The following is a journal of one of our CELTA trainers as he goes through each day of the CELTA course. Here is what goes on behind the scenes in the very challenging CELTA program. Specific references to a particular group or time frame are not the most recent CELTA course.
DAY ZERO: Preparing to Teach the CELTA
Well, it’s the weekend before the Course starts and I have to sit down and look through the application forms and prepare the profiles. These will be sent to the Assessor along with a whole lot of other paperwork. They also give me a flavour of the trainees. I always wonder how they are spending the weekend. Probably a bit nervous about what they’ve let themselves in for but hopefully also looking forward to it. If they’re sensible, they will have done a big food shop so they don’t have to worry about that during the week. If they are really curious, they may be dipping into Learning Teaching or Swan.
I always hope for a good mix of people: some bright young things but also some older people who will often bring a calming influence Maybe there will be some people looking for a career change, maybe even someone who is about to retire to the sun and wants to do a bit of teaching. Others will be wanting to go off and see the world and see the Certificate as a passport to work where ever they might end up. With luck, there will be one or two who are not native speakers of English, as they will have a much better awareness of language and be able to help the native speakers analyse language.
I expect there will be some who have taught a bit before. They come with both advantages and disadvantages. They will probably be a bit more confident managing the class in their first few lessons, but they will also have preconceived ideas about how to teach, which they may find will be challenged. This can be unsettling; hopefully, they will be open to new ideas. These people often feel under pressure from other trainees who have never taught, they imagine much more will be expected of them but of course it won’t. They are assessed in just the same way as people who have never taught. Those who have never been in front of a class before, probably the big majority of the Course, will naturally be a bit apprehensive about their first lesson on Tuesday.
DAY ONE: Meeting the Trainees
…and we can put names to faces.
It’s always a good sign if people are chatting together when the trainers walk into the class. They’ve broken the ice naturally. Usually, though people are sitting there, quietly waiting for us to initiate things. By the first break, though, people are comfortable together and starting to open up and express their anxieties about the Course and their reasons for doing it.
My first-day party piece is to do two little demonstration lessons on how to use a map and compass. It makes the point that we learn by doing things and not by having things told to us. Trainees realise that teaching is not about standing at the front of the class and lecturing but about guiding students to do things themselves. I often talk about learning to drive. The learner driver sits in the driver’s seat and that’s just where we need our language students to be, too.
After lunch, the trainees split into their Teaching Practice (TP) groups. Usually, this is a group of six, but this month we have a small Course of eight so only four in each which makes a pretty good trainee-to-tutor ratio. For the first hour, the Tutors teach the practice lesson students. I always look forward to this. The TP students are just so lovely to teach; they are so grateful for any help with their English and they are almost always really nice people. As a Teacher Trainer, I don’t do as much teaching as I would like, so this is always welcome. After that, the trainees get an hour to chat to the students. The group is split up so each trainee spends 10 minutes or so with each pair or little group of students. It breaks the ice before the first actual lesson tomorrow.
Once the students have gone home, we spend 40 minutes chatting about them and setting up for the lesson tomorrow. The lessons are all based on the coursebook as they will be in a school when the trainees get their first jobs. It’s nice to see people go off home to plan their lessons with that look of “Yes, actually, I think I can do this. It’s just so different from what I expected, but so much better” on their faces. (After 20 plus years of Teacher Training, you understand a lot of looks!)
Want to know what happens on Day 2? Behind the Scenes of CELTA: Day 2
About the Author
Rick Ansell is the Senior Teacher Trainer at Saxoncourt Teacher Training. He has been teaching English since 1985 and has been training people to teach English since 1994. He loves seeing people realise there is a better way of helping people learn than the ways they were subjected to at school. He also loves watching people come to discover their own language as they realise how and why they use it the way they do. When I’m not teaching, he enjoys mountaineering and is an active fell runner, competing regularly on the British hills.
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