Juleus Ghunta is a famous children’s author and TEFL teacher who grew up in a rural parish in western Jamaica. He has lived in six countries, including Japan where he taught English for three years. Shortly before Covid-19 made headline news across the world, he accepted a new teaching post at a private school in China. With his travel plans now on hold, we caught up with him to hear about the best bits of his teaching career so far. As well as any challenges that he has faced along the way.
Tell us about Juleus! What’s your background?
I am a Chevening Scholar, a children’s writer, and an advocate in Jamaica’s adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) movement.
I hold an MA in Peace Studies from the University of Bradford, UK. A BA in Media from The University of the West Indies, Jamaica.
I’m interested in many things but I’m best known as an advocate for trauma awareness, particularly for my willingness to speak openly about my difficult childhood experiences. I have delivered speeches on these experiences at organizations and events across seven countries.
As a writer, my work centers on the creation and promotion of Caribbean themed children’s literature and on raising awareness about the causes and effects of ACEs. My second book Rohan Bulkin and the Shadows – a picture book for professionals who work with child survivors of ACEs – will be published by CaribbeanReads Press in 2021. Among other objectives, it aims to help survivors of ACEs by giving them a medium through which to view and talk about their experiences. My first picture book, Tata and the Big Bad Bull (CaribbeanReads) was published in 2018.
I co-edited the December 2019 and March 2020 issues of Interviewing the Caribbean Journal (UWI Press), which are focused on Caribbean children’s and young adult literature. My poems and essays on ACEs have appeared in 30+ journals including The Missing Slate, Anomaly, Easy Street, and Eunoia Review.
When you taught in Jamaica and Japan, did you teach young learners, adults, or a mix of both? Did you have a preferred age group?
In Japan, I worked at two technical high schools and at a junior high school for children with physical and intellectual disabilities. I have also taught English at the high school level in Jamaica.
I don’t have any preferred age group but I would like to work with young children in the future, especially because I write children’s literature.
After teaching in Japan, what motivated you to take a TEFL course? Tell us more about that.
Shortly before Covid-19 made headline news across the world, I had accepted a teaching post at a private school in China. I got the job in China primarily because of my experience in Japan; however, the recruiters kept stressing the importance of teachers having TEFL certification. In some instances, teachers who do can make a case for a more competitive salary, especially if they also have significant EFL teaching experience. I chose the 120-hour course with Premier TEFL. I am glad I took the course, not only because it will enhance my prospects of getting a well-paid job but also because it has exposed me to great teaching strategies and resources. Given that I am unable to travel to Asia now, I am hoping to get a job online. The TEFL certificate will increase my chances of doing so.
120-Hour Advanced TEFL Course
The international standard of TEFL training for entry-level jobs is 120 hours. This certification will prepare you to meet the minimum requirements for employers to teach online or abroad. You will also acquire the skills to become an effective English teacher who delivers useful and engaging classes.
Over 10 modules of core studies you will learn how to teach the four key areas of language acquisition: reading, speaking, writing, pronunciation. In addition, you will discover how to plan and present lessons as well as the best techniques for classroom management.
Competition for jobs within the TEFL industry is getting more and more fierce since most positions are currently online. Virtual English teaching is booming not only because of the pandemic but also due to the accessibility of learning that online lessons provide for English learners.
Consider taking at least one or two specialists TEFL-Pro short courses to specialize in specific areas of English teaching to improve your chances of being hired. You might want to take professional teacher development courses in exam or business English. Or perhaps you prefer to focus on improving your skills in teaching young learners ages from 3 to sixteen. All of these additional courses will improve your employment options and give you the ability to negotiate the best salaries.
Why did you choose The Middle Kingdom?
China’s complex cultures and politics fascinate me. The best way for me to develop a deeper understanding of these things is to live and work in the country.
Did you face any challenges getting hired as a TEFL teacher abroad with a Jamaican passport? If so, how did you overcome them?
I went to Japan on the Japan Exchange and Teaching (JET) Program, which is administered by the Japanese Government. JET is an important component of Japan-Jamaica relations. I didn’t encounter any problems with getting hired there. On the other hand, it was quite difficult for me to secure a well-paid job in China. These jobs are reserved for teachers from English speaking countries in the Global North. I had to fight hard to secure a reasonable deal. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to go because of the pandemic.
As an experienced TEFL teacher who has already taught abroad and Jamaica, what tips would you give to upcoming EFL teachers?
