exciting hours of combing through government websites to locate their Valencian office — a harbinger of sorts.

When I finally arrived at the office, although I felt very nervous about having such a serious conversation in my second language, I felt a sense of relief. Speaking face to face with the officials gave me hope that someone would act. Once I got through this conversation, a weight would be lifted off my shoulders.

“Two More Weeks”

Plastic seats in a waiting area.The program administrators told me to wait two more weeks, and everything would be fine. When two weeks had passed, nothing changed. This was obviously not a reassuring sign. It was not an easy choice (because I dislike conflict), but I decided to visit the office each week until I was finally able to stop working without pay.

These visits were uncomfortable at best, each time I left feeling embarrassed and desperate for a fix. In high school Spanish class, there’s no lesson on arguing with a bureaucratic system for your salary. Under pressure, my Spanish didn’t feel natural. I stuttered more and couldn’t remember the right words quickly enough. What bothered me the most was that I couldn’t use words to bring levity to the situation. All I could do was ask for help.

Pessimistic thoughts gathered like drops of rain in a puddle. One thing that kept me motivated was believing that messy situations make you stronger in the long run. Displaying grit in a situation fraught with setbacks “builds character.” It wasn’t until a group of English teachers publicly protested in front of the city’s main government building did the program act to resolve the salary issues. When the paycheck finally hit my bank account, it was late February 2020. I thought my days of working without pay in Spain for the next few months were over.

Looking Back, Moving Forward

History proved different, and in March 2020 — instead of a vacation in Italy — my girlfriend and I fled our Valencian apartment to live at my parent’s home in the US. As military medical personnel set up tents in hazmat suits, and police vehicles announced disquieting health advisories, we threw all of our belongings in the dumpster and caught the last flight leaving Valencia before travel was banned for the next eight weeks. We could have waited out the onset of the pandemic in Spain, of course, but given how unreliable my payment was, there was no telling how little support we would have gotten as foreigners.

A waiting room during COVID-19

In retrospect, I am thankful for the challenges I faced during my second experience in Spain. Bureaucratic systems operate differently from country to country, and while each system has its flaws, I had the implicit expectation that things would work like the United States, where the “customer is always right.” Resilience in the face of adversity is something many of us have shown since the pandemic began in March 2020. I hope that we can all enter the next chapter of this collective experience with the same perseverance that we’ve shown this past year.

by Kevin Mascitelli

What I Know Now About Teaching English in Spain

Sarah Perkins Guebert Bio PhotoAre you a teacher or language assistant? Thinking of teaching English in Spain? It goes without saying that there are differences in culture and education between any two countries. There are certainly quite a few between Spain and the US, where I grew up. 

You may have heard some stereotypes about Spanish education, and, no, here in Spain we do not take naps at school in the middle of the day. Nor do teachers instinctively know how to dance flamenco. In many ways, schools in Spain and the US are actually quite similar. However, there are a few notable differences that might surprise you. These are the five things I wish someone had explained to me before I started teaching English in Spain as an American. 

Five Things I Learned Teaching English in Spain

Ditch the Heels

You may be surprised to discover that Spanish teachers do not dress to impress. In fact, casual attire is the norm. This includes jeans, sneakers, and tees. It certainly wasn’t the scenario I’d pictured when I moved to Spain. When I arrived for the first time, I brought clothes typical of an American teacher: slacks, button-ups, smart cardigans, etc. However, I quickly realized that dressing too formally was out of place in the public school environment and ditched the skirts for jeans.

On a First-Name Basis

Not only do Spanish teachers dress down, but they also go by their first names. This was quite a shock to me after coming out of the American education system. On the first day of my teaching job, I was stunned when students ran up to my boss and addressed him by his first name as though he were their best friend or cousin. However, this is not something out of the ordinary here. Have fun with it and remember that the kids do not mean any disrespect.

Winging It

American teachers know that lessons require several hours a week of painstaking work. Not so in Spain. In general, Spanish teachers do not believe in working unpaid overtime. They do not usually prepare extensive lessons, handouts, or other materials. In fact, they prefer to follow the textbook, and some even show up (sometimes late) and throw a lesson together at the last minute. This can certainly be shocking for new teachers and language assistants; however, to put this in perspective, oftentimes teachers are shuffled around between grades from year to year and cannot rely on past lesson plans.

Chitter Chatter

Spanish children are incredibly active and talkative. In fact, it’s very difficult to get them to be quiet at all. This can be challenging for a teacher, but it also means that these students excel at speaking activities and games and always enjoy a lively debate with their classmates. They are happy to discuss almost any topic at length and are always eager to participate. Make sure to put a time limit on your activities, because Spanish students can easily take over an entire class.

Black Pen or Blue?

One of children’s biggest challenges is trusting in their own decisions. They sometimes struggle to make even the smallest of choices without adult guidance. Everything is dictated to them at school from a young age, making these little decisions and creativity as a whole very difficult for them to grasp. Giving Spanish students too much freedom can even result in panic. Be prepared for confusion, a bombardment of questions, or even tears from the younger if you give them too many options to choose from.

