Alumni Report: What It’s Like Teaching English in Austria
Between 2017 and 2018 after I had graduated with a bachelor’s degree in German and English, I moved to Vienna, Austria to become an English teaching assistant through the Fulbright group. I was placed at two schools in Lower Austria and taught around 14-15 classes each week for 50 minute periods. Going into the situation, I honestly felt underprepared and confused as to what I was supposed to teach and how. The program attempted to orientate the teaching assistants, but in reality, there was much I did not know.
After completing my TEFL certification course, I can now see many techniques that I was using either knowingly or unknowingly, and many which I could have been using. A course such as this one before I started teaching would have been of great benefit to both myself and the students, and I fully understand the requirement of having such a certification.
This post was written by our ITTT graduate Austin C.
The Role as an English Teaching Assistant
My role was more of a cultural ambassador and I was rarely made to teach more rigid structures such as grammar being that I would only see each class every two weeks, and the teachers preferred I did more entertaining activities. I am now aware that I was implementing the ESA structures into my lessons unknowingly. For example, a lesson which went over well with most classes was one involving advertisements. I engaged the students by showing them an example of an advert and had them describe what they saw and give opinions/observances. We then worked to find different types of advertising (print, broadcast, media, etc.) and the students wrote them down on the board along with other vocabulary.
For more advanced groups, we would then learn the ways in which one should analyze an advertisement (who bought the spot, selling of idea/product/service, persuasive tools ethos/logos/pathos, etc.) I then would put the students into groups of 2-3 and each would receive a large image of an advertisement. For less advanced groups, they would simply describe the image objectively using orientation terms (top right, bottom left) and what they liked/disliked about them. The more advanced groups would work to analyze the pieces. Each group would then present their advertisement to the class and the details therein. With the time remaining, each group would make their own advertisements, and these would be presented in the next class. Most interesting to myself, is that this plan followed the engage, study, activate techniques of teaching, without my knowledge of such a process. However, I see now that much of the study phase could have been improved with further study of the vocabulary, perhaps in a worksheet activity.
The Role of the Teacher in the Classroom
I quickly became aware of my “stage presence” as a teacher, and how much my attitude, gesturing, and proximity to the students affected them. I am a very animated person and therefore use a lot of gesturing. From this course, I realize that this may be more distracting than I had previously perceived. I also tend to walk around the room often while the students are working individually, or in groups. I think I should reduce this, as it may be disruptive, yet I need to find a comfortable median. In general, I feel the students respond well to my enthusiasm and engagement, but even they may not be aware of how my actions are affecting their learning. I will need to rethink how I give lessons, and really practice and study how to give a more rigid lesson on subjects such as grammar, as I have not had much experience in those activities. I am excited to start teaching again and to utilize these pedagogical tools and perspectives I have gained.
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