There goes the fear

Like most people in the UK, and also those further afield, I have been watching the recent Scottish referendum vote with great interest. For me it encapsulated everything that is good and bad about politics. It was played out across social media and 24hr news channels, with every man or woman and his or her dog throwing in their two pennies worth. Yet the outcome was, for me at least, a huge disappointment. Not least because I think it was a huge opportunity to give politics and Westminster a huge kick up the backside but more depressingly because the result was never going to be anything but a ‘No’ vote. In my opinion, the media, the entire English political establishment and many others worked together to paint such a bleak picture of an independent Scotland that fear gripped those undecided voters and tipped the balance in favour of making sure everything remained exactly the way it was, because lets face it, nobody likes change. Russell Brand puts it much more eloquently than I do here – How Westminster Fear & Media Bias Shafted Scotland

Well, I want to change something! I want to be the metaphorical ‘Scotland of the ELT world’, as it were. My proposal is a change to the current pre-service courses that are presently on offer. Maybe even a radical overhaul, one that sees a three stage process for trainee teachers. The first stage being a period of study before attending the second practical stage(the CELTA/Trinity cert as we know it today) which would need to be extended in length and a final post qualification stage which would be a standardized, across the board, professional development course. Therefore we would be looking at a much longer course, which incorporates trainee reflection, more intensive and extensive language awareness, a more thorough assessment and more time in the classroom.

I know this is a big ask. I expect a lot of resistance from many different areas. I certainly don’t have all the answers yet. What I intend to propose will not be summed up in a few blog posts. This thing will take time, therefore patience is required. The push for Scottish independence took years of painstaking hard work to get together and while I don’t envisage such a long time frame for this project, I don’t expect it to come together any time soon.

I don’t think I need to explain why I want this change to come about. My previous posts have, I hope, expressed my feelings on the matter. Yet, I would like to draw your attention to a talk given at the 2014 IATEFL conference by James Pengelly, called Rethinking communicative language teaching. (click the link for the Brainshark video and talk) James talks about the need to rethink how teachers are trained and how we view the way we teach. Towards the end of the talk, James speaks about the assumptions of newly qualified teachers and delivers this damning view;

“If a CELTA trainee is taken out of the course and straight into the classroom, with the assumptions and beliefs about language teaching instilled in them from teacher training courses, then what we’re doing is selling a deficient product. We are putting a teacher in front of a classroom, who is not ready to teach.”

 

I strongly urge you to take the time to watch the talk. James can be found on twitter @hairychef and also check out his website thescarletonion.com

My final thought for this post is to quickly draw your attention to a simple survey I posted in August. It asked whether people would like to see the topic of Pre-service courses debated and discussed at IATEFL 2015. The response wasn’t amazing, but 15 people took the time to register their opinion and these were the results;

No 53.33%  (8 votes)    Yes 46.67%  (7 votes) 
Total Votes: 15
 Now look at the official results from the Scottish independence vote. (http://en.wikipedia.org/)
Yes or no Votes Percentage
Yes check.svg Yes 1,617,989 44.7%
X mark.svg No 2,001,926 55.3%

Okay, okay, I’m perhaps grasping at straws and it takes a big leap of imagination but I hope the comparison highlights what I believe to be a huge fear factor in ELT towards change, similar to what we witnessed in Scotland. I envisage this to be the biggest obstacle I will face when taking on this project.

I will leave it there for now and as always I welcome any comments you may have. I will endeavour to reply as soon as possible.

Advertisements

Mountain Energy

At the end of the last blog I posed three questions that had dogged me through the writing process.

1) Does this topic warrant sufficient discussion in the ELT/EFL community at present?

2) Am I barking up the wrong tree? Is it just me that feels this way?

3) Do I have enough experience and knowledge to even be contemplating looking further into this issue? And, will it make any difference?

From the responses and interest the blog generated, it seems the first two questions were answered. This is a relevant and constructive debate, which many people in the ELT community have strong and passionate opinions about. The third question still persists, but more on that at a later date.

It seems that after reading and digesting the comments, and then through subsequent further reading on the topic (thanks Willy), what I have been left with are more questions.

