Teacher Feature #2

Teacher in Progress / Thursday, February 21st, 2013

stephanieName: Stephanie Thomas

Nationality: French-American

How long have you been teaching?

I’ve been teaching in France since 1996, though not always to the same public.

What are you teaching? EFL/ESL

I’m teaching EFL to middle school students. Having done both, I have to say I’ve always been a bit dubious about the EFL/ESL distinction.  English as a foreign language is meant to be for people living outside of English speaking countries, and English as a second language for those living in a country in which primarily English is spoken (think teaching little French kids in Normandy VS teaching Mexican laborers in California–just an example)I think the ESL/EFL distinction is artificial and our focus as teachers has a lot more to do with the WHO and the WHY. Who are we teahing and why do they need to learn English? Do they know why (think those little French kids again) ?

What certifications do you have? 

Besides a Master’s degree, I have a *TEFL certificate and a *CAPES.

How did you get into teaching English?

Unlike a lot of people, teaching English was my first choice. Of course, back in college, I thought I’d be teaching literature and writing to native speakers! Never mind. Girl meets boy and they move to France. Girl gets job teaching English. And likes it.

Where are you working? country, school, companies, etc.

I’m working in a French middle school, in the private system.

What kind of contract are you working under?

I have a permanent contract. It’s so permanent that we call ourselves “lifers,” except in this case, I can decide to leave the “prison” through the front door while I still have some dignity left.

How long have you been working there?

I started in September 2012!

Where else have you worked?

I worked for a couple of training companies offering mostly business English courses, from 1996 to 2008. Afterwards, I set up on my own for a few years–it was financially rewarding, but I missed having colleagues and someone else to call up late payers.

Where do you prefer teaching English?

My favorite courses were small groups in companies, probably for the social aspect as much as anything. I also liked intensive one-on-one courses–just a week with a good set of really precise objectives. That was fun.

What do you love about teaching English?

In my current position, the students can be really endearing, and their breakthrough moments are really special. When a kid gets up in front of the class to talk about his last vacation, and he’s red as a beet and stutters through it–it’s very satisfying to see him smiling at the end, proud. It takes a lot of hard work to get even some of the students to that point!

What are the advantages to teaching for you?

Teaching in companies allowed me to more or less set my schedule, particularly with individual students. I never had to worry much about missing a day, as we could always reschedule. This flexibility was really important to me as my family grew (and grew…). In the school system, I like having a set salary and lots of time off with my kids.

What are the disadvantages to teaching for you?

Again, corporate language training was much different from school teaching. I loved teaching adults, but I think being privy to certain personal information about my adult students (they tended to share freely) made the job challenging in ways I wasn’t equipped to handle. I don’t mean to be enigmatic, but it was largely these “intimacy” issues that drove me out of corporate training. In my school, I also have access to information about my students, but I think it helps me understand them better and teach more effectively. Sometimes it’s just plain depressing, though.

Do you like teaching English?  Why?

I like it most days. I can think of things I’d rather be doing, but they don’t pay for plane tickets. I like to think I’m making a difference to some of these students, igniting an interest or uncovering a talent.

Do you do another job?

I’m a devoted wife and mother of 4 awesome kids; these are the things, I hope, I’ll be remembered for. That… and my irregular verbs rap. It rocks.

*TEFL stands for Teaching English as a Foreign Language.  TEFL is one of the certificates required to teach English abroad.

*CAPES stands for Certificat d’Aptitude au Professorat de l’Enseignement du Second Degré.  This French diploma is needed to become a civil servant teacher in middle and high school.

Big thank you to Stephanie for sharing a bit of her teaching experience with us.

4 Replies to “Teacher Feature #2”

  1. Stephanie & Didi! I find I’m really enjoying Teacher Feature. It’s fascinating to see the different paths people end up taking towards being an instructor!

  2. Nice! I enjoyed Stephanie’s teacher feature. She’s very interesting and has an awesome sense of humor. I like how she considers her role as a wife and mom as another job. I’d say they’re definitely full-time jobs :-). Great work distinguishing between ESL and EFL, and I also agree that the “who” and “why” are more important. Certainly, this can be generalized to other areas of education outside of ESL/EFL. Thanks for another great teacher feature!

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