My approach to teaching is undergirded by the notion that if an uninspired student develops a liking for English, he/she will probably be motivated to study on his/her own. So my main aim as a teacher has always been to help students change their negative attitudes into positive ones, and I do this by creating opportunities for students to feel seen and heard. By showing an interest in their lived experiences, many struggling students will become more attentive, more positive, and in some cases, exemplary. Pay attention to your students’ psychological needs and do not be afraid to challenge certain cultural conventions, such as some people’s proclivity for emotion suppression. Speak up but do so gently and respectfully.
Can you share with us a favorite story or two from your time teaching English in Japan?
I started an English club at my main school, where I facilitated a pen pal program with students at a high school in Jamaica. In 2016, two students from the English club placed first and third in Tottori Prefecture’s annual speech contests, with the winner moving on to represent Tottori at the 2017 National Speech Tournament in Tokyo.
In my capacity as an unofficial ambassador for Jamaica, I played a small role in helping to bring to fruition the 2015 twinning arrangement between Tottori Prefecture and the parish of Westmoreland (Jamaica). March 2016, Mr. Bertel Moore, Mayor of Westmoreland, and Mr. Hirai Shinji, Governor of Tottori Prefecture, visited one of my schools.
Since your travel plans to China are currently on hold due to Coronavirus, what is next for Juleus until you can board that flight?
I have been working at securing a teaching gig online and at expanding my editing business (Dreamright Editing Services), particularly in the ESL/EFL market. I’m also finalizing the manuscripts for a new picture book and an anthology of Caribbean poetry.
Thank you, Juleus, for taking the time to share your incredible story with the Premier TEFL community. We wish you the best of luck in your upcoming endeavors. If you want to read more about TEFL teachers traveling, check out our interview with teacher and Premier TEFL alumni Vanessa. Vanessa went to Ireland for one week and was stuck there for four months because of COVID-19! Check a brief introduction to the article below 🙂
Travel During COVID-19 – Online Teacher Vanessa
Vanessa and her husband have been traveling for the past two years. They went to Ireland for one week to celebrate St.Patrick’s Day. One week turned into one month and then four in the Emerald Isle. Teacher and Premier TEFL alumnus Vanessa was locked down in Ireland. When the Coronavirus pandemic hit canceling all her travel plans. After multiple flight cancellations (and broken hearts), Vanessa made it to Italy! Read to know and learn about Vanessa’s experience with travel during COVID-19.
Traveling again for the first time in over 4 months!
Vanessa hasn’t been able to travel in 4 months due to COVID-19. She is feeling very excited to travel again and she can finally resume a somewhat normal life. For the past 2 years, Vanessa has been traveling monthly around the world. She has not been to my home country since then.
Vanessa goes on to talk about the procedures put in place In Ireland while she is still there. Social distancing is still going on and very little stores and companies are open. However, when Vanessa was in Naples in Rome there wasn’t much social distancing compared to Ireland. Mask was worn inside but other than that it was business as usual. Vanessa is finding it very hard to get used to all the procedures. She is stressed about the uncertainty of this pandemic and is afraid there might be a second wave.
Moving from Ireland to Italy
Vanessa is preparing to move from Ireland to Italy but it has proven to be very difficult with the pandemic. They contacted the embassies to find out if entry is based on where people are coming from or residency. She is from the United States and this is a huge issue for her. She emailed the Italian Embassy in Dublin many times and found out that she needs to have all the necessary documents to prove she hasn’t been in the USA in two years.
Irish Airport Experiences
When Vanessa finally got all the clear to go from Ireland to Italy, she encountered a weird an eerie airport experience. The airport in Dublin was empty and had a huge security area for people coming from and going back home to the United States. Ireland made the decisions of not restricting people from entering although this has changed now. The airport provided sanitizer for everybody but this was the way back in March too. Her documents weren’t checked until she was ready to board the plane.
The airline provided a fly document that everyone had to fill out according to the government regulations. Eventually, Vanessa boarded the plane and they flew to Italy. Vanessa saw a woman with an Italian boyfriend, which she came directly from the USA. But he was an Italian resident. Eventually, the couple was on the plane. But unfortunately, Vanessa didn’t see her at the immigration counter.
Italian Airport Experiences
At last, Vanessa landed in Rome, she was very please with the flight. After arriving at the airport, Vanessa was nervous about what is ahead of her. But it was very simple just like the Dublin airport. Passport control was next for Vanessa and her husband. Vanessa’s husband was asked little questions compared to what she was asked. The officers scanned and flipped her passport a thousand times along with several questions. Very little paperwork was requested, which surprised Vanessa. The only thing they were looking for was an email from the Department of Health. Overall, Vanessa was really happy with how nice the staff was. As they were just making sure they were doing the correct steps…
To find what happened next on Vanessa and her husband’s journey, check out the article!