Health & Safety
Day to Day Life
An overall negative experience
Submitted by Stevii - | June 07, 2017
Let me start our with what was good: the CertTESOL. It is extremely helpful and well-respected, and great for getting a job later. Therefore what you get in the input sessions is very useful material.
The reason I stayed for the whole program is because I'm a fairly stable person, because I made some really great friends there (adversity bonds people very well), and because I had the opportunity to continue improving my German. I didn't realise until just over two months in that I should have quit earlier, but by then I was too close to finishing to quit.
However, there are many ways to get a CertTESOL. This program advertises itself as a scholarship program, but if you take into account 4 months' living costs (reasonable living costs, not the 25 euros a week that they recommend), you will end up spending at least as much money on this course as you would on a normal intensive course that you have to pay for. In addition, you will have a much lower quality of life.
Let's start with the hours. They advertise that a benefit of the longer program is more class hours than a traditional TEFL course. This is true. They advertise that you will get at least 200 hours of teaching experience. I got 350. However, it was 100% not worth it. 200 hours of teaching would have made this program so much more reasonable. Teaching a full school day with no lessons free is not something that normal Austrian teachers do, and they were shocked that we had to do it. Having to plan and implement lessons for students that you've never met before is not something that any CertTESOL program is supposed to do, and Trinity College was shocked that we had to do it. Waking up as early as 4am (the average was around 5 or 5:30, contrary to what they tell you) to get in the car and not finishing input sessions until after 5pm, sometimes without even time for lunch is just ridiculous.
If you are applying for this program, I'm sure you already know about the long hours. The real issue comes in with the complete lack of understanding from staff. They expected us to be fully present and participating in these input sessions as if we weren't completely exhausted, and some of the staff led these input sessions in such a condescending way that it was completely unbearable and I had to leave the room. They also consistently refused to acknowledge the fact that we were teachers. We did all of the teaching for them, and they present us as teachers to the Austrian schools (most of whom are under the impression that we are being paid, mind you, apart from one teacher I met who actually knew the director and made sure that we were treated extra well at her school to try and make up for our experience at the office), but outside of the schools, we were treated as useless, replaceable volunteers.
The place where you are treated the worst is undoubtedly Vorchdorf, so if you do end up deciding to go here, avoid it at all costs. My group was there at the beginning and the end of the program, and I burst out crying and had a breakdown during the input session the day before we had to go back because I just could not handle the staff there (most of it was due to a staff's horrible treatment of us that week - he works at the Vorchdorf campus but had come to Pressbaum for a few days).
The standard of living on this program is miserable. The accomodation is crowded, dirty, and completely neglected by staff. When the refrigerator and oven broke, it took them weeks to replace the refrigerator and the oven was never replaced. When the toilet was overflowing, they refused to hire a plumber and instead forced one of the course tutors to take care of it after a very long period of complaining.
A lot of what you see about this program online is false advertising. You will have almost no time for traveling, because you will be too exhausted to do anything other than sleep and eat during your free time on weekdays. There are no bicycles, you will only see most of Austria through a car window (and you might even sleep through it, if you're lucky), you will 100% be spending much more than 25 euros a week even if you're thrifty.
Towards the end of my experience there, I had the pleasure of seeing one of the emails that was sent to the admissions staff, stating regulations for specific phrases they need to use in order to make this program seem more appealing, because they were having a lot of problems with recruitment due to bad reviews, a lot of staff quitting, etc. This is really representative of the organisation as a whole. All they want is for the Austrian government, schools, and potential staff and student teachers to see them as a great organisation, when on the inside it is one of the most miserable places that I have ever had the displeasure of working at (SORRY, I meant "student teaching practice").
Please be aware that A LOT (not all, but a lot) of the positive reviews here were forcibly written by staff because ABCi is extremely concerned about the negative reviews it gets from student teachers. I am still in contact with people who have been staff there until recently, and nothing discernable has changed.
How did I survive 4 months here? Friends and wine. One of the ways we expressed our frustration was through song, and I think this is a good way to end the review:
5 to 5 chorus (to the tune of 9 to 5 by Dolly Parton)
Workin' 5 to 5
What a way to make no money
Bein' treated like
We don't know s**t, it ain't funny
We just lose our minds
And they never give us credit
It's enough to make you crazy if you let it!
The English Teacher Training College responded to this review July 12, 2017 at 7:32 AM
We are sorry to hear that you had a negative experience during your time here. We can assure you that the staff here care about the Student Teachers’ well-being. The Student Teachers on your intake had quite a full teaching schedule due to the large number of Austrian schools who had booked English projects with our Bilingual Classroom Initiative. It is completely understandable to find the full days of teaching to be very taxing. The schedule has been amended so that Student Teachers are spending less time in the classroom and are given free periods and Professional Development Days in order to prepare lesson plans and catch up on assignments.
The College is apologetic concerning course staff who were perceived as condescending. Of course this was never the intention of any staff member. The course staff model classroom teaching in the input sessions in order to give the Student Teachers additional practical teaching examples. We understand that there were also negative feedback regarding a second name policy that was enforced during the particular course. This was enforced due to feedback from a previous course, but has also been amended due to more recent feedback. The College is always willing to take on input from Student Teachers, and we encourage Student Teachers to let us know if they are feeling uneasy with any aspect of the program.
As for the accommodation, they are rented properties and we apologize if issues were not responded to immediately by the landlord. The College has ameliorated this by employing our own Facility Coordinators who are responsible for the upkeep and maintenance of the Student Teacher accommodation. We have supplied bikes to the Wolfsberg campus, while the other campuses are in short walking distance from train and bus stations. Other equipment such as grills and benches have been delivered to all campuses. Evenings, weekends and public holidays are free. It is possible that a heavy teaching schedule and a lack of public holidays during the duration of your program could have led to less time to travel. Regarding the amount of additional funds is reasonable to budget for in addition to the food allowance, we will definitely be collecting input from our Student Teachers and amending our recommendations accordingly.
We know it will be of little comfort to you now, but we are always trying to improve the experience our Student Teacher have and we appreciate the time you took to provide us with the critical feedback. We will be taking it on board. We apologize for any aspect of the program which was not to the standard you expected and we hope you can understand that as a non-profit, the staff are doing their best to provide the best experience for Student Teachers. There would be no point working for a non-profit, 1000s of miles away from most of our homes, if we did not.