Expectations Versus Reality: 6 Tips to Help You Prepare for Your TEFL Course in Prague
Before arriving in Prague for my TEFL certification course, I had my fair share of my expectations. While the reality hasn’t always matched up with what I had planned for, this has been such a useful learning experience for me and hopefully, these expectations versus realities of this TEFL course will help you prepare for your time in Prague.
First expectation: I thought this course would be “easy.”
I put “easy” in quotes because I knew it was going to be intensive. I knew I was going to have a lot to do in 4 short weeks, but I thought it would be more busy work and sitting through lessons. The most time-consuming part of this course are the lesson plans. I would assume I spend anywhere from 2-6 hours planning each individual 1-hour lesson.
The lesson plans are extremely detailed – someone who has never taught before, such as a substitute, should be able to use your lesson plan and teach the course. Every little word is in the lesson plan! Often my lesson plans are about 6 pages printed landscape because of the format we use.
Second expectation: There will be a lot of free time.
There is little… VERY little, free time. When I first looked at the class schedule I thought, “Oh, I’m done by 7:45pm every night, I can definitely find little cafes and sit to get my stuff done.” That’s not reality at all! Most cafes close around 8pm and after I’m done with all of the in-classroom stuff for the day, I’m exhausted and really only have two things on my mind – getting food and getting home.
Let me also say that week 2 of my TEFL course in Prague is WAY better than week 1. Having our instructors present the entire time and following the same schedule made a huge difference. Settling in this week my schedule looks like this:
- Be at class every day by 10:30am
- Quick break from 12-12:15 which is enough time to run and grab some coffee and a snack from a corner store or café
- Lunch starts at 2pm, then it’s “free time”/lesson planning until about 4:30pm when we clean up and prepare for the students to arrive
- Student arrive to class around 5pm
- Classes are done at 7:05pm and we discuss how the lessons went
- At about 7:45pm you head home, eat and then get ready for the next day
From Monday through Thursday, you will teach two nights, observe class one night and then have one night off. For example, during week 2, I observed Monday, taught Tuesday, taught Wednesday and had Thursday evening off. I had REALLY big plans for myself on Thursday to get EVERYTHING done before I left for Paris for the weekend, but when I got to the café that I planned on sitting at all afternoon, I couldn’t concentrate. I assumed it was due to the amount of work I’d been doing and the lack of sleep I’d been getting.
I decided to go for a walk around Prague and then met up with another girl from class who had the same evening off and we got dinner together. It was the perfect mental break I needed. We didn’t talk about our classes at all during dinner. We talked about our lives back home, why we decided to take a TEFL course and what our future plans were.
I’ve also taken full advantage of being in Europe and traveling, so I haven’t been home on a weekend yet, which I’m sure that also attributes to my lack of free time. I don’t feel like I know Prague as well as I should since I’ve been living here for a little over 2 weeks at this point.
Third expectation: We would need formal clothes to teach in.
The whole environment is a lot less formal than I expected it to be. I specifically packed two pairs of business-type pants and multiple business-style tops, along with 3-4 dresses. I barely packed any casual clothes – for example, 2-3 shirts and a pair of regular jeans and black jeans. I wish I had more casual clothes that are comfortable so I could mix and match more.
It is completely acceptable to teach in jeans and a casual top. Some people have taught in hoodies and t-shirts, although I wouldn’t recommend it. Honestly, if you plan on staying in Prague after the course, I suggest bringing one business formal outfit for interviews. If you aren’t staying in Prague, like me, you could get by on casual clothes.
The days you don’t teach, I would recommend whatever is comfortable to you. Today, I wore leggings, a zip up sweatshirt and a beanie! If you aren’t teaching, it’s up to you!
Fourth expectation: I will make new friends.
This one has held true! I’m so thankful that I get along with everyone in this course so well. It’s nice because we’re all in the same boat and we all understand how much stress we’re under. Everyone is inviting and if someone is headed to grab food from the Chinese restaurant or run to the little corner-store, they always ask if anyone wants to go with or needs anything.