A summary

Scott Thornbury seemed to agree with what I had said, but rightly pointed out that an extension of the course would add a substantial cost to a course which is, “prohibitively expensive for many wannabe teachers” and that “The four-week model is directly proportionate to the value that the market places on language teaching in the private sector, and until that value changes (unlikely) we are stuck with it.” (Thornbury, S 2014) His suggestion was that we should concentrate on
making the initial course better and supply regular, quality training, post CELTA.

>My first question would be to ask, why is the CELTA/Trinity Cert so expensive?

>Does the cost reflect the amount of training received?

>Would it be beneficial to analyse and investigate the price and subsequently produce a breakdown of the cost and look at ways of squeezing a little more from the course?

>Why only concentrate on post CELTA inservice training? Shouldn’t we also concentrate on establishing a coherent, practicable and rigorous pre pre-service training?

Well, to help answer the last question I will turn to Sue Annan, who pointed out that her trainees have to go through a 3 month distance learning programme before even attending the actual 4 week CELTA/Trinity cert. And it seems she is not the only one, with other centres offering the same. This is fantastic! Yet, I am left with more questions,

>Why doesn’t every training centre offer this type of course?

>How much does this distance learning add to the overall cost?

>Would it be worth carrying out a survey to find out how many centres actually offer any kind of training before their trainees attend the pre-service course? If so, what form does it take, cost, delivery method, etc.

>Although cost dependent, could we establish this pre pre-service training as the norm across all centres?

Scott also asks what the alternative would there be to the current pre-service courses. Well it seems that Willy Cardoso is the man to ask. In his comment he mentions that he is developing an alternative course and is due to start running pilot courses. I am keen to know how this develops. Furthermore, Willy is not the only one looking for an alternative with Anthony Gaughn having already established an unplugged style CELTA course which you can find out more about here –
http://teachertrainingunplugged.com

In his comment, Dave Thornton takes the discussion in a different direction by highlighting the fact that the CELTA is “essentially euro-centric one-size-fits-all nature”. I admit that my own teaching context didn’t allow me to take this into account and is an area for further exploration. But what did catch my attention is Dave’s mention of the “bolt-on CELTA YL” component. With the increasing emphasis on getting children into the classroom as soon as possible, the percentage of YL classes is increasing exponentially and therefore more and more teachers with training and experience with YLs are required.

>Should the YL component be a standard requirement of a pre- service course?

Finally, what stood out in the comment from Angelos Bollas, were his comments on observations and his rewarding experience of continuing to observe once his CELTA was complete. While the two schools I have taught in both actively encouraged peer observation and reflective feedback on these, the culture of observation, from what I have seen and from talking to other teachers, is one of fear. Emphasis on pass or fail. Focus on detailed lesson plans and the wording of aims rather than concentrating on what actually happens in the class.

>How do we go about changing teachers attitudes to observation?

>How can we encourage teachers to want to observe each other and make it an integral and daily part of their teaching?

>As part of the post CELTA inservice training, would it be possible to have a set amount of observations that a teacher must complete and provide feedback on? Electronically uploaded and saved as part of an online professional development portfolio.

I think it’s clear to see that there are more questions than answers. Some of which we might never get to answer, yet I still feel deep down that this is a cause worth pursuing. The original post which centred on the structure of the pre-service course itself has now helped to highlight two further areas which require our attention. What happens before the pre-service course and what happens after it is complete. It seems like the mountain has just got bigger. I guess I just need to work out where to start climbing from.

So I went fishing
A note from a fish said:
Dear dope, if you wanna catch us
You need a rod and a line
Signed the fish
(Mark E. Smith)

P.S

Thank you for all the comments on the blog. If I didn’t mention you in this post, it wasn’t because I didn’t value your comments. I could have written a thousand more words but I wanted to try and keep the discussion coherent and stop myself from rambling too much.

Many thanks.

My mind is ramblin

It seems that the post DELTA negativity I mentioned in my previous post has worn off. With time to reflect, relax and recharge I now have a variety of ideas to play around with for the next teaching year. Moreover, I am also trying to visit ideas that have been on the back burner for some time now, as well as getting back to blogging regularly. So, here goes.

Before you read this post please bear something in mind. My comments below are about the structure of the pre-service courses currently on offer and in no way a reflection of the excellent work done by hardworking, dedicated and highly professional trainers and tutors in the ELT/EFL community.

