diversity abroad

Reviewing ITA's 30-Hour Specialty Classes with Ambrosia Maddox

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What is your citizenship and where are you from?
I'm a US citizen and I'm from Chicago, Illinois, USA.

How old are you?

What is your education level?
Bachelor's Degree.

Which ITA Specialty Class did you take?
I took the Teaching English Online, Teaching Business English, and Teaching English to Young Learners Specialty Classes.

What motivated you to enroll in these Specialty Classes?
I was motivated to enroll in each of ITA's Specialty Classes because I felt the subject matter offered within each course was relevant to me as an educator that wanted to diversify my experience. After completing my ITA TEFL course, I simultaneously took two of the specialty courses: Teaching Business English and Teaching English to Young Learners.

I knew I wanted to teach children abroad, and I wanted to acquire any additional information about instructing that specific age group; therefore, Teaching English to Young Learners was a fantastic way of earning the additional information. As for the Teaching Business English course, I knew various locations abroad had more of a demand for TEFL teachers that were able to teach adults who desired to learn English for career purposes; and I wanted to add that extra certification in case I ever lived in one of those areas.

In December 2020, I enrolled into ITA's Teaching English Online course because the COVID-19 pandemic had people working from home on a global scale. Not only were people working virtually, but they were also shopping and attending school online as well. This new lifestyle was an adjustment for most; but overall, people were finding that working and completing tasks virtually could be done so successfully. I wanted to carve a place for myself into this new normal, and by gaining the understanding of how to thrive with online teaching was the best way for me to do so.

The more I knew about the different reasons people wanted to learn English, the more important gaining more experience in various settings became to me. The specialty courses helped me become more knowledgeable and gain perspective for these different groups as well as adapting to the changing demands for TEFL education in today's world.

Teaching English in South Korea TEFL

What did you enjoy most about your Specialty Classes?
The specialty courses each offered perspectives from the TEFL student's point of view, and that is what I enjoyed the most from the classes. Each specialty course is designed to consider a specific audience and consider their needs and desires for wanting to learn a new language. The specialty courses mentioned cultural differences that provided a better understanding for future TEFL instructors as well as considering situations from the student's perspective whether it be about the speed of their home internet during an online English lesson, or the amount of time a student may need to fully comprehend a question that is being asked. Considering the audience is so important as an educator; and the specialty courses really take a deeper look at three specific audience types that TEFL instructors may teach.

What stood out to you in your Specialty Classes that set it apart from what you learned in your standard TEFL course?
The standard TEFL course provided a broad understanding of teaching English as a foreign language, and it was extremely helpful because the information provided in the standard course has global relevance. Whether someone is a teacher in Africa, Southeast Asia, Europe, or North America, the standard course will benefit them. The specialty courses, however, zoomed in on three very specific learning groups. For example, the standard course prepares future TEFL instructors for how to thrive as an educator and in their new environments abroad; but the technology and tools required for teaching English online from a house in Chicago isn't the same as moving to rural South Korea and teaching kindergarten students in a brick-and-mortar classroom. Both situations have a teacher and students, but require different things from both parties. The specialty courses prepared me for success in every teaching scenario whether it be online or in-person, elementary children or adult entrepreneurs; and I also have a better understanding for what my students may desire from me as their teacher.

Did you take your Specialty Classes while taking your standard TEFL course or after?
I took my Specialty Classes after my TEFL course.

How many hours per week did you dedicate to your Specialty Classes?
Roughly 15 hours per week.

Did you buy the textbooks for your Specialty Classes?
I did not buy the textbooks for my specialty classes, but I wish I would have! The textbooks can be used well beyond the completion of the course, and it's helpful to have references to circle back to if in a creative slump or to simply gain new ideas. They are also helpful for reminding teachers of the basics for different areas like classroom management, technology tools, etc.

TEFL South Korea

Was the weekly peer participation in the course helpful?
The weekly peer participation in the courses were helpful because I was better able to interact with my peers during those activities. I was able to gain a new perspective by reading their responses to different questions, and by writing back to them each week, I was able to get to know them on a more personal level - something that is not always easy to achieve when taking an online course. It was also fun reading where they were from, and learning about their experiences because my mind started to imagine all of the possibilities of where I could go and what I could do with my TEFL certification.

Where do you teach English abroad and how long do you plan to stay in this location?
I teach English in Uijeongbu, South Korea and I plan to be here for at least two years.

Did you talk about your Specialty Class training during your job interview to help land your teaching job?
I did talk about my specialty class training during the job interview because I applied for a position in which I would be teaching elementary and middle school-aged students, and my experience and education gained during the young learners specialty course was particularly relevant. I also wanted to stand out as a prospective candidate, and having that additional piece of certification may have been what set me aside from everyone else applying for the same opening.

Tell us about your teaching job!
I currently teach English at a private language academy in the city of Uijeongbu. On Monday through Friday, from 2PM to 10PM, I teach children in grades four through nine. I earn 2.4 million won each month, which translates to roughly $2,120.00. My housing is completely paid for and provided by the school, so my monthly income is able to be used elsewhere. Unfortunately, my school doesn't allow any time off, but that is definitely not the norm in South Korea. I do, however, have medical insurance that covers dental and vision as well. I also have a pension that I will be able to receive at retirement or whenever I choose to leave South Korea.

Did the Specialty Class you took help to prepare you for teaching English online?
The Teaching English Online and Teaching English to Young Learners specialty courses both helped to prepare me for my current teaching position. Roughly half of my students are of elementary age, and the teaching methodologies that benefit their age group are different than that of my middle school students. Having the awareness and ability to diversify my teaching style has been beneficial to both my students and myself. The Teaching English Online course has also been beneficial because the lessons at my school were done virtually for several months because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Because of the switch from in-person to virtual, I was adequately prepared to make the transition and what technology tools and expectations would be beneficial in making my classes successful during our new normal.

How has the knowledge from your Specialty Classes been incorporated into your teaching?
As I previously mentioned, going from teaching in-person to entirely virtual during the COVID-19 pandemic was a major adjustment for students, parents, and teachers; but I felt more adequately prepared to make the transition from a brick-and-mortar classroom into a virtual setting, and my experience in the ITA specialty course assisted with that because I knew how to adjust my teaching style to benefit a group of students that were now learning from a dozen unique settings. I also knew which technology tools would be the most beneficial for teaching online (style of headphones, microphone, etc.). The expectations for teaching online also differentiate from teaching in person because the classroom setting goes from students and their teacher all in a shared space to students in their unique space at home and the instructor teaching lessons over Zoom from an empty classroom. It can be difficult to keep everyone on the same page during virtual lessons for a variety of reasons, but the specialty course offered different virtual platforms and educational online games that served to keep online classes a fun, flowing learning environment.

Get Paid to Teach English in South Korea

Is there anything you wish you were made aware of prior to taking your Specialty Class?
There is nothing specific that I wish I were made aware of prior to taking my specialty course. I had taken the standard TEFL course, and I read the specialty course description prior to signing up, so I was well-informed about what I was diving into.

Would you recommend fellow ITA students/grads take the Specialty Classes?
I would recommend ITA students/grads to take each of the specialty courses, because each class provides preparation for diverse learning environments. Along with educational tools and suggestions, people who take the specialty courses also gain suggested classroom activities, lessons, and websites that can serve as references and tools for each type of classroom style. With the specialty courses come a preparation that allows ITA students/grads the ability to enter any classroom, both online and in-person, and successfully lead that educational environment regardless of age group or language level.


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