JUMP!! – In 2017 I sold -my Brighton flat and walked away. With my belongings in one wheelie case and the rest in storage my journey began. It’s freeing to not have house keys, council tax bills or leaky pipes to worry about. I’d pass a shop and think – there’s no point buying that. I have no house for it. Trinkets and baubles lose their appeal. And living has a new colour.
“Bucket lists” and “things to do before I die” are negative. My to-do list has people to meet – who wouldn’t want to have tea with Angela Lansbury? Things to do – jet skiing – ALL the beautiful people do it somewhere warm. Visit each continent at least once and see certain modern, man made and ancient wonders of the world. Generous friends allowed me a base in their Doncaster, Yorkshire home. I travelled to Liverpool, Bristol, and Whitby in the U.K. Valencia in Spain to see the city and Peniscola Castle where a favourite movie of mine was filmed – El Cid. Berlin where a one-week trip became four. I did short language courses to learn some basics, to make friends and see more of the cities. Classes in the morning and outings in the afternoon. Each time, taking that jump to book a flight or an air bnb was scary – sometimes the fear of the unknown makes you freeze. The core of what you are doing doesn’t fit with the models for people your age?

JUMP!! – Now to Australia (Perth, Brisbane, Melbourne, Canberra, Sydney, Adelaide and Tasmania) in late 2017. A two week workaway experience helping a Chaplain unpack and arrive in her new home in Swifts Creek opened up the world of a ski resort, Koalas and small towns hundreds of miles from Melbourne. Distances roll off the tongue when crossing Australia. A five-day organised tour of Tasmania showed the heart of this beautiful island and gave me two wonderful friends. I was mesmerised watching my first eclipse in 2018 from Hobart Harbour. I added Hong Kong to catch the Chinese New Year celebrations and to see my new friends. And saw the brilliant nightly light show in the Harbour. Then Rome to see The Coliseum and Venice – ticks on my to-do list. Facebook and Instagram helped me share the stories, keep in contact with old and new friends as I travelled.

(The Peninsula hotel, Hong Kong decorated for the Chinese New Year 2018)

In April 2018 I landed in Sheffield to write my next chapter. I wanted something that would build on my twenty years of experience as a soft skills trainer (Assertiveness and Conflict Resolution) and fifteen years of experience of working with young people.

The tefl.org course gave me the best mix. A three-day course at a Sheffield hotel (nice cakes and tea) with a combination of online courses. I joined others in a face to face classroom setting. There were discussions, new friendships, working in teams – good for the future, lots of practical exercises and advice. The feedback and reference from the tutor were a great addition to my sparkling new C.V.
Enthused I began my 120-hour online course and focused to complete it over three weeks. I chose modules covering grammar, methodology in the classroom, video observation of classes, telephone teaching and teaching large groups. I did a Teaching Business English Course online for more skills. I treated the courses like my job and worked 9 to 7ish on the tasks every day. Online is great. It meant I could work anytime and anywhere. The brief written exercises and assignments gave me a selection of lesson plans for future use. Videos with practical teaching examples of the topics and multiple-choice questions to check my learning at the end of each module helped to cement the learning. It was hard work, tiring, informative, and enjoyable. Funny, I’ve spoken English all my life but take it for granted. Seeing some concepts written down took getting used to. Think – why do we say it that way? The assignments at the end of some modules helped to bring it all together. Within 24 hours I got a response – pass or needs more work. The quick response from the tutor was a great encouragement and a motivator. Her feedback and comments helped me with thinking about how I was approaching the lesson and understanding the concepts. And when I passed – FANTASTIC!! The certificate arrived within a couple of days. It’s now proudly on display.
FLY!! – The long-term goal is to develop a mix of online and classroom teaching work linked to travelling and my to-do list. I chose to volunteer. I found Angloville through the tefl.org jobs page. Angloville run one-week residential English immersion courses for business people in various locations across Europe. They recruit and support volunteers to speak English to the participants. Good food and accommodation are provided. I paid for my flight and any extra overnight hotel stays. The courses were good fun, a chance to use my new skills and make friends. Long days but so rewarding when you see the participants giving their presentations at the end of the week. What a wonderful opportunity to learn about Poland and its people. One of the great joys of being a TEFL teacher is learning about other lifestyles, foods, customs and history. I chose Krakow, a charming city with a welcoming atmosphere. And Warsaw which is a vibrant, busy, confident city and open for business. On one course I stayed in Bachledowka and every morning I saw the Tatra Mountains from my room’s balcony. Then watched the sunset unfold over them on many nights. And now, on my to do list is a trek around Poland to visit all the sites my new friends recommended. That’s my idea of a list – it’s alive and changes. I have no intention of kicking the bucket.