Let me take you on a quick journey into the past, if I may. Before I did my Trinity Cert course in 2010, I went to visit a friend in Germany. We attended a party with some friends and as always with a multi-lingual group, the conversation turned to Languages. As I recall, It went something like this:

German girl: Adam, do you speak any languages?

Me: A little bit of Spanish, which I learnt while I was travelling. But it was this experience that made me decide to become an English language teacher.

German girl: Oh really! And which University are you going to study at?

Me: Oh no, it’s not a university course. I’m attending a 4 week course in London.

German girl: 4 weeks! (coughs, trying not to choke on her bratwurst) is that it!?

Me: Well, it’s quite intense and very practical.

German girl: Yes, but 4 weeks. Is that really enough time to become a teacher?

I’ll never forget the look of incredulity on her face. It wasn’t enough to put me off doing the course but it always stuck with me and niggled away when ever I thought about it.

These thoughts continued to reside in the darkest depths of my grey matter and were provoked to resurface a couple of weeks ago, after reading this blog post by @KateSpringcait, who talks about her struggles with lesson planning after completing the CELTA

http://iamlearningteaching.wordpress.com/about/

I shared this on Facebook and not long after received a comment from a CELTA trainer colleague and a then from another colleague who is also a CELTA trainer and the following exchange ensued.

David Valente: learning teaching is a never ending journey which can take many directions, CELTA is only ever intended to be a PRE service course and a foundation on to more experimental, critical and needs driven approaches, methods and techniques…

Sarah Findlay: Is it not just bad school management/ DoSing, Adam? I think NQTs need additional support n having the realities v expectations made gradually clear? If you hire someone fresh-off (CELTA) u can work with them to minimise the stresses of transition, I reckon…

Me: You both make valid and good points and I have no doubt both of you offer NQTs the support they need after finishing the CELTA, but I would say that sadly this support is in the minority. I think that the most glaring and obvious point, that is often overlooked is simply the length of the course that the CELTA and Trinity cert offers. We are doing the trainee a disservice by only allowing them 4 weeks with well trained, knowledgable and supportive tutors. Subsequently, we are doing the students who are taught by the NQTs a similar disservice by offering them a teacher that is simply not ready yet. Just stop and think about it for a second, maybe say it out loud. 4 weeks. 4 WEEKS! How can we be taken seriously as teachers when this is the entry level course? Post CELTA support is essential but with all the added responsibilities of admin and everything else how much time can a DoS really spend with that NQT? As CELTA tutors don’t you wish you had more time to work with your candidates? If there are three tutors working a CELTA course, with let’s say 30 yrs of experience between them, why would you restrict the flow of this knowledge to just four weeks? And in reality, of the four weeks, how much time of that is face to face where you really get to work with the candidate?

David Valente: well yes, but preaching to the converted, tis the awards bodies like Cambridge English Language Assessment and Trinity which need to reconsider course lengths, intensity and the impact of such on entry level teachers… Robust CPD is defola the way forward mind…

Now, while I was ranting slightly, what I posted contains my biggest problem with the pre-service course that all teachers must take to enter our profession. It is simply too short. Way too short! 4 weeks is an awfully short time in order to learn something from scratch and then be expected to immediately put this training into action and teach. Why do we persist in offering a course which primarily gives trainees just enough to survive in the classroom and not what they actually need, which is knowledge. Knowledge of methods, the language itself and how learning works.

While writing this post I was reminded of what Michael Lewis wrote in his excellent book, The Lexical approach. Using ten simple points, Lewis picks apart everything wrong with Pre-service courses and even today, 21 yrs after it was written, I believe it is still totally relevant and applicable to today’s current courses.

image

20140726-095413-35653228.jpg

M. Lewis The Lexical Approach. The state of ELT and the way forward. 1993, Language teaching publications.

As you can see, Lewis has put it better than I ever could have. Yet, has what he wrote ever been taken on board and tackled in order to make the CELTA/Trinity cert courses more robust and ultimately useful to the trainees attending the courses? Seeing as the length of the course has not changed, I would stick my proverbial neck out and say no. Undoubtedly, the excellent tutors and trainers on the courses do amazing things, but with very little actual time in which to work with the trainees, all we can expect are trainees that can survive in a classroom environment. Why would we limit well trained and experienced CELTA tutors to just 4 weeks with trainees? I imagine that a lot of CELTA trainers often find themselves muttering to themselves, “If only we had more time, then we could actually get down to what teaching really is.”

