The course gave me a firm
foundation to build on, and the confidence to believe that I might even have
something to offer as a teacher.
It was almost a year ago: I got there late, direct from a
songtaew full of Canadians, direct from an overnight train from Bangkok,
direct from flights originating in Seoul, San Francisco, and Portland,
I found a door with my name on it along with others’ in little puffy-cloud
cutouts and opened it. I found a group of people moving in a circle and
chattering excitedly about a bunch of pictures scattered on the ground. I
thought: what on earth is this?
Over the course of the next month, I would learn how to teach others to play
an invisible guitar, speak a spot of Indonesian, FUMP like a pro, and most
importantly, how to teach English.
the workload, the course was also a lot of fun with plenty of laughs
courtesy of the trainers and my fellow trainees.
Let’s start with what I expected from this course. I understood that a
TEFL/TESL/TESOL certificate was a necessary requirement for teaching English
in Thailand, as well as in much of the world. So I expected to get a piece
of paper I could wave at prospective employers. Also, I had this nagging
suspicion that teaching English might, in practice, require more than being
able to speak English, something I have extensive experience with.
I chose the SIT course because I was familiar with the School for
International Training in Vermont, USA via a pair of acquaintances. I was
aware that SIT is a real-life accredited institution in the States. This
ensures its TESOL course has a legitimacy that the Amazingly Awesome Academy
of English TEFL course, or what have you, doesn’t have.
The SIT staff in Thailand was also responsive to my emails about their
program, replying to an exhaustive and exhausting series of questions and
concerns personally, thoroughly, and promptly.
So what I expected the course to do, besides provide me with a piece of
paper suitable for framing and waving, was hopefully teach me how to teach,
a hall-of-mirrors proposition that I imagined involved a lot of discussion
of the arcane intricacies of the English language, how to write things
phonetically, the subjunctive, and possibly William Cowper or Noam Chomsky.
None of these things happened.
The workload was daunting initially, as I learned how to, in the course of a
lesson, break the ice, activate schema and ensure a proper balance of VAKT
while minimizing TTT, FUMPing new vocabulary, and properly using CCQs to
ensure that the students achieved the SWBAT.
But what about grammar? I quailed to think of how I was going to explain the
difference between the English language’s twelve verb tenses, or its wacky
whims regarding which nouns are countable and which are not. As in many
areas, the SIT course shone in its ability to teach not the exhaustive
peccadilloes of English but its ability to teach the proper strategies for
teaching one’s way out of any grammatically sticky situation.
The main strength of the SIT course, I believe, is that it taught teaching
via the very method of teaching we were learning to teach. In other words,
how we were learning to teach was the same as how we were to teach our
students. This actually meant that despite the workload, the course was also
a lot of fun with plenty of laughs courtesy of the trainers and my fellow
I’m pleased to say I survived the experience and have now been teaching in
Thailand for nine months. As I look back through my papers from the SIT
course - a hundred pages or so of scribbled notes and more than twice that
much of handouts and reading - I am struck by how much of what I learned in
that month I use every day in the classroom.
Also, I shudder to think what sort of teaching would have been visited upon
my students had I not taken such a course. I am not suggesting that a course
can churn out fully formed teachers in a month. I learn something new every
day I am in the classroom and hopefully so do my students. However, the
course gave me a firm foundation to build on, and the confidence to believe
that I might even have something to offer as a teacher. What more could one
ask of a TESOL course?
The next course starts in Chiang Mai on August 8th - September 4th. For more
information, please visit the AUA SIT TESOL web link at