Archive | May 2014

My Story – From Trainee PE Teacher in the UK to EFL Teacher in Lisbon, Portugal

Summary – This is a very long story so bare with me. I will try and summerise it now but the full version will make a lot more sense.
Basically, I had always wanted to be a PE teacher since I was 8. Then during my 3rd year placement (BA Secondary Physical Education with QTS) I fell out with my mentor, lost all my confidence and was diagnosed with ‘Cognitive-Behavoural Anxiety’ which meant I just burst into tears when anything reminded me of the placement. It took me a while just to have the confidence to just teach in a Middle School once a week. I retook the placement but although I basically passed and my confidence had dramically improved they felt it wasn’t high enough to survive year 4. I was given 3 options; 2 involved retaking the placement for more confidence and the last was to drop the QTS. After a lot of thought and research I dropped the QTS. I did some more reserach into lots of careers and even took a weekend TEFL course. I returned to Uni not wanting to be there, thus I used Twitter and TV shows as an escape and met lots of celebrities in the process. I graduated in July 2012. Also throught time I travelled to Paris, Crete, Stockholm and Lisbon, plus around the UK. During that summer I worked as an Activity Leader at an English Summer Camp and loved it this. I did my CELTA 2 months later and returned to same place as an Activity Leader, House Parent and EFL teacher. I also travelled to Holland and Italy. Finally, in September 2013 I moved to Lisbon, Portugal to teach and absolutely love it for so many reasons! – My reasons for this
This is a video I made to show my journey throughout this time. I think the songs are perfect!

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List of TEFL job search websites

This is a list of job websites for TEFL websites I compiled last year. I thought I would share for those who are searching.

*** Often updated; I check every day
** Sometimes updated; I check every week or so just in case
* Rarely updated; I check every month or so just in case though *** ** * (currently not working) * (usually very old) ** (very slow!!) *** *** ** ** * ** * * * * * * **

My Top 15 Tips for Lisbon – Tips and advice on how to save money and see the most of the City (from someone who lives there)

Introduction – This blog post was inspired by all the lost and confused tourists I meet around the city, who in turn are wasting losts of money! I know it is difficult to know what is best to do and how best to save money. So… this is general advice about how you can save money in Lisbon but also get the most culture out of your visit.
I am not pretending that I am the expert on this city but this is all based on my experience of living in Lisbon for 8 months.

Introducing my Top 15 tips:

1 – Get a Viva card if travelling a lot
You need these for the metro anyway and are available in every metro station. They can be used on every form of public transport in Lisbon; including the metro, trains, trams, buses, ‘elevadors’, trams and even the lifts. Keep it topped up and it will save you queuing as well as paying over the odds when buying a ticket on there.

2 – Choose your tickets wisely
There are 2 choices of tickets you can get. One is a journey and one is just credit; i.e. a value of money. My advice is if you are just using the metro/train and not frequently, just add a ticket, but if you are using it frequently you should get credit. Trams and buses don’t allow you to top-up there so if you need one of these you will need credit. Also if you get a ticket to Belém for example and then later change your mind and want to go to Cascais you will need a whole new ticket. Unlike credit you can just add the extra value to your card.
On machines you can only add values of €5 (i.e. €5, €10, €15, etc), but at a ticket desk you can add an exact value. That might be useful for your last journey so you don’t leave anything still on the card.

3 – Make the most of ticket offices in quiet stations
If you are going to a busy station, for example Cais do Sodre for Belém or the beach top up at a station closer to home. You can do so at any metro or train station, and there will be no queue but at the likes of Cais do Sodre, Rossio, Marquês do Pombal (sometimes for some reasons), Oriente and Campo Grande (often too) you will find you can queue for up to half an hour. We have often done so at Cais do Sodre as I always forget to do so as I have a travel card and only have to top up for outside Zone 1.

4 – Go to bars and restaurants away from the centre of the city.
Off Avenida da Liberdade for example, there are plenty of bars, restaurants and pastelarias (similar to cafes) which are litterally half the price as those only 200m or so away near Rossio. They are also more traditional and usually a lot friendlier. For example a resturant which sells a litre of wine for €3.

