Sunday, 2 February 2014

I'm back

I know, I know, it's been ages since I last blogged but I am back - in every sense of the word.  After a fabulous break over Christmas, back home in the UK, catching up with friends and family, I returned to Hong Kong to start the Trinity CertTESOL course.  Having met and spoken to many people in Hong Kong who had completed the CertTESOL at English for Asia, I was entering into the course with my eyes wide open.  Without exception, everyone warned me about the intensity of the course, the horrors of writing assignments and lesson plans until the early hours of the morning, the sleep deprivation and kissing goodbye to a social life for the duration.  I would be lying if I didn't say I was both apprehensive and scared when I arrived on day one.  After my horrendous experience of working for an American PR agency in Hong Kong and the affect it had on my health, I was nervous that I would fast-track back to that horrible place I found myself in back in September.

For the first week I felt completely overwhelmed by the sheer volume of assignments we had to complete.  I hadn't expected to be working until 1am in the first few days just to keep up with the deadlines and as I felt my stress-levels escalate on a daily basis, I wondered if I actually had the mental strength to survive the full four weeks.  However, over the first weekend, things started to fall into place, I resigned myself to the fact that real life was going to be on-hold for a bit, and I started to enjoy learning and being a student again.  During the first week I compared the course to what I imagine it would be like to join a cult.  You are effectively programmed to think in the TESOL way through an intensive brainwashing process combined with extreme sleep deprivation.  I am clearly very malleable as I 'got it' pretty quickly.

The years of working in advertising and PR, completing lengthy tender documents and pitch proposals definitely stood me in good stead for churning out the seemingly endless array of written assignments and observations.  The time and money JWT and MindShare invested in my presentation training, and the years of putting that training into practice in client meetings, at pitches, running workshops and roundtables, and presenting at conferences was invaluable.  There is something a lot less intimidating about standing in front of a class of smiling students, rather than a room full of opinionated marketeers looking to catch you out, impress their boss or justify their inflated salaries.  As a result I loved the teaching practice side of the course and the creativity I could apply to planning my lessons.  Who would have thought that I could begin a lexis lesson on 'expressing opinions' using 10 collocations such as 'we are poles apart' and 'contrary to popular belief', with an image of Miley Cyrus twerking at the VMAs?  It worked though, with the students quickly demonstrating that they had strong opinions!

Miley and Me

For me, the highlight of the course has been developing deep friendships with the fellow students.  Together we have survived the highs and lows, the stress, and the lack of sleep with a combination of sweat, tears and most importantly humour.  We have propped each other up through the good times and the bad.  Having spent 5 months last year working in the least supportive and compassionate environment imaginable, I had started to believe that maybe that was the norm in Hong Kong.  The last month has affirmed that this is simply not the case.  I have met some wonderful, kind, caring people - in the other students, the tutors, and the willing victims who were kind enough to give their time to be our English Learners.  I feel confident that I have made long-term friends in the past month.

Ladies who lunch

Yesterday I was ecstatic to be told that my hard work had paid off and I had come top of the class and achieved the A I had yearned for.  It appears that I am a bit of a natural teacher - something I would never have predicted.  I am now looking forward to the next stage and going out and teaching in the real world.

I could not feel more different today to how I felt five months ago.  Last September I know I was a broken person, the CertTESOL course has mended me, my confidence has returned and I feel I am finally ME again.  Thank you English for Asia and Sara, Donna, Simone, Tracey, Laura, Trish, Keenan, Manuela, Jo, Gerry, Charlotte, Frank and Diederik, the makers of Maltesers and MacDonalds flat white coffee!

 Pizza feast with the students and the tutors

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