While the teaching of English as a career choice has been ridiculed and mocked as the travellers way of funding their way around the world, the teaching of English as a serious profession has begun to build strong foundations. There is now a large and committed community of professionals that continually strive to develop not only themselves, but also other teachers around them. Twitter and the rise of CPD in the workplace have done wonders for ELT and with the amount of Conferences available both physical and online, as well as the sharing of materials and a large array of teaching blogs, teaching English as a profession should be taken seriously. Therefore, it beggars belief that we only offer a 4 week course to be apart of our profession and all the hard work that we do with conferences, CPD and the like is undone and largely ignored by people that can’t see past the 4 week pre service training course.

Don’t we owe it to ourselves, our students, our profession, future teachers and the English language to offer a course that produces teachers that Lewis describes as competent and with a deep understanding of the language and learning, and who are expected to be teachers and not performers?

During the process of writing this post, I had several questions that continued to hang over me and I feel still need to be answered.

1) Does this topic warrant sufficient discussion in the ELT/EFL community at present?

2) Am I barking up the wrong tree? Is it just me that feels this way?

3) Do I have enough experience and knowledge to even be contemplating looking further into this issue? And, will it make any difference?

I guess that with time these questions will be answered. So now it’s over to you the reader. Is it time for the pre-service courses to change?

The breaking of the back was the making of the man.

“To make yourself, it is also necessary to destroy yourself.” (Patrick White, Voss, 1957)

I remember reading the above quote while I was travelling around New Zealand in 2009. I felt an immediate connection with the character in the book, a doomed pioneer who is determined to explore the Australian outback at all costs. I had in effect done exactly what he was talking about. I had called off my wedding, quit my well paid job just as the crisis kicked in, moved out of my flat by the sea and took all the money I had and went travelling to New Zealand and South America. It was the best thing I ever did, I’m sorry to sound heartless but it was. It was this reevaluation of life that led me to where I am today. Stripping everything back, deciding what it was I actually wanted to do and then choosing the path that led me to becoming an ELT teacher.

Now lets fast forward to the present day. I was lucky enough to attend the brilliant IH Barcelona annual conference last weekend. The line up of speakers was impressive and I was excited to see some old faces. There was no real theme to the conference as now seems to be the fashion, but throughout the conference and especially after a period of deep reflection the theme was evidently clear to me.

The conference began on the Friday evening with two excellent plenaries. The first was from Jessica Mackay (@JessBCN) My tweets from the session:

Jessica Mackay currently encouraging us to do research #IHBCNELT

Teachers are probably better at being able to explain their research to other teachers. It can help TD, be empowering & inspiring. #IHBCNELT

Research can help to refresh our teaching and make us rethink what we do in the classroom. #IHBCNELT

Sts benefit from a teacher who does research. That teacher is engaged, interested and cares about the class. Everyone wins. #IHBCNELT

A desperate need for research written by teachers for teachers. #IHBCNELT

It was a very inspiring start to the conference and had me sitting up, paying attention and immediately pondering what research I could do. The last comment above, was for me, a very powerful statement and something that I think is desperately missing from ELT. I don’t think research in a sense has to be about writing huge dissertations for your masters degree or papers and books laden with toilsome terminology. To be relevant and immediately useful for teachers on the ground it needs to be done in real-time, action research coupled with documentation through blogging. Easily accessible and open to comment and debate among other teachers.

Next up was Anthony Gaughan (@anthonygauhan), who was asking us, “Where are all the unplugged teacher trainers?” Anthony hit the ground running, wanting to know why Dogme/unplugged teaching was only being paid “lip service (at best)” when it came to teacher training. Why wasn’t it given more time, more attention? Why weren’t trainees being encouraged to teach without the coursebook and work directly with what their students brought to the classroom? His argument was compelling and backed up with his own experiences of unplugging his CELTA courses. He then laid out an unofficial mandate for how teacher trainers and future trainers could set about unplugging their own courses.