5 – Go to a restaurant with a ‘Prata da Dia’ (Plate of the day).
You will find these away from the main touristy restaurants. They are similar to a set menu. You have a limited choice but usually enough veriety and it is so cheap, as well as with very traditional food. For example there is one just off Avenida de Liberdade (near the Trivoli theatre) which has a 3 course meal, plus drink, plus coffee for €7.50 (£5.80).

6 – Visit museums on Sunday mornings
Basically all museums in Lisbon (including the Torre de Belem and the Pantheon) have free admission before 2pm. As long as you get there before 2pm it is free. We got into the Torre de Belem on a Sunday free as we got there at 1:51pm. Please note: The Pantheon is only the first Sunday of the month.

7 – Speak as much Portuguese as possible
As well as like in every country they appreciate it, you will find in some places it will cost you less. We couldnt believe it. A group of friends and I were at a nightclub and those who spoke English paid €10 and those who spoke Portuguese paid only €5.

8 – Leave the city
This is perhaps not a good idea if you are only here for a weekend, but if you are here longer try to see more of the country. Places like Palmela, Setubal, Obidos, Fatima, Tomar, etc are all easy to get to by both car or cheap buses from either Oriente or Campo Grande. Tickets are all bought on the bus and timetables are easy to find if you Google search: “Lisboa [place name] autocarros”. [‘Autocarro’ is bus in Portuguese]

9 – Wine and sunset
Lisbon is a city of 7 hills so has some nice view points around the city. A favourite thing to do for my friends and I is to take a bottle of wine and some cups to a miradouro about 7:30-8pm (in the summer) and watch the sunset. The best is the ones in Graça as you see the sunset set over the opposite horizon.

10 – Make picnics
There are plenty of supermarkets around. Such as Pingo Doce (my personal favourite) and Mini Preço, as well as some smaller but more expensive ones.
Not only will this save you money but also there are so many view points, parks and squares which are perfect picnics places on a nice sunny day. In particular the park in Belém which is a favourite of my friends and myself.

11 – Try the local produce
In basically every traditional restaurant you go to will find ‘Bacalhau‘. This is cod and the Portuguese love it. This will usually take up half the menu alone, so you might as well as try a few different type is you a fish lover.
Also there are 2 traditional drinks: Amendoa Amarga. This is a traditional Portuguese licquour. It is very sweet and thus not to everyone’s taste. Also not all bars will sell it, but I know many will. Usually it will cost about €4 in a bar. Or if you prefer you can get a big bottle of it in Pingo Doce for about the same price. You will also find it at the airport.
There is also Ginja (I have seen a veriety of spellings for some reason though). This is a very strong cherry liquour. Often you might actually have a cherry in your glass too. Warning these are even stronger tasting that the drink itself! The best place to find this is at a kiosk either in Praça do Comércio or Praça do Camões. There is another place between Praça do Rossio and Praça de Figeira (at the north end). You can get a shot of this in either a glass or a chocolate cup. It will cost about €2-3. Again you can just buy a whole bottle in Pingo Doce for €4 if you you prefer. Again this is also available in the Duty Free at the airport, including the chocolate cups!

12 – See the city at night
As always cities are so different in many cases more beautiful at night. This is especially the situation for Lisbon. Especially in the main squares of Baixa and from the miradouros.

13 – Careful with starters on the table at Restaurants
Not all but many, especially in the touristy ones will put bread, cheese, etc on the table. Even though you didnt ask for it is not free and they will charge you for it. It is always a suprise when it pops up on the bill. This is even if you just touch it. We ended up in an arguement before about them charging us for something we didnt touch.

14 – Be careful with the traffic
I found this a bit scary at first. For example; if there is roadworks on the pavement there will be no barriered off area for pedestrians you would be expected to walk in the road. Even if it is a busy dual carriageway as I found near my house. The good thing is a locals are used to it and drive carefully. Similarly, a green light for pedestrians does not mean there will be no cars as there is still a filter. They should stop, but just we careful as it relies on them spotting you. Of course this is more difficult in the dark.

