My CELTA Training

After having worked in the field of industrial gases for more than 20 years, I decided to become a teacher. Here is how I set out to get a Celta certificate, to teach English as a second language. The school I chose at that time offered both English classes to brush up on my English skills and a Celta teacher training course was in San Francisco, a city I yearned to discover!
The following describes my teacher training and my first practical teaching experiences.

[ May 2015]
I have done my teacher training and got what I’ve come here to get, the Celta certificate! This intense training session was such an empowering experience!

There were just three of us as teacher trainees in my class. We were asked to teach an actual class on the third day of our course. It was something both highly useful and scary because we had to teach so soon. It is also the best way to learn, by making mistakes which is part of the learning process. Every afternoon we taught extra free classes to registered students of the school. There were 8 to 14 students aged 20 to 60 years old. They were from all over the world. Their skills were elementary to upper intermediate level.

I have entered a new world! I realized I didn’t have the skill set that was required for being a teacher. I had to shed my former reliance on corporate presentation skills I had been using for years. I had to relearn a new way of expressing things. We – company workers – were used to studying a topic and gaining an expertise on it to be able to tell about it extensively to our colleagues and managers. Now, I had to reverse the process and ask our students questions to elicit their skills, their thinking, their speaking ability, to find the answers by themselves. It was a new philosophy I had to adopt. I entered the dialectic method of enquiry of Socrates. As our renowned friend Wikipedia says, “The Socratic method remains a commonly used tool in a wide range of discussions and is a type of pedagogy in which a series of questions is asked not only to draw individual answers, but also to encourage fundamental insight into the issue at hand. This is perhaps Socrates’ most important contribution to Western thought”.

No wonder this training was baffling. The overreaching principle of our teaching hinges on this student-centered methodology. I have entered a new world! I need an overall rebooting of my brain. 

One concept of our training lies in the CCQ – Concept Checking Question – and its infamous enemy the TTT – Teacher Talking Time! The CCQ is a clever way to elicit students understanding rather than “spoon feeding them”, as our teacher Sezgi says! That might be the most difficult part for us trainee teachers because as I previously said, I was wired differently from my time in the corporate world! CCQ requires us to have a thorough grasp of the grammar point, the vocabulary, or the functions we are supposed to teach. We know we have done a good job when we’ve been almost silent during the class.

The interesting part of this course is that we’ve been taught the way we are supposed to teach our students, with this same discursive process.

Praise is the first tool of class management we were told about. Surprisingly, it seems to me that the word praise is not in the dictionary of the educational system in France. As a tool of class management, it is so supremely obvious because our students need confidence to be able to speak a new language! The use of interaction patterns, such as working in pairs, also fosters confidence, and encourages the student to practice the language in a “safe” environment, not having to speak directly to the teacher or the entire class. This is also the spirit of the “check in pairs” stage, in which the student can check their answers with their classmate and be sure of themselves before giving an oral answer to the class.

Ultimately, a good lesson plan is the scaffolding of effective teaching. The objective must be clear. The lead-in (introduction to the subject) serves as an icebreaker.  We then introduce the context of what we’re going to teach. After which, we set up a “treasure hunt” to make the students guess the rules (e.g., grammar) or the meaning (e.g., vocabulary) of what they are being taught. Then we proceed to a controlled practice to check their understanding. Lastly, we set up a freer practice to give them a less guided way to practice the new language they’ve learned. That in a nutshell are the guidelines to the language lessons: vocabulary, grammar, functions.  It is simply a logical way to learn a new language.

Observing and being observed by my peers with constructive feedback was a very empowering process and a time of self-awareness thanks to our professional and empathetic instructors. Ultimately, establishing a rapport with the students was a wonderful experience.

I feel like a whole new world is opening up before me.


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