The past couple of years have really caused havoc for the English language sector in the UK, with many language schools closing completely down over the past two years. Only recently, in the UK, have we started to feel a sense of normalcy returning with some schools private English language schools opening up to international students once again. Only the past few weeks, have I noticed more students locally, wandering around my hometown – something which was once considered the norm a few years ago. On a personal level, I know a handful of people who have travelled from abroad to the UK with nominal checks before and after arriving. So in terms of English language teaching, the UK is open for business with international students having the opportunity to visit and experience what was lost the past few years, so much so that I was asked to teach a small group of teenage Spanish learners over the Easter break, for a week.
I popped into the school the week before to reacquaint myself with the various material available and to pencil down a possible weekly plan. It took a few hours to get everything together but I was quite happy and then I was asked to cover an adult class for an hour while my ex-Director of Studies undertook some tutorials with his students. It was quite an interesting lesson and I thought about focusing on pronunciation and vowel sounds as this would help these Elementary / Pre-Intermediate adult learners develop their skills with listening and generating appropriate awareness of British pronunciation. It included a listening task with some comprehension questions and the students done a good work picking out all the necessary answers from the listening. Personally, it was a good chance to be lowered softly into the private English teaching industry post-pandemic.
Before I knew it, the lesson was over and I was registering as an employee for the school for the week ahead. All was submitted and I was out the door, returning to the school to teach a new group of young Spanish teenagers, and this was when the butterflies and nerves started to grip. I guess some experienced teachers and tutors not mention the amount gravity of such apprehension when dealing with new students. First lessons always provide a healthy balance of nerves and keen me on my toes. Anyhow, I had a few days to relax before returning to the school to teach a full week with new students.
The weekend seemed to whizz by, and I was back in the school around 8am to get my material photocopied in preparation for the 9am start of class. I met all students, who were divided into three classes. I took my students into their classroom, where I decided to start what had been the usual get to know you activities with the true and false statements, with students having to predict which were true or false, but this ended up finishing far too quickly. I then realised that the students were not provided with any books or pens, so I had to incorporate some engaging yet ‘material light’ activities in class for the 45 minutes. I then rushed to the DoS’s room to collect said pens and materials for the students. I returned to class and most of the week, I attempted to connect both the morning lessons with the students social activities in the afternoon. I even used LinguaHouse’s material which was received adequately with the students. Interestingly, I have only used LinguaHouse’s material within an online environment and the students seemed appreciative of the tasks – one advantage of this material is it is topic-based and hopefully more engaging for students. The only time that I decided to focus on my own source of material was when I was introducing the learners to the phonemic chart and British pronunciation – I discovered early on that the Spanish group of learners had difficulty with ‘-ed’ verb endings, often mixing up the pronunciation from /t/ to /id/.
One thing the students reminded me to use in class was Kahoot! I had used this with face-to-face course in the past and it was so refreshing to use this application again in the last ten minutes of class. It engaged the learners and they were the ones requesting that we use it in class.
Before I knew it, I was now on Friday, having taught the students for the week. I asked the school if I were to be paid time and a half due it being Good Friday, but I was told this wasn’t the case. I was slightly miffed by this as another adult teacher was contracted to be paid time and a half, so my feathers were a little ruffled, which prompted me to share a poll on Twitter. Unsurprisingly, the vast majority of participants indicated that being paid time and a half should be the case.
However, I should mention that there is no UK law in place where employees should be entitled to time and a half when working on public holidays. One thing that I used to do a few years ago was to work public holidays and then take the time off in lieu and combining with holiday entitlement, usually with a holiday to Korea or elsewhere. Nevertheless, it was refreshing to teach a group of young learners as it had been over three years – even before the pandemic – since I had last taught a closed group. Naturally, I was nervous to begin with but over the coming days, I rediscovered my passion for teaching, particularly face-to-face, and regained my confidence once again.
How do I feel moving on with teaching face-to-face? Well, I feel more comfortable and happy to teach groups of learners, whether adults or young learners. I am also aware that I hold a great deal of flexibility when it comes down to teaching either for a University, a local language school or independently as a freelance online tutor. As students regain their confidence to return to learning in-class or on-campus, I feel more confidence with my employability. It has certainly, without a doubt, been a challenging few years with many suffering from economically from the pandemic. I know some great EFL teachers who have moved on to other more stable forms of income, with some working within the NHS or within different industries. Personally, I am fascinated by languages, cultures, and travelling, with the opportunities to be exposed to varied cultures and individuals continues my fascination so it is unimaginable to think that I side-step General, Academic English teaching or exam preparation such as IELTS.
I hope you found my ramblings of some use and that it struck a chord. Here’s to a better 2022 for the English teaching industry.