The English Teacher Training College

The English Teacher Training College

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No, I don't recommend this program

I wish to start by saying that before I applied I tried to do as much research as I could about the college before applying. I looked at the reviews I watched the youtube videos and thought this must be too good to be true. Turns out it was.

If you google 'The English Teacher Training College' or 'ABCi' you'll find blogs and forums with more honest feedback.

The main reason I applied was due to the low cost and the chance to get the Cert TESOL qualification. The reality is that the training for this qualification is left on the back burner and there are hardly any training sessions on teaching methodologies, language awareness, and other aspects. Although I have managed to pass my assignments I am still coming away feeling disappointed and that I haven't really earned the Cert TESOL. Comments have been made by the moderator from Trinity that the course is currently not to standard due to the complete lack of adult teaching that is involved. Be prepared that all your assignments, exams and portfolios will all be due at once at the very end of your course.

On a daily basis you will be expected to travel to school with a senior-teacher and teach the ABCi programme to either Volksschule (primary) or NMS (secondary) school children. The programme is very repetitive and mainly consists of playing games whilst you talk English and try get them to respond to you. As such I feel we increase the confidence of the students but no actual new teaching is provided to them.

Living Conditions
There are currently 3 campuses (Vorchdorf, Pressbaum and Wolfsberg). I spent the first 4 weeks in Pressbaum before changing over to Wolfsberg. Pressbaum is in a great location due to its proximity to Vienna. However, the girls are living inside a boarding school with only a tiny fridge and a microwave. I found myself attempting to cook eggs and pasta in the microwave and using the kettle to make couscous - 4 weeks dragged on. The boys live in a shared small flat, also next to the school. When I was there the flat was infested with ants with 1 kitchen and 1 washing machine between upto 20+ student teachers.
I spent the rest of my time in 'Wolfsberg' the closest town. The campus is actually located in a remote village called Frantschach St Getraud. The village has one shop that is very expensive and you would not be able to get all of your groceries from there. The house sits opposite a giant paper factory so please expect a lot of noise and pollution. It smells a lot too. Due to its location you are about a 50min walk to the nearest town of Wolfsberg where there are more shops, bars and restaurants. To get anywhere else it is very costly on the bus even with the discount OBB card.

Currently there is very little standardisation across the campuses or across different members of staff. Senior teachers with have different sets of expectations for different student teachers. There is a lot of talk about professionalism. Most of the staff are anything but. There has been several circumstances that have been considered questionable and inappropriate and when discussed with senior management they don't appear to take it seriously. There are many instances of favouritism, senior teachers will give special treatment to those they like and partially victimise others.

Free time
After transferring to Wolfsberg we found out that there was a campus car that has been made available to student teachers who volunteer to drive. During the weekends the group made several road trips to Venice, Trieste, Hallstatt, Lake Bled, Ljubljana and Klagenfurt. Having the car has been a huge highlight of the trip for me as it made central Europe more accessible and travelling by road was extremely scenic. Whilst living in Pressbaum we were able to take the bus to Budapest for the weekend.

To summarise you will get your Cert TESOL but the chances are you will be living unhappily and overworked. Had it not been for the support of fellow student teachers going through the same situation I would've considered quitting. A fate many others did choose. If you are in the position to do so I would do this course elsewhere, although the course appears to be value for money you will spend far more than you would expect to on food and excursions. If you do decide to come on the course the more organised you can be the better, get to know your colleagues and try and enjoy it. :)

What would you improve about this program?
The programme and organisation of the Cert TESOL component needs completely reworked. Too many weeks are focused on teaching the ABCi programme in schools when training sessions on Cert TESOL and language awareness could be given.
It took months to get marks back for the first assignment which led to backlog of marking the subsequent assignments. This meant people were resubmitting assignments for moderation the day before.
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Yes, I recommend this program

I have actually completed 2 course with ABCi, the first back in 2014; with not teaching experience and the second; with 4 months of teaching in Austria. The first course that I did was very light on the amount of preparation needed to teach in schools. The program is already designed with a guide that you take into class with you, each school you teach at is the same program(this is great for improving your confidence and fluency of instruction giving). After teaching for 6 lessons at school, we would drive back and have a debrief session about the day and any issues that came up. Then we would have small inputs for an hour or so every Thursday to cover some grammar and technical language. This was the first course: Fun, Easy and a great learning experience.