If you plan on becoming a teacher or language assistant in Spain, I would advise simply spending time in the country and immersing yourself in the culture before walking into a class. Enjoy the parks, the bars, and the street. Understanding Spanish culture will help you understand the school environment and your students. Once you’re in class, relax, exchange your fancy clothes for comfy ones, go by your first name, and most importantly, take it one day at a time.

Work Experience Abroad: Volunteering in Costa Rica

Alexandra Cintrón JiménezDuring my undergraduate studies, I decided to broaden my horizons by volunteering in Costa Rica. I came upon a scholarship for students in the College of Education at the Universidad de Puerto Rico who wanted to pursue a teaching experience abroad. As soon as I saw this, I decided to apply and start researching for possible opportunities. In the course of my research, I found We Are Bamboo and applied for their teaching volunteering program.

We Are Bamboo had many options for positions in Asia, but I decided to go to a place where I was comfortable with the language. At that time, I barely had international experiences abroad, let alone by myself. I decided to go somewhere close to home, which is why I thought volunteering in Costa Rica would be a good idea. After applying for the volunteer program, I was lucky enough to be awarded the scholarship from my college. I felt very excited about this opportunity and could barely wait to go. 

Arriving in Costa Rica

Even though I applied through We Are Bamboo, the company was affiliated with Maximo Nivel, who were in charge of the program in Costa Rica. I will be honest with you. As I was traveling alone, I was nervous because the communication from the program was vague. They notified me that once in the airport, I needed to look out for a yellow flag held out by the member of staff picking me up. They did not send me information about my host family beforehand. I found out about where I would be staying when I met the staff at the airport. 

Nevertheless, once there everything went smoothly. There were other volunteers who were there for varying projects such as healthcare and sea-turtle conservation. Once all the volunteers arrived, we drove to the main office for check-in and then I met my host family. I stayed with my host mom Cindy, her partner, and kids. They were very friendly and when they found out I spoke Spanish, they felt thrilled. There, I met another volunteer from New Zealand. She only spoke English, so even though she had only one week left, I helped them understand each other better. Below is a picture of me with my host family; their daughter was with her grandparents when we took the picture.

Alexandra with her host family while volunteering in Costa Rica

Teaching

On the first day, I had a training session and found my placement. I met Alice from Alaska who was fluent in Spanish, which I felt very impressed by. We both were assigned the same placement, Fundación la Mujer. After we were assigned, a guide from Maximo Nivel showed us around to familiarize us with the route we needed to take to get there. Our assignment was teaching adults in San José, the capital of Costa Rica. It was an adjustment for me since all of my schooling so far had been at the K-12 level, but I really enjoyed it. The smaller group meant that we could provide a topic they felt most interested in. 

Alexandra teaching while volunteering in Costa Rica

Living as a Costa Rican and Gastronomy

One of my favorite things about this experience was that I lived like a Costa Rican. I took the bus and walked around to get where I wanted to go. Spending time with people gave me first-hand insights into the culture. The program included breakfast and dinner, so I sampled typical homemade food from Costa Rica. 

For breakfast, I tried gallo pinto, a main course that can include rice, beans, eggs, toast, and fruit. As a Puerto Rican, eating rice and beans for breakfast was a new experience. We usually ended our lessons by 2:00 PM and then went for lunch at restaurants nearby. We’d sit and eat while working on our lesson plan for the next day. For lunch or dinner, Costa Ricans love tucking into casado, which includes rice, beans, sweet plantains, salad, and a choice of meat. After finishing my “work” day, I toured the city. I visited museums such as Museo Nacional de Costa Rica and Museo de Arte Costarricense.

The National Museum of Costa Rica, which Alexandra visited in Costa Rica

I took this photo at the National Museum of Costa Rica.

Exploring Costa Rica

During the weekends, I went on a couple of tours. I visited Volcán Arenal, La Paz waterfall, and the hot springs in La Fortuna. Spending my birthday there was so much fun. Although I am not a coffee lover, I still had to try it since I was in Costa Rica. So I visited Heredia for a coffee tour. During this, I tasted different types of coffee beans such as light roast, poás, and tres ríos. They explained the whole process the beans go through while showing me the plantation. 

These pictures show the volcano and coffee tour. The basket and hat is what they use to pick up beans. 

Saying Goodbye

I wish my volunteer program had been longer. The reason being that I believe I could have made a better impact as a volunteer if I had stayed more than two weeks. Volunteering abroad is an experience anyone can have, especially because you can choose the time commitment and it allows exploring another country from a different perspective other than a tourist. You can connect better with the culture and its people. Now that I am writing this, I wished I kept in touch with people I met while I was there. I am longing to go back. There are many places I still want to explore in Costa Rica. 

¡Pura Vida!

