Post-CELTA Confessions

Aspiring to be a better teacher

Tag: observation

Day 5: The Twilight Zone

by celtaconfessions

As I mentioned in my previous post, on this day, teachers 4, 5 and 6 had to observe the level (in our case, intermediate) they would be changing to on Day 7. I’m not sure how Al and Ingmar took it, but, me, after day 4, which I’d blogged extensively on, I was groping around, disorientated, in the twilight zone.

Part of me was attempting to focus on the trainees in this group (Meghan, Dennis & Sarah Walker) and the students (I started writing their names down), part of me was trying to remain attached to the pre-intermediate group, which I would have to teach the next day and thinking of the lesson plan, yet unfinished, and part of me was helping Sarah to relax – she was a right bundle of nerves! So, while Megan and Dennis were teaching, there was I coaxing her to breathe the proper way, to think positively, etc. I’d like to think I was of help, but I’m not the right person to say it, of course.

Meghan’s lesson was on skills – listening skills. It was something on touring Australia. Meghan, like the others, based her lesson on the coursebook. I thought the listening was tedious; it was quite long, and they listened to it three times: first time for gist, then, for detail, after which they conferred with their partners on their answers, followed by a third listening. By this time, I’d slipped deeper into the Zone, so, sorry, Meghan, I didn’t know if it was for a separate task or not. In a way, it was good that I was helping Sarah as it took my mind off worse things…

classroom, waiting for students

Copyright 2012 Chiew Pang

Meghan was cool and collected, laid back in that oh-so stereotypical Californian style 😉 whereas if it were me, having to go through three listenings, my nerves would have got the better of me. I’d be worried about where the students’ thoughts would be… But, as Ceri mentioned in the feedback, it was me who were having issues with the listenings; the students were fine LOL.

In addition, Meghan gave the impression she had slept with the Ten Commandments under her pillow and delivered her ICQs to perfection ;).

Dennis was up next – how come Seville was full of Americans? 😉 His was a task based lesson, before we had the input, so most of us weren’t aware of the rationale behind the modus operandi. That’s what coursebooks are for, right? 😉

Dennis started by giving his example of an interesting tour, backed by visuals, of New Orleans, his home town, and a hand-drawn map. Language aim was advice and suggestions (I think). A few questions later, and it was the students’ turn to produce their own tour of Seville. I can’t remember if it was a 3 or a 7-day tour.

The lesson went really well, with the group getting very motivated over the map-drawing. Not sure about the language, though ;). Seriously, you could see that the students enjoyed the lesson – shame they didn’t have enough time to finish their project.

Then, up went Sarah. Did I manage to calm her down? What was her lesson aim? I thought it must have been to practise or reinforce the language they’d previously seen with Meghan and Dennis, but later, in the feedback, Ceri said that the main aim was listening, which surprised me.

I thought she did quite well. After the two Americans, she was dynamic and the lesson suited her. There was some pair work, some short listenings, some pronunciation drilling. There was a game of matching, followed by a role-play. Unfortunately, for me, the time left for them to do the role play wasn’t quite enough. They were enjoying it.

After a break, we had global feedback with Ceri. Here were some points which came up:

  • after listening activities, compare answers in pairs.
  • put instructions on the PPT as well as on the handout, if any – not just given out orally.
  • timing – remember FB time. A 5-minute activity could take up 10, if instructions and feedback are added.
  • visual FB – always useful to support FB by board work, on the handout itself, or other visuals.

In the feedback, I clarified with Ceri on her stance on diverting off coursebooks and lesson plans. She gave the impression she was more sympathetic to this as long as there’s good justification. And, at least, she laughed at my jokes. I wish I had her as my main tutor!

Footnote

I didn’t take any photos of the trainees giving the their lessons because I was afraid of being intrusive or unnerving. I was afraid of making them nervous. This was, after all, just day 5, and we hardly knew each other. It was a shame, really.

