What’s the point? The aim of the teaching practices, or TPs, is to apply what you’ve learnt in the input sessions. You’ll teach 7-8 lessons, racking up a total of 6 hours of observed and assessed teaching, which seems like a lot, but it really does fly by.
What will I teach? All of our lessons were based on a dull coursebook. Luckily, we were allowed to deviate from it as much as we pleased. We just had to keep the focus of the lesson (grammar or vocabulary) the same as that in the book. The sequence of exercises and what you did or didn’t do were up to you.
What’s team-teaching? From day one, you’re split up into groups of 6 and further subdivided into groups of 3. In these groups, you split a 2-hour lesson into three 40-minute parts. When you build up to your 1-hour lesson, you’ll be put into pairs. On my course, most of my lessons were team collaborations. It’s important to speak up, share your ideas and communicate well with your group. If you don’t, the overall lesson could turn into a disaster and will be confusing to your students. If all goes according to plan, the lessons should a flow seamlessly into each other. Remember to plan and rehearse your transitions together to figure out what works and what doesn’t.
But Esther, I’m still terrified about TPs. Do you have any tips to help me?
Sure I do! Here they are:
Make the most of your preparation time. On my course, I had 2-3 days between each of my lessons. I used my time to analyze the target language with grammar books, adapt and develop materials for activities, anticipate potential problems and their solutions, and to ask for guidance from my tutors and peers.
Listen to and observe your students. You’ll learn a lot from them and be able to figure out what activities they like and dislike. Use this information for your next lesson so you don’t bore them to death.
Stick to the time limit. When your time’s up, wipe the board, pack your things and make room for the next teacher. It doesn’t matter if you’re in the middle of a sentence and you haven’t finished your lesson. Get out of there!
Arrive early. Set up the room and chat with early students. Ask them what they did on the weekend or which football team they support. It helps if you’re interested in the answers, but even if you’re not, it’s a good chance for your students to talk to you as a normal person, and not as the English teacher.
The purpose of the interview is to find out whether you’re suitable for the course and whether you’ve got the potential to pass. My interview was conducted over Skype (voice, no video) and lasted for about an hour.
I came prepared. I read through my entire application, skimmed through a few chapters of Scrivener’s Learning Teaching, memorized TEFL jargon I thought would be nice to throw in to show off my knowledge. I thought of good answers to typical interview questions and lastly, I compiled a short list of things I would ask them. 10 minutes from the agreed time and I was pumping with adrenaline and ready to go!
Surprisingly, it was very relaxed interview. I was slightly disappointed by this, actually. All the work I’d taken to prepare for it had gone to waste. I was asked a couple of questions about my application and on the English language, but nothing too difficult. They mostly wanted to find out more about me and my past experiences.
For the rest of the “interview” I asked my questions. We went through the course organization, the resources, the location, the students, the tutors, visa and immigration queries, and the job opportunities. Everything I wanted to know was answered. I instantly felt more confident about my decision to complete the course with them. At the end, I was told I had a position and I received my acceptance letter.
I’m aware that this is not how most CELTA interviews are conducted but perhaps the lengthiness of their application task (18 pages) made up for the laxness of the interview questions – who knows?
All in all, I’m glad I over-prepared. You can never predict what type of interviewer you’ll get. They may ask you tons of questions, or hardly any. Read through your application and go over the questions you struggled with the most and finally, think of at least 3 questions to ask about the course. It’ll be worth finding out what you’re getting yourself into before you take the plunge.
The idea of observations and feedback is to target the areas you and your peers need to improve on so that you can teach better lessons as the course progresses.
What happens when I’m observing? You observe your peers’ lessons and hopefully you’ll be able to pick up on things the students really enjoy so you use them in your own lessons. It does get boring at times but you can tune out for the tedious moments. Make sure you look like you’re paying attention, though. Nod your head every now and then – that should do the trick.
What happens when it’s my turn? While you’re up there playing teacher, your peers and your trainer watch and take notes. Your trainer also reads through your plan and evaluates your performance. It’s odd to look back and have 6 pairs of beady eyes staring at your every move in silence, but once you get past your third lesson, you won’t even notice them anymore. Don’t panic (like I did), focus on your lesson and most of all, focus on your students’ reactions and respond to them naturally.
When you’re done, you’ll write a short statement about your performance. Then, your trainer writes their comments alongside yours, but doesn’t show it to you until after feedback, where the group goes over what went well with your lesson and the areas that could be improved i.e. what you screwed up. Dealing with criticism is difficult no matter how constructive it is. Try not to take it personally, but look at it as a way to ace your next lesson. Dwelling on the negative will only set you back, and there’s very little time to waste on this course.
Disaster. I can’t think of a better way to describe it. I wish I could say it went swimmingly and my trainers and peers praised me until the cows came home. But no, I’m afraid disaster does sum it up nicely.
A typical application starts with questions on your personal and contact details, your education history and recent professional experience. Then, you’re asked to write a statement about your motivations and what you intend to do with your certification.
Next, is where the real fun starts – the application task itself.