A TEFL Course in a Nutshell *Updated*


I decided to do something completely out of my comfort zone.

I decided that I no longer wanted to spend my days cooped up in front of my laptop typing away romantic but pointless fanfiction about OCs paired up with anime characters and drawing anime/manga pictures which never get to see the light of day because inevitably I get tired and frustrated because I can’t draw a kneecap or a nose properly…

…and I applied for a TEFL weekend course.

I googled ‘What happens in a TEFL course’ and startlingly enough, nothing came up. Has no-one ever written about their TEFL experience? Has no-one actually wanted to share their experience? Why? Is it so frightening? Is it so secretive? And I’m only writing this way because I saw so many Freshly Pressed entries and hopefully wish I will be featured there one day. But anyway, let’s get back on topic. No-one’s written about TEFL. Perhaps I have not looked hard enough, but for now, I am going to writing about my experience, and, I may be one of the first.

Let’s start with the basics. TEFL stands for Teaching English as a Foreign Language. It is a course available widely in the UK, and it is a certificate that is recognised worldwide and it is applicable for everyone all ages (well, maybe from 16 years old onwards… I think). With a TEFL certificate, you can apply to teach English to children and adults in countries such as the UK, China, Korea, Japan, India, Spain, almost anywhere.

There are a wide range of courses available: from 150 hour, 140 hour, 130 hour and 120 hour, then there are 20 hour courses, 30 hours 40 etc. Then there are also classroom courses, or merely online courses. Classroom courses can occur during the weekend or week, where you are invited to go to a special location and there will be a TEFL teacher along with other people who have signed up for a TEFL course. For my case, the location was a Jury’s Inn. Then there are courses that take place during the weekend, and then there are some that take place during the week itself. You should check the website for more details at http://www.teflscotland.co.uk. If that doesn’t work, just google TEFL.


Anyway, once you sign up and go to your classroom session and meet and greet your teacher and fellow TEFL classmates, be prepared to:

– Make funny noises
– Do silly things
– Do a lot of groupwork
– Do a lot of pair-work
– Do a lot of role-play
– Do a lot of presenting

Pay attention to the last four bullet points; they are the most important, so if you are the quiet, shy and socially awkward kind of person (like me), it’s time to drink a few vodkas before going in.

My TEFL class started 9am in the morning on a Saturday. I left the house at 8 to catch an early bus and bought myself a coffee to set the scene. I arrived at the hotel where it was taking place (Jury’s Inn), and the receptionist told me it was taking place at the first floor suite. I went up, saw that I was the first student inside the room (although I saw some people outside) and I handed the teacher my teaching token.

When everyone arrived (there were about twenty of us), Teacher announced it was time to break the ice. He got us off our seats (NOTE: the seats were placed in a horseshoe formation) and then had us stand in a circle. With a ball, he tossed it to us randomly and to introduce our names when we caught it. Once everyone had their shot, Teacher asked us to add an adjective to our names that would describe yourself, so for example, Eric because Exciting Eric, Rebecca became Ravishing Rebecca and I became Fantastic Fish and Chips and so on (PS There will be some people who will say they don’t know what word to use to describe themselves). Then, Teacher decided to up it a notch and said when you throw the ball this time, the person who catches it will have to say YOUR adjective, not theirs. PS. No-one threw me the ball once during this game so I was the only one who didn’t get it. I DO notice these things you know.

Moving on, and Teacher explains to us this was an icebreaker exercise. Icebreakers are good to find social cliques like the ‘class bully’ and to identify those who are quieter, more extroverted than others etc. We had 11 hours ahead of us, and that only take thirty minutes, even less. He then had us trying to make ‘points of contact’ on the floor, so cue lying on the floor like one playing Twister. I won’t delve into this exercise too much because you’ll know what to do when it happens. Right, so after more icebreakers, we were divided into pairs and then we all had to do 5 THINGS ABOUT YOU. For eg, I learnt that my partner finished a degree in politic and philosophy at university, likes Thai food and hates squirrels.

Okay, here was the first deep-end exercise. In our pairs, Teacher asked us to come up with an icebreaker exercise and gave us a situation – Your class consists of persons of mixed ethnicity, mixed age, and limited to mixed, or even none, English ability. Once you had thought of an exercise, each pair would have to perform it. Let’s just say, my attempt with my paired up buddy ended up with me feeling a bit…well, I began feeling as though I was pretty bad at this and in general, it was PRETTY DAMN EMBARRASSING.