Six Awesome Places to Teach English Abroad

What are your interests? What do you want to do in the future?  Have you made a five-year plan for your professional goals? People probably ask that a lot, and it’s okay if you don’t know yet. A great way to find out what you want to do is to travel. Traveling while you teach English abroad is both an exciting and terrifying adventure, but it certainly does open up new horizons and opportunities for just about everything.  Even in the pandemic, with all its troubles and uncertainties, the world is still full of possibilities. Most of the destinations that you would love to visit would still love to have you. Education and life will continue! 

Here are six awesome places to teach English abroad

The first three on the list have always been popular destinations for English teachers abroad, and they pay well. Plus, they provide living accommodations and travel reimbursements. In addition, teachers are respected and appreciated. They look for different levels of experience from teachers but don’t worry if you are new to this career.

China

Schools in China require teachers to have a bachelor’s degree and some experience in teaching English. If this is you, there are many opportunities for English teachers abroad, and there are a lot of exciting things to learn about. Complete immersion into language and culture makes it even more awesome. English teachers abroad in China are able to work with all age levels (from kindergarten to university) and in public or private institutions. There are many placement cities, too, including Shanghai, Beijing, and Shenzhen. On average, the monthly salary is between 6,000-16,000 CNY ($900-$2,400 USD). Since most programs offer furnished, rent-free apartments or an accommodation allowance, English teachers abroad are able to save a lot of money. 

City street lit up at night, Shanghai, China. A potential nighttime view while on an adventure to teach English abroad
City street lit up at night, Shanghai, China.

Japan

Japan has all climates. There are mountains, icefields, beaches, and rainforests here. It’s an exciting destination for English teachers abroad who want to travel and become immersed. Big cities like Tokyo and Osaka are available for placement, as well as smaller towns like Shiojiri. In Japan, English teachers work alongside the Japanese classroom teacher, and they are immersed in the community. Japan is an awesome location for English teachers abroad because of the adventure. The pay is great, averaging 215,000-280,000 JPY ($2,075-$2,750 USD) per month. Nonetheless, the cost of living here can be high.

South Korea

Here also, teachers can be immersed in a comfortable, exciting culture, and in a well-developed, modern economy. English teachers abroad have the opportunity to work in public schools and private language institutions throughout the entire country. The South Korean government does require, however, that teachers complete a criminal background check. The benefits of teaching in South Korea are fantastic. Teachers receive furnished, rent-free living accommodations, medical coverage, paid holidays, plus bonuses. Paige Miller highlights why South Korea is an amazing country for English teachers abroad in her interview with Dreams Abroad.

South Korea is a great place to teach English abroad, especially for city skyline views.

Thailand

Thailand is a gorgeous location. English teachers abroad love the beaches and the many ocean sports. For most, Thailand is an awesome location because it is so unlike anything else. Teachers can find themselves working in kindergarten all the way up to high school. Compared to other countries, however, the pay is very low. English teachers abroad make about 25,000-40,000 THB per month. That equates to roughly $800-$1,300 USD. With that being said, the cost of living in Thailand is very low. Check out Leesa Truesdell’s interview with Beth Young to get a first-hand look at what life is like for an English teacher abroad in Thailand.

Students holding a bicycle in Thailand

Spain

Spain has a very exciting culture with great food and wine, wonderful weather, and a rich history. English teachers abroad are able to work all over the country; from its beautiful coastal cities to its picturesque towns in the heart of the nation. Spain is a little more strict than others for those wishing to teach English abroad. Teachers must have a bachelor’s degree and be under the age of 36. The average monthly pay is between 350-1,000 EUR ($430-$1,220 USD). However, English teachers abroad in Spain are able to live with a host family. Alex Warhall offers an excellent summary of what life is like as an English teacher abroad in Spain. From here, travel easily around Europe and find everything you are looking for. 

A classroom full of students in Spain. Spain is a popular destination to teach English abroad

Colombia

This country is also a Spanish-speaking location. It offers a relaxed atmosphere and a great history, along with beaches, great coffee, and sunshine. Most positions are available in private schools throughout Colombia’s major cities, although public schools and the vocational SENA National Training Service also have positions. English teachers abroad make about 15,000-30,000 COP ($4.5-$9 USD) an hour for roughly 20-40 hours of instruction a week. Assistance is also available for finding suitable housing, but only if you’ve landed a job with an international high school. In his interview with Leesa Truesdell, Lamon Chapman describes his experience teaching English at a university in Medellin. 

A photo of a school in Colombia

There are many great locations in the world to entice English teachers abroad. Choosing a place to go isn’t easy, and it depends mostly on what the traveler wishes to get from the experience and take away into the future. If you are looking for a great destination and a great living and working experience, you will find all that at any one of these locations and more. Visit We Teach for more information on teaching abroad. 

Please note: exchange rates and program benefits are subject to change.