My second time was in 2016 and it was very different. In the years that I had been absent many of the staff members had left and the company had grown a lot, both in a good way and a bad. Let´s talk about the good first: The first course I was in a group of 4(myself and 3 girls), this meant that although I did get along with them, we were never super chummy. However, for this course living in a house with 15-20 other awesome people, all eager to learn, teach and to party. This was much better. Although living with so many people was a little bit of a chance from my normal habitations, it was nothing that I hadn´t experienced before. After spending over 2 years travelling to over 60 countries, I have spent a fair amount of time in communal housing and even many a night sleeping on a beach or out in the forest. For me, 20 new friends was a great way to improve my teaching abilities. As well and the close bonds that I made, the inputs that we had(although still rather dry) were much more informative and forced me to research and take personal initiative to improve to keep up with the workload. This did take a toll on my heath and sucked a lot of time out of my fitness schedule(the drinking didn´t help either), however in the end it left me with 100% confidence of walking into a classroom of students and teaching a lesson without any fears. I had the opportunity to live in 3 different regions of Austria, a country with unquestionable beauty. To this day, as I drive around, I am still awestruck every time I drive past through Salzkammergut or through the Alps.

Let´s get to the bad then: I´ll make this simple and just use dot points
-THIS IS NOT A FULL TIME HOLIDAY! Yes, you do have time off in the evening and weekends, however it is mostly taken up by preparation and planning. However, almost every weekend we were throwing house parties with the locals, watching the World Cup and playing football in the park.
-The growth of the organisation has meant that a lot of new staff come and go quite quickly. However, this is not all due to ABCi and the work. Austria is also a very expensive country to settle.
-The lack of appreciation that you get for teaching. This is a big one. After teaching for 6 hours and then having inputs in the afternoon. All you need is a couple of beers and a pat on the back. Then it´s all worth it. Come on ABCi, fork out a couple more bevs and the teachers will stick around a bit longer.
-Cleanliness at the accommodations. This was pretty bad at some times, however I think half of the fault were the British that really can´t look after themselves. Mum isn´t going to clean up after you, mate.

Overall, I enjoyed my time on the 2 course. Both very different. I would recommend this anyone wanting to gain experience and test what it would be like to teach. If you like it, stick around, if not, just leave. Easy.

Now to the present:
I am currently working for ABCi and have been for a year now. The difference in being a Student Teacher and being an employee are immense. For one, Austria is much more comfortable to live in when you are earning money. Hello good beer :) I spend my day driving around the country reaching out to schools to book projects, part of this meant learning more German(which I have greatly improved), this also means seeing some amazing sight and of course meeting lots of Austrian teachers that are incredibly friendly and teaching Austrian students that are so eager and amazed to interact with an Australian.

What would you improve about this program?
-Less teaching per week for teachers.
-Better planning for projects, prior to the week or day.
-Prizes and awards for Student Teacher that go above and beyond to deliver top notch lessons.
Response from The English Teacher Training College

Dear Jonathon,
thank you for your honest feedback about your experiences with ABCi. We agree that the programs appeal most to open-minded, down-to-earth people like yourself with the "you get out what you put in" mentality!