Day Four: a guest post, + taking a stand on the stand

by celtaconfessions

Those of you who have read Day Four, I was left to hang would have noticed that I left out the tutor’s criticisms of me, claiming them too hurtful. Perhaps I was exaggerating a little, but I have my reasons. Freya, one of the other trainees in my group thought it unfair of me to “criticise” the others but not myself. I thought she had a point. I’ve been wanting others to voice their opinions for long enough and have said so enough times too, so I jumped at the chance and told her straight out, “Why don’t you write it?” I claimed that I wouldn’t be objective enough. Since the tutor wasn’t playing fair with me, in my humble opinion, I’d refused to repeat all the things he’d pointed out.

Needless to say, I was over the moon when Freya accepted! It’s short, but better than nothing! Thanks Freya!

Freya says…

As Chiew mentions in his post about this lesson, he was the final teacher of that morning, a difficult job considering the fact that students had been there since 10am without a break (it would be 11.20am by the time Chiew started teaching) and although it was the first week of October, this is southern Spain, and the mercury was still hitting 35C most days.

These factors combined, the class was a tad sleepy and energy levels were definitely low.

Chiew responded very well to this – if I remember correctly, he asked all of the students to stand up (everyone seems a bit sleepy = introduce some kinaesthetic learning asap!) and asked them to sit down when he said the time they had woken up that morning. He began at 7am, listing times in 15 or 30 minute intervals until everyone was seated. A simple task but it was great as it got students out of their seats and gave them a chance to revise the time. Even if it wasn’t directly related to the topic of the lesson it certainly engaged everyone, woke them up a bit and helped build a good rapport.

Chiew then moved on to the main part of the lesson, revising regular and irregular past simple forms. The students enjoyed the lesson and definitely got something from it. One of the things I think could have been improved was during the “test” part of the lesson, where the teacher tests the students’ prior knowledge (especially important during the CELTA course as you don’t know what the students have learnt before), Chiew only selected 3 students to give examples of regular/irregular past forms. Contrary to what I would have thought before teaching, most (if not all) of the students are keen to share their answers and will always want to know if their answers are correct, therefore it was a shame that Chiew didn’t get feedback from all of them.

I enjoyed the story that Chiew chose for the students to work with and thought he created interest in it very well, initially showing just a photograph and the title and asking them to try to predict what the story was about. Chiew had also pre-prepared visual aids to help with some definitions [I’ve written in my notes that you showed the students a picture of a purse when one of them asked what it was, apologies if this never happened!] Although this was helpful, it meant that Chiew didn’t elicit a definition from the students – this would have been a good opportunity to ask the group if any of them knew what a purse was, and encourage them to use the English words they knew to explain the meaning to their peers. The image then could have been showed to the group for clarification if anyone was still unsure of what a purse was.

Chiew replies…

Thanks, Freya, for your contribution, and, with your permission, I’d like to comment on a few points.

I remember the kinaesthetic activity; what I didn’t remember was that I did it in this lesson and that I’d use “the time I’d woken up” prompt. I suppose it must have been very much in my mind – all those 5am starts…

On my stage plan, I’d written the warmer as “to ask about the previous two lessons, to ask what they’d learned…” but I recalled that they looked as though they were ready to go back to bed, or to head to the nearest pool. They had hardly engaged in any speaking activities; they’d hardly moved; they’d sat through reading and listening tasks and I wasn’t about to add to their agony by some god-almighty grammar explanations! So I said sod it to the stage plan. That was the first and last time I did that with Ian’s class. At a later date, I would try it once again with Ceri, but that was the very last time I veered from my (written) plan during the course.

CELTA, to me, is a bit Govish in its attitude; it’s like going back to rote-learning and you aren’t encouraged to think on your feet, make changes as you see fit to adapt to the students in the class at that particular time. It’s about planning and sticking to your plan. Real-life teaching is very different to the CELTA training practice. You liked that activity, didn’t you, Freya? You saw how the class reacted, being the observant teacher you are. I decided on the activity a minute before I stood up to take the stand. I wasn’t going to be the lamb about to be slaughtered. It was a no-win situation. From one point of view. Either I get slaughtered for sending the students to sleep or I get slaughtered for veering from the plan. I chose the latter. Because I knew I’d win with the students, which I’d placed on a higher pedestal than CELTA’s rigidity. Of course, as we neared the closing stages, I wasn’t going to risk not passing and became more like what they wanted.

