My Life As An ITA TEFL Student

It’s Monday morning in week three of my Certificate in TEFL course at ITA Barcelona, and I wake up to my alarm at 9 a.m. in my very tiny studio. I open the tall balcony doors to let some fresh air in and turn off the AC, hoping that this is enough of an effort to keep my electricity costs down (it’s not.) , I open the fridge to make myself breakfast and realize I didn’t meal prep or grocery shop for the week. I can’t believe I did this again! No problem, I will just grab an empanada on my way into class at the corner café and eat before going into class. And thank heavens for this instant coffee still in my pantry from the prior tenant.

Like all my weekends since I started my TEFL course, I have spent most of Saturday and Sunday working on my TEFL course work- reading and corresponding quizzes, a lesson-planning assignment which took ages to do as I needed to find my own materials. On top of all this, I had to plan my lesson for teaching practice today. Trying to juggle having as much fun as possible on the weekends as well as doing the numerous assignments we have to do at the w eekends during the course is not easy; I decide my course work comes first, I will have plenty of time to party after the course.

I do a quick 20 minute yoga class from an app on my phone because I know I need time to review my lesson plan for the class I teach later today. Hmm… reviewing it now makes me realize it doesn’t look super strong. I’m hearing my instructor’s voice in my head: “What is the main aim of this lesson that I’m going to teach advanced students? “. I don’t know! It’s all over the place! I am going to have to revise it at some point before my class this evening. Perhaps it will be smart to grab another coffee along with that empanada.

Enough of looking at the lesson plan, I have to be in class for the first input session by 10 a.m., otherwise it’s points deducted! I shower and get dressed in the least amount of clothing possible and pack my professional teaching attire in my back pack. I grab my bike and head out. Entering the school is the best, ahhhhh AC again. Everyone is sitting where they always do, in heaps of sweat, and I head to my spot near the window and say hi to everyone. My classmates are in good humor, although some have a nervous look on their face that says “I may not be prepared to teach my class tonight” and I nod at them in solidarity.

I think about the day ahead of me, because it’s going to be a long one! 10:00-13:30, we have two input sessions with a break in between them, then I’ll need to eat again; luckily, we have a couple of hours to work on my plan after lunch from 2:30-4:30, when I can sit down with an instructor who will be available to give me feedback on my plan.

The first session of the morning, Kerry is teaching us how to work with young learners. She already has on the board a big outline of a bag and what looks like a Mary Poppins bag on the floor next to her. I’m looking forward to this. She has a fun mischievous look on her face and asks us what we think is in the bag. I hope it’s candy (it’s not.) The lesson proceeds and I am enthralled like a little kid. Kerry and Stephen always have great hooks.

After that session and our thirty minute coffee break, we have a fun-packed grammar lesson, and great teacher takeaways which may even help me with my teaching practice later. At 1:30, we finally break for lunch – I can work on my lesson plan! I go over it with my partner who agrees I don’t have a clear main aim for my students. I have three hours before my class starts. I can do this. But first, I get delicious Indian food in the neighborhood with my classmates, and wolf it down in 45 minutes so that I can get back for 2:30 to get some much-needed lesson planning advice from an ITA instructor.

Back at school, stuffed but reenergized, I grab the nearest instructor who luckily for us is always on hand to give advice. I speak to whoever that might be, and for the next two hours, I work relentlessly on my lesson plan to tweak, add, and basically rehearse it. I have until 4:30 to get my plan and materials in order, printed out, and be ready and waiting in class for the guinea pig students. These are the students who volunteer to be our students so that we can practice our newly-acquired teaching skills. They are a great bunch, always willing to put up with our lessons which do not always go according to plan.

Anyway, I get to the point I think the lesson plan is clear and has a good flow. Not much I can do now, class is about to start and I’m going on first. Confidence and big smiles, these advanced students will be a challenge if they get bored (advice from my classmates who already taught them).

So at 4:30, the students walk in and sit down eager to speak. I give my lesson as one of my classmates and the trainer looks on, both of whom are making copious notes on my performance. After 50 minutes, I finish and it’s my classmate’s turn to teach (and mine to take notes on his lesson).

Phewf! Not too bad. They were intrigued and stayed focus, and seemed like they had fun. At 6 p.m. after my classmate’s lesson, the guinea pigs go home, happy by the look of things. Now we have the post-lesson feedback session in which the trainer tells us what we did well, and what we need to work on for our next lesson. This lasts until about 7pm. My notes are what I expected, which was I needed a stronger grammar take away. But overall, feedback was good on the lesson. Hurray! Now for wine!

And quizzes…that are due in two days, but I know the next two days I won’t have time to complete them. Wine and quizzes? Yes. Three of my classmates and I go to one of their apartments that has an amazing terrace with a view to tackle the quizzes that cover the chapters in our course book, drink wine, eat cheese and bread, and make silly English-teacher jokes.

Ok it’s now 1am. I need to sleep. I hop back on my bike and head home. The streets are wet from the street cleaning and it’s quiet, which is rare to see in the old city. It preps me for sleep. Got another 10 o’clock start tomorrow and the rest of the week, and need to finish that assignment for my one-on-one project. As I am not teaching tomorrow, I have all afternoon to start getting that in shape.  Reminding myself as well on the bike home that I need to schedule another meeting with my student for the project, as well as think about another lesson plan for my next lesson, which luckily for me is in two day’s time. My classmate has his next lesson observed tomorrow. More long days ahead!

Up the stairs with the bike, maybe I shower? Nah. I set my alarm for 9am and pass out. Dammit. I forgot to get groceries again.

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