Course books are not essential! @AnthonyGaughan hits the nail on the head. #IHBCNELT

Ditch your timetable, work back from results, start with what they can do, ask them what they think. #unpluggedteachertraining#IHBCNELT

Stop writing TP points, don’t ask for lesson plans, devote more time to guidance, stop answering, ask! #unpluggedteachertraining#IHBCNELT

Teach with them, don’t judge, help, 3 good reasons-economy-flexibility-self sufficiency for doing #unpluggedteachertraining #IHBCNELT

I’m not a teacher trainer and far from being one, but this had me on the edge of my seat. I certainly hope I wasn’t the only one and I really hope that the teacher trainers who attended were paying attention. If we want to make a difference to teaching it has to be at the very root of the profession. Trainees need to be made aware that course books and materials are not the be all and end all of a successful lesson. Anthony talked about teachers walking unaided, with out the crutches of the coursebook to support them. If anything the bottle feeding of coursebooks to trainees is quite possibly what prevents them from walking unaided in the first place. The trainee needs to be trusted, encouraged, nurtured just like we do with our students, they must be made aware of the bigger picture and that picture can’t be found in a course book.

Luke Meddings kicked of proceedings on Saturday morning with his talk ‘Dogme, detour and drift:Learning from the situationists. He didn’t let us down. Taking us on a journey around the world, back in time and a trip to his mum’s loft.

His message was simple and hard-hitting.

School=exams=success. Real education is lost. @LukeMeddings sounds like he is building towards a rallying call. Revolution? #IHBCNELT

.@LukeMeddings: “When it becomes a revolutionary act to just teach instead of prepare students for the test, we’re in trouble.” #IHBCNELT

Education is becoming obsessed with results, statistics and exams. Teaching is now akin to feeding information into empty heads. Spoon feeding language and discrete grammar. Luke was willing to provide us with an answer to counter this tide of standardization and testing. Dogme!

Dogme could be the key. Focus on dialogue, no focus on discrete grammar points. learn a language thru spking Giving people a voice #IHBCNELT

I couldn’t help but agree. Luke, as well as Anthony, was bringing Dogme back to the forefront of ELT. It is a viable alternative in a world where very few people are willing to break away from the pack and do something different. And to get it started we need to breakdown a few barriers.

Dismantle the box we are put in as teachers. Then go on to dismantle the boxes our students are kept in. @LukeMeddings great talk #IHBCNELT

The conference moved on and so did I. Moving around the conference hall to see as many people as possible. Some great talks, combined with useful ideas and further food for thought.

At 15.30 I found myself at a loose end, so I drifted into the main hall to watch Phillip Kerr talk about “The adaptivity of adaptive learning”. It blew my mind!

Coursebooks are on the move and this is bad news for teachers. The big publishing houses and many other newly formed businesses are currently investing huge amounts of money into adaptive learning. Coursebook content is moving online, likely to become cheaper and more easily accessible, making the need for real face to face teaching less and less. Teachers will be relegated and learning will be about learners consuming grammar and lexical mcnuggets. You would think that to spend billions of pounds on adaptive learning, you would need good old-fashioned research to support its credibility as a learning method. Well think again. The method is fueled purely by what is called, ‘Big Data’. Big companies collecting personal information and recording internet habits and trends to tailor personalised learning courses.

Big data is something we need to know about. we need to be aware of the effect it has on us We need to talk about it! Phillip Kerr #IHBCNELT

Money talks and it talks louder than all the teachers in the world put together. But Phillip gave us some hope, eloquently pointing out the big problems adaptive learning is likely to face in the future.

Adam Beale ‏@bealer81  Feb 8

Language is socially constructed. Always has been & always will be. Phillip Kerr speaking about problems adaptive learning faces #IHBCNELT

Unfortunately he did end on a more negative note when he warned;

“Algorithm written coursebooks are coming … Good luck.” a chilling end to Phillip Kerr’s dose of dystopia at #IHBCNELT I’m scared anyway.

I’m not sue if I did Phillip’s excellent talk any justice, so I would highly recommend reading his blog, which you can find here – http://adaptivelearninginelt.wordpress.com/

So what about this theme?

All of the talks I have written about here struck a major chord with me. Almost like a wake up call, my own personal watershed moment. The theme was one of returning to basics, with the teacher becoming the most important learning tool in the classroom. Teachers researching their profession, teachers showing other teachers what is possible, teachers giving students a voice and freeing them from the ever-present pressure of exams and finally, teachers providing learners with the one true way of learning a language, face to face through dialogue construction.

