Brady Callander - 2005 Program Participant

Tsukushima Shrine in Japan

Tsukushima Shrine–memories of Japan. Photo by Brady Callander

What brought you to TEFL Worldwide Prague?

I first heard about TEFL Worldwide Prague on I was just coming to the end of my time at university, and I really wanted to live abroad and escape the mounting cost of living in England. I found the idea of learning to teach English instantly appealing, and after looking at the website and seeing beaming suntanned faces and glowing testimonials, I was pretty much sold on the idea of joining in the fun.

Traffic ridden street in Hanoi, Vietnam

Daily traffic madness in Hanoi. Photo by Brady Callander

Why did you want to become certified in Prague specifically? 

Well, mainly because my options were limited by money. Prague is a pretty cheap place to live and study for a month. I had never been there before, but I’d heard a lot of great things about the place. The architecture and nightlife really stood out! I have great memories of my time in Prague. It’s where it all got going for me. It’s amazing that it was ten years ago. I still remember some of the valuable lessons and advice from Terry and Rob, the two teacher trainers. The fact is that I was really struggling in the course, and I remember Terry telling me that I needed to really concentrate and start implementing some of the strategies they were teaching. I was having too much fun in Prague, and my focus wasn’t where it should have been.

What was the accommodation in Prague like?

I’m sure if you’re used to living in a beautiful family home, moving into temporary digs in Prague might be something of a departure from luxury, but I was sharing a dilapidated university house with four friends, so the accommodation in Prague felt like a bit of an upgrade. I’ve never really cared much about accommodation; over the years I’ve lived in a few, shall we say, cost-cutting apartments!

English teacher eating lunch with students in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia

Brady enjoying an outdoor lunch with his students in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia.

Many people say earning a TEFL certification onsite can be an intense experience. What was the most challenging part of the course?

Well I went into the course underprepared for what was to come. I didn’t really have any knowledge of how to label grammatical structures. Also, teaching was new to me, so I was very nervous when I had to get up and teach in front of the other participants on the course. 

You earned your TEFL certification in 2005 and have been teaching abroad ever since. What has it been like teaching abroad as a career?

My “career” in teaching, such as it is, has been more by impulse than design. I remember going back home after a year in Prague and listening to the struggles my friends were having, just trying to survive and make ends meet. I was back home for three months before I found an opening that really appealed to me. I had always wanted to go to Asia, and Japan for me was something totally unique and adventurous. I spent two and half great years in Japan. I learned the language and really assimilated myself in the culture. My time in Japan was probably the most fun I’ve had living abroad. I’d love to go back one day. Unfortunately my company, Nova, went bankrupt, so I was forced to look for other options.

Originally, I planned to go and work for English First in Beijing, China, but that fell through because I was expected to return to England to apply for a visa, something I was unable to do due to financial restrictions. The bankruptcy of Nova had a knock-on effect, and many teachers didn’t get paid their last few months’ salary.

Boat ride along the Mekong River in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam

Taking a trip along the Mekong River in Ho Chi Minh City.

In the end, I found a job in Ho Chi Minh City. It looked like a good company (Apollo), and after having a skype interview, I hopped on a plane and headed to the backpacking heart of Saigon to start another chapter in my teaching career. I stayed in Ho Chi Minh for about 18 months, during which time my teaching really improved. The standards were much higher in Vietnam than Japan. Vietnamese people don’t earn a lot of money, and they invest a large proportion of their income learning English at language schools. They expect results! English competency usually translates into higher-paying jobs. Japan, on the other hand, mostly consisted of teaching bored housewives and young children. They seemed to view learning English as a hobby, rather than a career investment.

After 18 months in Saigon, I was offered an Academic Management position in Hai Phong (100 kilometers outside Ha Noi). It was a very challenging position, and that year was spent mostly working and saving. I moved to another Academic Management position in Hanoi, before moving on to teach corporate classes at a different company (Corporate Link – a branch of Language Link). I stayed in Vietnam for four years before an illness forced me to return to England. I hadn’t stepped foot back home for five years, so I was well-entrenched in an expat lifestyle.

By this time I suppose I was getting on for 30 years old, so staying in England and changing my career didn’t seem like a particularly viable option. It was to the rescue again, when three months later I found my current job (Advanced ITC teacher at Saudi Aramco) advertised. I went for the interview in Park Lane in London. After the interview they put the contract in front of me, and told me I had to basically sign there and then. It was life-changing money, a real chance to save for my future, something that until then hadn’t really been possible. I’ve been working here for two years now, and I plan to stay for another three or four years.

University professors in Hai Phong, Vietnam.

Brady’s class of university professors in Hai Phong, Vietnam.

After earning your TEFL certification, you decided to stay and teach in Prague for over a year. What about Prague made you want to stay and work there? 

Well, I certainly learned a lot from the course, and when it was coming to an end, they organized for various employers from around the city to come in and talk about living and working in Prague. As I said before, I was loving life in Prague. I met some wonderful people on the course, people I’m friends with to this day, so we all decided to stay. I was still pretty unsure of myself, and I lacked a bit of confidence at the time to go off to another country and start teaching. I preferred the protection of cutting my teeth with my friends, who were doing the same. 

You’ve taught English in four different countries so far: Czech Republic, Japan, Vietnam, and Saudi Arabia. Which country was your favorite?

I had an absolute blast in the Czech Republic, but for me, Japan was like a dream come true. The people, the culture, the job, everything was amazing. I liked the job because it was easy, rather than challenging. I was at the stage where I was happy to just keep setting up role-plays, which is what the company wanted us to do. I started dating a Japanese girl and learning Japanese. My memories of this time seem to involve me endlessly riding around the city on my bicycle with my friends, stopping off at 7-11’s for Asahi beer, and throwing the frisbee at one of the many beautiful parks.

Foreign teachers riding motorbikes in Vietnam

Brady had to trade in a bicycle for a motorbike when he got to Vietnam!

Which country would you recommend for a first time TEFL teacher? 

I would recommend going to Vietnam. Although the standards are quite high, the resources are very good. You have to really plan well for two-hour classes, so this is where I spent long periods looking through supplementary books and putting together good lessons. The library and support network at Apollo and Language Link – two of the more well-known language schools in Vietnam, are very good, and will facilitate great improvement in your teaching skills.

You’ve taught a variety of courses and in many types of classrooms, including teaching English for an Oil Company in Saudi Arabia. What was it like to teach adults in such a professional environment?

Such a large part of the teaching experience is informed by the motivation of the students. That’s why Vietnam was such a great place to teach, and Japan not so much. Well, the apprentices coming through the training centers in Saudi Arabia are basically on a golden ticket. They have a job for life at the best company in their country. They’re already getting paid to study, so their motivation is low, unfortunately.

ESL teacher riding a bicycle

Brady riding around on his trusty steed.

What advice would you give someone about to start the TEFL certification process?

I would say that learning how to teach is a never-ending process, and you shouldn’t feel that you have to be a superstar teacher by the end of the course. As I said, I barely scraped by in the course, but my on-the-job training has been going on ever since. A career in teaching is very rewarding – it brings you close to so many different types of people, and so much appreciation for different opinions and perspectives. I’ve learned so much from my students, the teacher-student exchange is a very rewarding process if you have the right attitude and bring fun and dynamism to the classroom.

What’s the next place you would like to teach English?

I have no idea. I will probably just scroll down the list of job ads and see what stands out. It’s worked for me so far.