Teaching ESL in Germany

I recently finished a two-week stint of teaching intensive English for a company that has been contracted to provide training for unemployed people. The unemployment office sends a lucky few – in this case five people – to take a course that is meant to help make them better candidates for jobs in the future. The intensive English module was part of a 6-month project management course that was paid for my our friendly neighborhood Arbeitsamt, and it is said to cost almost €10000 for the whole course.

When I accepted the course, I had not yet had the job inteview that led to my offer of full-time employment, which is by far the better option for me. Basically I said yes to the English course, and got a job offer about two weeks later. I was not thrilled about having to spend 40 hours per week teaching people English, and that for two weeks straight from 8.30 to 4.30 pm every day. I have no problem with working full time, but how do you keep a bunch of people interested and awake for 8 hours when it comes to learning English?

In the end, I knew that it wouldn’t make sense for me financially to come up with wholly new material – and I had a lot of time to cover. I searched for a book or a course that would cover the time in a structured way so that it would be easier to get through. I found one, complete with the timing for each lesson and adaptations for smaller groups. I thought it would be easy! Ha.

I have taught many times over the years, both English and German, and mostly in a corporate setting. I like teaching, but it isn’t really my chosen career path. I wasn’t really enjoying being self-employed. Nor was I happy with the amount of driving I had to do, often for only a one or two hour lesson. The pay was okay, or at least it looked that way on paper. However, you have to consider tax, driving time, preparation, and time wasted between lessons. For me, it was a Zwischenlösung (temporary solution) because I didn’t immediately find a job when we returned to Germany earlier this year. Now that I have a “proper” job, I am glad to stop.

I know that many people who come over to Germany think it will be easy to find teaching jobs, and Hyde already covered the topic back in 2008. It might be a great solution if you are just starting out and need to earn a bit of cash to get by. It can also pay halfway decently, depending on your expectations of what a good job is and how much you need to earn. If you are on your own, perhaps over in Europe for the first time, it might just be the way to go. Otherwise, not so much.

So back to my class. I ended up teaching five guys. Most had been let go from management jobs and had been to university. One of them had not, and he definitely had a harder time getting through the day. My lovely book turned out to be dry as a bone, and the poor guys were begging me to do something different as the week wore on. Thank God for the internet. In the end, we spent some afternoons watching TED talks and discussing them, and even a few American sitcoms to go along with whatever lesson I was teaching. There are worksheets available on the internet on every topic you can imagine — even on How I Met Your Mother episodes (that was on special request, and to be honest, it was great for learning how people really talk.) I think, despite the unconventional approach I ended up resorting to, they learned a good bit. I, for one, am quite glad it is over though! Back to being an editor, where I don’t have to stand up in front of a group of people every day and try to keep them enthralled for eight hours. Phew!

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