This has inspired me to completely rethink my current teaching. As I hand back the most recent of the exams I have been teaching towards, I feel an uneasy guilt that I have become part of the system. A teacher that simply spoon feeds his way through the school year. I need a phase of stripping everything back again, destroying what I have become to then remake myself. Dogme, I believe, is key to this. It doesn’t mean a total disregard for coursebooks or materials in general. This is not a war or a rant against coursebooks, but a search for a viable alternative that utilises the teacher and creates a more meaningful way of teaching. I would like to prove that there is another way and bring this to the attention of as many people who are willing to listen. Like the doomed character at the beginning of the post I may well be wandering into my own personal desert, but at least I gave it a shot.

This air conditioned life has left me gasping for some real conversation. (Frank Turner)

ELTchat Summary

Is a 4 week CELTA/Trinity Cert course enough time to prepare someone for a FT teaching position?

This is the summary of #eltchat held on 10th August 2011 at 12pm BST by Adam Beale @bealer81 (twitter)

This was only my second #eltchat and it also happened to be about the topic I suggested for this particular session. So who better to do the summary and unashamedly use it to promote my new blog.

I suggested this particular topic as it was a question I had been asking myself for some time since finishing my first year in teaching and felt that it would be an interesting subject to debate in #eltchat.

It all kicked off with the rather blunt statement from @TyKendall       

12:02    RT @TyKendall: #ELTChat Lets cut this short. NO , 4 WEEKS IS ABYSMALLY INSUFFICIENT

Thankfully nobody took him literally by leaving the discussion at that and several people chipped in tweeting that they hadn’t completed a CELTA or didn’t actually know what it involved;

Shaunwilden      12:02     I am odd position of being a (lapsed) celta tutor and not having ever done the 4 week course myself 🙂 #ELTChat

cherrymp            12:03     @Shaunwilden even i haven’t done a celta bt had heard a lot abt it #ELTChat

barbsaka              12:03     This will be a learning experience for me–not all that familiar with either certification 🙂 #eltchat

The chat moved back to the length of the course or lack of it and its value;

bealer81              12:04     Too much info crammed into too short a time. #eltchat

TyKendall            12:04     @bealer81   #ELTChat exactly, you simply can’t absord the necessary knowledge in 4 weeks

TyKendall            12:06     @theteacherjames   #ELTChat not necessarily, i cant comment on the quality of teachers it produces, but it is simply too short!

cherrymp            12:33     v recently i came across 2 celta cert Ts who still remembers their ‘rigrous’ course n felt too much is crammed in to too little #eltchat

TyKendall            12:07     #ELTChat as a teacher you’re meant TO REFLECT on teaching, how well can you reflect over a 4 week period?

Imadruid              12:20     People pay a fortune for course that is outdated and based on poor pedagogical theories. This then leads to low wages & status.  #Eltchat

But it wasn’t all negative as people started to stick up for the CELTA:

Shaunwilden      12:06     As a tutor I always maintain that the 4 weeks give you the start but then you go into ‘apprenticeship’ #eltchat

nutrich  12:06     A 4 week course should enable a new teacher to be able to take control of their future development as well as teach basic skills  #eltchat

theteacherjames             12:08     I worked freelance for 2 years, then did a 4 week CELTA be4 my 1st FT job. More than adequately prepared me to begin my PD journey. #ELTChat

elchrys  12:09     CELTA doesn’t ‘produce teachers’ overnight. It’s an excellent training program for inexperienced teachers. #eltchat

nutrich  12:17     RT @theteacherjames: I should state that my CELTA was fantastic. I know that not everyone is so lucky.  #ELTChat Mine too. Great exeprience.

Shaunwilden      12:08     Isnt doing a 4 wk course better than doing nothing at all-looking back I wish I’d  rather than going to teach cos I cld speak Eng #eltchat

So there were people for and against the CELTA. From here the discussion splinters into various different threads, (1) with discussions about alternative qualifications available, (2) possible next steps after CELTA and (3) the need for teachers and their employers to continue their professional development. Below is a brief summary that captures these parts of the discussion;

(1)

pysproblem81   12:21     #ELTchat I got full-time #fe job with *just* CELTA but had to do DT(E)LLS equiv within 2yrs http://t.co/1lWWzNn

Imadruid              12:22     Either we’re teachers or not. Pgce should be entry requirement (if anything).

