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Russ Tuff

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Your 5 Step-Guide to a Successful TEFL Course Completion

Your 5 Step-Guide to a Successful TEFL Course Completion | ITTT | TEFL Blog

So you are in two minds whether or not to do a “Teaching English as a Foreign Language” course. I get it, I was there as well. Trust me, I understand; that’s a lot of money to outlay, and what’s more, you don’t even know if you are going to pass the course.

  • What if you don’t pass?
  • What if the course was too hard?
  • I was never “great” at English through school.
  • It’s been so long since I was studying.

Any of those statements or questions starting to sound familiar? Let me tell you a bit about those statements and questions; those statements and questions completely disappear once you commit to your future. And when I say “completely disappear” I mean, you don’t even think about them again until you are asked to write a blog about your experience whilst studying.

First, I’ll give you a bit of background on myself, trusting that you’ll be able to relate, or see a bit of yourself in some of what I have written. I have done a lot of things in my life, driven limousines, coached kids in basketball, been a restricted electrician, I’ve been an electrical test and tagger, run a tourism business in Bali, done personal and business coaching, run a marketing agency, rented out 5 bed and breakfast villas (also in Bali), been a safety consultant, and many many more things. You get the picture right; I get bored easily, even though, in all of those listed and more, I was working for myself. That’s not a nice thing working for yourself, after a while you realize you are working for a lunatic that works crazy hours, and although the lunatic is pulling in some good coin, I ask myself, all the systems are done, the creativity is over, the innovative ideas are no longer required... is this fun, just doing the same job and trying to refine it to make even more money? For a while, it is until it’s not. It’s quite hard to resign from a business you own.

Why did I want ‘in’ as a teacher of English as a Foreign Language? Something stuck in my heart when I coached those kids in basketball I wrote about above. These kids had never won a single game of basketball in two seasons. Not one. I coached these kids because no one else wanted to coach them. It wasn’t until we won the grand final two seasons in a row that I told those kids I had never played a game of basketball in my life; all I did was teach them how to be a team.

Something stuck in my heart when I coached people to personal and business growth above all their expectations, and in most cases above my expectations. I love the difference I can make to others in unorthodox ways. I gain their trust, and we win. It doesn't matter what the goal is, we win working as a team. I get a great feeling that’s hard to describe, and I want to get that feeling daily, plus getting paid to give that to someone, young, or in business, I still can’t find the words. Honestly, could it get any better than that, to be remembered as the teacher that made a difference, you become immortal, whilst making a difference to another and you get paid for that. I’m in.

Okay, enough about me, let’s talk about how you are going to get through the TEFL / TESOL 120 Hour course and start your career for whatever reason you want to get into teaching.

I am writing this to make a difference to you. If I can make a difference to just one person… just one, I’ll be happy knowing I made a difference to that one person. So, as you go through the following steps, please let me know if this blog made a difference to you. It’s my first ever blog, and I would like to gauge my efforts. You can see what I am like. You know I am gonna love hearing how you went.

Why didn’t someone tell me...

1) Routine is the key:

Here is where I stuffed up. You can learn from this and not go through this yourself. I did my first unit, and thought, “okay, I’ll get another one done, and another one.” In no time at all, I had 3 units done, and then my work life took over. “I’ve got 180 odd days, I’ll be right” is what I said to myself.

A few months later, conscious that I needed to get back into “that course”, I tackled the next unit. Unit 4. I jumped straight in and thought, “this isn’t nice, this is hard”. I didn’t realize it at the time, but now I know why; the course slowly eases you in.

You’ll do the course and you’ll see an acronym come up often “E.S.A.” Engage, Study, Activate. The first 3 units, they are essentially your “Engage” section. Unit 4… that’s the start of the study section, and if you have not been “engaged” for a while, … ‘Study’ is not so nice.

The engaging section is like dating someone for the first few months, everything is great until all of a sudden you have moved in together and the bills come along; that’s the study section. Imagine missing out on the dating bit… no way.

So this is what I did, and it took me until unit 16 out of 20 to work this out:

10:00am - 12:00 noon everyday 2 hours. Saturdays and Sundays?… yes, every day.

This gave me time to get up, eat breakfast, have a shower, get all the distractions done, answer all the emails, put up a social media post for my business, get a glass of water, and “go”. Routine is a major factor.

2) Just do one unit a day:

This next thing will be crucial for your sanity, and the sanity of people in your living space. Just do one unit a day.