15 – Get a map!!
I know this may sound stupid but I see so many tourists who don’t have a map. How do I know that? Well, because I have to give them directions. It is not the easiest city to get around as it is made of narrow winding streets and it is a city made of 7 hills… yes 7! So get get your hiking boots on as if you arent walking down you will be walking up. On that note, a map is also on the public transport, lifts and ‘elevadors’ which will help with this problems.
Most hostels and hotel will have the free map from ‘Corte de Inglés’ (a ridiculously big shop in Lisbon), but it has very little detail. You would be better to buy one from a tourist shop for about €2. These will be more useful as they have far more detail.

This blog post is kind of a working progress and I am sure I will edit, change and add bits.
If you need any help or advice regarding visiting Lisbon. Please just email me – I am very happy to help in anyway I can! 🙂

Advice and guide about Bars, Restaurants and Cafes in Lisbon from someone who lives there

Introduction – I would hardly say I am the best person to ask as I am not the like who goes out every weekend or eats at every restaurant I find. However, I know where the best areas are depending on what you are looking for. I won’t also recommend particular bars or restaurants as there is so much veriety and it depends on your tastes. Plus, if you want this you would probably be better using this as a starting point and then use Trip Adviser. Nevertheless, I will explain the different areas where you will find the most popular bars and restaurants. Each has a different feel and will suit different people. Personally I think you are better choosing an area and then just exploring until you find something you like.
Moreover, I will add am not a tour guide nor am I writing a travel book. This is based on my own experiences from living in city for 9 months. You will see exactly where I live because I have used Google maps for help and it marks on my location.
[Please Note – This is a working progress and will be added and changed over time as I think of/ discover more]

In honesty I don’t many in the touristy area as it is half the price outside of central Lisbon. But you have a few choices:

Alfarma – This is a favourite of many tourists as this is the area of the city most famous for Fado, the traditional music. This area is just full of restaurants in each street offering live Fado in the restaurant. Don’t expect the cheapest of prices; in fact this is basically the most expensive part of the city. Although worth it for the cultural experience.



Baixa & Chiado – There are plenty in the main streets of Baixa near Praça do Comércio as well as around Praça de Figeira and Praça do Rossio. These are usually the most expensive. They all say they are traditional. How much they really are however I don’t know. There are a few gems in there though, personally I have yet to find them.
Alfama – I will recommend this although actually I have yet to go myself. They have live Fado in all the restaurants. It is a local traditional music of Lisbon. It will be a tad more expensive



Bairro Alto – This is the major bar area but actually I found some nice restaurants in this area: Mostly on the set of steps leading up from just south of Rossio train station toward Igreja de São Roque. They are a bit more expensive and a bit toursity but with good food and in places very nice views.
You would have never thought it was so popular by how Google maps couldn’t find the area!



Martim Moniz – This is a favourite of most of my friends and I. If fact we often meet here for lunch. It is a little touristy but not too bad as it is tucked around the corner. It is just an open area of seating with little bar type kiosks. There is a veriety of foods, but mainly snack like meals such as kebabs, burgers, wraps etc. I think the best word to describe is; relaxed. Also, you will often find music playing there.



The backstreets – Personally I keep well away from most of the above in general. If you want traditional and cheap I would advice outside this area. For example, just off Avenida de Liberdade, running parallel to it is a street filled with restaurants which are cheap and local. The road is called Rua de Santa Marta and it is very near the metro station Avenida. Most do a Prata da Dia (Plate of the Day). For example the one we like has a 3 course meal, a drink and coffee for €7.50 (£5.80).
This won’t suit everyone as it is basically the local’s place and cheap and chearful.
(Haha, as you can see it is very close to my flat)



Nightlife is later than the UK. Bars dont open until about 10:30pm and close at 4am. While nightclubs only open at about 2am and close some time between 4am and 8am.
Again there are many areas catering for different things and different people. Most locals start in Bairro Alto and Bica then head to Cais do Sodre as this is where most of the clubs are.

Bairro Alto – This is more expenisve. Although if you want cheap and like wine there is a nice wine bar there called ‘The Wine Cellar’ which has list after list of local wines from €2 a glass (at the north end of Bairro Alto).



