GoAbroad Interview

Billie Haase - Tutor

Billie Haase - Oxford TEFL Tutor

Billie is a teacher trainer on the TESOL certification course at Oxford TEFL Barcelona. She believes in a healthy balance between training and teaching, and therefore still enjoys teaching classes herself, ranging from low level to proficient exam classes. One of her main interests is finding creative ways to help students improve their pronunciation and she has published many teaching videos on her YouTube channel to help students achieve this goal. She holds an MA in Phonetics and a TESOL Diploma.

What is your background in teaching and TEFL?

I initially started out as a primary teacher. After finishing my PGCE I worked at two independent girls’ schools in Manchester for five years, mainly preparing pupils for grammar school entrance exams. I think this is where my love for exam classes stems from! Although I always enjoyed teaching the British primary curriculum, I had also been interested in TEFL for a while and eventually I decided to change my career path slightly and enrolled on a TESOL cert course. I really enjoyed the programme and loved the new classroom experience, just focusing on one subject and having more mature students. I could finally focus on what I loved best: teaching, instead of having to do a lot of extra paperwork, playground duties, after school clubs etc. After three years of EFL experience in the UK doing the diploma was the next logical step in my professional development.

Oxford TEFL staff enjoying a lunch break on the patio in Barcelona

Some of Billie’s lovely colleagues enjoying their break on their patio area.

How did you originally become involved with Oxford TEFL?

I heard about Oxford TEFL through a friend who had done the TESOL cert course in Barcelona and who spoke very highly of the school, the tutors, and the programme. So I decided that this would be the best training centre for me. After I completed my cert TESOL course, I returned to the UK but kept in touch with some of my tutors who encouraged me to pursue the TESOL diploma and to get involved in teacher training.

What is your teaching philosophy? Which course do you tutor?

I strongly believe that learning should be fun. I think it is much easier for us to remember and take in a new language when we are intrinsically motivated and enjoy what we are doing. I try to implement this in my teaching by being creative and choosing tasks and activities that I enjoy myself. Then I try to pass on my enthusiasm to my students or trainees. It usually works. Taking the time to reflect on your own practice is also really important. This is essentially what helps you develop and become a better teacher.

Teaching English to teens

Billie teaching her favorite teens class.

Currently I tutor on the TESOL cert course at Oxford TEFL. Additionally, I also teach Cambridge exam classes, a General English, and a Business English class – a real mix!

What does a typical day look like as a course tutor?

A typical day would start with helping trainees to plan out their lessons. This is then followed by input sessions on grammar, phonology, or other aspects of language and teaching. Teaching practice takes place in the afternoon: the trainees teach a class under the guidance of their tutor. As a tutor, I try to support the trainee during the lesson without interfering too much. At the end of the class I guide the trainees through a self-reflection and help them to identify what worked well and why and what might be improved.

What kinds of materials, teaching styles, or theories do you use in the classroom?

I don’t have one preferred way of teaching because I like variety. Course books can be a great help, but I also like to have the freedom to bring books alive by using authentic materials like videos, articles or songs, or trying out new tasks that I created myself or that were passed on to me by a colleague. In my first job, I had to use the Direct Method in my teaching, and although this approach seems now out-dated, I still use a lot of pronunciation drills and immediate error correction to this day because my students respond well to it. 

Oxford TEFL staff at a summer beach party

Relaxing on the beach with colleagues at the Oxford House summer party.

Does your course involve discussion of the TPR (total physical response) method for teaching language?

TPR is discussed during the TESOL diploma in more depth. For adult classes we prefer to use concept check questions or concept check tasks, so cert trainees will usually be trained in these instead. However, TPR is very relevant in our Young Learners classes.

How do you assess and evaluate the learning of your students?

Cert trainees are internally assessed throughout the four week course. Their lesson planning, lesson delivery, and self-reflection are all graded by the tutor. Trainees also have to hand in three different projects (the Unknown Language Journal, a Learner Profile, and a Materials Project). Since the four week course is quite intense, it is really nice to see how trainees make progress and develop from observers into teachers.

Are there any new trends or methodologies being used in the TEFL sphere lately?

The latest trend seems to be the ‘Flipped Classroom’, which proposes using new technologies to enable students to learn more outside the classroom in order to free up classroom time. This approach is very interesting, and something we would like to try out on the cert course.

Oxford TEFL House entrance in the centre of Barcelona

Oxford House entrance in the centre of Barcelona.

What’s the most fulfilling part about your role as a tutor for Oxford TEFL?

Seeing people, often with no previous teaching experience, taking the plunge and ‘transforming’ into teachers, within a short space of time.

If you had to board a flight tomorrow to go teach abroad somewhere, where would you go?

It would have to be somewhere in the Middle East, maybe Jordan or Oman. I have a real love for the Middle East: the people, the culture, the hospitality, the language, the food. It would be great to teach there one day, even if it was just on a short summer programme.