Written by the Dreams Abroad Team

Source: Oxford Seminars

Training at Police Academy After Teaching Abroad

Ryan Gomez during Police Academy training

Ryan and I met when he called my office looking for information about his visa paperwork for his 2018-2019 Language and Culture Assistant position in Bocairent, Spain. It was the first and last time anybody asked me this type of question while working in this position. Fortunately, it wasn’t the last time I heard from Ryan. While we were on the call, I was able to take his contact information and we soon became Dreams Abroad colleagues for life. Ryan said goodbye to both FSU and Tallahassee, and hola to a place in the Spanish sun. Two years passed since Ryan left to teach abroad. Let’s have a look at what Ryan has been up to since he left that August on his Iberian adventure to Spain. After settling in and readjusting back to life in the States, Ryan has an update on his past year.

How has life been since moving back to the US and starting work at the Plantation Police Department?

“I’ve been back in the US for over a year now. I think it’s safe to say I’m back in the swing of things. From the day I moved back home, I had been putting all my focus into getting hired by a city, preparing for the Police Academy, getting through the Police Academy, and now trying to learn how to properly do this job at the Plantation Police Department. My life has been very focused and goal-oriented over the past year. I’ve been able to have some fun with my friends in between (you know… before the whole COVID business), but there’s always been something in my schedule with a strict deadline.”

How was the Police Academy and training?

“One of the cool things about this job is that the training never ends. There is always something to work on to better hone your skills. It’s one of the factors that drove me to this profession.

Physically, the Police Academy helped put me in the best shape of my life. We were doing physical training every day. I could’ve filled buckets with all the sweat, haha. The defensive tactics training we received was a little outdated, but it was a good foundation for helping to get comfortable going hands-on with another person and learning to control your breathing and adrenaline. We received a ton of firearms training as well, which was pretty cool because I had only fired guns a handful of times before the Academy.

Ryan with his class from police academy

BUT, even though learning about fighting and shooting was a lot of fun, it was always stressed to the cadets that our ability to communicate and de-escalate is our greatest weapon. Talking to different types of people in various scenarios is something I get to do every day at this job.”

What are your aspirations after you finish up at the Police Academy?

“My Academy class had only three weeks left before COVID-19 hit us. It ended up taking another three months to graduate… which really sucked. Regardless, when it was all said and done, I finished 2nd overall in the class. I even received the Academic Excellence award for having the highest GPA in the class. Woohoo!

I’m currently in Phase Three of Field Training. The Police Academy was a controlled environment. This is the real deal. The streets don’t wait for you to get over the growing pains of learning a new trade. My only aspirations at this point are to get through field training and learn how to do better at this job. The veterans tell me it takes about five years before you actually feel like you have a firm grip on being a police officer. I’ve been a cop for  21 eleven-and-a-half hour shifts… I have a LONG way to go.”

How has living in Florida been during COVID-19?

“Living in South Florida during COVID-19 has been a disaster. Everything I like to do to unwind has been shut down. Beaches closed. My gym closed. Bars closed. Sports are coming back a little bit but were gone for months. Concerts canceled. There might not be football this year! Meeting new people in 2020 was never a thing. I can’t wait till we get this election out of the way in November so life can go back to normal. I don’t even care who wins at this point. Only in America can people politicize a pandemic.”

Ryan in Spain with friends before going to police academy

How has your Spanish helped in your new job?

“Practicing Spanish definitely took a hit during my time in the Police Academy. Most of the time and energy I used doing Rosetta Stone and watching telenovelas was spent studying for the Academy. Nevertheless, my current level of Spanish has helped immensely on the job. I’ve used more Spanish in the past six weeks than I had since moving back to the US. I can’t conduct a long, confusing investigation, and can’t really tell when somebody is lying to me in Spanish… but I can do basic communicating. I understand like 60% of what is being said to me. Being able to speak another language has helped keep me, and fellow officers, safer in at least two dangerous situations up to this point. I’m excited to continue learning. Spanish might save my life someday.”

What do you miss most about Bocairent, Spain?

“The simplicity. The mountains. The eight-hour nature hikes. The cheap alcohol. The sound of people speaking castellano around me. Giving blind trust to strangers.”

Ryan in Spain before going to Police Academy

Did that experience help you become a better person? After being back, do you still feel the same as you did in the quote above?

“I’m a better, more holistic person as a result of my experience abroad. No doubt. And yeah, I’d say I still feel the same as I did in that old quote. Having patience and being comfortable in uncomfortable situations is a vital part of my job now. Eight out of every ten people I talk to on the street are lying to my face. Even though I know they’re giving me the runaround and wasting everyone’s time, you have to take them for their word and let them communicate their side of the story across.

It takes a lot of patience. And I can’t think of any other profession where you can see a drowned toddler, a woman with a swollen face defending the guy who beat her up, and a drunk dude driving 98 in a 40 with two babies and an AK-47 in the backseat… all within the same shift. We come across countless uncomfortable situations and have to be professional through it all. My time abroad has helped me better manage my emotions.”

How did the experience change your outlook on life?

“My outlook on life has become simpler as a result of my experience. Thanks to the Police Academy, I’m in the best shape of my life. I have a great family and a small, solid group of friends. I have a career that challenges me every day. Plus, I drive a 2020 Jeep Wrangler. And once the country opens back up, I can start having hobbies again. Life is great!”

