Where in the world - Teaching in Macedonia
Our ‘Where in the World?’ interviews aim to provide you with some insight into the great travel and teaching opportunities that are available to TESOL graduates. In each interview, we speak to past TESOL graduates about their experience of living and working abroad as an English teacher. We hope that you will find these interviews interesting and informative and that they will help to inspire your own English language teaching adventures.
Teaching English as a foreign language in Macedonia, Hungary and the UK
With this newsletter we bring you Andrew Drummond’s accounts of teaching English as a foreign language in Macedonia, Hungary and the United Kingdom.
Andrew Drummond on his teaching experiences abroad
I completed my initial TESOL certificate in December 1996. I imagine some of our readers were barely born then. To me, it is recent history.
My first job came about when a Macedonian lady visited St. George’s language school in London promoting her school as an alt-destination for maverick newbies. Macedonia had only been independent from Yugoslavia for five years. The war in Bosnia had only ended three years previously and, in hindsight, it was taking a risk. I had two ‘tours’ of Macedonia each comprised of a one year contract. The second tour was cut short when we evacuated ourselves to Greece after the outbreak of the West’s bombing campaign in Kosovo in March 1999. I still need to take some library books back I left in the wardrobe.
The choice to live and work in Macedonia was mostly intrigue-based. It still amazed me that Communism was dead in Europe and I wanted to see some of the remnants before Coca-Cola and McDonalds wiped out all the old ways. Initially, I had no work visa which is an inadvisable position to be in. My accommodation was paid, but I shared the school’s bathroom with the entire school and regularly got sick. The pay wouldn’t have stretched very far in London but, over there, 700 Deutsch Marks a month enabled me to live pretty well. The flights were paid for, of course. As a fully grown adult now, I would pay much more attention to the package for details of maximum number of classroom hours. My view is that spending more than 23-25 hours per week in class will make lesson preparation problematic for new teachers.
Since then, I have taught in Hungary, the UK and now in Johannesburg, South Africa. Hungary is a fascinating place with a tantalizingly unique language to learn. The state sector in the UK pays well but requires a crushing amount of admin which seems constructed to serve audit purposes rather than the actual teaching and learning itself.
I have always treated TESOL as a profession and I question the validity of ‘teachers’ who have no knowledge of the language and are not committed to learning how to describe it. As much as teaching has enabled me to see the world, this privilege ought to be predicated on a cast iron commitment to continue developing as a teacher. In a very real sense, treating TESOL as a holiday is robbing your students of a learning opportunity and is like giving the gift of ignorance instead of learning. Think about continuing professional development at every available opportunity, especially additional courses such Cambridge DELTA, MA TESOL and the Wits LTE courses.
Training on TESOL courses in South Africa is a new phase for me. I have been here for a year now and I have never been in such a multi-lingual country. It is challenging many of my assumptions about language. That is the amazing thing about this profession: it is as big as you want it to be. It can be a six-month stint in Korea or a lifelong career. It is never boring to see people and language skills develop (in that order please). It is too late for me. I think I am a lifer.