Default avatar
Yes, I recommend this program

My friends and family are still a bit surprised by my sudden decision to go into teaching and even more surprised that I seem to be good at it! A great program that taught me to be an effective teacher in a few months. I came into it with a liberal arts degree and no background in teaching. I had never taught at all before, and I have found that I love it, it is my calling! The great part about what ABCi does and what really sets it apart from others is the large amount of assessed and unassessed teaching practice that you get. You are teaching in real classrooms in state schools alongside experienced teachers and teacher trainers. The classroom experience each morning is supplemented by theoretical training in the afternoon. In general, these match up pretty well so that you can apply what you learn each afternoon in subsequent morning sessions. They tell you in advance that the course is intense and that the days are long, and it's true: you leave most mornings between 6am and 6:30am and the theory inputs end most days at 4:30. It sort of feels like a boot camp for teachers because even when you get back to the apartments, you're generally doing lesson planning with each other and discussing the teaching that you did that day and will do tomorrow. But that's a good thing! I think it's safe to say that I learned nearly as much from my peers in the evening as I did from the course tutors on the course during the day. Ultimately, it is really is the sort of thing where you get out of it what you put into it. If you go into it with unrealistic expectations or a bad attitude, you’re probably not going to enjoy it. If you want to be spoon fed, if think this is the kind of course where you can get drunk and not show up, if you think that you can just show up and be handed a certificate for doing the bare minimum, than save yourself the disapointment and go and do an online course instead. Unless you have a doctor's note, you need to show up each day and do the coursework to get the certfication. I think the other people in your group have a real impact on your experience as well. One thing that I didn't realize at first was that the Welfare team at the college is genuinely willing to help, but you need to speak up and say that something is wrong: some of the stuff that went wrong between individual students, bad blood or whatever, they had no idea about until we told them. In terms of learning by doing, where you really learn a lot is from watching experienced teachers teach, watching your peers teach, and getting feedback from experienced teachers who have watched you teach. The hardest part for me personally was being filmed and watching myself teaching (or micro-teaching) to reflect on my own teaching, but it was a great way to really quickly realize what I could do better. Plus, it's free: they provide a "scholarship" that covers course fees, the apartments, and travel to and from the schools. This thing didn't even exist 6 years ago and now it's a resource for tens of thousands of young Austrians who want to learn English and hundreds of native-speakers who want to become proper English teachers. All so Austrian kids get free English projects and native speakers can free teacher training... What a great idea and a cool thing to be a part of! If you're willing to put in the time and do the work, you will come out the other end a great teacher.

What would you improve about this program?
More spacious accommodation in Vorchdorf would be nice. I heard that they were going to build a dorm behind the existing building there in the long term and add another apartment in the short term, so that should take care of that. If someone leaves or fails the course, it can put stress on the other student teachers, so they plan enough teaching practice for the student teachers in advance at the start of the course. That said, admissions have apparently increased the group sizes so that they are adding more student teachers in the future to make-up for anyone who leaves the course. The car rides are long, but they are filled with conversations about grammar and teaching. That said, there was at least one staff member who just turned on the radio and zoned out - it seemed to me that if they were being paid to drive to and from the school that they should be engaging the students in conversation and answering questions at that time as well. Communication was sometimes poor but for a young organization growing so quickly that is understandable: I can see that changes are being made to fix this on future courses.
Response from The English Teacher Training College

Dear John,
thank you for your review of your time with ABCi! I'm glad you got a lot out of it and like I always say about this organisation - "you get out what you put in".
All the best for your future teaching career!

Default avatar
No, I don't recommend this program

Let me start our with what was good: the CertTESOL. It is extremely helpful and well-respected, and great for getting a job later. Therefore what you get in the input sessions is very useful material.

The reason I stayed for the whole program is because I'm a fairly stable person, because I made some really great friends there (adversity bonds people very well), and because I had the opportunity to continue improving my German. I didn't realise until just over two months in that I should have quit earlier, but by then I was too close to finishing to quit.

However, there are many ways to get a CertTESOL. This program advertises itself as a scholarship program, but if you take into account 4 months' living costs (reasonable living costs, not the 25 euros a week that they recommend), you will end up spending at least as much money on this course as you would on a normal intensive course that you have to pay for. In addition, you will have a much lower quality of life.

