Balancing family life and a career: Diana’s TEFL story

Balancing family life and a career: Diana’s TEFL story

I have been fascinated by the English language ever since I was a little girl. My fascination was born from British and American music and television programmes. My favourite show was Friends, which I watched almost religiously.

Once I had picked up enough of the language, I began to read books in English and before long I was fairly proficient. The first book I read was Twilight, which teenage me was obsessed with. Eventually I began to read more classic literature such as Charles Dickens, the Bronte sisters, etc. By the time I got to university I was mostly fluent in standard English, though I had virtually no experience with regional dialects.

I first started teaching English as a foreign language back in 2013 while I was studying Linguistics at university. Back then, my goal was to become an interpreter, and I never imagined that I would get into teaching as a career.

So how did I get into teaching? In order to pay my tuition fees, I started tutoring primary school children part-time. At first, it was simply a way of earning money, but as time went, I found myself enjoying the work more and more.

Three years later, on my final year of the university, I found that I was enjoying teaching English so much that I decided to switch my career goals from translating to teaching.

While I was studying at university, I met my now husband who is from the United Kingdom. He was from the north of England and I was surprised to hear how differently he spoke from what I was used to. This sparked my interest in Britain’s regional dialects. I decided to continue my studies at university by pursuing a Master’s degree in Linguistics, with a particular focus on regional dialects.

During this time, I continued tutoring English to children and adults in Russia right up until summer 2019 when I graduated with my Master’s Degree in Linguistics.

After that, it was time for me to move on. That summer, I left my home country and began an exciting new chapter of my life!

Moving to England

2019 was an extremely busy year, and undoubtedly the most exciting year of my life, filled with cherished memories. Things really went from zero to a hundred! First, I moved to the country of my dreams (England), then I got married to the man I loved, and by the end of the year we were blessed with a baby! So, you can probably imagine, teaching English kind of went on the back-burner! Whilst in England I had continued teaching online to a lesser extent – mostly on an ad-hoc basis with existing students I knew from my home country - but once my daughter was born I put teaching aside and became a full-time mum for a while.

After I settled with the idea of being a parent, I started thinking of going back to work. I decided that I’d like to have a go at teaching in a school in England. The idea of being around other people was extremely appealing, especially after spending so much time as a stay-at-home mum during lockdown. I still wasn’t ready to return to work full-time, so I decided to go for a part-time role as a teaching assistant at my local primary school with the aim of eventually taking on more responsibilities and training to become a full-time teacher.

My time spent at the primary school gave me an insight into how education in England works and I am grateful for that opportunity, as it helped me broaden my understanding of education in general and explore how I could fit into that world. Unfortunately for me, the school budget was cut back quite severely and the opportunities for development quickly evaporated. After exploring my options, I came to the conclusion that my only way forward in primary teaching was to spend a great deal of time and money on a full-time, year-long teacher training course.

Being a foreign citizen means I could not apply for student loans, and for a low-wage part-time worker and mum, this was a huge investment. Investing so much time and money was a serious risk, and ultimately, I decided that it was not the right choice for me. It was at this point that I started exploring the possibility of a career change.

What I wanted out of my career

When I graduated from university, the idea of balancing work and family life hadn’t even occurred to me. I was certain that all I had to do was find the right job and then everything would be taken care of.

I spent months and months looking for a job in a new field. I explored options of engineering, business administration, even of turning my hobby of baking into a business. For me the most important thing was finding a way to balance my career with my own goals for family life. But everything I explored led me to the same conclusion: I can’t win! The choice always seemed to be between having a family life or having money, with employers everywhere expecting people to sacrifice their family life for career progression.

At least by remaining at my current job as a TA, I was close to home and could spend more time with my family. But the thought of being trapped in my current role with no opportunity for progression made me quite depressed, and the rebel inside me did not want to accept those options. I wanted it all! I knew there had to be a way of finding the right balance, if only I could find it!

Finding my path

It might be cliché, but I genuinely believe that all the things that happen in our lives happen for a reason. It just so happened that I went to a party this summer where my friend told me about TEFL and how easy it is to start teaching English as a foreign language online here in the UK.

At first, I was hesitant and a little bit sceptical. After all, I was already in teaching and was looking for a career change, surely this wasn’t right for me! I was also self-conscious about being a non-native speaker and felt that I would be at a disadvantage. I decided to do some research into TEFL, and what I found was very encouraging. Figuring that this might be exactly what I was looking for all this time, I signed up on the The TEFL Org website and began their 120-hour Premier Online course .

Signing up to the course, completing the assignments and observing lessons brought a huge smile to my face and reminded me of the days when I used to teach students back in my native country. I felt like I’d found my purpose again, and it felt amazing!

After completing the TEFL course I realised two things:

First, that I still had the same passion for teaching that I had developed right back at the start. I was good at it, I enjoyed it, and I never really wanted to quit at all!

Second: That what I really considered changing my career for was balance. To be able to do the work I enjoy without sacrificing everything else I care about to achieve it.

What’s next?

I have begun to teach online on Preply , which will give me the opportunity to choose my own working hours and allow me to spend quality time with my daughter - a win-win situation for me!

My next step is to continue to promote and grow my online tutoring business as well as help other EFL teachers by creating relevant content, worksheets and courses, using my experience to help other aspiring tutors. Thanks to TEFL, I can finally return a sense of purpose and balance to my life and career!

Read more student stories from TEFL Org graduates like Diana!

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