Has it impacted your relationships at work, home and all of the above?

“For sure. I’ve been a genuinely happier person since coming back from Spain. I think that good energy rubs off on everyone.”

Ryan with a group of friends

Do you plan to visit your school and village in the future when travel gets back to normal?

“The first thing I’m doing once I’m off my probationary period (one year from my swear-in date) is booking a two-week vacation to Spain. I want to see my family again. Also, I want to visit some of the places I didn’t get to see last year. And of course, I have to make my grand return to Bocairent and see all my friends from school. The auxiliar who was assigned there last year didn’t end up going. I’m literally the only one to ever show up. That’s why I will forever be a legend there, at least in my own eyes.”

Ryan Gomez is one example of our team members who have returned home and changed their careers. He’s a part of our Dreams Abroad alumni network and will be forever. For more information on how to join our team or share your story, reach out to us. We look forward to hearing from you.

by Leesa Truesdell

Teaching During a Pandemic: A Teacher Abroad

By Amanda WhittenSelfie of Amanda Whitten while abroad teaching during a pandemic.

Catch up on Amanda’s first interview before joining her for the second part of her three-part interview!

This has been one of the weirdest years ever for me, not just for teaching, but in general. I’m sure that the same could be said for everyone else, as well. It’s been transformative in a number of ways, which I’ll get to in a moment. This year has affected my relationships with my students, my co-workers, and even myself. One thing is for sure: the world is changing and we must adapt to it. Read on to find out how I adapted to teaching during a pandemic!

What is a typical day at your school like? 

Pre-coronavirus, I typically arrived 20-30 minutes before class because of the public transportation schedule. As soon as I arrived, I’d head to the English department room, my safe haven, and hideout. Then, I’d check to make sure that I had all my ducks in a row and that I knew what I was supposed to be doing for each of my classes. I’d also make any last-minute necessary lesson plans or preparations and basically mentally prepare myself to go into performance mode. If I had any extra time, I’d go downstairs to the cafeteria to have a coffee and chat with any of the teachers already there.

This year, classes ranged from about 9:25am to 2:00pm, which is a pretty easy schedule, I’d say. Some days, I’d have a planning period, and other days I’d have a constant stream of classes apart from one break from 11:10am to 11:40am.

Afterwards, I’d rush home, eat very quickly, and then rush back into the world to go to my private lessons, academy classes, or whatever else I had going on. Of course, I had to adjust to teaching during a pandemic, so that all changed. I spent more time doing hobbies such as painting, and am really proud of how much I’ve grown as an artist so far! 

Teaching During a Pandemic

When the coronavirus pandemic initially began, I’d wake up an hour early, eat breakfast, shower, prepare my headset, laptop, and generally wait attentively to see if any students needed any help or wanted to talk in general. Other than that, I just uploaded their various activities and scheduled them to appear during class time. Kahoot and Educaplay were invaluable online resources for making quizzes about literally anything that the students could complete. 

After a while, other than the occasional video call, I started waking up two minutes before class because I had discovered, much to my lazy side’s delight, that Google classroom could be downloaded on cell phones. Then I could lazily browse and be “present” in class while laying in bed. A difficult and tiresome job, really.  

How many people do you work with? How many classes do you teach?

I interact frequently with a nucleus of about four to five teachers, but usually there are many more who actually teach at the school. At IES Pablo Neruda, I had sixteen classes and therefore, had sixteen working hours. 

Are you forming working relationships with coworkers?

I considered myself very lucky at what was, until June 30th, my current school. With a good rapport with all of the teachers I worked with, I developed what I would consider actual friendships with at least three of them. I really admire all of the teachers I personally worked with and basically feel that I won the lottery. All I wanted was to feel respected, appreciated, and accepted here in Spain. They did an amazing job of doing that for me. It was and is mutual. Even while teaching during a pandemic, I can honestly say these were the best coworkers I’ve had so far in Spain.

Amanda Whitten and Leganes while Amanda was abroad teaching during a pandemic

What is your favorite part of the day? Why?

I would say that I had a few favorite groups that I really enjoyed working with. A bachillerato group I worked with always reacted enthusiastically to my activities whether an introduction to country music (seeing these kids goofily sing Garth Brooks literally made my year) or getting into heated debates, I had so much fun. I also really enjoyed teaching my 1st eso kids, which are pretty much 6th graders. They are still so full of excitement for learning. They loved telling me about their favorite foods and what they did on the weekends. How could I not adore them? 

I have a few favorite students scattered here and there: naughty ones who could make me laugh as well as academic and friendly ones who enjoyed interacting with me. All of these students made my days more enjoyable. While I can’t say that I had a specific favorite part of each day, I can say that I had certain highlights during the week. It makes leaving this part of my life behind all the more bittersweet.

How is the material being taught to students? Is there a specific method being used?

