Phillip Smith is one of our scholarship runners up and took the Trinity CertTESOL course in Barcelona in September 2016. Since then, he has travelled to the other side of the world to teach English to young children in Hong Kong. Find out more about what life is like for him there and how the course helped him to find a job and become a confident English teacher.
Which location and date did you take your Trinity CertTESOL?
I took the course in Barcelona, September 2016.
Why did you choose that location?
I adored Spain to begin with, but it just so happened that a friend of mine sent me a link to a Trinity CertTESOL Facebook competition for the chance to win a scholarship to take the course for free! I had just finished my postgraduate degree and thought “Why not? I’ll give it a shot”. I was a runner up, and decided to take the course anyway. I was on the plane to Spain two months later.
Where are you now?
I’m living and working in Hong Kong. I had visited a few years ago when I was 20 and wondered “Wow, could I live somewhere like this!”. I work for a teaching centre called Jolly Kingdom. They’ve just opened a brand new centre and I’m the first teacher in, but there should be some more teachers to follow in the coming months. So, in addition to teaching, I get a hand in growing the centre, building relationships with parents, making sure the kids are happy while they are here.
Where did you go after the course?
After visiting home briefly I went on a short stint of travelling up until Christmas. I visited Sri Lanka, Thailand, and Cambodia. Once I was finished I settled in Hong Kong. I was fortunate that I had a friend whose family looked after me for a month whilst I looked for a job.
Was it easy to find work?
I’d say so yes. Hong Kong takes learning English very seriously. Parents recognise that for their children to absorb a wealth of opportunities they need to begin learning English at a young age. I was surprised to find out that kids as young as 24 months are interviewed for preschool and kindergarten. It’s seems crazy to me, but what this means is the opportunities to teach English are rich and varied here. You can apply to teaching centres, kindergartens, you could even set yourself up privately if you have the entrepreneurial spirit.
Where are you working and for how many hours?
The teaching centre in a place called City One – it’s Hong Kong’s most built up residential area. That means there are plenty of kids who need to be taught, there’s already a high demand. I work five days a week from 10am to 7pm, and Saturday is my busiest day. The goal at this point is to teach more than 100 kids every week – this usually means up to 6 kids every hour for six hours a day. It sounds like a lot, but the kids are a joy to be around and the teacher who trained me was fantastic.
What type of classes do you teach?
Phonetics is the most important class. Once students know how to associate letters with sounds, they have the building blocks for learning bigger and complex words, writing bigger and more descriptive sentences and more confident speaking. So I also teach speaking, writing and creative writing classes. The students tend to be kindergarten and primary school ages but I do teach pre-school kids too. At first I was worried about this, but it’s very important to teach kids who are younger than 24 months, singing and reading to them really helps their language development.
Where do you plan to go next?
For now, I’m happy to have learned that I enjoy working with young children, so I’m running with that. I really like Jolly Kingdom, I’m incredibly fortunate to be working for them. For me it’s the right amount of challenge, responsibility and variety. The parents and students really take interest in who you are and this is key for recruiting new students. Because I’m working in a new centre I must play a part in facilitating the centre’s success by being very present and attentive especially to the individual needs of students. I should emphasise though, I had no formal teaching experience before the TESOL course, without it I wouldn’t have had the confidence or indeed the structure to form my style as a teacher. I know too many people who opted for an online TEFL course, and there is no comparison. The 4-week Trinity CertTESOL is the way to go!
The world is waiting for you!