Iain Carson - 2015 Program Participant
Why did you decide to apply for an international program?
I had gotten a degree and I had gotten a TEFL qualification, and I wanted to put this all to good use by taking on my first contract as a TEFL teacher!
Why did you choose My TEFL Experience?
I saw this programme as a good way into teaching English as a foreign language, particularly as I hadn’t taught English before, though I did have some other teaching experience in maths and IT. The type of contract seemed perfect, as much was negotiable, including the duration of the contract. I also saw this programme as a way to experience living in Spain and Valencia, and to see whether it was for me! As part of this, I also just wanted to see if I could survive living in a country where the first language isn’t English!
What was your favorite part about Valencia?
The Metro system in Valencia was so cheap and easy to get around. With a multi-journey ticket, it worked out at just 72 cents per trip (about 60p), and the same also applied for the tram system in the city. This made commuting into work super-cheap!
One of my beginners classes
What aspects of your program made it unique?
This program was set up specifically to help under-privileged people in Spain, such as those still feeling the effects of the economic crisis of the last decade. It is commonly perceived in Spain that the way to “get ahead” in today’s world is to learn English, and that is where we came in! Many of the students were unemployed or with low-paying or irregular work contracts, and they believed that by learning English they might enhance their job and life prospects.
How did local staff support you throughout your program?
The two founders of the academy were always friendly and supportive. The Director of Studies provided the backbone to the programme and spent a lot of time preparing and setting up the academic structure of the courses. The administrative assistant worked tirelessly to support both the students and the teachers, from sorting registers to welcoming students and even cleaning the classrooms between sessions. All of the staff were willing to support the teachers and give advice at any time; they were also receptive to any suggestions which the teachers had.
What's one thing you wish you would have done differently?
Upon reflection, I feel that I could have introduced a little more creativity and variety into my lessons. Some of the other teachers had some fantastic ideas which I would really like to put into practice in future, such as games and storytelling exercises. I found that I was more concerned with covering the material and dealing with the topics at hand, but I’m sure I could have found the time to spend at least five minutes each lesson on a more creative activity.
The “Arts and Sciences” area of Valencia
Describe a day in the life of your program.
I was quite often down to teach from 9 a.m. until quarter to 8 p.m., making it a long day! Yet this was off-set in two ways: there was a lengthy siesta each day, according to the Spanish custom, and we also had three-day weekends! Classes were an hour and a half in length and there were five of these in the day, with fifteen-minute gaps between each. I generally taught classes from beginner up to intermediate each day, but this did vary.
What did you enjoy doing on your free time?
I very much enjoyed spending the three-day weekends travelling to places across Spain, including Barcelona, Alicante, Cartagena, Zaragoza, and even the island of Mallorca. The plan was to dive into Spain at the deep end and to explore and experience the full force of the culture, and I definitely achieved this!
What type of accommodation did you have? What did you like best about it?
Throughout my stay, I had my own room in a flat provided for teachers by my organisation. The flat was sufficient and I found it a nice experience to live there. There are two flats for the teachers and a dedicated accommodation manager looks after them both. I was lucky enough to get the biggest room in my flat, and I even had my own balcony!
Albufera, south of Valencia
Now that you're home, how has your time in Spain impacted your life?
I definitely plan to carry on teaching after this programme! To this end, I will be taking the CELTA course in Prague, with the plan of developing and improving on my teaching. I do also hope to return to Spain at some point, particularly to visit the other regions which I haven’t explored yet, such as the South, the North, and the central areas of the country. My experience in Valencia has shown me that I can get by abroad in a second language much more easily than I had first imagined, so I may even try living in other non-English-speaking countries again too!