It really depends on whichever teacher is in charge. For example, one teacher may prefer to heavily rely on going through the book via a program on the computer. This makes it easy to correct and grade exercises as a group. Others focus on using their book as a guideline, choosing to focus more on activities and conversation. The former may be easier, but it is so much more boring for both me and the students. The latter can be more challenging, but it is so much more fun and engaging, provided the students are interested. 

How do you prepare your lessons for each class? If you don’t plan lessons, how do you prepare for class?

Some classes required no preparation whatsoever. One teacher would give me the page numbers and exercises to correct via the computer program, and that was it. Usually, I was told that I had the freedom to come up with extra activities, but since these instructions were usually given right before class or the day before, I rarely ever knew what we were going to be going over. And for those classes, the activities were meant to “complement” the lesson, not detract. 

For other classes, I would be given a topic to make a presentation on or perhaps a topic to practice conversation around. These practice conversations would be easy enough to research a bit, and perhaps make a PowerPoint if necessary. 

Amanda Whitten pointing at a frog while abroad in Madrid teaching during a pandemic

Still, others would have me go over certain pages in the book, but without an answer key. I usually answered the questions myself before class so that I didn’t embarrass myself in front of the kids, teens, or even literal adults. 

Fortunately for me, I never had to worry about teaching actual grammar at this school, thank goodness. The teachers left the listening and conversation practice up to me, for the most part. And if there’s anything that I apparently have a gift for, it is a gift for gab. 

Do you work at a bilingual school? Is English being taught as a subject or throughout all classes?

I have worked at a bilingual school in the past, but I much preferred working at a traditional school. The reason being is that it’s difficult to teach technical concepts such as art theory or, god forbid, science and math, to even the most academically advanced students. Yes, I much prefer the straightforwardness of teaching ESL English in English classes rather than English through a different subject. I can’t imagine the challenges of teaching during a pandemic at a bilingual school. 

What goals or standards are classroom teachers using to measure the performance of their students?

If the students managed to speak up at all, they would get a point in their favor in the grade book. This would all add up at the end of the year, and it could hurt or help their grade. It was really all about mere participation, with the exception of when students gave rubric graded speeches. I’m sure that the teachers themselves had more extensive ways of measuring progress. However, in my classes, it was all about showing up and speaking up, no matter how quietly or hesitantly. Honestly, it was good enough for me because, concerning foreign languages, it’s not about the destination, but the journey. And that journey is rocky and full of humiliating errors. So if they even dare to take a step, I applaud them. 

Amanda's work station while teaching during a pandemic.
My work station I set up to teach during the pandemic.

 

Looking back at our first interview, what have you learned most about yourself in the classroom this year?

My answer applies not just to our first interview, but also all the way to the beginning of my illustrious teaching career. I have learned to relax, breathe when rattled, not be a hammer, and be a high five. I have learned that having a good time, even if just playing an invigorating game, can be worth fifteen grammar lessons. If a student is laughing and smiling, then they are learning. 

Amanda will share her plans for next year in a follow-up interview. We look forward to hearing what she has to say and where her future will take her, especially considering her success in teaching during a pandemic. Be on the lookout for her third interview.

TEFL in Thailand

by Leesa Truesdell

Eric Haeg Course Director of TEFL Campus
Eric Haeg, Course Director of TEFL Campus

Eric Haeg is the Course Director of TEFL Campus–a TEFL training course provider in Phuket and Chiang Mai. He moved to Thailand in 2004 because he knew he didn’t want to teach in Europe. He had already visited Europe and wanted to explore somewhere entirely new. Eric didn’t know if there was a need for teachers in Thailand back then. His reasons for taking the TEFL course back in 2004 were entirely whimsical. He searched for TEFL certification courses and signed up for one in Phuket because it looked like “Phuk-et”. Eric explained said, “I thought to myself, ‘Eh, f*ck it. Must be a sign. What’s the worst that can happen?’” He also says he has no shame in how that sounds because it was the best decision he’s ever made. 

Eric took the time to explain what Teaching English as a Foreign Language (TEFL) in Thailand means today. Here is what he had to say. 

What makes Teaching English as a Foreign Language (TEFL)  in Thailand different from TEFL in other countries?

There are a few reasons that taking a TEFL course in Thailand is different from other countries.

  1. Low Costs – TEFL courses are cheaper in Thailand because of the lower costs of operation when compared to courses in places like Japan, Australia, most of Europe, or the Americas.
  2. Welcoming Culture – Thailand’s nickname is the Land of Smiles. It only takes a few minutes here to see why. Thais are incredibly welcoming and eager to share their culture with foreigners.
  3. High Demand – It was recently reported that Thailand needs 10,000 foreign teachers. This means that those who come to train and earn their TEFL certification will find jobs after their course rather easily.

What is the application and arrival process for your school? 

study abroad ESL teacherThe process starts with a lengthy and detailed information file that we send out once an applicant has officially enrolled. We include information on how to get visas (if needed), our accommodation options, travel options, and more. We have a long Q&A section that includes information on getting local SIM cards, international driver’s licenses, vaccinations, what to pack, and more. 