Bica – This is just south of Bairro Alto and where the locals often go. It is cheaper and quieter. Our usual bar is there and called ‘O Pai Tirano’. There is also a bar nearby, which can’t remember the actually name of it as we just call it the ‘Car park bar’, lol. It is literally on the top of a car park and a bit more expensive but with great views.



Cais do Sodre – This is where most of the clubs are. Half you will have to pay and others you don’t. My taste in music might be different to yours so I won’t suggest anything. My favourite though is called Liverpool but because it just plays lots of cheesy music and International music too. If you want more advice later I am happy to help. It is basically a street of clubs. You can just walk down the road (or attempt to walk down the road with all the people in the middle of the street) and choose a club that takes your fancy. Many close at 4am and the rest 6-8am. Some you will need to pay up to €5 and others are free. Personally I think the music in the free ones is better than the other ones.



[Please note – There are some other good clubs else where that I have been to but I just followed other people and no idea where they are. Also, they are on their own and I prefer places where there is lots of veriety and you can move from one to the next]

Avendia – If you want just a cheap drink away from the above places I suggest the same road (Rua da Santa Maria) as the restaurants I mentioned before. [See that part for a map] My friends and I often go to the same restaurnt not to eat but just drink. We order a litre of wine to share between us for €3 (in total). There are also some more expenisve but nice little kiosks actually in Avenida de Liberdade itself and usually playing music too. The avenue is beautiful with little gardens and nice to escape the touristy bars.



Martim Moniz
This is has a similar feel to Avenida. In my opinion this is the best place for cocktails. It is just a seating area under the castle with little bar-kiosks. Most of them sell cocktails. You will also find a section of wines and beers too. This is one of me and my friends’ favourite. Again usually in the evening there is music playing and has a very relaxed atmosphere.



These are traditonal Portuguese and the best I have found are in Lisbon. They are cafes just selling coffee, pastries and cakes. I advice you try it. Again, though, stay away from the main touristy area. The quality is not as good and charge literally twice the price. I went to one with a friend in Praça do Restaurdores. We were outraged. They charged us €5.30 (£4.80) for our normal 2 coffees and 2 pastries, which doesn’t sound too bad but we are used to the one next to my house which is €3.30 in total. Plus, it is better quality and they are so friendly.
Generally coffee (normal, like expresso) shouldn’t cost more than 70c and cakes no more than €1. 
There is no particular place I suggest, just get away from the main streets as soon as you are out the very touristy area such as Baixa, Rossio, Alfama, Bairro Alto, Chiado, etc. However, if you don’t want to stray too far there is one in Baixa called ‘Paderna Portuguesa’ I think. I will need to check the name. It is a chain one and has the best Pão de Deus.
Of course as well there is the most famous one in Belém which basically just sells the tradional custard cakes as that is what it is known for.
[Don’t forget a ‘coffee’ is what we would call expresso. You might find it difficult to find a milky coffee in the most traditional, although they have cafe galão (which is their equivillent) as well as things like cappaccino, etc]


[If it doesn’t look like this with the long glass counter with lots of choices of sweet and savoury pastries then it isn’t very traditional. Usually the longer the counter the better.]

12 Reasons I believe EFL teaching is better than teaching in a British Secondary School

Introduction – After training to be a PE teacher for 4 years, with 30 weeks teaching practises in various schools I got a good idea what being a teacher in a normal state Secondary School is like. Now I teach English to Portuguese students of varying ages in Lisbon, Portugal and looking back I cant imagine teaching in the UK again! I think teaching in this way is 100 times better and I have so many reasons.
I am not saying this is the same for every EFL school, nor is it a reflection of every British student. I am speaking generally and comparing my current situation to what I know from placements back in Uni.
On a similar note I know it is not a job everyone could do as you have to be very independant, up for adventure, enjoy travelling and not mind being away from home for a long while.

Structure – I will divide this into 3 sections: specifically comparing to teaching in a British school [1-4]; comparing to a normal job in any field in the UK [5-7]; and general lifestyle of living in a different country [8-12].

1) I actually have students who want to learn.
They aren’t always the best of students but generally speaking they are lovely. Being a private school too, we have had badly behaved students leave as their parents don’t want to spend money if they are only going to mess around. Or with students which you write ‘no homework’ on their report and suddenly they give it in early from then on.
Sometimes you get students/ classes who are a lost cause though, when it comes to behaviour.

