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. Click here for the previous article: Behind the Scenes of CELTA: Day 12 to Day 15.
DAY 15: The Change a CELTA Brings
To say that the CELTA Course changes people’s lives sounds like hyperbole, and I’m not usually given to exaggeration, but I do genuinely feel that doing a CELTA Course will be a major event in most people’s lives. In the last few months working on Courses, I have seen several people utterly transformed in the four weeks; people who have started the Course with very low self-confidence, unable to really address the class and make eye-contact with their students but with determination and persistence and a bit of encouragement have really blossomed and by the end look forward to sitting in front of the students and guiding their learning. It’s wonderful to see this change in people in such a short time. If I hadn’t actually witnessed it I doubt I would really believe it. But it happens month in month out. People suddenly find success in an area that they never thought to find it.
This last week is very much about the blossoming as things finally come together. Outside in my garden, the very first leaf buds are appearing on some of the shrubs and the daffodils are pushing up strongly. It’s just about the same with the trainees. Hopefully, they will go on through their March and April and in a couple of years come back and do the DELTA and reach a true maturity in their teaching. Mmmmm… I wonder where I am: a season of mists and mellow fruitfulness? OK, I think this metaphor has gone far enough…
DAY 16: Job Prep
In input this week, we start to look at things that will be important beyond the Course in the trainees’ first jobs. We talk about teaching Younger Learners, Business classes, one to one, about preparing students for the many English Language Training (ELT) exams (i.e. IELTS, CAE, CPE and FCE), and how to deal with students’ literacy problems. This last is often overlooked, but anyone going to work in the Middle East (many of our trainees head out there) may well find themselves working with students who, although perfectly well educated and literate in the Arabic alphabet, struggle to read and write in the Roman alphabet.
In feedback to teaching practice, I like to start to focus people on life beyond the Course. There is a tendency to become blinkered with the focus on just passing the Course. This is understandable but the danger is that trainees focus on the ticking the boxes and fulfilling the Cambridge criteria and lose sight of the fact that these criteria are not ends in themselves but are just tools that need to be used to ensure students learn. Once in a teaching post, if students don’t understand their teacher, if the teacher isn’t clear about the language he/she is teaching if the teacher doesn’t ensure all students are totally clear about the language, then the students will complain and the teacher will be out of a job.
“Oh, I haven’t been able to finish my assignment”, “I was too tired to really analyse the language”. Well, on the Course we have only asked people to teach two or three 40 minute lessons a week. Next week they could be starting a job and teaching five hours every day, almost as much as they’ve taught on the whole Course. The Course is tough, but don’t tell a practising teacher that his job is a doss.
DAY 17: Longer Lessons
Today the people teaching are teaching their last lessons. For us, these will be 60 minutes. Some view this with trepidation stepping up from 40 minutes. Stronger Candidates, though, realise that a 60-minute lesson is actually much easier than a 40 minute one. There is time to properly deal with the language and still provide students with a good range and variety of practice opportunities. Some of the students in Teaching Practice, I know are frustrated that they never get enough practice in lessons. Hopefully, now they will.
After the lessons, it dawns on the trainees that it is suddenly all over. The end has burst upon them almost unexpectedly. There are two different ways that trainees finish the Course. Stronger ones finish with a real flourish, like good marathon runners, they have paced themselves well and have built up to a strong finish, continuing to build on what has come before and are still improving. Others who hit the wall in Week Three tend to flop across the line in relief at having to go no further. In some respects, this is a difference between a Pass and a Pass B.
About the Author
Rick Ansell was 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.