Jon Wilton took his CertTESOL course in May 2013.  He worked at ETC International College for a few years, before heading off to Italy.

He tells us of his experiences here:

Before taking the Athena TESOL course I was working in the mental health sector, basically helping people recovering from schizophrenia with day to day tasks and fire-fighting all of the issues that sprung up daily. It was hard and, ultimately, inwardly defeating because the lack of funding has led to a business style model being applied to all aspects of a job that should be altruistic and centred on the care of others. I decided to give teaching a try to resolve this disparity: put simply, I wanted to do something that made me feel I had achieved something at the end of the day.
The course itself is very well structured and it is challenging in just the right way. I had been warned that my personal life would stop for four weeks, and that it did but this was, for me, one of the most beneficial aspects. The course was this bubble, a world inside a world, where I saw myself, and the people around me develop these new skills as we helped each other on towards the same goals. I had nothing in common with many of the people on the course, being from disparate backgrounds and spread over a wide age range, but we bonded none the less –we were a tribe for that time, trying to work out how to please the Athena deities.

“If I didn’t have the Athena course under my belt I don’t think I would be the doing the job I have now.”

I am currently working in Naples, Italy, as the head teacher for a small team of eight staff. I am responsible for training, exams, course design and generally steering things in the right direction. While it is possible to get work as a language teacher without a qualification (sometimes being a native speaker is enough) the TESOL course gives you a grounding in teaching theory –making you think about the dynamics of the classroom– as well as drilling the importance of preparation and ironing out the most frequent pitfalls that new teachers fall into, such as talking too much, forgetting to grade your speech and thinking your students understand when in fact they don’t understand a word you are saying.

“It takes at least ten years to become a really excellent teacher, and even then you are always learning more.”

If I didn’t have the Athena course under my belt I don’t think I would be the doing the job I have now. I wouldn’t have had the grounding and experience to progress and develop myself as a teacher: I feel I may have wandered into the suburbs of lazy teaching, where people just open the book and mechanically work through a set of exercises. It is only when you have been given the right examples, and shown a variety of methodologies and seen what can be done in the classroom with a creative approach –when you see someone command the room because they have a presence and their students genuinely like and respect them; when you see the students tackle a series of tasks they find compelling and where the language skills arise naturally out of those activities; when you see the students working in groups and helping each other to learn: these experiences inspire you and keep you from wandering too far off the path of continual self-improvement. It takes at least ten years to become a really excellent teacher, and even then you are always learning more.

I like living in the south of Italy for many of the things that probably come into your mind: the balmy afternoons and evenings, the wide sweeping bay that is crowned by a smoking volcano, the peeling churches and history that lies, often dilapidated and ignored, around every corner and buried beneath you, the strong sweet coffee, the pizza with its stretchy and soft dough, slightly burned and always cooked fresh, and of course the passion for life that the people carry around and give generously: the Neapolitans in particular are a crazy bunch, playful like cats, and they thrive on being sociable. They are warm and open and friendly and always have time for you. It is an easy place to fall in love with, despite its many faults and the social problems that lurk under the easy-going gloss.