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As we gain experience in ESL/EFL teaching, we hopefully learn new methods and approaches, improve our own sensitivity to the English language through participation in English-speaking culture and improve our ability to give learners just the kind of help they need as efficiently as possible.

Yet, just as often, perhaps, as we grow older and wiser in some aspects of our professional lives, we may become unaware of certain persistent blind spots and unconsciously begin to steer away from areas which could add tremendously to the overall effect of our teaching.

I spent a couple of years a decade ago working with a mentor who refused to let that happen--to himself or to those of us collaborating with him. "I consider my ability to change my mind as one of my strongest characteristics," Dave Hopkins once told me when we were both at the Ohio Program for English Language Teaching (OPELT), which he started and directed for six years at Chubu University, in Kasugai, Japan. I learned and grew as an ESL teacher and curriculum developer under Dave's guidance, that it was as if I awakened from a dream at that time. He is the best teacher and teacher-trainer I have ever met.

As people do, I lost track of David Hopkins over the years. But I was happy to find him on the Web a couple weeks ago and exchange e-mails with him. He is the director of academics for TEFL International, and their academic director for Thailand, where he runs teacher-training courses.

TEFL International runs a four-week TESOL certificate course that give participants:
*one-to-one meetings with learners of English as well as with full classes;
*experience being a learner of an unfamiliar language in order to make you think about the problems of teaching beginners;
*the opportunity to create your own teaching material as a form of practical project which you can take away and use in your future teaching career;
experience with younger learners as well as with adults (in some of the sessions)

In addition to the TESOL certificate course, TEFL International offers a refresher course for experienced teachers, particularly those who would like to become better at teacher-training and program management themselves. The curriculum for this Advanced TESOL Diploma course--written, I'm positive, by my friend Dave--is great!

Here's a description of the kinds of people who have found these courses useful, from the TEFL International FAQs:

We find that courses tend to be taken up by a "mixed bag" of people. For example, we get a lot of people in their early twenties who are recent graduates and want to travel overseas but we also have people in their thirties and forties who either want a career switch, have been made redundant or are moving overseas with their spouse. In addition, we have people either approaching or in retirement and who are looking for something to do in their free time or who have got property on the continent to which they are going to move. Finally, we sometimes have people from other English speaking countries on our courses as well as good non-native speakers from other countries. We had one course where we had a twenty-year-old, a seventy-five year old and two course members from Hungary!

As the four week course is very intensive, you should be prepared to work very hard indeed, have no other distractions, and be mentally/emotionally completely fit and well, including having no current domestic worries. You should also be presentable in appearance. Finally, you should be able to teach! Not TESOL, of course, but anything. Do you have the confidence and personal presence to stand up in front of a group of students and teach them for, say, 45 minutes? You will not be asked to teach at interview so you need to self-select on that one!

Courses inevitably have some "casualties" and the purpose of the interview is to try and diagnose any potential problems in advance. However, this screening process is not foolproof since the only way one can judge whether you are going to make a successful teacher of English or not is to see you teach. Nevertheless, to reassure you, we are not obliged to have statistical failure rates and we genuinely want to take on people whom we think are going to pass. Moreover, when you are on the course itself, we shall be pushing you like mad to pass!

If you are a person of "more mature years" or a senior citizen, do not let this in itself put you off from applying. Providing you are receptive to training you should have no problems. If, however, you are rigid in your ways of thinking and are unwilling to shake off past ways of thinking and behavior, you may have a problem. For instance, we have reluctantly had to fail some experienced teachers and lecturers! On the other hand, our greatest "star" was a retired head teacher - an extremely broad-minded one.

TEFL International's calendar for 2002 is at

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