This post was written by Guiri Guest writer: Meghan Modafferi. Meghan is from North Carolina, USA. She is currently living in Prague and working as an English teacher. In her free time, she’s a freelance writer who’s particularly interested in politics, performances, and personalities.
So, now that you’ve visited Prague, you’re dreading leaving. Maybe it seems impractical to come back in the future, especially to come back and stay back. It’s possible though, and not so impractical either. If you’re reading this with relative ease, you’re already engaging the extremely valuable asset that can keep you here.
Teaching English in Prague is in high demand. It pays the normal bills and the travel bills, while also feeding a traveler’s soul. I’m an English teacher in Prague, and the more I get into the job, the more I realize what a unique and wonderful position I’m in for learning about people.
No matter how many questions I ask my students, they aren’t annoyed with it. They know the point is to get them speaking, get them speaking better, and keep them speaking (better.) So they keep talking, and I keep asking, and it feels completely natural, until I get home and realize I suddenly know everything about their relationship with their mother.
I’ve thought a lot about this, and how strange it is that they tell me so much, and that I feel comfortable asking for more and more details. I’ve thought about other jobs I could do where I’d have to ask questions. If I were a journalist, my interviewees might (and have in the past) worried about ulterior motives or how their words might be represented on the page. Although it would be part of my job to ask questions, it would be a part that sometimes made people uncomfortable or defensive or guarded. Likewise, if I were therapist, a large part of my job would be to ask questions and keep my patient talking. But I’d need to be drawing psychological conclusions from the content of patients’ answers, and this might give them pause. If I were a teacher of anything other than language, my students’ answers would face scrutiny for accuracy in both grammar and content.
But as it is, in a conversation lesson, my job is to draw conclusions only from the form of my students’ answers. A student tells me, “I think I’m in fault for my divorce,” and my only critical response is “at fault.”
From this vantage point, I’m able to cultivate an incredible amount of intimacy with people from not only a different culture, but a different language. If I were in Prague for any other reason, I would hear “dobry den” at most from the majority of the Czechs I encountered. As it is, I hear their ideas about God, education, love, and politics. I feel extremely lucky and honored to have such a beautiful opportunity, and that’s why I want to pass it on to you.
So I’m recommending it highly from a human standpoint, and from a culture standpoint. But logistics are important too. Just because you speak English doesn’t mean you’ll feel or be 100% ready to dive in. I was an English major at University, but still I was shocked by how many grammar rules I didn’t know. They’re intuitive—you know how to speak them, but not necessarily how to teach them. Learning to explain your language to someone who doesn’t speak it is like learning a new language yourself.
I got my Teach English as a Foreign Language (TEFL) Certificate at The Language House TEFL in Prague. It’s a month-long intensive course. You’ll be in class more or less from 9am until 9pm. It will be your life for one month, but it can open doors for much longer.
During the day, you’ll take grammar and methodology classes. It’s all taught to you from within the strategy that you’ll be asked to master. In other words, they don’t have you read a textbook page about creative teaching. They engage the method in order to present it. It’s a little meta, and it’s not easy, but it’s a lot of fun.
In the evenings, you’ll be teaching real Czech students who signed up for free English lessons with teachers-in-training. You’ll give a 45-minute lesson, watch two of your classmates give 45-minute lessons, and then be subject to critique by a TEFL observer. It’s a little like a reality show. You get a challenge (to teach x grammar point to a group of Czechs in 45 minutes), you execute that challenge, and then you face the judges. The “judges” are strict, but only because they believe in how much you can learn and how much you can improve in just one month. Wearied, but optimistic for your next assignment, you’ll go home (to your house where you’ll live with your classmates who are all in the same boat) and begin lesson planning for the next round.
You’ll teach students of all different levels, and you’ll be prepared for how that should alter your lesson strategy. For true beginners, you’ll learn how to teach them sentence structure by building from such simple lines as “My name is…” For upper intermediates, you’ll learn to identify holes in their extensive knowledge, and begin filling them in. You’ll be sent across the city to meet privately with a student, so you can experience the difference from class lesson to individual one. And when the month is over, you’ll be qualified and confident, plus you’ll have connections.
The Language House TEFL prepared me for teaching in any situation. They helped me get my Visa. They helped me with my CV. They helped me find a job. And most importantly, they provided me with a community. The TLH Alums in Prague Facebook page has almost 200 members who are ready with support and friendship to make Prague not only a place to work, but a place to really live, a place to call home… at least until your next adventure.
For more information, go to http://www.thelanguagehouse.net/, or send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org