Interview With a TEFLer: Alex Case (Part I)

Woah there, traveler! Were you trawling through the pages of Google when you stumbled across this blog? Or are you a regular reader back for another dose of TEFL juice? Either way, stop what you are doing and read on.

Today we have something rather special for you. An interview with a man who needs no introduction, the author of TEFLtastic, Japan Explained, and countless tips and books on teaching English, a CELTA and DELTA graduate… Ladies and Gentleman, I give you Mr. Alex Case.

What made you begin your career as a teacher of English?

I’d been a careworker for three years and was considering taking the Diploma to become a social worker. Before I took that big step I thought I’d travel for a year or two, and I’d taken a one week introduction to TEFL a few years before and so knew what the CELTA course would consist of (this was in the days when no one considered a one week course an actual preparation to teach!).

13 years later, I feel like I had a close escape both from social work and the UK and the thought that I will eventually go home has now faded away. Might go “home” to Japan someday though.

How did you begin teaching English?

I finished my course in May 1995 and looked in the Guardian, EL Gazette and Times Educational Supplement (back when paper publications were where you found jobs) and all the jobs were for the UK – hardly the reason why I chose TEFL!

So I took the one job that was abroad, in a summer camp for volunteer wages on the Sea of Marmara in Turkey. Had a great time teaching there, so decided to have a look for a job from September in the nearest large town (Bursa), had a couple of interviews and chose a school. Had a less than great time teaching 45 year-old false beginners with a textbook written in 1982 with little support from management, so only stayed there the usual 9 months.

After a summer school back in the UK and a year with a bigger chain of schools in Thailand with a nice mix of young kids, business and adults, though, I started to feel like I knew what I was doing and both me and my students started to enjoy my lessons more and improve more quickly.

Where has TEFL taken you?

To Turkey, Thailand, Spain, Greece, Italy, Japan and now Korea. More importantly, in those places it has taken me into the factories, offices, homes etc. that I never would have seen as a traveler. Ditto for talking to people about their lives and their countries, and having the time to really explore and read about a place. All of that has made it a real intellectual journey too.

Living in places where things you took for granted are not generally accepted really broadens your horizons and makes you understand your own country and humans in general better. The same things can be said of starting to read about anthropology, Islamic art and Asian history, all of which I started taking an interest in just to understand the country I was in. Teaching multilingual classes in London means I now also know things about countries I have never been to like Kazakhstan.

Part II of the Alex Case interview is imminent. Check My TEFL Journey again soon!


About Ben Davies

The purpose of this blog is to introduce you to some ideas about teaching English as a foreign language. I lived in Japan and taught English for several years. It was a great experience that I would strongly recommend. Browse through the blog posts and get some tips, or get in touch if you have a specific question or comment.

2 Responses to Interview With a TEFLer: Alex Case (Part I)

  1. Emma says:

    Dear Alex

    Having thought about it for years and finally managed to pass my masters in Language Learning, I am taking the first tentative steps into the world beyond to teach English. I am hoping to start in South Korea and have made contact with a South Korean agency. Any advice?

    Thanks in advance. Emma

  2. Alex Case says:

    Hi Emma

    Sorry it took me a while to reply, don’t read interviews with myself very often!

    There are some very good and some very bad agencies in Korea, so research yours carefully on the internet but don’t necessarily take one negative review as proof of anything.

    People tell me that working in state schools is better than hagwons (cram schools), but I don’t know how true that is

    Hope that helps


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