Let's start with the hours. They advertise that a benefit of the longer program is more class hours than a traditional TEFL course. This is true. They advertise that you will get at least 200 hours of teaching experience. I got 350. However, it was 100% not worth it. 200 hours of teaching would have made this program so much more reasonable. Teaching a full school day with no lessons free is not something that normal Austrian teachers do, and they were shocked that we had to do it. Having to plan and implement lessons for students that you've never met before is not something that any CertTESOL program is supposed to do, and Trinity College was shocked that we had to do it. Waking up as early as 4am (the average was around 5 or 5:30, contrary to what they tell you) to get in the car and not finishing input sessions until after 5pm, sometimes without even time for lunch is just ridiculous.

If you are applying for this program, I'm sure you already know about the long hours. The real issue comes in with the complete lack of understanding from staff. They expected us to be fully present and participating in these input sessions as if we weren't completely exhausted, and some of the staff led these input sessions in such a condescending way that it was completely unbearable and I had to leave the room. They also consistently refused to acknowledge the fact that we were teachers. We did all of the teaching for them, and they present us as teachers to the Austrian schools (most of whom are under the impression that we are being paid, mind you, apart from one teacher I met who actually knew the leadership staff and made sure that we were treated extra well at her school to try and make up for our experience at the office), but outside of the schools, we were treated as useless, replaceable volunteers.

The place where you are treated the worst is undoubtedly Vorchdorf, so if you do end up deciding to go here, avoid it at all costs. My group was there at the beginning and the end of the program, and I burst out crying and had a breakdown during the input session the day before we had to go back because I just could not handle the staff there.

The standard of living on this program is miserable. The accomodation is crowded, dirty, and completely neglected by staff. When the refrigerator and oven broke, it took them weeks to replace the refrigerator and the oven was never replaced. When the toilet was overflowing, they refused to hire a plumber and instead forced one of the course tutors to take care of it after a very long period of complaining.

A lot of what you see about this program online is false advertising. You will have almost no time for traveling, because you will be too exhausted to do anything other than sleep and eat during your free time on weekdays. There are no bicycles, you will only see most of Austria through a car window (and you might even sleep through it, if you're lucky), you will 100% be spending much more than 25 euros a week even if you're thrifty.

Towards the end of my experience there, I had the pleasure of seeing one of the emails that was sent to the admissions staff, stating regulations for specific phrases they need to use in order to make this program seem more appealing, because they were having a lot of problems with recruitment due to bad reviews, a lot of staff quitting, etc. This is really representative of the organisation as a whole. All they want is for the Austrian government, schools, and potential staff and student teachers to see them as a great organisation, when on the inside it is one of the most miserable places that I have ever had the displeasure of working at (SORRY, I meant "student teaching practice").

Please be aware that A LOT (not all, but a lot) of the positive reviews here were forcibly written by staff because ABCi is extremely concerned about the negative reviews it gets from student teachers. I am still in contact with people who have been staff there until recently, and nothing discernable has changed.

How did I survive 4 months here? Friends and wine. One of the ways we expressed our frustration was through song, and I think this is a good way to end the review:

5 to 5 chorus (to the tune of 9 to 5 by Dolly Parton)
Workin' 5 to 5
What a way to make no money
Bein' treated like
We don't know s**t, it ain't funny
We just lose our minds
And they never give us credit
It's enough to make you crazy if you let it!

Response from The English Teacher Training College

Dear Stevii,

We are sorry to hear that you had a negative experience during your time here. We can assure you that the staff here care about the Student Teachers’ well-being. The Student Teachers on your intake had quite a full teaching schedule due to the large number of Austrian schools who had booked English projects with our Bilingual Classroom Initiative. It is completely understandable to find the full days of teaching to be very taxing. The schedule has been amended so that Student Teachers are spending less time in the classroom and are given free periods and Professional Development Days in order to prepare lesson plans and catch up on assignments.

The College is apologetic concerning course staff who were perceived as condescending. Of course this was never the intention of any staff member. The course staff model classroom teaching in the input sessions in order to give the Student Teachers additional practical teaching examples. We understand that there were also negative feedback regarding a second name policy that was enforced during the particular course. This was enforced due to feedback from a previous course, but has also been amended due to more recent feedback. The College is always willing to take on input from Student Teachers, and we encourage Student Teachers to let us know if they are feeling uneasy with any aspect of the program.

