This week we took some time to catch up with Shannon, who took our TEFL certification and went on to teach in Barcelona Spain for a year. She had some great insights about her experience teaching abroad, and valuable advice for anyone considering getting a TEFL certification and starting their teaching abroad journey! Have a question that you’d like one of our alums to answer? Let us know!
1. When and where did you complete your TEFL practicum (i.e. which school, language center, etc.)?
I taught at a school that had both middle school and high school students, called Escola Pia de Nostra Senyora. It was a really impressive school. Courses at this school were taught based on vocation. The classes I taught were not only students of all different ages and levels, but they were also very specific. This really challenged me to work hard in order to meet the needs of my students. It was awesome to witness how a high school could prepare these students for the university (let alone, their careers) by organizing classes based on their vocational dreams and goals. A majority of the students also went to English language schools where they would be taught nothing but English. I was very impressed!
2. What made you decide to do Destination TEFL Barcelona?
When I returned from a semester in Seville, Spain, I had a better idea as to what I wanted to do with my future. I had the chance to volunteer in an EFL classroom in Seville and tutor my host sisters English weekly, which helped me realize how much I enjoyed teaching English. When I returned from Seville, I applied to graduate school to get my Masters in TESL. While waiting to hear back if I was accepted or not, I learned about Destination TEFL Spain. While I knew I was going to get my Master’s in TESL, I realized the benefits of this program were two-fold. First, being TEFL certified would look good on my resume and confirm (or not!) if getting a MA in the field was really what I wanted. Secondly, this program would give me the chance to go abroad over the summer and teach ESL. I thought to myself, “Why not give it a try? I need to get my feet wet in this field in order to see if I really want to pursue this as a career.” I’m so happy I did this program! Although it was extremely challenging, I learned so much from it and it definitely confirmed my passion for TESL/TEFL. I have the opportunity to travel the world, and most importantly, form relationships with people while teaching them the lingua franca and see them reach their potential to the fullest.
3. What makes Barcelona special?
Barcelona has a special place in my heart. I lived in El Raval - it was artsy, multicultural, had vegetarian and vegan restaurants (since I’m vegetarian trying to be vegan again), and so much more. Barcelona itself is simply beautiful. It’s clean, and it’s unique because Gaudi and other artists designed this city unlike any other city. There’s shopping, food, people from all over the world. Simply put, you’ll never get bored of this city. I will never get sick of Spanish culture: they actually stop to smell the roses, they emphasize the importance of family, and so much more.
4. Where were you able to visit during your two week practicum?
I arrived to Barcelona a few days prior to my practicum to recover from jet lag and explore the city a little. I had the chance to walk around the city and explore La Rambla and the Passeig de Gràcia: two of the main streets. I also visited La Pedrera and Parc Güell, two of Gaudi’s many creations.
5. What advice do you have for future TEFL students?
I would advise them to take the online class seriously, but not too seriously. Let me give you my reason quickly before CIEE doesn’t let me follow through with this survey, haha! I took this online class too seriously as I had never taught English before and wanted to know everything! But guess what - I didn’t know everything, despite how much extra time and effort I put into this online class. Being put in a classroom is a totally different environment. During my practicum observation, my tutor explained to me what TTT is – Teacher Talk Time. Turns out I was making my class very teacher-centered and not so student-centered. I always told myself that it would be about the students and not me! With this being said, of course, take the class seriously, but focus on your experience while teaching- and eventually all of the pieces will come together from what you’ve learned from the online class.
Another piece of advice I would give is don’t be afraid to ask questions! If it weren’t for my TEFL tutor and his willingness to help and guide me during my practicum, I would’ve fallen on my face 10 times as opposed to 5 (I say this because yes - you will make mistakes! But we learn from them :-) ). Pay attention during those classes when the TEFL tutor shares his/her experiences with you, because they will most definitely help you in the end!
6. What will you do next with your TEFL certification?
I’m really not sure yet! I might go to Spain next summer to teach English or be a tutor. I really don’t know! What I do know is that I wouldn’t trade this experience for the world, and now I am confident that I can go out in this world and teach English because of the amazing opportunity CIEE offered me! I start my Masters in a few weeks, so that will be my focus for now. The future is big and is full of endless possibilities. I always wanted to go to Chile…hmmmm… we’ll see. :-)