                                                                               (The Tatra Mountains from the Hotel Bachledowka)
I volunteered on an immersion course just outside of Madrid with Estacion Inglesa. A chance to learn more about another exciting country and its people. Away from tourist traps.
The hotel was in Monfrague National Park and both are beautiful. From the balcony of the hotel I saw a daily morning dance in the sky. One, two, twenty vultures spinning in harmony searching for lunch. Even from a distance they are huge – massive wingspans. I just bathed in this silent, effortlessly choreographed performance from miles away.
Volunteers on Angloville and Estacion courses are from all over world and of all ages. They love people, travelling and are open to the world. How gorgeous to see twenty something travellers and retired people meeting, strangers bonding and helping others with ease. Proving that multi cultural and diverse groups of people are the present and the future. Some volunteers taught online so were able to continue their private work in breaks and fund their travels. I gained 255 hours of experience and references for my C.V.

In January 2019 I spent three weeks in Barcelona and learnt online teaching can work. Modern travellers and remote workers are creating, living the dream and enjoying life. A mix of online and face to face teaching will create a great balance. People contact is a must. The myriad of feelings, sounds, smells, body language, smiles, expressions that come up in the interactions are rich and special. I have my C.V. and references. A video promoting me. New photos. Experience from running an online course with teachers in Pakistan. Culture – these wonderful women were so appreciative of our time together. It made me feel humble. I am also building an English Conversation Group here in Sheffield. A new member now living in Sheffield but originally from Kazakhstan just joined. I am learning all the time.
I find that tefl jobs, courses etc. are sometimes portrayed as a young person’s world. I am excited to be joining because my 60 years of work and life experiences make me unique. I read a post from a woman who was told by a head teacher that she’s too old for the job of teaching English in that school. That’s sad for the children who I imagine would not have made that choice. Teaching is more than how to pronounce a word. There is an aspect of why, how, when to use a term, the back story as well as its meaning. What is the context for those words? Most importantly it’s about building the student’s confidence in their ability and potential. That’s where my age and experience roll in.

SOAR!! – Next – Machu Pichu, TheTaj Mahal, The Pyramids of Giza, The Grand Canyon, Barcelona, Antarctica, drive across Poland – meet local people and learn about cultures first hand. Share my skills with the language and gain more. Write blogs, post photos, taste food, see buildings, go jet skiing, enjoy the architecture and wildlife. These are some of the jewels, trinkets and baubles in the new treasure trove that I am building.

“What you learn when you jump is, that you will either land on your feet, or learn how to fly” Kenny Loggins.


http://www.keithstewart.co.uk – for links to Keith’s social media.

http://tefl.org.uk – a range of TEFL courses to prepare you to teach.
http://www.angloville.com – volunteer to help others improve their English conversation skills.

http://www.estacioninglesa.es– volunteer on English language immersion courses in Spain.
http://www.workaway.info – volunteering in homestays and working holidays.

Keith Stewart – from Sheffield, South Yorkshire, England. A qualified TEFL teacher, Murder She Wrote and Colombo aficionado. A Spanish music and Motown fan.
17th FEBRUARY 2019 – BLOG #55
Only to be used with permission or attribution.