harrisonmike     12:22     #eltchat re apprenticeships – this is how I got started during French/Spanish degree http://www.britishcouncil.org/languageassistants.htm

Shaunwilden      12:23     @mcneilmahon though you can do PGCE in EFL these days #eltchat

harrisonmike     12:24     @mcneilmahon @Imadruid There are PGCE’s in post compulsory education AKA adults. That’s what I did, with ESOL focus #eltchat

ELTExperiences 12:54     There are CELTA extensions but are they worth it? #ELTchat

(2)

mcneilmahon    12:12     RT @pysproblem81: #ELTchat is there need for qual between Dip & Cert? Maybe follow up modules (open university style?) > You mean IHWO CAM ?

nutrich  12:24     Perhaps there should be a qualification for some sort of post-CELTA apprenticeship – a scheme run with schools cooperation #eltchat

mcneilmahon    12:28     RT @nutrich: Maybe CELTA should be 4 weeks f2f then a year of distance online?  #ELTChat > Nice idea – ensuring apprenticeship continues

pysproblem81   12:34     @mcneilmahon some training def needed… How does CELTA compare with Arg profesorado? #ELTchat

mcneilmahon    12:35     @pysproblem81  #ELTchat Completely different fish. Profesorado much more theory, CELTA gives survival skills in class, profesorado doesn’t..

pysproblem81   12:39     @Shaunwilden @mcneilmahon I like College model of req further quals within 2yrs – CELTA recognised as start, but prof.dev req #ELTchat

harrisonmike     12:39     @Shaunwilden @escocesa_madrid Does the name need to change? How many CELTA trained Ts end up with YL classes in their 1st job #eltchat

Shaunwilden      12:40     @harrisonmike No celta ia still very adult – there is celtyl  – delta kept the name as a brand #ELTChat

esolcourses        12:44     @harrisonmike  @chucksandy  for unqualified teachers, yes – agree. Maybe an intermediate qual to bridge CELTA + DELTA, too? #ELTChat

(3)

nutrich  12:07     It’s up to the schools employing recent CELTA graduates to help support their development #eltchat

gknightbkk          12:09     @Shaunwilden Yes the employer needs to be series about ongoing development post Cert #eltchat

esolcourses        12:10     @Shaunwilden in theory, I agree the CELTA provides a good foundation – not all employers provide support afterwards, though #eltchat

Shaunwilden      12:10     @gknightbkk Yes completely and we should help new teachers find schools that provide that #eltchat

nutrich  12:10     An important point to be made to all new Ts should be that learning how to teach   will never stop #eltchat

Kalpanapster     12:30     @cherrymp @theteacherjames. Experience does count. It’s really upto the teacher to keep pushing oneself hard. CELTA taught us that.#ELTChat

cherrymp            12:34     @esolcourses @Kalpanapster @Marisa_C yeah well said – continuing learning in supported environments – nurturing #ELTChat

gknightbkk          12:50     Many are suggesting CELTA is necessary but not sufficient. It’s a pre-service vocational course. It’s the in-service PD that counts #eltchat

Bee_Kids             12:51     #eltchat …The better teachers are those who cont. working to improve -those who genuinely enjoy the learning process.


Throughout the whole discussion there seemed to be a general sense of agreement that a CELTA type course is a basic but useful foundation for teachers to have but that the real work and experience is gained from being in a real working environment and this needs to be supported with ongoing professional development from both the teacher themselves and the employer. Of course this is just my interpretation.

I have tried to put the discussion into some sort of cohesive order but it’s not always that easy. If I missed anything important I apologize. Feel free to look at the whole transcript and make your own conclusions to what was said. Below are links that maybe useful for additional reading to this discussion;

Transcript of the chat – http://bit.ly/qmVZXq

My blog with a post about my CELTA experience – https://fiveagainstone.wordpress.com/

CELTA details – http://bit.ly/oTTUST

Trinity CertTESOL – http://bit.ly/4Fzu3B

ELTNews has been trying to get information about CELTA efficacy – http://bit.ly/nNCAQf

Link to a book about the potential shortcomings of pre service teacher training courses such as CELTA – http://bit.ly/nSQodE

A link to a poll on facebook showing what CELTA holders think of CELTA – http://on.fb.me/fx3QgC

ELTchat address – http://eltchat.com/

#eltchat takes place every Wednesday, via twitter, at 12pm and 9pm BST.

