Featured Tutor: Rachael Smith

5 July 2010

How did you get into teaching English as a foreign language?Tutor Rachael 2

I wanted to do it straight after University (as I studied an MA in English Language) but I bottled out because I was very shy. It took me 2 years of working in bookshops to pluck up the courage to do the CELTA. At the first teaching practice, I thought I was going to pass out! After I got over those nerves, I loved every minute.

Where in the world have you taught English?

I’ve worked with students from all over the world including South Korea, Poland, Nepal, China and Italy.

Where in the world have you most enjoyed teaching?

Torun, Poland. It was a fantastic little school with enthusiastic staff and the training for a first time teacher was superb.

What’s the worst tense to teach?

Future perfect. It always takes me a minute to get my head round it. So, ‘by this time next week, I’ll have finished the course…’ erm, I think that’s right!

How did it feel to stand up in front of a class for the first time?

Terrifying – especially as they were teenagers and not all that understanding of their rookie teacher. Luckily they were a great laugh and became one of my favourite classes ever.

What’s your favourite food? 

Contrary to what I said on my tutor profile, it’s actually Sushi followed by Sausage and Mash. I don’t know why I said Macaroni, I think it’s because I was eating it at the time. If I’m allowed another one, I’d throw in Polish Bigos.

What’s the most interesting thing that has happened to you abroad?

Going to spend Easter with a student and her husband’s family in the north of Poland. No one spoke English apart from my student, and my Polish was terrible at that time. Somehow I managed to have three of the best days of my life – with gesture and mime playing a big part. Easter in Poland is one long feast washed down with vodka (even at breakfast time!)

What is your best TEFL experience?

Teaching an exam class where not all were expected to pass. We all worked really hard for the whole year and somehow everyone scraped through with some doing exceptionally well. One of the students is now even studying a Masters in Linguistics!

What is your worst TEFL experience?

A student running out of class crying! In my defence (and she told me this later) it was nothing to do with the lesson, she had other things going on in her life. However, at the time I was left thinking – was it something I said?!

What is an essential travel item you could not live without?

My own pillow case.

Apart from TEFL and travelling the world, what other hobbies do you have?

Hill walking, reading and playing the ukulele.

Do you have any good advice for anyone about to head out abroad to teach English?

Soak up every experience you can. Teaching is just a part of the whole lifestyle and some day when you settle down in one location, you’ll look back on those early days so fondly; you’ll realise how lucky you were to be involved in TEFL.

Oh, and buy a good grammar book!