Ian didn’t mention this change of plan on the feedback session, but remarked it on paper.

But, you know something else? Perhaps even you had failed to notice… the activity wasn’t only to get their blood circulating, but also to subtly get their minds into ‘past’ mode: What time did I/you/she wake up? I woke up early. No, earlier than that. Irregular past. Interrogative. Past auxiliary. Comparative. 2-syllable comparative ending in -y.

No, Ian didn’t notice that. Or, at least, didn’t want to.

I could have done the whole 40-minute class using this activity alone. Probably. And chucked the lesson plan out the window. And still achieved the aim. This isn’t being arrogant – I apologise if it appears that way. I’m just saying real life is about adaptability. About knowing your students. Example: I could get them into pairs or groups and they could say something like, “If you drank more than 3 beers last night, touch your nose with your left elbow”. [Your left elbow, Al, your left! Sorry. Couldn’t resist that! ;-)] Just think of the fun (and the language). They would have forgotten about the heat.

Image beers in a bucket by Chiew Pang

More than 3 beers… Copyright 2012 Chiew Pang

Anyway. Too much said. Onto the next point.

The “test”. Ah, yes, the test. This was one area where I goofed BIG TIME. You are right, Freya, and I would have gone through the whole test…in real life. It took me three random verbs to know that they didn’t have problems. So I moved on. Reason: one of my aims was to prove to CELTA that I could stick to the timing. And I did. 40 minutes to the second. But, this came at a price, and one of this was, not so much that I didn’t go through the whole test, but I’d forgotten to tell them that the answers were on the back of the handout! I swore I believed I’d told them, but apparently, I didn’t! And Ian repeated this enough times in the feedback to make sure it registered in everyone’s minds. It was a mistake for which I didn’t forgive myself, and I spent the following few days thinking how I could have missed it, but in real life, it wouldn’t have mattered the slightest. I’d bring it up in the next lesson, period. With Ian, it was like I’d forgotten to cross all my Ts in my final test paper.

Maybe you’ll all look at me very critically, but still, I’ll say this: other trainees have made mistakes like this before (and after), and I have recordings to prove this, but he’d say, ok, you forgot that, but it was in your plan, so that’s ok. You achieved your aim. That’s good. Good lesson. Well done.

Next point. The purse. Yes, I did show it on a visual. I had anticipated this so I’d prepared the image. I thought it was enough to show them this rather than spend talking time on this non-blocking lexis. I did, however, think it useful to point out the differences between UK and US usage, but Chris poured cold water over that one! LOL. According to him, US say the same: a handbag’s a handbag, a purse is a purse.

More criticisms

OK, Freya, you win. I’ll mention a few more “awfulness” that you’d missed (maybe on purpose?) but with my justifications.

Although Ian mentioned “clear instructions” in the overall comment section, further down the page he said, “slow down your speech when giving instructions, ss had difficulty understanding some.” No doubt he was right. However, it was probably towards the end when I had an eye on the ticking clock approaching 12…

In the feedback session, and this hurt, he himself said it that others had done the same (but surprise, surprise, he hadn’t mentioned it in any of the feedbacks before, and after all the bad things he’d said, he chose to tell me, in my session, adding salt to the wound: AVOID using “Do you understand?” Avoid asking “What are you going to do?”  (For more maxims, read The Ten Commandments)

There’s more. I hadn’t anticipated someone asking “Is burglar the same as thief?” Another goof. I should have been prepared for this. I knew this was an issue, so I had no excuse. I stumped at that moment. In my defence, others have made more serious errors, such as wrong grammatical explanations, but no word of them was mentioned during feedback. The tutor had his reasons I guess. But it beats me.

You want more?