As for the accommodation, they are rented properties and we apologize if issues were not responded to immediately by the landlord. The College has ameliorated this by employing our own Facility Coordinators who are responsible for the upkeep and maintenance of the Student Teacher accommodation. We have supplied bikes to the Wolfsberg campus, while the other campuses are in short walking distance from train and bus stations. Other equipment such as grills and benches have been delivered to all campuses. Evenings, weekends and public holidays are free. It is possible that a heavy teaching schedule and a lack of public holidays during the duration of your program could have led to less time to travel. Regarding the amount of additional funds is reasonable to budget for in addition to the food allowance, we will definitely be collecting input from our Student Teachers and amending our recommendations accordingly.

One thing we have to take issue with is that “A LOT (not all, but a lot) of the positive reviews here were forcibly written by staff”. We can assure you that not a single one of the reviews, positive or negative, on this page was written by someone who was a member of staff at the time of writing. Some of them (for full disclosure Toby, John, Danny, Michael, Emmet) came to work with ABCi after they were on the program, and after they had written their positive review. This is precisely because they did have a great time on the course and wanted to continue their time here, and of course try to improve things for future generations, as we always try to do.

We know it will be of little comfort to you now, but we are always trying to improve the experience our Student Teacher have and we appreciate the time you took to provide us with the critical feedback. We will be taking it on board. We apologize for any aspect of the program which was not to the standard you expected and we hope you can understand that as a non-profit, the staff are doing their best to provide the best experience for Student Teachers. There would be no point working for a non-profit, 1000s of miles away from most of our homes, if we did not.

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Yes, I recommend this program

When I applied to the winter 2017 CertTESOL course, the word ‘adventure’ was appropriate for my overall feelings of what lay ahead. Looking back, my experiences reflect Joseph Campbell’s concepts of the ‘Hero’s Journey’ and the ‘Call to Adventure’. In essence this refers to when a person, living their normal life, suddenly receive an invitation or information which acts as a call to head into the unknown. To offer some perspective, I graduated in July 2016 with a BA (Hons) degree in History from Queen’s University Belfast. Like many graduates, I was stuck in this awkward limbo, unsure where the next chapter of my life would unfold. Looking back on it now, the day I stumbled upon the English Teacher Training College and their CertTESOL course on the Guardian jobs website was a blessing. This was my ‘Call to Adventure’.

Prior to beginning the course I had limited teaching experience. As a result of this, it is fair to say that when I first entered an Austrian classroom, I was a bag of nerves. Unlike other TEFL organisations, one of the key benefits of the CertTESOL course offered by the College is the sheer degree of classroom experience you gain during the four month course. By April 2017 I had taught in fifteen different Austrian schools, and acquired 316 hours of teaching experience. To put it simply, you will be a teacher by the end of this course, and you will have the credentials to back this up. Whilst progressing through the course, the feeling of fear when entering a new classroom on a Monday morning had gradually subsided to a feeling of excitement and anticipation, as my confidence in the classroom increased. One of my favourite aspects of teaching was building rapport with my students. If I’ve learned anything from Austrian students, they love three things; bottle flips, selfies, and pink fluffy unicorns. If you have done the course, you know what I mean.

The course is challenging. It is intense. However, from my perspective, the intensity of both teaching in the classroom alongside working towards the CertTESOL qualification only helped to develop my character as both a person and a teacher. When you are waking up at 5am in the morning, travelling to schools, teaching, returning to campus for input sessions, and then working on lessons plans and assignments, you have to grow certain character virtues. Perseverance, discipline, creativity, courage, and leadership are just a few of the personal characteristics I enhanced thanks to my time in Austria.