2) Smaller class sizes.
When I was doing Teaching Practise I remember having a class of 16 students and thinking that is so small! Now for this school the maximum class size is 12. I have a class now which has 12 students and that feels so big! I can’t imagine having a class as big at 30 students anymore. On the summer classes the maximum is 16 which is quite common.

3) No other responsibilities.
I want to say that I only have to teach but that is entirely true as I have to not only teach, but plan, mark homework, write reports at the end of the term, etc. What I mean is that unlike secondary schools I have no morning meetings (nor any other regular meeting for that matter), no lunch time/ break time duties, let alone all the other duties some schools have; such as computer room duties, breakfast duties, etc. Similarly unlike a PE teacher I don’t have to run after school clubs, as there aren’t any. There also are no INSETs, additional paperwork, OFSTED (only internal observations from the director of studies), etc. I don’t even have a tutor group, parents’ evenings, etc. As all teachers know these takes up the time in the day.

4) A more relaxed atmosphere.
I am not sure but there is a more comfortable and relaxed atmosphere. It is more informal. For example I have adults students which we are very relaxed with (in comparrison to children and teenagers). But even with teenagers and children it is more relaxed. Firstly, they call us by our first names or teacher rather than ‘Miss’ or ‘Sir’. The other reason is probably because like with any well behaved class it is relaxed.

5) Less planning to do.
Like many Language schools we follow a set syllabus of lesson plans and worksheets. We need to know the material inside out and adjust them to our class and style of teaching but that is all… Summer camps (and some other schools) on the other hand, are the complete opposite in this respect.

6) Better working hours.
My hours don’t suit everyone but I love them. I have a lie in everyday. I leave for work some time between 1pm-2:30pm, teach from 4pm-9pm/9:30pm and get home between 9:45pm-10:30pm (depending on the day). Means I get the morning and early afternoon to do what I want. Also I can still go for a drink with friends after work.

7) Comfortable pay and job prospects.
Like all teaching jobs you can’t expect to make lots of money but I don’t have to pay back my loan because I don’t earn enough, despite having a comfortable living. Also with the constant need for native English teachers there will always be hundreds jobs around the world. It is an industry that the current global unemployment problem doesnt affect.

8) Everyday is an adventure.
Even the mondane things like food shopping, walking to work, etc is a bit more interesting, because there are different sights, a different culture and you are doing everything in a different language.
Also for example; there is no such thing as the pub, so instead I go to little bars or kiosks in Avenida da Liberdade or Martim Moniz. 

9) You meet such interesting people all the time.
I always say that home (with no offense to family or friends) I feel very knowledgable of the world, well-travelled and feel I have a really exciting life… Then I go abroad or work at Bell and everyone who I work with and meet are so interesting and have such fascinating lives that I feel completely ignorant about the world, not at all well-travelled and live quite a boring life.

10) What people pay lots of money to do on holiday is my normal weekend (or even weekday morning)
I love that when the weather is better I can do a day trip somewhere or go to the beach. Or even just on a quieter day or before work I might go to little bars, restaurants or just walk around the city or sit on my balcony. Everywhere I go I see lots of tourists and I remember both that they are on their holiday and have paid lots of money to do so, while this is just my normal weekend or even normal working day.

11) The chance to explore a culture and language.
Being constantly surrounded by the language you start to pick bits up and I like trying to use as much Portuguese as I can. Although, I am not very good at it.
Also because you are always surrounded the culture you learn so much about the country, history and traditions.

12) Better weather.
I am not going to say the weather is not amazing all year. Portugal doesn’t have snow; instead winter is just very wet! (This year in particular apparently). However the temperture is always is about 10 degrees warmer. [Winter is about 7°C-19°C and summer can be up to 40°C]. Thus there are no frosts and icy mornings either. Plus summer tempertures (well for a Brit) come earlier in the year. It is like a 6-8 month summer, based on British tempertures.

[If you are interested in teaching English abroad and need help or advice, please just email me. I am very happy to help! –]