I should have written instructions on my second worksheet. Obvious as they were, I still should have done so. Point taken. But, same as above – he should have said the same for the other trainees, too.

Then, there’s the game. Remember? The observers at the back read a past simple verb, students (who were divided into three groups) wrote them down. When they’ve finished writing all the verbs, one from each group then came up to the WB to write their list. I thought this went well. The students moved, and had a great time. But, again, this was shot down. Quote: CONFUSION, CONFUSION, CONFUSION! INSTRUCTIONS WERE VERY QUICK AND NOT CLEARLY UNDERSTOOD!

I don’t remember this. Maybe I did rush through the instructions – I blame the clock. But point is, they understood me, didn’t they? Or they wouldn’t have been able to play the game. So? Because I repeated the instructions? SO GODDAM WHAT? They were complicated instructions for this level. Did I achieve my aim? Yes. They listened, they spoke, they moved, they read… They realised the difficulty in understanding some past simple verbs and I demonstrated how the same word could sound different depending on the speakers – I got them to hear some words spoken in a Southern British, Kiwi, Australian, American, and my own peculiar British-influenced global accent.

And, to cap it all, in spite of there not being enough time to do everything I’d done, especially if I were to slow everything down a further notch, he said I could have done another activity… for them to discover the rules for forming past simple forms! That would take another 20 minutes, for crying out loud!

There you go, Freya. Now, do you see why I didn’t want to do this in the first instance? I knew I wouldn’t be able to control myself. Now, I’ve let it all out.

If any of you have anything to say, I’m all ears.

What would I change…

if I had this lesson again? The warmer will remain ad hoc – depends on the students at the time of the lesson.

Yes, I would definitely remember to tell them that the answers are on the back of the test. Would I do the whole test? Maybe, maybe not. There were only 12 verbs, so I might do them all – much depends on the timing, how long I spend on the warmer. Lots of learning can be done in the warmer stage, too, and when students are having fun while learning at the same time, well, I never stop them.

I’d try to give even clearer instructions, but if I had to repeat them, that’s cool. It’s listening practice. As regards the game instruction being confusing, I honestly don’t remember it being so, but if I noticed it, I could do a demonstration with a couple of verbs first.

I’d make sure I know how to explain the difference between a burglar, robber, thief, etc.; in any case, if we had to have a full lesson plan prepared, it would have come up in the language analysis. Remember that at this stage, we had only to prepare a stage plan.

I would include instructions in all exercises, regardless of how obvious they are.

Guided discovery? No, definitely not. Not with this schedule. At a later date, I did do a guided discovery with Ceri , in Intermediate, in a 60-minute lesson – and she loved it, but that’s for a future post.

Postscript

I’d like to thank Freya again for her contribution. It was much appreciated. Now if any of you (since only about 6 from my course read my stuff, I’m addressing to all the rest of you from all over the world, trainees, past, present or future, even trainers…) would like to contribute your point of view, drop me a line – it would give me tremendous pleasure.

Thanks for reading!

Day Four, I was left to hang

by celtaconfessions

First to go was Ingmar.

Aim: to practise reading comprehension & improve speaking skills. Book reference: New Headway, Pre-Intermediate, p18-19 (jigsaw reading)

Positive:

  • Great opening with a video of Frank Sinatra singing “New York, New York”. This created interest and set the context before actual reading tasks.
  • Graded language well.
  • Clear comprehension questions.
  • Clear discussion questions.
  • Adapted coursebook well.

Could be better:

  • He had prepared 3 texts, and had been banking on 9 students. I’d mentioned before, I think, that it’s essential to prepare yourself for all possibilities. When you’re “on the floor”, if you aren’t prepared, you may get stumped for ideas, which was what happened to Ingmar. He had two possibilities – he could get two of the observing teachers, or he could have gone 2+2+3; instead he did neither and opted for using only two texts. Unfortunately, this caused a little confusion, especially when students saw three “answers” and didn’t understand what was going on.
  • Instructions. Possible because of the above, some instructions were not readily understood. he’d had a go at some ICQs (well done, Ingmar, if you’re reading) but not enough, according to the tutor.
  • Too front-loaded. Students should have had more time to confer and discuss among themselves.