Promise yourself now, “just one unit a day is all I am doing”, in 21 days you’ll be done. Three weeks, 40 odd hours.

(Yes, I know it’s a 120-hour course, however, I am pretty sure that suffering and agonizing over every single detail is optional)

3) Get the course with the videos:

I got the course with the videos. I was panicking when I was about to buy the course that I thought I needed the works: Tutor, videos, the course… anything extra. So I went the whole gamut. I got the course, the videos, and the tutor; there was no way I was going to fail this course, so I’ll pay more.

The “pay more” thing worked differently: “I paid all this money, I had better finish this course” was what I was saying after unit 4. (which I only got 40% on.) I don’t know how well this next thing I am about to write is going to go down, however, in the courses I have done, forget the tutor, you don’t need them, save your money, Google is more helpful, explains it better, and does it in exactly 0.51 seconds with 8,500,000 results. (“What do tenses mean?” …. you’ll see.) with a tutor, you get one answer, and that will be sometime in the next 24 hours. Waiting 24 hours takes you out of routine, trust me, you don’t need a tutor.

The videos are worth it. I used to watch the video first, and even if it doesn’t make sense, try to follow. I’ll tell you why; when you are watching the videos, things can seem very foreign to you, then you read the unit in PDF online, and all of a sudden you are saying to yourself “Oh, that’s what the video was trying to tell me.” Did you get that?… You are not “studying” when you are reading the course unit, you are “recalling something you already know a bit about” because you have just seen a video. This was huge for me to work out. In some of the units, I forgot to watch the video, did the test at the end of the unit, pressed “submit”; almost immediately I would say to myself “Why didn't I watch the video for this unit?”

4) Print out the PDF:

I mentioned earlier that “suffering was optional” right? After you have watched the video, and you have read the unit, you’ll be prompted to do the test. So you’ll click on the multiple-choice test and away you go. The first few warm-up questions you are flying, and when it hits something that you have to recall and you can’t remember it. So you go back to the online PDF, and then you go backward and forwards looking at how the question is written, checking to make sure you don’t get the wording wrong… forget that.

Print out the PDF and have it sitting next to you when you are doing the test.

If you think you are going to get 100% every unit because you have the PDF with all the answers sitting next to you, that’s great. You won’t, but you keep thinking that ;-)

5) The Summative Task:

Some of you that are quick at maths, would have noticed I said there are 20 units in total. I said it would work to do one unit a day, and it will take 21 days. (3 weeks) So, that math doesn’t add right. This Summative Task is the reason.

I can tell you now I watched every single FAQ video on the TEFL.net website. I had judgments about incorrect English being used now and then, looking for “What’s the catch? Is this everything?” So, I got myself fully informed. I doubt there would be too many people on the planet that would go through the entire FAQ page. I found it was great for one thing in particular; when friends knock you for wanting to be a teacher, you seem to know a lot about why you are wanting to do the course and all the points that put those friends back in their box.

I knew that the course was 120 hours

I knew that the course was 20 units long.

I knew that there would be a test at the end of each unit.

What I didn’t know was there was this thing at the end of the course called a “Summative Task”. I want to tell you this now for this reason:

When I got past 10 units, I was feeling pretty good about myself, I was halfway. Then when I was doing unit 20, which “I knew was the last unit” I was like “yeeeesssss” at the end of the unit. Then this little screen pops up that says you now have to do a “Summative Task” I was at that ‘jubilation’, quickly followed by a sinking feeling of yet another thing to do.

Summative Task, don’t break your routine, do it tomorrow.

You have just completed 20 units of English, this summative task is going to be relatively easy. They give you about 150 topics to choose from and you have to write your summative task of more than 500 words, but less than 1000 words. My first effort I went over and had to drag it back, be less descriptive. If you have the opposite, not enough words, go back and be descriptive. But here is the final tip I want to leave you with:

The topics they give you to choose from, are NOT questions.

  1. Pick your topic
  2. Phrase the topic as a question
  3. Answer the question in 500 - 1000 words

It really is that simple.

Since this course, I have taken on the Certificate in Teaching English to Young Learners, (CTEYL) and the Certificate in Teaching Business English (CTBE) using these same five points. I passed the CTEYL course with a higher percentage than the 120-hour course, and I’ll let you know how I get on in the CTBE course. I am on to unit 3 tomorrow morning at 10:00 am.

Good Luck!

Not that you will need it.

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