From there, we then help people reserve their accommodation and schedule a meet-and-greet for the day they arrive. For those who are eligible, we organize our personal driver to meet them at the airport. 

We also have unique Facebook groups for each course, where people can introduce themselves before the course to their peers. We send out helpful posts about things to do in Phuket, reminders about the course, information on jobs, and much more. 

What’s the most important thing someone should know about TEFL in Thailand?

People need to know that teaching is challenging. While that’s not unique to Thailand, far too many TEFL course providers in Thailand take the “teach-by-the-beach” approach to their marketing. They make people think that teaching is an all-day ball of joy, that finding jobs on idyllic islands is the norm, and that teaching is easy.

Nothing could be further from the truth. Teaching is challenging and that’s why new teachers need meaningful training that includes curriculum on building cultural awareness. Most good jobs are in urban areas — but at least in a place like Phuket, the beach is never far away on days off. If you’re not near the ocean, Thailand has endless natural beauty. Nonetheless, you’ll have to work a challenging, full-time job Monday through Friday if you are to enjoy it in your freetime. 

How is TEFL Campus in Phuket different than its Chiang Mai location?

TEFL Campus runs the same curriculum in Phuket as in Chiang Mai. Both programs include university-level validation, guaranteed job support and experienced trainers. The main difference is the observed teaching practice. In Chiang Mai, you’ll teach in local schools, with local students in primary and secondary schools. In Phuket, you’ll teach in a language center setting, where students fourteen and older come to learn English voluntarily.

thai students abroad
Image courtesy of the TEFL Campus

 

Outside of class, Phuket and Chiang Mai offer rather different experiences. Both are major destinations in Thailand, but for different reasons. Phuket has its beaches, Chiang Mai has its mountains. Phuket has its unique Old Town, and Chiang Mai has its ancient walled off section of the city. Finally, Phuket is always warm or downright hot, while Chiang Mai has its cool season from November to February. Between the two of them, both locations offer something for everyone. 

What is the greatest student success you have had for TEFL in Thailand?

Honestly, there are more than I can count. Each student succeeded for different reasons.

There’s Steven, an Australian who met with me back in 2012. He wanted to get his degree before teaching. He went back to university as a mature student, graduated uni, took our course in 2016, got a entry-level job in Bangkok, and now works in the corporate development department of Wall Street English.

Then there’s Bish, a Nepali gentleman who was a gifted teacher. He was going to have trouble finding a job due to Thais’ prejudice against south Asians. After helping Bish find a job at a local primary school, he now works as a coordinator there who’s won the hearts of his students and colleagues alike. 

But honestly, as I think through the names of our grads, I can easily think of a dozen or more success stories. They include people who went on to get more credentials to eventually work in high-paying international schools. There were also those who found jobs in highly competitive countries like Maldives, Switzerland, and Hong Kong. So many of our grads who wanted to quit our course because they didn’t believe in their own abilities ended up sticking to it and achieving their goals of teaching overseas

Why do you think someone should leave their home country and teach English as a Foreign Language (TEFL) in Thailand?

I actually don’t think everyone who wants to do it should do it. The only people who should do it are those who are open-minded, ready for a challenge, have a healthy sense of responsibility, and a genuine desire to teach. It’s one of the most important professions on Earth and students deserve dedicated, capable teachers. 

Outside of career goals, I think everyone should live abroad for a year or more. It’s the best way to challenge one’s assumptions about “reality,” build a better understanding of humanity, and benefit from experiences those who don’t travel could never imagine. 

As of late, the Thai government has been searching for more than thousands of teachers for TEFL. Eric wrote a piece on how to get the most reliable teachers earlier this year. The article discusses three ways schools can alleviate the teacher shortage before having to wait for the foreign government to lend assistance. He is on his annual leave in the USA and hopes to get back to Thailand as soon as it is coronavirus-cleared. For further information about TEFL in Thailand, please contact Eric directly. He can assist with questions and offer suggestions.

Teaching English in Thailand TEFL Campus
Image courtesy of the TEFL Campus

 

Teaching Trilingual Education in Ontinyent, Spain

 

edgar llivisupaEdgar Llivisupa is halfway through the Spanish school year in Ontinyent, Spain. Catch up on his first interview learning as a teaching assistant. He is feeling good about his work and language learning in teaching trilingual education. Over the Christmas holiday, he decided to travel around Europe instead of going back to New York. He will complete his second year in less than five months. He is achieving his goal of learning Valenciano and practices very hard. His answers to his classroom instruction and school interview were very authentic because he doesn’t have a background in education. His answers are all the more authentic, especially since he is working at a school that is trilingual. Here is what he has to say.

What is a typical day at your school like? Is this different from last year’s schedule? If so, how?

“The biggest difference from last year is that my work hours are more compact. Last year I had multi-hour gaps between teaching two extracurricular classes throughout the weeks. I finished work on Fridays at noon. This year, my timetable is in line with regular school hours. Also, last year at this time I was still adjusting to teaching and finding my role in the classroom. Currently, I am more comfortable in my daily tasks. My role changes depending on which teacher I am working with. With the art teacher, I take a crate of games and activities that include flashcards, charades, bingo and play games with the students. I sometimes have to be creative with the games I am playing in both the rules and explaining them to the students.