Advice coming from the feedback session:

  • Early PW is important. Students often do not get the chance to practise speaking outside of class and the last time they spoke in English is likely to be in the previous class. So, it’s good to get them into gear, so to speak.
  • Practising reading comprehension is not a vocabulary lesson. Blocking lexis (vocabulary which impedes the ability to answer the comprehension questions) must be dealt with, but if it isn’t essential, it is quite all right to tell students, if they asked for its meaning, “Don’t worry about it. You can answer the comprehension questions without the need to know the meaning of that word.”
  • There are two main ways of dealing with blocking lexis:
  1. Provide a glossary with the text. If doing this, be sure to highlight the words in the text. If this isn’t done, chances are that they won’t be noticed, or will be ignored.
  2. Test the students. A matching activity is a good way of getting students to work out meaning from the context.

Next to go was Al

Aim: to revise present simple, to express annoying habits that people have + vocabulary of bad habits. To practise listening comprehension. Book reference: New Headway, Pre-Intermediate, p20.

Positive:

  • Good language grading. Al actually spoke slower and clearer today. (Well done, boy!)
  • Introduced the subject well by giving examples of habits which annoy him such as his girlfriend ringing him when he’s out having a great time – drinking – (did you draw a picture of this, Al? I don’t remember this well) and leaving his sunglasses at home (using realia) on a sunny day.
  • Early PW on what they find annoying
  • 3rd person feedback on the above
  • Fantastic rapport with students
  • Visuals to convey bad habits
  • Dealt with technical issues well – the sound files didn’t work, so Al read the listening text himself. Good thing to have the script at hand!
  • Students conferred after the listening comprehension.

Could be better:

  • Your maths, AL! Remember how you took 10 minutes off your 40-minute slot? Shame I didn’t have the camera then. And we were trying to catch your attention without either Ian or the students realising?
  • Meaning of “annoy” conveyed, but not the form nor the pronunciation (or was the latter done?)

Advice from the feedback session:

  • Be sure to do the language analysis first and not gathering the materials. What is the aim? What problems are the students likely to have?
  • Part of the aim was to revise the present simple. On the handout of images of annoying habits, it would have been a good idea to have sample sentences. Perhaps there could have been a match-the-sentence-to-the-image type of exercise.
  • regarding the same handout, the answers have to be given, either on the handout itself, or on the WB.

Finally, my turn

Aim: To revise and practise past simple regular and irregular in positive, and negative forms. Book reference: New Headway, Pre-Intermediate, p22-23.

Verdict: I was happy with the lesson; I thought it went well – great visuals (always my strong point), great rapport, dynamic… I even got my timing spot-on. The students enjoyed the lesson… Not sure about my fellow trainees – I think by the time it got to my turn, everyone was just thinking of their lunch break.

Then, Ian massacred me. Literally. Left me to hang out to dry. So, I don’t want to go through the pain again.

Iberian ham in a restaurant

Left to hang; Copyright 2012 Chiew Pang

Instead, I’ll console myself with his “glowing” comments:

  • Friendly with students
  • Graded language well, clear instructions
  • Adapted coursebook well
  • Tested students twice on past simple verb forms
  • Got students to predict the story
  • Tested students on recognising past simple verb forms
  • Ended with an oral summary.

“This was a stimulating, fun lesson that the ss really enjoyed. You have a great rapport with the students and gave them plenty of listening practice via the written text and the live listening exercise. This showed how difficult it is for ss to hear/recognise past forms.”

Day 2, Part 2, The Ten Commandments

by celtaconfessions

Arguably, the best part of the CELTA course is the feedback sessions. Especially in the beginning, observation of the other trainees was a great learning tool; you learn a lot by watching – both the good and the bad. A large part of my modus operandi is based on what I didn’t like about my Spanish classes when I was learning all those years ago. During this CELTA course, we all tried to improve on the weaker things we saw, and perhaps copied what we thought might work well for ourselves and our students.

