We first stumbled upon Teacher Training Center either by an ad on Dave’s ESL Cafe or from a Google search for TEFL programs in Latin America. We had a vague trip in mind, involving Belize and Peru, so a TEFL course could have fit anywhere, and at anytime, within our travels. But we quickly, and wisely, realized that sooner was better, since having it already completed now is much better than having to put the brakes on our traveler-selves in the near future.
Since we’d already taught ESL for over a year in South Korea, we were searching for an affordable program that would actually improve our teaching. Anderson had also completed an online TEFL which while interesting at times was mostly tedious question answering, so we also really wanted to avoid busywork. We wanted a home-stay as well, so that we could at least in theory be working on our Spanish.
We found all that we were looking for, and even a bit more, with Teacher Training Center’s TEFL program in Queretaro, Mexico. First off, whatever preconceived notions you might have about Mexico really won’t apply to Queretaro. The city’s easy to navigate, the people are friendly and helpful, there’s no drug-related crime, the food (and that includes everything you’ll find on the street) is delicious and cheap – albeit a bit heavy on the meat/cheese/tortilla combination, the Centro Historico is beautiful and often regarded as Mexico’s finest, and there’s plenty of things to do. While in Queretaro we saw several free live concerts in the city’s squares and gardens, went to two Gallos Blancos futbol games, enjoyed a night of Lucha Libre wrestling, and even tested our Spanish abilities by seeing a local play. We also went clubbing until past 3am, explored several markets, walked endlessly through the city, photographed the iconic aqueduct, and drank quite the variety of Mexican beer. Our home-stay was simply fantastic: our hosts were generous but unobtrusive, our room was great (comfortable bed, private hot shower) and located off of an outdoor courtyard, you choose what meals you eat (we only had breakfast), and importantly the house was located in a safe but lively traditional neighborhood. We felt comfortable walking home at any hour, often grabbed late-night food from the local taco cart, and quickly became known and comfortable with the locals. The one downside is that even with an entire month we didn’t have time to explore it all!
Yes, the TEFL course is challenging and it involves countless hours of study. Mark, the British trainer, is professional, dedicated, and a tough grader. Thankfully he’s also relaxed, loves his Premier League footie, and is extremely easy to talk to. The classroom maintained an informal atmosphere despite our often serious discussions, which meant that the time rarely seemed to drag – not a small accomplishment for a 120-hour course covered in just 20 days. Mark is passionate and knowledgeable about how teachers effectively teach within the ESL/EFL/ESP/EBP/E?? world, and he’ll even explain all those confusing acronyms as well. From the finer points of teaching methodologies (such as ESA) to the even finer points of teaching grammar, from use of media in the classroom to use of board space to use of the phonemic chart – more aspects of teaching than we even knew existed were covered in digestible detail. The class uses the CELTA course-book (in a non-official capacity, obviously), but that means you’re using a proven and well-regarded text. The six observed teaching hours, complete with lesson plans and self-evaluations, initially seemed daunting but were actually enjoyable – the class of students was fun to teach, the in-depth lesson plans were very useful despite being at times challenging to create, and the feedback sessions the following morning with Mark were equally beneficial. Throughout the course there were four projects, focusing on different dimensions of teaching and writing. They’re well-integrated into the class as a whole, leading up to the production of a presentable portfolio intended for future job interviews.
While the TEFL targets those who have never taught, we still found the course invaluable, and were also able to be more involved in discussions throughout the course since had prior experience – the point is, regardless of which position you are in Teaching Training Center’s TEFL course is well worth it if you have interest in furthering your ESL teaching career abroad. We plan on teaching short-term in the Americas to extend our travels before heading to the Middle East (or Malaysia or …) where having a TEFL is a minimum requirement (along with 2+ years experience) for most if not all jobs.
Teaching Training Center didn’t ask us to write this review, nor have we ever received any compensation for doing so, but we wanted to get an honest opinion of the course from actual graduates (October 2010) up on the internet since we were unable to find such a thing during our own research efforts. The school is affiliated with United English, a reputable EFL institute with a ten-year history, which means there is an experienced staff available to assist you throughout the course.
** If you have additional questions please contact us: themuths AT gmail DOT com **