The TEFL Life: A TEFL blog

a story about bad grammar and non-existent punctuation and my TEFL adventures

what it’s really like to teach in a language school

Language schools are well on their way to world domination. Most ordinary folk don’t realise the full extent of their existence but it’s quite frightening when you think about it.

There are a number of major language schools which are international chains and are well-known around the world: EC, IH, EF. Basically, if it can be abbreviated into two letters, it should be quite successful. There are kajillions of smaller, unknown language schools and those can vary between boutique-style and backpacker-style. I’ve had experience of both and I think it helps to understand the nature of the beast in order to appreciate these schools.

Language schools are more language centres but are known as schools. They are not like schools at all, and while they may differ slightly between schools, there are a few generalisations that can be made:

Classes have a maximum of around 12;

students are 14+ years old;

the schoolday is broken up into lessons with coffee and lunch breaks in-between;

classes are divided according to level (Beginner to Proficiency), specialisation (IELTS, FCE, CAE, CPE) or focus (conversation, Business, writing);

teachers teach a variety of classes, which can easily get confusing, but often you have a partner teacher that you “share” a class with;

students enrol on a weekly basis, which means that every Monday your school is chaos as new students arrive, are welcomed and take a level test and then on Tuesday your class is disrupted by new students arriving, and students can be there for a week or a year and anything in-between;

teachers can also be there for a week or a year or a decade – language schools seem to have a high staff turn-over for half the staff while the rest look suspiciously like the furniture;

teachers are paid on a hourly basis;

schools go through seasons in terms of nationality of students; and

your principal is the Director of Studies.

Clearly, then, very different from a mainstream school, but I think most of the time that’s a good thing.

I must say, I enjoy teaching in language schools. The atmosphere is usually quite chilled and relaxed, the mix of nationalities is great for classrooms and learning situations, and teaching adults is really exciting. A typical week can include between15 and 30 hours of teaching plus preparation time, staff meetings, tests and always new faces. Change is definitely a keyword in this situation and that suits me and my lifestyle.  On the other hand, you might find your school is more a business than a school, which it is but which can be heartbreaking at times.

In fact, there are so many things to talk about in relation to language school and teaching adults that this is the first post of many of the topic, so stay tuned…

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One comment on “what it’s really like to teach in a language school

  1. Pingback: a day in the life of a language school teacher | this is it

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This entry was posted on March 11, 2015 by in General TEFL and tagged , , , , , .

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