Friday, 30 January 2009

Of Teaching And Beer

After five days of intensive training with a English teaching company based in Madrid, I sallied forth to the Spanish HQ of one of Europe's largest beer-sellers. My pupils are some of the company's top executives, which felt a tad daunting to begin with. Also, with precisely zero experience in teaching Business English and only a few hours of one-to-one teaching under my belt, I had to throw out the "discuss in pairs" and "compare answers" basis to my CELTA qualification and make some serious modifications. Oh, and there are no textbooks to act as a guide and conveniently provide me with off-the-peg lesson themes and exercises. I have to invent every lesson from scratch.

Given that it takes me around an hour to reach the office where I teach and most of the lessons are individually timetabled at an hour and a half, it's not proving very time-efficient so far. Luckily, the cost of the one-change metro-and-then-a-bus journey works out at 77 cents a time, so at least the travel is cheap. I'm getting lot of reading done on Madrid's public transport and sometimes I even attempt to improve my (slightly better than non-existent, but not much) Spanish. As an added bonus, I haven't yet had anything nicked by Madrid's legendary pick-pockets either - touch wood.

On top of the journey time, the lack of handy teaching materials means it's taking me around two hours to plan each lesson. Tot that up with the travel and it's costing me four hours of time for every hour and a half taught. Not what you'd call breath-takingly effective.

But these aren't complaints. Mainly because at the moment, I'm enjoying both the lessons themselves and the planning process. Fashioning a fully-functioning, interesting and bespoke English language lesson out of nothing actually feels rather creative. Also, I'm well aware that the more material I produce now, the more I can adapt and re-use in the future. As we're in the business world of teaching English, let's call it a time investment. Ah, that feels better already.

Then there are my pupils, who are all very likeable, very attentive, all do their homework and in one case, even give me a lift to the office on Friday mornings. Compared with the ten crazy nine-year-olds Theo does battle with, they're a breeze. And I'm learning all about beer, which just goes to show my students aren't the only ones getting a useful education.

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