After a lot of deliberation and research on many courses for Teaching English abroad I finally decided on starting this new challenge with Samui TEFL, a small school on the island of Koh Samui, Thailand, which trains people of all ages to become proficient and creative English teachers.
There are so many schools and different programs on offer that the process of picking a school was frustrating and confusing. A real benefit to me was the honest and extremely prompt communication from Rosanne Turner, co-owner of the school and currently the course administrator. Having explained that I liked the course but had concerns about it being accepted in Vietnam as a sufficient qualification Rosanne immediately put me in touch with a contact in Vietnam who could give further guidance. Kathryn Webb, the course trainer and director, was also very helpful with advice from a different angle, having owned and run an English school in Italy prior to joining Samui TEFL. Despite several emails and many questions Rosanne was always extremely informative and even though it was potential business for her school she never came across as trying to sell the course. Her advice and opinions were unbiased and realistic and it was very comforting to get genuine, trustworthy advice from knowledgeable sources without feeling like there was an agenda or that it was seen purely as a business opportunity.
As for the course itself, day to day there was a lot of work. This involved theoretical work and learning grammar basics as well as teaching techniques, lesson planning and creating resources for the lessons. It can be quite intense at times, especially when creating resources before the teaching practices but Kathryn believes in giving students as much opportunity as is realistically possible to prepare in class and avail of her experience rather than flounder on your own after class, unsure of whether an idea will work or not. This in class preparation time makes things a lot less stressful and also means that there is less wasted time working on a flawed idea as Kathryn can quickly point out any problems and help adapt ideas so they will work better in the teaching practices.
Although there is a lot of practical time in class, work does have to be done outside of the school hours of 8.30am – 5.00pm and Kathryn is contactable via email with questions or to review lesson plans all evening and also early in the morning, I’m not sure how she is able to read and reply to everyone, but she does!
The teaching practices is a real strength for Samui TEFL as all teaching practices are with non-English speakers and no teaching practice is teaching your peers. The range of levels for the teaching practices is well organised with classes ranging from kindergarten all through primary age and even adult classes with the Thai Teaching Assistants from the International School of Samui.
There are other benefits, not necessarily educational, of doing a course on Koh Samui. Being a tropical island has it’s benefits when you do have free time with many beautiful beaches and tropical blue water to enjoy. There is also a bustling night-life scene in case you have a Saturday night free and there are walking streets and food markets in different areas of the island each night, serving delicious and very reasonably priced street food. The one downside to completing a TEFL course on a tropical island is having to do teaching practices in schools without aircon, as the combination of nerves and heat inevitably mean perspiration!
The accommodation for Samui TEFL is another bonus for this school. Most accommodation options offered are right next door to the school which is just a short walk from the village of Choeng Mon. Accommodation options range from a basic bungalow to a two-bedroom villa with a kitchen. The kitchen was great asfood could be bought from Tesco and cooked when it was convenient so relying on eating out every night was not an issue.
I think I arrived for the course quite well prepared. Suitable clothes for teaching practices is a must. Whilst there are options to purchase clothes on Ko Samui, the choice is not great. A better option, which I chose to do, is to buy clothes in Bangkok at one of the many shopping malls, Platinum is a good choice for value with wholesale options available.
I would recommend for anyone heading to do this or any similar course to bring a laptop. The school has laptops which can be used but if there are a number of students who need to use the school laptops there could be a supply problem. On my course one girl had an iPad but it seemed to be more of a hindrance to use than was worth it.
The highlight of the course for me (apart from graduating!) was seeing the children react positively and smile when they were praised, when they were involved in activities in class and when they got questions correct. This was especially nice when you knew it was one of the quieter children who took more encouragement to participate; often thier reaction would be subtle, a small smile to their friend after going back to their seat or after you give them a Hi-Five for joining in. From their little smile you could see that something had made their day, be it holding the teacher’s hand or getting a little smiley face on their worksheet, and it made my day as well.
A few further miscellaneous positives of the school are the welcome lunch provided by Kathryn and Rosanne and the close bonds formed from having a small class of no more than 10 students. Also, Rosanne and Samui TEFL really try to get all students successfully employed by the end of the course, and have dedicated jobs pages which are only accessible for past graduates.
Both Rosanne and Kathryn genuinely want to keep in touch with the students after the course and are interested to find out about their teaching experience in different schools which is nice and shows the personal aspect of this course.
The course at Samui TEFL helped me to develop new skills such as classroom management as well as improving my confidence with regard to having to stand in front of a class of 50 non-English speaking students. This was one aspect I was apprehensive of but I feel much more capable now than prior to the course. I have also improved my creative abilities thanks to having to make materials and lesson plans from scratch as well as my organisational skills, again from planning lessons in a methodical way, as taught by Kathryn.
Overall I could not have been happier with the course that Samui TEFL provide with the exception of a longer course being offered. Rosanne and Kathryn are a fantastic team who complement each other very well. I would certainly advise anyone considering a TEFL to at least get in touch with Samui TEFL and ask some questions.
I think the best way to sum up my feelings for the Samui TEFL course and the team there, in Rosanne and Kathryn, would be to say that I would happily recommend any family member or friend to undertake the course without any hesitation.