One of the main reasons I enjoyed my time in Austria, and successfully completed the course is thanks to the people I met along the journey. Whether it was my fellow student-teachers, course tutors, or specific people working within the English Teacher Training College itself, they all had a positive impact on my time in Austria, helping me along the way. Although it sounds cheesy, the people you will meet during your time in Austria will become like a big extended family. Moreover, although a lot of work is involved, I was also fortunate enough to travel to various cities and places throughout Austria and even Germany in my free time. I visited Hallstatt, Salzburg, Gmunden, Passau, and Vienna, to name a few.

On your time in the course you will be split between two campuses; either Vorchdorf in Upper Austria or Pressbaum in the outskirts of Vienna. If you are on the course I would encourage you to complete your assignments as soon as you can, or at least take an hour out of your day each day to work on completing assignments, rather than rushing at the last minute. I would recommend bringing between 800-1000 euro for living expenses, like food and travel. Honestly you could survive on a lot less, it just depends on how much you would be willing to spend. For a weekly shop, I got by on 25-30 euros. Also if you are travelling in Austria I highly recommend you get an OBB card. It costs 19 euro, however it reduces train prices by 45%. It is a valuable investment. Knowing German isn't a pre-requisite of the course, but I would encourage you to learn or pick up bits and pieces during your time in Austria, even if it just simple greetings. Near the Pressbaum campus, there is a local Cafe called Cafe Corso. I highly recommend going there. The prices are decent and they do really good hot chocolate and cake. In terms of shops, in Vorchdorf you have an ample supply; including Hofer (Aldi), Lidl, Spar, dm (Like Boots in the UK), and Libro. In Pressbaum, your closest shop is Hofer, and there is also Lidl and a dm, which are about a 15 minute walk away from Hofer. The weather throughout January and February, for the most part, was very, very cold. In January it could get low as -10 degrees. However by March- April, the weather improved drastically. It got as high as 25 degrees.

Overall, I would say just have fun with your time in Austria. Yes, it is challenging and intense, but embrace the struggle, embrace being thrown out of your comfort zone. It is a truly unique experience. When you finish the course, you'll come out of it a stronger person. My time in Austria is something I'll never regret. The people I met, the places I saw, and the memories I made will be something I'll always cherish. It may sound cliched, but a piece of my heart will always remain in Austria. To those thinking about applying; take a leap of faith and trust yourself. Show courage. Accept the 'Call to Adventure'. You won't regret it.

Response from The English Teacher Training College

Dear Shannon,
thanks for your honest review of your time on the program, and your lovely photos!
All the best for your next steps in your international career!


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Staff Interviews

These are in-depth Q&A sessions with program leaders.

Stephen Behan

Job Title
Sales and Promotions Teacher - Vienna
Stephen is from Ireland and has come through the teacher training course as a Student Teacher. He joined the college as a staff member when he finished the course in June 2014.

What is your favorite travel memory?

This is such a difficult question as there have been so many wonderful places I've been to with wonderful people. I think I will go with one of my most recent trips, from August 2016, when I was able to return to Canada after 13 years, to visit friends and family.

Even within that trip it's a difficult choice - but I would have to say it was the day I spent at Whistler Bike Park in British Columbia. Flying down some of the best mountain bike trails in the world with amazing views of the BC wilderness all around me, perfect.

How have you changed/grown since working for your current company?

I think the realization that I can use many many skills of mine, that I have developed in different industries, and implement them on a daily basis with my position in the college.

Things such as networking, that I developed in the event industry, I now use to full advantage to spread our good work all over this part of Europe. Or even more importantly, that I can bring my own fun personality into a classroom full of Austrian school children and have them all thinking that learning and speaking English can be such fun.

The fact that I can do this and get paid for it is a dream come true for a lot of people.

If you could go on any program that your company offers, which one would you choose and why?

I know that my company offers different Continued Professional Development courses such as Cert-Tesol and Dip-Tesol and also Winter Driving courses for the Alpine conditions that we sometimes have. So even though I'm hoping we get to skid around in the snow in a safe and supervised environment, I think one of my next steps would be to complete the Dip-Tesol course that is available for me.