Thursday, 26 April 2012

ITTP Prague TEFL: Monthly Guest Writer

Recently William (Billy Gragilla) very kindly wrote a review of the ITTP Prague TEFL program and because of his subsequent extensive travel and teaching experience post ITTP course graduation, we invited him in to become this month's Guest Writer for April. THANK YOU William for taking the time to submit your article. ITTP would like to clarify that William took the course a good few years ago and since then the Prague teaching Market has developed considerably, with wages averaging US$15 per hour. The beer is just as affordable now as it was back then :-)
Here is William's story: 

When I graduated from college in 2004, I promptly went abroad for my first of many Euro-trips. Unlike my future trips, I had a set course of travel. After a few weeks I was in a youth hostel in Berlin and through word of mouth decided to break route and head to Prague and Budapest. I visited nine countries before returning home to Philadelphia. 

Seven months later, I was back on the road, although this time much more happenstance. In 2005 I flew from Philadelphia to Dublin on a one-way airline ticket and let the road lead the way. I spent 3 summer months hitchhiking through the UK, down to Spain, and finally across the Sea of Gibraltar to Morocco. Then I turned around and hitched back to Prague. 

I attended ITTP TEFL-Prague in September 2005. The focus of the course was to learn English grammar and hone teaching skills. It was surprising how much of the English language I took for granted. We had a lot of opportunities to teach Czech students in class. Every blank stare of incomprehension was motivation. Our instructors frequently bridged our learning topic with how it would be applicable in the classroom. I wish that I could say that after the class I was a TEFL master, but that is far from the truth. ITTP TEFL-Prague had given me the knowledge and skills, but it took some time to put them together and become the teacher I wanted to be.

After completion of the course, the instructors became friends. I stayed in Prague for a year. Most of my classes were free-lance through language schools. The whole TEFL scene in Prague was challenging at the beginning. I’d lose classes and be underprepared for classes. I’d commute to classes all day. I was underpaid. I had trouble learning the Czech language. But some of my lessons were successful. I made bonds with Czech families and would accompany them on weekend excursions. I was not unlucky with the Czech ladies. I eventually made a circle of friends, and we lived in a beautiful city where beer only cost a quarter! I found that as my English teaching skills improved, so did my quality of life in Prague. I enjoyed living and teaching in Prague, but after a year, it was time to try something new.

I returned to Philadelphia and had the chance to travel around the USA, South America, Europe, and the Caribbean. My next TEFL exploit was in South Korea from October 2007 through October 2008. Most contracts are fairly lucrative, housing and health insurance are provided, flights are pre-paid, and you get a bonus when you finish your contract. Plus you work at one school all day, usually within walking distance from your house. No more constant commuting. About 30 hours of work a week. Plenty of opportunities to travel to other places in Asia. I travelled all around Korea, Thailand, China, and Japan.

William at the highest elevation in S.Korea.

I lived in a small coastal port town called Mokpo. It was quant and pretty, and was home to about 100 other expatriates. My school was a private language academy called Jung Chul. In the morning I taught young learners. Lessons were focuses on activities, games, spelling, and phonetics. Afternoons I taught middle-schoolers. Lessons were about spelling, reading, grammar, vocabulary, and games. Evenings I taught high school students. Classes were intense with conversation, essays, grammar, and listening. My classes were full of activity and fun. I started using drills and memorization to help students retain information. I became confident. I developed relationships with my students. I felt like an asset to my school. Finally all the things I learned at ITTP TEFL-Prague were coming together. I could gauge my effectiveness at teaching English by reading my Students responses in the classroom. I could say that I am a skilled English teacher!

When my contract in Korea was over, I travelled again. I chose to travel to Europe to hike El Camino de Santiago. This is a 600+ mile continuous pilgrim route originating in the Pyrenees Mountains in France and terminating in Santiago de Compostela and continuing to the Atlantic Ocean. Then I went to Bulgaria and Istanbul.

After Istanbul I changed the direction of my life and stopped travelling all the time and put my effort to becoming a National Park Ranger. It took some years to get the required credentials, but in 2010 I achieved my goal.

I went back into teaching again in late 2010-2011, this time in my home town of Philadelphia. I worked at two ESL schools part time in the evenings. One of the schools gave me a contract for good money and was subsidized by Philadelphia Public Schools. I can say that I was an ESL teacher for the public school system in America. At both schools I received praise for my teaching ability, and got all positive reviews from my students. 

Now that I have over 3 years of teaching experience, I know that I can never stay away from it long. So I ask myself what is next. Should I go to Japan or Chile? Should I open my own English school? Should I teach other people how to be TEFL teachers? Whatever I decide I know that I have the skills and background to succeed.

Hezky den!/Lovely day!

Neville :-)