But you know what? Life goes on.

So this went on for an hour, from 9 to 11 o’clock. We had a short break and came back to learn about PPP exercise (there were more presentations/groupwork to do here too). This went on from about half 11, to 3pm. Teacher then asked who could speak another language aside from English. I could speak another foreign language (basic, but not fluent) so I put my hand up, along with 4 others. Teacher asked me, and the 4 others who had put their hand up,, to stay behind while the rest of the class went out. Teacher than told us the task for me and those who could speak another language, was to teach 3-5 phrases. Then, Teacher called the class in and divided the class again, so I had 3 students, and the others got roughly the same number.

I taught my group how to say Hello, My Name Is… I live in…and 1, 2, 3. My students (I only had 7 minutes to teach them –without using english, just body language and a lot of strange sounds to get the pronunciation across) and the others had to then demonstrate to the class what their teachers had taught them. My group did well (I am pleased to admit I did something reasonably well for a change) and everyone got a round of applause. The idea was that we were learning a language within 7 minutes. It did not matter if it was not English.

Finally, Teacher put on a show for us which took about an hour (it was excellent!). Adopting the persona of a Greek man trying to teach us Greek. We learned Yassou (hello), Pos se lene? (What is your name?), Me le ne (My name is…), ti kanis (How are you?), poli kala (very good), kala (okay), Etsi ki Etsi (Good/so-so), ena, thio, tria, tessera (1, 2, 3, 4). Yes, so Greek in an hour! Teacher did lots of demonstrations and had us practising with each other and basically the lesson was that we were learning another language, so imagine those trying to learn English. Teacher, as his Greek persona, did not know any English so he could not communicate with us at all, except from in Greek, yet he’d managed to teach us all that above!

Don’t worry, we had an hour for lunch (so they didn’t starve us). I went round with two people I’d befriended and we got some grub, then returned to the hotel. After lunch and we were paired off again into different groups. This time, we were introduced and taught ‘Function skills’ which apply to everyday situations before we had to come up with ideas on how to teach these function skills to a class. This time, there was no performance needed and we merely discussed our ideas with the class. Then, we were paired off again into different groups and this time, we were given a situation that could be differently portrayed in various circumstances.

Anyway, I’m going to have to put a stop there because I can’t remember everything that happened. But this is pretty much what did happen on the course and it was very insightful. There’s a lot to teaching, and it’s harder than people think.

As you well all may know by now, my posts will often include things I can’t help but to complain/grumble about; again, take it as a few pointers so if you wish to complete a TEFL yourself, then you know from this post what to expect. Basically, my grumbles are…

  • Although a relaxed, informal atmosphere is desired, I noticed that during some lessons, the teacher will assume the role of a student who knows no English, or at least, has limited English. When the teacher is attempting to establish/elaborate an important/serious lesson, some classmates will retort/react to this with cheeky remarks. Although eliciting a couple of laughs from the rest of the class, the example the teacher presents is one which applies to real life – it is a situation where you are faced to deal with a student you will have to teach who knows no English. Okay, fine, a few laughs, whatever. It doesn’t get really funny after a few tasks or so. Would you do that in real life, to a student?
  • One particular task really got me down. It was a group task to Teach Functions, and I had no problems before working with others. But then – and it will most likely have happened to you in your life at some point – you are paired up with someone or have to deal with someone, who will completely hinder you. As in, they don’t seem interested in working with you. You are doing all the work. You don’t understand something, and your partner REALLY DOESN’T GIVE A TOSS ABOUT YOU. I tried my best. Oh well, at least it did not end like this:
  • Oh, and the next time a TEFL course comes up in your area, please make sure the room, or suite, is NOWHERE near anyplace where regular noise is a problem. For me, the hotel was right beside a train station and you could hear trains chugging back and forth like, EVERY SINGLE FRIKKEN HOUR, and then the occasional PA voice about trains to London Euston or whatever.
  • Some lessons felt as though we were thrown into the deep-end and not everyone had a good idea of what to do. Although TEFL is for those with no teaching experience whatsoever, it still felt…maybe a little harsh(?). I dunno, maybe I’m just being a whiny git as I usually am. But! For eg, the icebreaker exercise (which was the very first exercise) and the teaching function exercise (first exercise on the second day) did feel like an extremely hard task. Aside from those ones, I felt at ease with the other exercises.
  • Bring a packed lunch, or if you are in the town, you need to go out and buy lunch. You will be hungry. Jury’s Inn provided the occasional coffee jug, tea, and sweeties (NOTE: Loveheart sweets, Fizzers, Lollipops…Yes, that’s all folks)
  • You will notice there are some people who just aren’t that great. I don’t mean to offend, honestly, but it’s the truth. What I mean is, there was one task where everyone is given a ‘word’ on a slip of paper and everyone must search the people in the room to match the word they have. For me, I was looking for the person who would have the word that would match mine. I went up to someone and you know, did my part. What happened was she didn’t even pay me three seconds of attention and moved on – obviously she thought her ‘partner’ would be someone else. Guess what? Turned out she was my missing word all along and we were the last few people in the centre while others who had met their partners had sat down in their seats. So imagine how I felt, when other people let you down.

