Alumni Spotlight: Alex Pendleton

Alex Pendleton is 24 and originally from North Wales. She has an English Literature degree from Liverpool John Moores University, and gained her TEFL certificate with TEFL Worldwide Prague in January 2012. She currently works as an ESL teacher for Inlingua in Dessau, Germany. She enjoys traveling (of course!), reading, meeting new people and eating German cakes.

Alex Pendleton

What inspired you to teach ESL?

Alex: I wanted to work abroad for a long time and, with my English degree, teaching ESL seemed the best option. I liked the idea that after gaining my TEFL qualification, I could work anywhere I wanted with relative ease, and the freedom this job can give you. Plus, with me taking the course in January 2012, it was a case of “New Year, New Start”, and jumping out of my comfort zone! I wanted to try something different. I’d never taught before, or done anything remotely like this, and I wanted to see if I could do it.

Why did you choose TEFL Worldwide Prague?

Alex: I researched a few courses prior to signing up, but TEFL Worldwide Prague always stood out as the best one for me. It had such good reviews online, and the course seemed really professional. As my TEFL research was done entirely in the UK, and therefore on the internet, the website was also an important factor. It had lots of honest information about the TEFL course and Prague life, which helped me make an educated decision. I also loved the idea of living and studying in Prague for a month. It’s a beautiful (and cheap!) city.

View from the Charles Bridge, January 2012

Describe your day to day activities as a TEFL student in Prague.

Alex: When I took the course, the class had a full day of lessons on Monday, from 10am – 6pm. The lessons were varied and covered different topics, from Business English to EFL Testing. We also had morning lessons during the rest of the week, with two afternoons teaching and two for lesson planning. We were observed for most lessons, and given constructive feedback about what went well, and what could be improved for next time. The course was undeniably intense – we had to teach on the second day! – and lots of hard work, but we had lots of support throughout.

What was the highlight of your trip?

Alex: This course definitely helped to properly prepare me for teaching. I was offered a job the week after it finished, and felt confident in taking the job – and my teaching abilities - thanks to TEFL Worldwide Prague. I feel that studying abroad also gave me skills that could transfer to other jobs. Taking the risk in trying something new has ultimately led to lots of opportunities, so I’m very happy I did.

Overall, I’m glad I made the decision to study in Prague. It’s a wonderful city, and I feel lucky I had the chance to live there for a short time. I met some amazing and interesting people on the course, and had lots of fun experiences. It’s still one of my favourite cities in the world; you can never walk over the Charles Bridge too many times!

Highlights: Professionally, as I said above, working with the Arbeitsamt classes really makes teaching seem worthwhile. I applied for TEFL because I wanted to work abroad, and to see how I’d enjoy teaching in the future. I’m happy to say that I made the right decision. It’s inspiring to see the students so motivated to learn English, and it feels good helping them to develop this new skill. My experience working abroad is also a definite boost to the CV.

Overall, working abroad has really changed my outlook on the world – and myself. I’ve become more independent, more confident and more open-minded. I especially love the freedom of being able to hop from country to country on the weekends, and to experience new cultures. Having the TEFL certificate has given me the freedom to support myself whilst I travel, both here in Germany and in future places.

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TEFL Worldwide Prague really helped me with my job search. At the beginning of the course, they ask for your top three places to work, and subsequently send you job vacancies from these countries throughout the course. I picked Germany, France and Italy as my choices – and was sent this job vacancy about three weeks into the course. I sent them my CV, had a Skype interview and was offered the job two days after I graduated!

I couldn’t quite believe how quickly I got this job – especially as it’s my first teaching position! But as people say, “it’s not what you know, it’s who you know”, and the right contacts are a great bonus when searching for overseas work. In this case, TEFL Worldwide Prague were great people to know; they were very supportive, and encourage you to contact them for job assistance at any time – even after you graduate and leave Prague.

Morning: My schedule varies each week, so I don’t have a set plan. However, typically I work 30 teaching hours a week between Monday and Friday. I often have Fridays off (bonus!) and have one morning off a week. The rest of my mornings are spent working with the Arbeitsamt (unemployment) classes we have here. These are small classes, usually about four or five students, and they receive funding from the Government to improve their English for future jobs. They are here eight hours a day, five days a week, for four months straight – so it’s intense, to say the least!

Occasionally, these classes can be challenging, but they are actually my favourite groups to work with. You quickly develop a real rapport with the students, and it’s amazing to see how quickly their English develops in the space of four months. It’s also nice to hear back from old students, and how they are now in employment thanks to their improved English. It sounds clichéd, but it does make you feel like you’ve made a difference!

Afternoon: If I have time between morning and evening classes (the classic “split-shift”, often common in TEFL teaching) I’ll spend it lesson planning for the week. Lesson planning was a little daunting at first, but now is much less time-consuming. Once you get to know your students, the lesson materials and what activities work well, trust me, it becomes easier.

Otherwise, my scheduled afternoon classes are usually one-on-one tutorials with teenagers, helping them with their English schoolwork and preparing them for exams. The students range from eleven to sixteen years old, and I usually meet each of them for tutoring once a fortnight. It makes a nice change working with them, as most of my students are older than me! It adds a bit of fun to the day.

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Evening: My evening classes are a mix of General English or Business English. It really varies, depending on what the students’ want or need to study. Sometimes, I need to teach English for a specific purpose: some examples include preparing for a presentation, or specific vocabulary for engineering or medicine. Other times, students just want conversational practice. These classes are usually 3 teaching hours long, and my latest finishing time is 8pm.

I’m fairly lucky, as I don’t drive, so my classes are always held at the Inlingua Centre in the city. My department is divided into “in-house” colleagues, like myself, and colleagues who drive out to teach at companies or other institutes.

If I’m not working, I’ll go and meet friends for dinner or drinks.