During these sessions, we’d analyse each other’s good and bad moments, always starting with a personal assessment, and the tutor then gave his or her two pennies’ worth.

We were generally very respectful towards each other – one had to maintain a balance of being careful not to dampen a fellow trainee’s motivational level while, at the same time, not to be over-patronising.

In this first TP, we were told to take notes on the following:

The teacher’s speech

  • was it too loud/too quiet?
  • was it too fast/too slow?
  • Was it clearly audible?
  • Was the language graded?

The teacher’s body language

  • Did the teacher sit or stand?
  • Did they maintain an appropriate position in the classroom? Too far/too close? Did they have their backs to the students?
  • Did they obstruct the whiteboard?
  • Did they maintain eye contact with the students?

Basic teaching skills

  • Did the teacher nominate effectively?
  • Were the instructions clear?

As I mentioned in the previous post, my fellow trainees were a great bunch. Even the trainer, Ian, said so in the feedback. In that post, I’d reviewed – to a fashion – the performance of the others, albeit somewhat tongue-in-cheek, but there wasn’t anyone to review mine although I sort of did a personal evaluation.

I was really chuffed that day when Ingmar, bless his heart, said I was “really professional” and “reminded him of a lot of the teachers he’d had” (or did he say “reminded him a lot of the teachers…”?). I hope they were good teachers, Ingmar! Freya (an incredibly efficient observer and note-taker, I’ll have to say) added, “controlled but not too formal”. Wow! Thanks Freya!

I don’t know about the others, but, on the whole, I valued the trainees’ feedback very highly. We learned a lot, too, from the trainers’ observation and their ideas and suggestions; I wouldn’t take that away from Ian.

CELTA feedback session by Chiew Pang

Copyright 2012 Chiew Pang (Where’s Chris? Still at the café?)

After the peer feedback session, Ian gave us a rundown on giving instructions. Now, I might have mentioned before, CELTA (now, when I say CELTA, I refer to Seville’s IH CLIC and it could be different elsewhere) is BIG on giving instructions. To be honest, I’d probably forgotten about this session quite quickly, having had so much to absorb on the first few days, and am only recalling them now. Did I say rundown? Rather than a rundown, it was more like the ten commandments. So, future trainees, this is thy tablet!

The Ten Commandments of giving instructions (creative licence applied)

  1. Thou shalt get the attention of thy pupils (without rapping their knuckles) before commencing.
  2. Thou shalt call them by their names.
  3. Thou shalt tell thy pupils what to do clearly and concisely. Thou shalt not be wordy!
  4. Thou shalt master the art of chesting, and know’st thy chicken from thy egg (in new English, which to come first – the handout or the instructions).
  5. Thou must also tell thy pupils what NOT to do (e.g to fill in the gaps).
  6. Thou shalt do an example with thy whole class (Let’s do the first one together!). If this shouldst not be possible, or even if it were, then thou shalt swear by the ICQs and nothing but the ICQs.
  7. Thou shalt give thy pupils a limit of time and be clear if they have to work in pairs, groups, or individually.
  8. Thou shalt write thine instructions (as a back-up) on thine handouts.
  9. Thou shalt never forget to monitor. Are they doing the activity correctly?
  10. Should the instructions be too complicated, thou shalt give a demonstration (e.g. in playing a board game).

After Moses laid the tablet down, we were handed our feedback (evaluation) sheet, then we moved on to preparation for the next days’ TP. Since these lessons were of a 40-minute duration, 3 of us would teach the next day, and the other 3, the following. I was to be the very last again.

More of that later. For now, let us take a look at the feedback sheet.

