What started as a temporary change of career became a 23-year passion for teaching English for Amanda Underhill. Her bountiful TEFL career has taken her around Europe and the US, and she says her experiences have helped her develop professionally as well as personally.
Where did has your TEFL career taken you?
My TEFL story started in 1996 when I did my CELTA for a change in my career. I went to a language school in the town where I lived (in Spain) to ask what I had to do to teach English. I was recommended to go to IH Barcelona. Despite taking the intensive CELTA course and finding it stressful at times, I would do it again and would recommend anyone who wants to go into EFL teaching to do it.
When I completed my CELTA, I went back to the same school, asked for a job and started with a part-time position straight away.
I enjoyed it from the beginning. I didn’t really know what to expect, I’d never taught before. I was planning to teach as a temporary change of career, but 23 years later I still enjoy it.
My TEFL career has enabled me to travel and teach in Spain, Italy, the UK and the US. Having the chance to move around different countries, to learn from and about other cultures and to meet a lot of different people has been really enjoyable. I’ve had the opportunity to develop as a professional and as a person.
In 2012 I came to work in a summer school in the UK. With excellent feedback at the end of the contract I was put forward for a promotion. I was offered the post of Director of Studies (a management position, usually line-managing a team of teachers). I remember it being stressful but challenging and rewarding. After that I decided to enrol on the online DipTESOL course. I moved to Italy to teach while doing the Dip and ended up as a Director of Studies again.
I’m currently working as a Director of Studies in a school in the UK, managing a team of teachers, and cover teaching when needed.
My career did have a little blip when I lost some confidence whist taking the DipTESOL course.
I was out of a classroom for three years but decided to take a teaching post again to overcome my fears and to regain my confidence in teaching. I remember walking into the classroom thinking: ‘Will I be able to do it?’ I did! I had the best group ever. Thanks to them I enjoy teaching again.
What is the best part of the job?
The beauty of this job is being able to see learners progress and being part of it. As a teacher, I like interacting with the students, I like giving them control over their learning and proving to them that they can achieve their goals. I enjoy experimenting and discovering things together. After 23 years I continue to learn from the students, without them I wouldn’t be the teacher I am today.
As a Director of Studies; I support and challenge my teachers, I give them confidence and encourage them to try and experiment.
What advice do you give new teachers?
Ask, listen, experiment and learn; but above all enjoy it.
Don’t be afraid of trying things. There will be good and bad moments and ups and downs, but what job doesn’t? Share with your colleagues and ask your line manager for help when you are in doubt.
And finally, take an interest in your professional development; attend conferences, webinars and online courses whenever you can.