Teacher interview series: Is a career in teacher-training for you?
The education sector has many pathways for teachers. Here, we invited teacher-trainer Anne de Leon to talk to us about her work, and give advice to teachers interested in the field.
Anne, what’s your teaching background?
So, I trained as a primary school teacher in 2005-2006 in the UK. Before that, I worked for a couple of years in a high school in Paris as an English teacher, but without any training. Then, I came to Madrid and taught primary at a Montessori school. Later, I did the CELTA and started working for the big language academies, where I taught young learners and adults, mostly general English, with some business English classes at companies.
And what first sparked your interest in teacher-training?
Well, that actually happened about five years ago when my bosses asked me if I would like to do a session. Back then I thought it would be impossible, since I believed I needed to be a “perfect” teacher to become a teacher-trainer. They kind of convinced me that you didn’t have to, that it could also just be sharing experiences. So I did a training session and just really liked it and enjoyed the challenge.
How do new teacher-trainers find clients and get their foot in the door?
So, it’s all about the contacts. I started training within my academy, but when I went freelance it then became very clear that “who you know” does help. A friend of mine who works in Prague put me in touch with a woman who was running a teacher-training company and I started working with different countries, different schools and clients; private, public, primary, secondary, CLIL, English-language, completely different things. And little by little people start knowing you and learning your name, and you start building your portfolio and contact list. That’s how I started. It really is all about the contacts.
I imagine it varies, but could you describe something of a “typical day” when you’re on the job?
That depends if it’s an intensive course, one session, a one-day seminar, or one-hour seminar. But, say, on a one-day intensive course, I’ll start early, around 6:30 am with a cup of coffee, making sure that everything is set up and working: that the computers and internet connection are working, that I’ve got all my photocopies in place, and the tables and chairs are as I want them to be. Then, I’ll have my second coffee while I’m waiting for the trainees, so that when they enter the room I appear to be completely relaxed, just having a casual cup of coffee. Then it’s pretty much non-stop, just go-go-go until it finishes. You have to constantly think on your feet, because no matter what you plan there are things that come up that change it.
Is the pay comparable to teaching English?
It’s really not. Again, it depends on if the client is a public or private institution. But—the pay is better, higher, than being an EFL teacher.
What are the minimum requirements for trainers? Is it a regulated sector?
If you’re trying to become a teacher-trainer within an institution, then yes, it is very much regulated. So people will usually ask for a minimum of a BA; more and more they ask for an MA. The DELTA, Trinity Diploma, and obviously the CELTA before that. But, if like me, you’re working freelance then it’s really your experience, your portfolio, and the way you present yourself to clients that makes the difference.
Who would you say the work is suited to?
I think it’s for people who still enjoy teaching. A lot of people say “when you’re fed up being a teacher, you can become a trainer.” I don’t think that’s true at all. I actually think you can only be a good trainer if you are still a teacher and passionate about teaching. Because if you don’t teach, it becomes very obvious to your trainees that you’ve been out of the job for too long and don’t understand how it works anymore. So I think it’s for people who still love and are passionate about teaching, who are conscious of the difficulties of being a teacher, and have enough of a “therapist” in them that they believe they can help teachers feel better about themselves and about their job. Just like being a teacher, as a trainer you’re a facilitator: you’re helping, guiding, and building confidence. Pretty much any person, I’d say, who’s passionate about teaching, and has always had an interest in the psychological aspects of education, would be great as a teacher-trainer.
What do you wish you had known before starting?
I think what you need to know is that sometimes you are thrown in the very deep end with no help or support. It’s very much like being an actor. You’re onstage and for the first 10 or 15 minutes they’re judging you, just like students will at the beginning of a school year when you’re a teacher. You know we all have to put on an act at the beginning of the year! But it’s a little more difficult as a trainer, because the people you have in front of you are usually teachers and some of them are more experienced than you. Some of them, even most of them, are “forced” to participate in the training; either because they will get points, or their managers have said “you need to take so many hours of training”. So I suppose that’s something that’s good to know before starting out. You have to be pretty self-confident and really believe in your ability to help teachers.
Any other final tips?
I think my main tips would be to cultivate your contacts and share as much as you receive. I know my biggest support has been from people I started with and experienced the toughest moments with as I started teaching in different countries and areas. All the people I met at those moments have become quite key for me. Also, make sure you give as much as you receive. It’s very much about sharing. People are not there to steal ideas, we’re just all there to try and make education a little bit easier and better for our students and for our trainees.