As it was an observation of a 20-minute class, the assessment check list was brief:

Planning

  • logical and organised planning
  • presenting materials with professional appearance and regard to copyright requirements

Classroom Teaching Skills

  • establishing rapport and developing motivation
  • adjusting own language to meet level and needs of learners
  • giving clear instructions
  • providing accurate, natural and appropriate examples of spoken and written language

Awareness of Teaching and Learning Process

  • teaching a group with sensitivity to the needs, interests and background of the group
  • organising the classroom to suit the learners/activity
  • setting up and managing individual, pair, group and whole class work

Professional Development

  • co-operation with colleagues
  • attendance and punctuality

Eleven items to observe and evaluate in twenty minutes. That’s OK. What I’m interested in knowing, however, is how they actually grade these. As far as I know, there are three grades N (not up to standard), S (to standard) and S+ (above standard). How badly does one have to do to get an N? And what constitutes an S+?

I’m not sure what the others got, but I received 11 S’s. Fair? I don’t know. How would I evaluate myself? I’d give everyone of us S+ for both items on PD; well, except for Chris, who arrived late. The rest, we co-operated, we were early. So?

I’d also give myself an S+ for rapport, definitely. Then there were the 3 items on awareness. I’d give myself S+’s too. I hardly knew these students, but, hell, for the time I knew them,  yes, sure I was sensitive to their needs and interests. They weren’t entirely sure of the differences of have and have got when they got to my lesson, so I explained to them, using the WB well, according to the official feedback. Or wasn’t this in conformity with what was expected because it wasn’t in my aim and my aim was to give controlled practice? Codswallop, I’d say, if that was the case.

Organising the classroom? It was a small room. And it was fine the way it had been arranged. So?

Setting up work? I thought I did what I was supposed to do. Or perhaps not. I think I might have goofed at the end when I apparently told them to write and speak when it should have been one or the other. I don’t remember exactly.

Or perhaps no S+ are given on the first TP?

The overall tutor’s comment? Glowing. Lovely friendly rapport, good use of board, voice volume, concise instructions, controlled written practice, close monitoring, paused to allow ss to correct, providing visual answers, blah, blah.

So, why only To Standard?

At that time I didn’t mind. It was the first TP and I was just happy I got over it without any catastrophe. Later, however, it would become a different story…

In retrospect – or perhaps I’m just being paranoid with this chip on my shoulder – I may have earned two black marks on Ian’s book on this very second day.

The first was when Ingmar remarked that he had a plan but he didn’t exactly follow it, to which I half-jokingly added, “The best lesson plan is the the one that ends up in the bin”, then “Isn’t that true, Ian?” He kind of looked at me, thinking, “Mmm, where’s this guy going?” To understand my remark, you’ll have to understand many things beyond CELTA; you’ll have to understand me, and my philosophies, you’ll have to know different lesson approaches other than those presented by CELTA, rapport, dynamics, and so on.

I don’t think I was understood after four weeks, let alone after two days.

It wouldn’t have been the first time my warped sense of humour got me into deepish waters.

The second instance was when we, the trainees, were discussing speed of speech, and I gave my opinion, “I’m sure Ian will disagree, but I think we shouldn’t slow down too much because the students get used to this and then have difficulty understanding real-life situations when people speak normally.” I still stand by it. OK, sure, I tried to adapt to what the trainers wanted, but it was obvious to the sensitive ones around me that, from day one, we had had our differences.

And I repeat. I stand by it. For crying out loud, why are they so against repeating? Don’t we repeat, or ask others to repeat, in REAL situations? Even Cambridge examiners have said, “If you don’t understand the examiners, it’s quite all right to ask them to repeat the question.” But, what’s more important is this. Look at this sentence:

/ ɪts kwaɪt ɔːl raɪt tə ɑːsk ˈpiːpl̩ tə rɪˈpiːt /

That’s when we speak normally. But we when we slow down, we tend to emphasise all the words and the /tə/ becomes the standard /tu/. And as you are probably aware, in normal speech, almost all unstressed vowels take on the schwa sound and this is the reason learners have problems understanding us! So what should it be? Slow down? More than slow down, I’d say what is more important is to speak CLEARLY.