When I was in Paris, I was talking with the two classmates I went with about how people often make their travel plans with their family or significant other for these important, magical trips. However, I took off to one of the city’s that has always been on my bucket list with 2 people I had met just two weeks before. Not to mention, we planned it within the first week of meeting each other!
It just goes to show, that once you get here, you’re surrounded by people like you. People who love to travel, who are willing to take risks, who are open-minded and who are in a transitional part of their life. You become part of a community that is truly the only way I’m making it through this course. They’re the people I bounce ideas off of, I rant with when I’m upset, I go to when I have a creativity block or the people I laugh with over a beer after a long week.
I know I’ll stay friends with these people, even though our chances of seeing each other again are slim. We all have different plans and dreams to go to different corners of the world – but that’s the magic of this TEFL certification. You have the ability to go anywhere, yet be connected with people who are doing the same thing.
Fifth expectation: The TEFL course would fly by.
This has held true as well! I came home from class on Friday and realized I was halfway done…but I felt like I had just started. The feeling was surreal – both in a good and bad way.
This TEFL course is challenging, so I’m happy to be halfway through and that much closer to this professional certification. On the other hand, I’m not ready to leave Prague – or Europe in general. There is so much I still want to do and I’m completely comfortable here.
I FaceTime my mom about once a week but I don’t miss home. As time keeps going, I keep thinking more and more about staying. It’s extremely tempting, especially as I see other people in my class go about getting their lives together to stay in Czechia.
Sixth expectation: I would be drinking a lot of coffee and eating a lot of bread.
To be honest, this is pretty much all I do. The other day, during my 15 minute break, I went to the corner store to buy a bottle of water and I told myself I wasn’t going to buy any bread. But then, I walked past it and was suckered in. It’s so cheap (around 10kr and the exchange rate is 21.5kr = $1 USD), absolutely delicious and of course the day I said I wasn’t going to get any, I could smell that it was warm!
A lot of times for dinner I’ll eat bread with brie cheese and some cherry tomatoes. Not the healthiest, but it fills me up and is easy! Other times, I’ll make dinner but often I’m tired or starving so I’ll just eat whatever is right in front of me. There’s TONS of places to eat though and I’ve liked everything I’ve tried so far. Tomorrow a couple of us are going to try a Mexican restaurant that is right near the school – I’m excited!
Seventh expectation: I’ll need a way to stay organized during the course.
A suggestion to pack with you for the course would be a binder/trapper keeper. We get multiple handouts every single day and having a way to organize them is EXTREMELY helpful. There are:
- grammar how-to guides
- teaching methodology handouts
- lesson planning tips
- demo lesson examples
- other papers that you’ll get to help you during the course and afterwards
I brought a binder with 6 double-sided folder-type inserts and have found it extremely helpful. I also brought a notebook which I use, but have noticed other students don’t use one and are doing fine. I’m the type of person who learns more from doing something myself, so even though I know I’ll be getting a handout after the lesson/workshop, I take notes throughout the entire time and then I have two things to look back on when I need to. I also do my best when I’m organized, so I have highlighters in different colors to make notes on the handouts of what I believe is most important – or what I’m told I need to remember on certain handouts!
Despite all the expectations and realities I have learned during this course, the most important is to take it day by day. Make sure you’re ready for tomorrow, but don’t worry about the next day. As great as it sounds to get all your work done, you’ll get burned out. It’s better to sometimes take the afternoon and just go for a walk or sit in the park. Give yourself breaks so you can recharge and do your best work.
This course is extremely intensive, and both mentally and physically taxing, but take time for yourself! Eat right, drink lots of coffee and remember to enjoy yourself. You’ll get the most from this course by keeping yourself happy and focusing on the present situation – you’re living in Prague, one of the most beautiful cities in the world!