How much support should I get from the school?

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How much support should I get from the school?

Unread postby lizgr » 10 Jul 2006, 19:08

Hi, I just started teaching English at a private language school in Spain. I have a TEFL certificate, but no experience other than that.

I had a brief orientative meeting with the director the Friday before beginning to teach and I left kind of confused. He then went directly to the mountains where the school is running a summer camp for children, which I will be teaching at eventually for 2 weeks.

I am the only teacher at the actual school now and the only other person there is the receptionist. All the books they have are at least 10 years old (I shouldn't complain, I'm sure other people don't even have that!) and I suppose I am expected to use these books, but photocopy them. When I came for the interview at the beginning I asked what method they used to teach. Well the director said they have a book explaining everything. However, now that I am teaching, this book is "lost". :roll:

My question is this: how much support can I normally expect from a language school? I feel like I'm not even sure what they want me to teach the students. I've been poring over the textbooks they have, as well as looking on the internet for this information (e.g., what is appropriate for low intermediate, etc), and it is taking me hours to plan my lessons. I have asked the receptionist if I can talk to the director twice and she acts like I'm asking her to move mountains.

One class I am teaching is an intermediate class, but it is very mixed. One student is preparing for the TOEFL, which I am expected to help her with, even though I don't know much about actually preparing for it. Another student is preparing for the Selectividad in English (this is the test all high schoolers in Spain take in order to get into university). The third student has a much lower level than the other two. So, not only do I have a very mixed-level class but I have to figure out how to teach to these different students' objectives.

In addition, this school does not use a written placement test, apparently the director just interviews the students. Since he is gone they were asking me the first day to give placement tests without any explanation in how to do them. I kind of understand that now, but don't agree with only doing it orally. (when I first came to spain it was to go to a private language school to learn spanish. my spoken level was beginner and my written level was high intermediate!)

I am very frustrated and really want to quit. Do you have any advice? Talking to the director the two times on the phone has helped some, but am I asking for too much by saying I need more help??

p.s. You wrote the following in response to a previous post with the title of 'The difference between?'
"The needs of learners of English as a second language are different to the needs of learners of English as a foreign language. I think that in the USA, this distinction does not exist."

What do you mean by this? I did my TEFL course in the US, and of course we talked about the different needs of EFL vs ESL learners because these differences DO exist and it is good to be aware of them when teaching. Students who study English in the US are learning it as their second language, whereas in non English speaking countries it is a foreign language.

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Support from the school

Unread postby Lucy » 13 Jul 2006, 14:25

Dear Liz,

In answer to your question about how much support you can expect to get, I would say a lot more than you are currently getting. From what you say, you seem a dedicated and conscientious teacher and I’m sure the director has noticed that too. When you were hired, the director knew about your qualifications and experience and now he is asking you to carry out tasks that you would expect from a teacher who has been teaching for a few years. I think you are right to ask for more support. Try to go about this in a professional way with specific questions, similar to those you are asking me.

I think you need to speak to the director again. This might be easier if you make an appointment so you can be sure of getting 20 – 30 minutes of his attention. You say you have felt better after speaking to him, so presumably he is helping you and he understands the situation. I think one of the priorities is to locate the teacher handbook. If it really can’t be found, ask him for guidance.

You also need his advice on teaching the intermediate class. Ask him whether he expects you to teach them as a cohesive intermediate group or does he expect you to cater to their individual needs. You might find that when the students registered at the school they were not told they would get help preparing for their individual exams. They might be expecting lessons in general English. If they were told they would get support preparing for these exams, ask the director which materials you can use. Also enquire whether it is possible to move the lower level student into another class. Try to ask your question in a way that makes the move sound like a benefit to the individual student and the others in the class.

It is also a good idea to ask exactly what you should be teaching at each level. For example, which language points should you focus on for the pre-intermediate class? He might have materials that are suitable for you to use; in which case, could he fax them through to you or send them by e-mail? It is possible that he has taken the best course books to use with the classes in the mountains.

I agree that an oral placement test is not enough and this is another point you should raise with the director.

As for the materials, I am sure that books that are ten years old are fine for teaching English. The topics might be out of date but you can supplement them with material from the internet or from photocopiable books.

I hope this will be of assistance. Please write in again if you would like any further ideas.


P.S. Thank you for your response to my previous question.

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