Anyway, I left the TEFL session feeling…odd.

Do I feel a bit confident in my teaching abilities? Perhaps…not really…I do feel a little shaky. There were some folks who demonstrated potential as a teacher, which I saw, and believed, I probably lacked. I certainly don’t feel as though I can immediately go and teach a class, you know, with a group of students staring at me all waiting to learn how to separate the THEY’RE from THERE and THEIR, but that’s just me. Overall… It’s a great experience. It’ll help boost your confidence. It’ll help you get you out of your comfort zone. You’ll meet new people. You’ll feel as though you actually don’t know that much about the English language as you thought you did. You’ll find your own niche, your own ‘thing’, your direction in life. Plus, it’ll look great on your CV.

Although other people may feel as though they’re ready to go and tackle all the English-impoverished people in the world, but for now, I think I’ll need a bit more planning and self-assessment!

PS. This was a private post but I got my certificate recently so I am now feeling brave 🙂


6 thoughts on “A TEFL Course in a Nutshell *Updated*

  1. Idle Emma says:

    Great post! I’ve actually been thinking of doing a TEFL course and it helps to know what might happen in them. I don’t actually see myself ever really teaching but you never know where you’ll end up and it could be useful. And it’ll really get me out of my comfort zone.

    • Fish and Chips says:

      oh yeah it will really get you out of your comfort zone, if, like me, you are an extremely quiet person!!! it was a good experience though 🙂 I actually do want to use my TEFL but at the moment I still need to wait for my certificate to come through the post!

      • Idle Emma says:

        I am quite shy. I generally hate having to do presentations which is a bit bad because I generally have at least three to do in a semester. I even get nervous about doing orals which makes all my Japanese ones slightly awkward XD How long will you be waiting for your certificate to come through? I know sometimes for certificates you can be waiting ages.

      • Fish and Chips says:

        Dont worry! I’m an incredibly lousy presenting-person (loool you can totally tell what kind of english teacher I’ll be XP) but if I did it then so can you. When I was in university, I generally did lots of presenting for a really infuriating class called ‘MDP’ (bleh) which was compulsory so as long as you have some presenting experience then that’s fine 🙂 TEFL was more relaxed and informal because everybody doesn’t know what they’re doing either so don’t worry about being judged/tested. Sometimes they’ll have you in front of the class, or sometimes they give you tasks to do in (usually) pairs, and then you just tell the class your findings/ideas.

        About the certificate…I don’t know, they were a bit vague about that. I still need to finish my online work but I have six months including June. I’ve changed the post to private in case they see my grumblings/complains, then suss out who I am, and fail me!! O__O

      • Idle Emma says:

        Ah, ya wouldn’t wan’t to risk them failing you over a blog post. That would really suck.
        I think I’ll have a chance of taking TEFL up as an extra module when I get to third year. There’s three modules of it so I can start it in the second semester and do the other two in fourth year. I’m only going into second year now but I’d rather wait to do it in college because some of the TEFL courses I’ve seen advertised are quite expensive and I just wouldn’t have that type of money.

      • Fish and Chips says:

        Oh I dunno. I’m probably paranoid about this but you never know! ah ok I see. Is there any way you could get funding? I live in the UK and got £200 funding from a site called the ILA and had to pay the remaining total. I don’t think you really need the most expensive course though. I got the 120 hour course… it seems enough? The online course is quite….hard lol. Yeah, since youre going into second year, you might want to wait because the online parts may take some time to complete!

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