4 weeks just doesn’t cut it.

Now that my first year of teaching is finally over and I have had time to wind down and reflect back on what was an epic 9 months, I find myself continually asking myself the same questions. Firstly, was I really ready for a full-time teaching job with my lack of experience? Secondly, and for me the most important question, had my CELTA course prepared me for a life/career in the EFL/TEFL teaching world?

I’m not setting out to criticize the people who run, design, plan and ultimately teach CELTA courses. I enjoyed my course, the tutors were great, informative and willing to help and give support. It’s just that, if I was a tutor on that course, I probably wouldn’t have passed me. I would have given myself an A+ for effort but in reality failed simply due to a lack of knowledge of the English language. Surely if I don’t know enough about the language I’m not in the position to go out and get paid to teach it to someone else. Or so I thought!

Let me take you back to the beginning. I signed up for my course and a week later some papers arrived that consisted of application forms and also some pre-reading with a general grammar question paper thrown in for good measure. Being unemployed I had lots of time to spare, so set about reading some grammar books and preparing. The start date arrived and I turned up feeling excited, nervous and more importantly willing to learn. Which looking back was a good thing, as my learning curve went through the roof and my eyes were opened to just how expansive the English language was and therefore how much I didn’t actually know.

The phonetic chart was a new one to everyone on the course, which was somewhat of a relief to me, and we had some input sessions introducing us to the different sounds, how they were produced and so on. We were then told we had to learn the whole chart as this was likely to come up on the end of course test and we swiftly moved on to something else. With the course being so intense, no one really thought to stop and ask if that was actually possible in 2 weeks while trying to cram in tons of other information, so heads down, we pressed on. We had three chances to observe other teachers in the school, all the time slots being 30 minutes or so. Surely, I thought, this is something we should be doing everyday and for a whole lesson, with perhaps the chance to sit down with other teachers and get the low down and give feedback. But no, we ploughed on headlong into the next input session, the next observed lesson and so on. By the end of the 4 weeks I just wanted to crawl into my bed, switch off and disconnect. The end of course exams came and went, final observations were planned, executed and slowly taken apart in the feedback sessions and all the paperwork was handed in. 4 weeks seemed like 4 days. I wasn’t quite sure if I had actually retained anything, and I was sure that I had only just scraped through the last exam and was extremely grateful not to be one of the those called back to re-sit. I had passed, I was excited about my future, excited about teaching but despite this I still didn’t feel ready to be a teacher, surely 4 weeks isn’t enough to cut it in the teaching world.

Everything just seemed so rushed and frantic. It was as if we were on some sort of teacher production line, built up, filled in, packed up and shipped out just in time for another course to come in the front door as we went out the back. How is it possible to retain so much information in such a short space of time, while being stressed and sleep deprived? What we needed was time. Time with other teachers, observing, giving feedback. Time to do background reading of our own. Time to put into practice everything that we were being taught. Teachers in other professions spend a year learning how to teach on the job! It just doesn’t compute. And I think this leads into my final point. The standard of teacher that a 4 week course produces. At times, looking back at my first 3 or 4 months of teaching, I felt like a bit of a fraud. I was under prepared and at times out of my depth. I was working all hours to plan and to do my own background reading. When I walked into some lessons I could sense that the students didn’t have confidence in me and this took months of hard work to turn around.

Now maybe this is a one-off. Maybe I’m just feeling sorry for myself and I should have worked harder, before and after my CELTA. But I do believe that 4 weeks could perhaps become 6 weeks, with an emphasis on being within a teaching environment, interacting and learning through doing and observing, instead of being taught at with the minimum amount of time to actually practise teaching. A variety of teaching methods (Dogme, TBL, the Lexical approach) should be demonstrated and analyzed. The use of technology should be a must in all CELTA courses. I believe that the initial entrance requirements should be tougher and more rigorous. A solid knowledge of the English language is a must and should be demonstrated, before and after the course. I know I wouldn’t have made it through if this was the case. All in all the standard must be higher.

This must all seem very self-deprecating, but it’s generally how I feel. I feel passionate about my job, about not letting down my students and about making a career from teaching. I wanted more from my 4 weeks and not just enough to pass the final exam.