GoAbroad Interview

Jon Biddle - Head Trainer

Jon Biddle - Head Trainer

Originally from England, Jon came to the Czech Republic in 2008 to earn TEFL certification. Since then, he has taught and directed both general and business English courses in the Czech Republic, as well as in England. Jon has helped thousands of English learners of all backgrounds throughout his career. In 2014, he joined the Live TEFL Prague team.

You earned your bachelor’s degree in business administration. What sparked your interest in the TEFL industry nearly a decade ago?

I usually save the answer to this one for our trainees, but it was during an around-the-world trip. I witnessed English as a Lingua Franca first hand while a small group of Swedish guys were interacting with some Dutch girls during the time I spent travelling down the east coast of Australia. Not a day later, a newly-found French friend asked me why I didn’t teach English. And thus the idea was sparked.

Students during a Live TEFL Prague training course
Jon preparing students for Cambridge FCE

How much would you say earning Trinity CertTESOL and Cambridge DELTA has impacted your own life and career?

I certainly think that getting an initial TEFL qualification made a huge difference. You go on that course, typically, as somebody with very little knowledge of what Teaching English as a Foreign Language is really all about. Once that becomes clear, the course is just the beginning, a different life - and career - path can open up ahead of you. The Delta modules present their own challenge, memorably sleepless nights, and can lead to all kinds of opportunities beyond that too!

You spent time as a senior teacher at SPĚVÁČEK language school as well as director of summer schools at Oxford. How did you get connected with Live TEFL Prague?

I regularly split time between the UK and the Czech Republic; this gave me a chance to “reset” every year. One year I came back and was on the look-out for a fresh challenge. I had a great interview at SPĚVÁČEK and came on board as a senior teacher. Later, when the Live TEFL program expanded, my involvement started with observations of trainees, before going on to be a trainer of the methodology module.

Live TEFL Prague trainee welcome lunch
Day one lunch with a group of brand-new TEFL trainees

How do you use your past professional experience to further improve TEFL training provided by Live TEFL Prague?

I think that, particularly, on the Delta Module Two my eye for accuracy was trained to an even greater level. I have taken a very hands-on approach with reviewing our course content, and we have had productive meetings which have resulted in the streamlining of our approach. Another factor, awareness of testing techniques, has allowed me to collect feedback from people who are taking the course beyond that normally received. We have subsequently been able to provide improvements for specific purposes.

What does a typical day of work look like for you?

Every day is different; that’s one of the most appealing parts of my job! In the morning I like to get in early and catch up on emails, make a coffee, and then I might have an online interview to conduct with an applicant. We typically talk about reasons for taking the course. I try to prepare them for the demands of the program and answer any questions that they might have. Later on, I may take a session with our TEFL group, such as “teaching with technology.” I like to get involved with this, as I was previously the methodology trainer, and the impact of technology in the classroom is one of my core ESL-related interests.

After my session, I like to be available to answer general course queries from our trainees, or discuss current issues with our co-ordinator, Anna. We work together very closely, so there is always something to talk about! Some afternoons I go out and teach ESL myself; I like to stick to my roots, as I find it fascinating to try out new techniques and remember why I got into ESL in the first place!

Man by a statue in Miami
Jon in Miami, Florida in 2017

Why is Live TEFL Prague different from other TEFL training programs?

One of the key points which sets us apart from our competition in Prague is the fact that our TEFL program is directly connected with a language school, Spevacek languages. This enables graduates of our program to start their teaching career in the same building as they have studied in. Being set in Prague 2, we have dozens of cafes and bars as well as numerous parks within a short walk, which offer a great way to unwind outside of study hours, and beyond the course itself.

How do you ensure Live TEFL Prague’s courses continue to meet the needs of aspiring TEFL teachers from around the world?

The trainers and I regularly attend conferences and workshops, both in the Czech Republic and further afield. We collect feedback from program participants to establish whether there are any gaps from their perspective, as well. Additionally, we are regularly visited by our course accreditation body, IATQuO, who evaluate our program and give feedback which we implement into our program.

Jon Biddle, Head Trainer, Live TEFL Prague
Jon at the office

What is your best piece of advice for prospective teachers considering earning TEFL certification?

Read! Read as much as possible before going onto any TEFL program, as you will certainly not be able to absorb everything once you are there in person. Ask your course provider for some recommended reading. Giving knowledge a chance to trickle down, starting a couple of months before the course, will put you in a strong position.

What do you enjoy most about working for Live TEFL Prague?

Working with a small team of TEFL trainers as well as permanent staff in the school buildings gives me a sense of a “work family.” Although the school has a high number of teaching staff and clients, a core of friendly, approachable, and above all reliable people can be found in the school on any given day. Taking part in some of the trips that we run can be a good way of passing on my knowledge of nearby places, as well as getting some of that fresh country air!