Trilingual Education Ontinyent spain

How many people do you work with? How many classes do you teach?

I work with the art teacher and the English teacher, who is also my tutor.

I teach 1st through 6th grade in my school. Each class is composed of ten and eighteen students. Each level only has one section, and I see them twice a week. I also have a conversational class after regular school hours for parents with an English B1 and higher certificate.

Are you forming working relationships with coworkers?

Since this is my second year at this school, my tutor and I have a great working relationship. We understand the proficiency of the students so when we have to organize the weekly activities, I give feedback on the effectiveness and difficulty of the activity. 

Regarding other teachers, our school is small, so the faculty knows one another fairly well. Therefore, other teachers, I don’t usually work with may ask for my assistance with other mundane tasks.

What is your favorite part of the day? Why? 

My favorite part of the day is pati, or playground, which is when the students have 30 minutes to play outside. I usually stray away from the classroom and talk to the other teachers. It’s nice to interact with teachers in the school that I don’t usually have the opportunity to talk to. 

My favorite class is with the adults, as I am more comfortable teaching them. Unlike with the children, I can express myself more freely. Since the students have an interest in improving their fluency, I don’t have to deal with children that aren’t interested in the subject.

Teaching Trilingual Education in Ontinyent, Spain

How is the material being taught to students? Is there a specific method being used?

“The teaching resources come from Oxford Education which includes a workbook and class book for the students, a smartboard application, and other items like posters and flashcards. In the books, there are songs, quizzes, and stories in line with other textbooks. 

I’m not familiar with different teaching methods, but I can comment that the students sit in groups of four to five, which is the same throughout all their classes. In the case of the English class, the groups can vary in their level of English. Some groups have strong students while other groups can have mostly students who struggle. Usually, classes start with a song followed by a lecture. Afterward, the students work on an assignment in the textbook or on a teacher-made worksheet.” 

How do you prepare your lessons for each class? If you don’t plan lessons, how do you prepare for class?

It is stipulated in our contract that we aren’t supposed to lesson plan or conduct lessons on our own. I’m lucky that my school has maintained that stipulation.

I don’t have to prepare much for the time I am with the art teacher. The children play  competitively with the games I bring. They never tire of playing the same game against one another.

On the other hand, the English teacher and I have a designated hour once a week to prepare for classes. It never takes up the entire hour because of our aforementioned working relationship. We either use the activities in the book or I offer to modify an activity so it relates to the topics being taught in the class.

Do you work at a bilingual school? Is English being taught as a subject or throughout all classes? Describe ways in which English is implemented in class.

valencia art“My school is trilingual, with the languages being Valenciano, Spanish, and English. However, in the main classroom, students use Valenciano and Spanish interchangeably. For instance, the students may speak to each other in Spanish, but the instruction is in Valenciano. The school teaches English as its own subject with its own teacher and classroom. Students and teachers rarely speak English outside that environment. For this reason, in the English classroom, we explicitly avoid speaking any other language. I go as far as to hide the fact that I am a native Spanish speaker and am studying Valenciano so the students are forced to speak English in interactions with me.”

What goals or standards are your classroom teachers using to measure the performance of their students?

“While I can’t speak on behalf of my teachers, my goals are to improve their vocabulary, develop their speaking ability and spark the student’s interest in learning the language. I find it unreasonable to expect more because the students are also learning two other languages. Also, the majority of students are of immigrant descent so they speak an additional language at home. It must be overwhelming for the children, especially since it’s easy to forget that it’s only primary education.

Looking back at our first Teach Abroad interview, what have you learned most about yourself since your arrival to Spain both in the classroom and out of the classroom?

“Growing up, I had a lot of difficulties when it came to language. I started to talk at a very late age. My school enrolled me in speech classes up until middle school to work on my pronunciation of certain phonemes and mitigate my slur. This was on top of dealing with the struggles of being a bilingual learner with parents at home who didn’t speak English. Speaking became an insecurity as people ridiculed the way I spoke both of my native languages.

Now, at an older age, I interact with both English learners and fluent Spanish speakers who continue to point out the peculiar way that I speak. I use that information to improve my speaking abilities in ways that I would have never done otherwise. What used to be an insecurity has become an interest in linguistics and sympathy for other language learners when they stumble on certain parts of a language native learners are oblivious to the difficulty of. In addition, as I’m teaching children, I have to familiarize myself with English grammar that I didn’t have to study previously. I have to consider a different approach to speaking that makes it easier for English learners to understand me. “

Teaching Trilingual Education in Ontinyent, Spain

Edgar is not sure about his future plans after classes end for the summer. He has a few ideas in mind. He continues to travel during every Spanish holiday (there are quite a few) and continues to practice Valenciano. We will catch up with him when his classes end to see what he has planned. 

futbul game

by Leesa Truesdell