In this week’s Teacher Talk Time, the IH Bangkok teachers give their thoughts and advice to incoming CELTA trainees.
1.) If you could give one piece of advice to incoming CELTA trainees, what would it be?
- Jake – “You obviously need to work hard, but you also need to find a way to relax or else you’ll go crazy. On weekends I made sure to take a break and explore the city. I liked finding bars and restaurants with live music where I could settle down and find a stranger to talk to.”
- Leslie – “Read up before the course. Personally, I picked up Learning Teaching by Jim Scrivener and How to Teach English by Jeremy Harmer and found both to be very useful.”
- Lynn – “Don’t eat at Subway every day. There’s more to Bangkok than Subway.”
2.) How much time per day would you estimate you spent planning lessons on the CELTA?
- Max – “4 hours, give or take.”
- Aaron – “Probably 3 hours the day before the lesson and another hour or two in the morning right before the class started. I never lost any sleep over a lesson.”
- Jake – “Between 2 and 4 hours. And about another 5 hours cutting-up bits of paper. #RipAndRun.”
- Marshall – “3 hours.”
3.) Did you ever bomb a lesson?
- Max – “I never actually failed a lesson. I really felt like I bombed one, but in the end it was okay because I still successfully achieved the main aim of my lesson, which was to give the students practice with a specific grammar point.”
- Leslie – “I certainly felt liked I’d bombed the second lesson, but it turns out I passed. The most important thing during the first week is learning how to manage the classroom and I really struggled with that.”
4.) What was the hardest part of the CELTA, and why?
- Max – “Just the planning in general and also getting over the nerves to teach. Standing up in front of a group of students is one thing, but having five peers and a trainer watching to assess my teaching was something I really had to get used to.”
- Leslie – “Getting over the nerves moving into the initial classes. But eventually you get a bit more comfortable. You get to know the students better and then it becomes a lot easier.”
- Tom – “Probably the sheer amount of information you have to absorb and what you have to think about in the classroom. There’s a whole new set of vocabulary to learn if you’ve never taught before, and new concepts about teaching and the English language that you need to study and apply during class. When you’re doing Teaching Practice you’re always under time pressure and there are a million things running through your head. Couldn’t sleep a wink for 3 days because of it all.”
5.) Should you study anything beforehand?
- Aaron – “Learning Teaching by Jim Scrivener was helpful, but I think I still could have passed just fine without it.”
- Tom – “I really spent some time working on the pre-course task. In addition to that, I brushed up on the English verb tenses and read through Learning Teaching. It’s a good book for the course, but can be a little challenging to read if if you haven’t had any prior teaching experience.”
6.) What experience or knowledge from the CELTA has been most useful to you as a teacher?
- Jake – “The CELTA gave me a lot of ideas about how to creatively use music and sound equipment to help teach English or introduce a context to the class. Wherever you end up teaching, take a look at what technology they have in the classrooms and ask around for ideas about how you can use it to improve your lesson.”
- Leslie – “Making sure each freer practice has a clear communicative goal, that controlled practice is properly scaffolded and fun, and that I shouldn’t be too aggressive with error correction. I learned the value of praise in the classroom and that a positive and encouraged student is a much easier student to teach.”
- Tom – “Hard question… I would say the CELTA helped me to become more aware of lesson structure so I could prepare a better and more engaging lead-in, as well as to keep a logical progression through the material of my class, and then round off the lesson appropriately with useful communicative activities and feedback.”
7.) What would you have done differently if you could go back?
- Marshall – “Probably go out less during the course. Bangkok and Chiang Mai both have a fantastic nightlife that you can really get lost in. Definitely go out and experience it, but maybe save the bulk of your partying for before or after the course.”
- Max – “I would have kept my notes for after the course. Once you’ve been teaching for a while, you start to get rusty on some of the specific CELTA methods, and having my notes to refer back to would have helped the information stay fresh in my mind.”
- Tom – “I would have taken more risks. I was nervous to mess up, so I played it very safe during my lessons – only teaching the material I was given and doing it in a way that I was sure I could do. The CELTA trainers are quite experienced and they’ll notice and appreciate when you take risks in the classroom because they can see that you’re trying to stretch yourself and learn.”
8.) How does teaching on a daily basis differ from teaching on the CELTA?
- Leslie – “….Good question. It’s a lot more intense because you have such little time to plan. With that said, though, I feel like there is more room for me to flexible in my lessons now. I don’t have to worry so much about following a rigid method and I can be more creative.”
- Lynn – “On the CELTA your lessons are always really thoroughly planned because you only teach a couple times a week. On the job, though… You have to be a bit more spontaneous about lesson planning. I might teach seven hours in a single day and there’s no way I could do a thorough CELTA lesson-plan for every one of those classes.
9.) Any tips for relaxing or stress-relief during the course?
- Jake – “Go out and explore. Find a place with live music and start a conversation with a stranger. Bangkok is such a huge city with so many interesting people to meet.”
- Max – “Give yourself a day-off doing nothing related to CELTA. Just lay at home and watch a movie or go out with some other trainees and see the city.”