If you’re up for teaching a mix of students from all over the world
while earning good pay and enjoying a relatively high standard of living, then
head to Australia. This enormous country has everything: amazing beach life,
adrenaline pumping and adventurous activities, and a huge variety of places to
I taught English in Sydney for four months and then travelled up the
East coast. Despite craving a more exotic lifestyle, more on that later, I had
a great time and would recommend going to Australia to teach English as a
foreign language. But before you go, you have to be ready. (This blog is as seen on the i-to-i TEFL blog.)
A tough start
After living in Ecuador and Brazil, I found life in Sydney a bit dull.
I’d had such an adventure in South America learning Spanish and Portuguese and
experiencing another culture that I felt as if I’d returned to England. I
suppose that if I’d gone straight from London to Australia then I would have
been more excited, but I found the culture too similar to back home. (Photo by xiquinho)
When I got to Sydney I only had about £500 left of my savings, so I was
desperate to get a job. I’d sent my CV off to a few language schools and
luckily had an interview the day after I arrived. The director was up front
with me and said she felt I lacked a good base of grammar to teach her
students. I managed to blag a couple of day’s trial. She was right though. In
an observed lesson, her Chinese students ripped my lesson plan to pieces. The
students were not the relaxed type I’d been used to in Ecuador and Brazil.
A week or so later I found another job working for a small language
academy for Korean students. The director, Mr Kim, was a serious and
professional man but we hit it off and he gave me a two week trial. The only
problem was the workload. I had to prepare all the material as there was no
book to follow. I spent about three hours a day researching and writing all the
worksheets and material for the following day’s lessons. I only had one class
of four Korean students and they were more interested in grammar exercises than
fun discussions. I was relieved when the students started drop away and I was
forced to find another job.
The good times
A day after leaving sulking Mr Kim I found another job with a language
school, Maewill English Colege in Manly, north Sydney. Mae and Will, the
directors, were top class and welcomed me into their school. It was a great
place to work. The students were mainly from China, Korea, Japan, Taiwan, and
Brazil, with a few from Eastern European countries. There was a good crowd of
Australia and British teachers too and the atmosphere in the staff room was a
laugh. Plus I was earning about AUD $500 a week, a massive jump up from the $2
an hour I got in Ecuador. (Photo by daipresents).
Life in the classroom
I loved working at Maewill. I taught four different classes in the
morning and each class was a different level and mix of students. Teaching
mixed classes was challenging, especially because the Chinese students wanted
to know explanations for all the grammar. I had to study what I was about to
teach and asked the more experienced teachers for help.
I often came unstuck with the Chinese and sometimes Korean students for
explanations. A couple of times I tried to make up rules, but they bombarded me
with questions as to why all the time. I soon learnt it was better to find out
the answer and tell them next class. Over time I gained their respect.
It was fun teaching the Brazilians. As soon as they knew I’d been to
their country we had a connection. They were a good bunch and watching them
interacting with the Asian students was funny.
Another good part of working for Maewill was that every Friday we’d do
an excursion or sporting activity. This included tennis table competitions,
football tournaments, trips to the zoo, ferry cruises around the Sydney
Harbour, and trips to the beach.
Life in the real world
As mentioned before I wasn’t overly impressed with Sydney. It’s a great
city with a lot of things to see, buzzing nightlife, and a fantastic party
atmosphere. However, after South America I was craving something different from
back home. I missed learning a language and the buzz of the unexpected.
To save money I lived with a Chinese family in the centre of Sydney. It
was cheap because I shared a room. Franco, my roommate, was a tad on the weird
side. He was a skinny lad from Hong Kong who always carried a yellow teddy bear
with a bell on. I tried to get to know him but he was shy and preferred
studying than chatting. The rest of the family were okay, apart from the
miserable mother who stomped about the place complaining all the time. I just
laughed it off. (Photo by Greg the Busker)
During my time in Sydney I was mainly focussed on saving up money so I
could afford a decent trip when I left. I managed to save up about three grand
in four months. Most of which I spent travelling up the East coast. My three-week
adventure included a four wheel drive trip on Fraser Island, learning how to
scuba dive on the Great Barrier Reef, and a camping trip to Ayers Rock.
Australia is a beautiful and fascinating country.
If you’re a first time TEFL teacher then I’d definitely get some
experience before you head to Australia. Competition is fierce and directors
expect a lot from their teachers. Don’t let what I said about culture put you
off, Australia is a great place to live and work, I just prefer to live in a
country where I can learn a language. I’ll be writing more blogs about what I
loved and hated about Australia so stay tuned.
Labels: Ayers Rock, Fraser Island, Great Barrier reef, i-to-i blogs, life in the classroom, teach English in Australia, TEFL Australia, why teach in Australia