Gayle Norman - TEFL Jobs Advisor & Tutor
In 2008, after obtaining a CELTA qualification, Gayle moved to Seoul, South Korea to teach elementary school students for four and a half years. She taught students of all ages, from kindergarten to senior citizens. On her return to Ireland, Gayle began teaching adults from Europe and South America, with a specific focus on exam preparation. She became an online tutor with i-to-i TEFL in February 2014.
You spent time teaching TEFL programs in South Korea, how and when did you get connected with i-to-i TEFL?
I first came across i-to-i many years ago and enrolled on an online grammar course, as my grammar knowledge at the time was pretty woeful! I thoroughly enjoyed the course and learned a lot. I wanted to continue training, so I decided to upgrade and take a CELTA course. While on the course, I met a girl who’d been working in South Korea for a few years. The country and the work sounded great, so I set about moving to the other side of the world!
I spent around four and a half years happily teaching in Seoul. When I returned back to Ireland I was lucky enough to come across this wonderful opportunity to take up an online tutor position with i-to-i. Many teachers I’d worked with in South Korea had taken the practical and online courses with i-to-i and only ever had positive things to say about their experiences, so I knew this was a company I would love to work for.
What does an average day of work look like for you?
It’s quite varied, which makes it all the more enjoyable! I spend some time organizing and working on the content for our webinars, which are held twice or three times weekly.
I also work on the helpdesk, which involves helping people as they move through their online course. Our students have a number of tutor-marked assignments or “Checkpoints” to complete, some of which can prove quite challenging. Myself and my colleagues on the helpdesk answer calls and emails from those who need assistance and guidance on these checkpoints, as well as the other aspects of the course.
Although we have qualified tutors located all around the globe marking assignments 24/7, there are times when I’ll be required to mark and give feedback on assignments. I really do enjoy this as it’s another opportunity for me to connect with our students.
You host live weekly webinars for TEFL students, what are these all about?
The webinars are live classes which deal with various aspects of the online course, from how to teach pronunciation to getting your first job. While not compulsory, many students find them an invaluable learning tool as they offer the chance to “meet” tutors and fellow i-to-i TEFLers from all across the world. Attendees can interact with one another through the live chat box which is open on the screen when they enter the virtual classroom.
The sessions are between 40 and 50 minutes long and are hosted by myself or James Jenkin (the Academic Director at i-to-i) who you have the pleasure of seeing live and in full color in the top right hand corner of your screen! We go through a presentation of the topic being covered, complete with interactive polls and surveys to keep attendees engaged. We then finish up with a Q and A session at the end.
These webinars are well attended, where are most participants who attend from and what types of questions are asked?
We have students tuning in from literally all over the world. The majority of those that attend are located in English-speaking countries, like South Africa, Australia, the USA, Ireland, and the UK; but only last week I had attendees from Moscow, Cambodia, and Singapore (to name a few), all sharing their experiences of working in those countries before the class began. Some are just starting their day, while others are burning the midnight oil in order to join in on a live session.
The questions asked during the Q and A are varied and really depend on the topic being covered. They could be anything from “What are some cultural no no’s in Japan?,” to “Where do you start with teaching a class of students with zero English?”
What is the most frequently asked question you receive as an advisor, and what is your typical response?
“What is the best country to teach in?” This can be a hard one to answer as everyone has different goals, desires, and priorities. What may be a wonderful experience for one person may not be for another. We have a jobs board with over 600 live jobs at any one time, so whether you want to teach in Asia, Europe, South America, or the Middle East, you’re sure to find a job that’s perfect for you!
What kind of tutoring support can TEFL program participants expect when enrolling in a course?
While we really do promote independent learning, we also realize how lonely studying online can be. Sometimes you need something put to you in a different way, or to see something from a different perspective in order for it to sink in. We’re here to help our students when they run into difficulty as they move through the coursework. If you have any questions on the content, the assignments, or quizzes, we’re here to steer you in the right direction and give you the support and encouragement you need to complete the course.
What advice do you give i-to-i TEFL participants when it comes to the job search? Where is a the best place to find a teaching job in 2015?
The first thing we advise is that you do lots of research; you really do need to be fully equipped with all the information you can get your hands on before you take the rather big step of moving to the other side of the world. Research the options that are available to you, and look at your qualifications to see if they meet the requirements of the schools and immigration laws of that country. For example, it may be your dream to move to South Korea, but unless you have a degree, unfortunately you won’t be able to. It’s a requirement to have a degree in order to obtain a work visa over there, but there are many countries where you can teach without a degree.
Of course, we’re here to answer any job-related questions students have, but ultimately, there are some questions that only you can answer yourself. Would your values and lifestyle fit the culture of the country you’re considering? How about the weather, the food, the people? If Beijing sounds good to you, consider whether or not you’d be comfortable living in a densely populated city.
Read blogs and forums with posts written by teachers working in your country of interest. Don’t be afraid to connect with them and ask questions to find out what life's really like.
Right now in China, for instance, the jobs market is booming; over a third of their population (that’s 200 million!) are learning English, meaning thousands of schools are crying out for qualified teachers!
What is the most fulfilling part of your role at i-to-i?
Having the chance to interact and connect with our students, many of whom keep in touch with me by email. I love hearing about where their TEFL course has taken them and how much they’re enjoying teaching…although it can be hard not to get just a little bit jealous when I hear about all of their exciting TEFL adventures!