In all honesty, when I asked the students they all told me they understood me, Speedy Gonzalez or not…

What do you think? Do you agree with me or do you think I’m completely and utterly wrong?

Day 2, First teaching practice, aka Students? Profiling the trainees is more fun!

by celtaconfessions

CELTA First teaching practice

The Fab 5. Copyright 2012 Chiew Pang

If you’ve read Day 1, Part 3, you would have seen our schedule and each of our aims for the lessons. The coursebook we were supposed to be using for this group was New Headway Pre-Intermediate. But, this “event” took place “so long ago” what can I say about it? It’s all a hazy memory now. My fellow trainees hardly speak to me so there isn’t any point asking them, is there? Seriously, I was lucky to be in this group which had two perfect women. The men, well, men aren’t supposed to be perfect, are we? 😉

Hatty. The only flaw she has was her addiction to aubergines ;). Well, she has another, but I won’t say it behind her back.

She was on first, and, boy, was she on. The topic was ways of communication. As soon as she opened her mouth in front of the classroom, I knew this one had voice training. Only later did I find out that she is an accomplished actress and a singer, to boot. Needless to say, she gave one heck of a show.

Chris must have known what he’d be up against, so he chickened out. LOL. On top of that, what did he have to do? To give reading practice! He must have figured it’d be wiser to stay in bed.

Seriously, we thought he’d overslept because of jet-lag. Bear in mind, some trainees came a day or two before the start of the course – not much time to get acclimatised at all. The truth was he learned, like the rest of us, how easy it is to get lost in Seville! A journey that ought to have taken 10 minutes took him 40 because he was walking around in circles! Poor Chris!

I don’t think he’d like to be reminded of this lesson, so I won’t remind him.

Next was Freya, the other perfect lady. She was nervous, I could tell, but she kept it under control the whole time. To give a lesson on detailed reading on your first TP? To be applauded. I think she was Ian’s favourite.

The only problem with her lesson was Ian had to come on for a good few minutes while the police were out searching for Chris and he “stole” a part of her plan, and she repeated it. She had little choice, really. Not a criticism, Freya! 🙂

Then, it was Al’s turn. He was sly. When he spoke to us, I told him I couldn’t understand a single word of what he said, but he spoke oh-so-clearly to the students! You see, Al, if not for me…! Al’s from Australia, you see. What? Did I really say that? LOL. Al knows I like teasing him. I’m not sure which is the more serious crime, confusing a Canuck with a Yank or a Kiwi with an Ozzie… What made it worse was the students couldn’t point out NZ on the map, let alone identify the flag!

Anyway a display of a little haka and the students were falling into his pockets.

And what better person to come after a Kiwi than an Ozzie? I think Ingmar suffers from an identity crisis – just like me, haha. An Australian with a Swedish name, and whose second language is Swedish! And who plays a mean Spanish guitar à la Paco de Lucía. If he had brought his guitar in, I think all the students would have been doing the flamenco!

What was Ingmar’s aim? To look at the “grammar box”. He might have read Scrivener from cover to cover, but grammar isn’t exactly his strongest point, poor Ingmar. But, it was only 20 minutes, and he got away with it.

By the time it got to my turn, the students had nothing on their minds but home, coffee, or the arms of their loved ones. There’s still 20 minutes to go, you all!

Can you imagine an engine that’s been revving for 100 minutes? Well, that was me. Release the brakes and off I went, down the rollercoaster at 95. Mph, not kph. I had a plan, though it wasn’t required of us for this TP, which was just as well. I don’t really remember what I did – maybe my mates do and will comment – wishful thinking – but the plan went out the window. I think I felt the students didn’t quite grasp the meaning of have/have got and I took it from there.

I also think this taking off from where the previous teacher left would, in the future, get me in “trouble” as diverting from the written stage plans wasn’t looked too kindly upon. My priority was and is always the students, plan or not; it’s inbred, period.

I don’t understand that something that ought to be valued, in my humblest of opinions, gets quite the reverse reaction from the trainers.

Analysis on assessment and feedback on these lessons coming up on the next post!

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