• Things I wish I'd known before beginning my TESOL course


    Looking back over the past few months I can say it’s been a learning curve and not just in teaching English. In many ways this course has turned my life upside down.

    I would have saved a lot time if I had been more computer literate before starting and would advise others to make friends with their computer beforehand. Another practical point was how I would have to reorganize my day many times to find the best study time, my best time did not always suit everyone else.

    As a homeschooling mum I never dreamed how helpful the course would be in my general teaching skills with the children.

    During the course I became more and more interested in English grammar, with a growing realization of how bad mine was and a desire to study more. Then the shock, it will take four years of full time study to do this properly. A pleasant surprise with all the grammar work is how it has aided me in learning and understanding more a third language.

    This course has also made me acutely aware of my husband’s mistakes in spoken English, his second language, along with the mistakes of the children who are now speaking three languages. Here the skills came into practice of constantly encouraging and praising, yet still trying to find creative ways of correcting.

    I never realized how interested others would be that I was taking the course and how many requests I would have to start teaching English to individuals. Most of them very happy to act as ‘guinea pigs’ for my teetering start at a career in teaching English.

    Although not required of the course, I wish I had known how useful to my own learning actually having the practice of teaching English would be. It is well know that we learn and retain more by discussing and doing, as the following quote points out

    "Learning is not a spectator sport. Students do not learn much just sitting in classes listening to teachers, memorizing prepackaged assignments, and spitting out answers. They must talk about what they are learning, write reflectively about it, relate it to past experiences, and apply it to their daily lives. They must make what they learn part of themselves (Chickering & Gamson, 1987)."

    The extremely limited experience of English teaching I had during this time has helped me to make the material a part of myself, and will continue to be so, and improve, the more I teach.

    What if I had known all this before starting the course? I would have done it sooner!

    Deborah Santos

  • Things I wish I'd known before beginning my TESOL course


    When I signed up for the online TESOL course through ITTT, I thought to myself, “This won’t be a big deal--I’ve got a Bachelor’s degree, I’ve written countless papers, and I’m a native English speaker--how tough can it be?” I found out pretty quickly that I was wrong to think that. I had never really thought about how complex English is, from the seemingly endless amount of irregularities to the twelve tenses--where does one begin when teaching a foreign student? Also, despite being a student for more than half of my life, I never took the time to think about the work that a teacher must do outside the class. From lesson planning to finding ways to reach all the students, a teacher’s work is never done.

    I felt that I was going along quite swimmingly until Unit four, which dealt with the present tense. It was quite a bit more difficult than I had imagined it would be--I bombed it. This unit made me aware that I was blissfully ignorant of exactly how and when to use each of the twelve tenses. I’m glad I learned English naturally, rather than in a class, because I’m sure it would have given me lots of headaches. There are so many irregularities and exceptions with English, no wonder it has a reputation for being difficult to learn. Unit four really opened my eyes in a lot of ways--I thought we only had three tenses--past, present, and future, I never realized that we use twelve! How do I explain these tenses and their appropriate usages to a foreign student when I can’t even explain it to myself? Needless to say, this course was going to be more difficult than I thought.

    I also had no idea about the care that must be taken with ensuring that all students receive an effective lesson. I was in the dark about the problems with shy students. How do you know if a shy student is getting all they can from a lesson? How do you get them to participate without putting them on the spot and embarrassing them? This course has shown me that much of this can be taken care of through careful grouping, and even role-play exercises to reach shy students. Even if a student is doing well with the written course work, I now know that this is only half the battle. Ensuring plenty of talk-time is one of the only ways to reinforce a students productive skills.

    Another thing that I was clueless about is the amount of planning involved with effective lessons. What if the students complete their assignments faster than you anticipate? I now know that a teacher really must over-prepare so that there is not any down time in the lesson. The teacher must be very flexible with lesson plans, and be able to adapt the lessons to fit the time and students of the class.

    This course is no joke. As a native speaker, the course has forced me to examine and relearn English in a way that I had never bothered to do. It has also made me think about and appreciate the difficult task of lesson planning that all effective teachers undergo. I must say that I was clueless to the amount of work a teacher must do in order to give effective lessons, and I have a new appreciation of the work that all my past teachers put in outside the classroom.

    Marcus Thompson