Technologically and linguistically adventurous EFL teacher

I was very happy to be asked to write a guest post on the ETpedia blog. John Hughes’ book has been very useful to me on CELTA courses recently, and I would highly recommend getting yourself a copy. If you use this link, I’ll get a few pennies too.

ETpedia cover

My guest post was 10 tips to help you become a teacher trainer. What tips would you add?

The latest IH Journal is now available, featuring the Developing Teachers column by yours truly. This time the topic is whether the Delta is really worth it, answering a question I’ve been asked many times.

The journal features articles by IH staff from around the world, covering topics as diverse as IH Madrid’s class book competition for young learners, a potted history of the English language and even an article in Russian about equivalents of English language teaching terminology. The contents page is here, and the whole journal is here. You can also read past issues of the journal.

IH Journal issue 37 front cover

 

Rhythm of a CELTA

This post is aimed at new CELTA trainers, especially those about to start their training (thanks to Amy for inspiring it!) If that’s not you, the jargon probably won’t make sense and the post isn’t really relevant :)

One of the most challenging things I found as a new CELTA tutor was knowing how to manage my time on the courses, so I thought it might be useful to share the main things you have to think about each week. The questions below are based on my diary of to-do lists for the past year, something I’ve found incredibly useful to keep me sane! Of course, the rhythm may differ from centre to centre, but it could serve as a starting point. (This is also a reminder to me in case I have a gap between courses!)

Before the course

  • Do you have the trainee profiles?
  • Are you familiar with the templates for giving lesson feedback? Will you type or handwrite your feedback? (Tip if you’ll type them: create a template so you can’t accidentally save over anybody’s feedback!)
  • Do you know the timetable for the first week, particularly which input sessions you’ll be doing?
  • How long do you have to prepare feedback? When do trainees need to hand in their self-evaluations after lessons?
  • Have you familiarised yourself with the assignments, particularly any which will be set in week one?
  • What materials will you be using? Do you need to prepare TP points? In how much depth?
  • Do the trainees need specific observation tasks for TP? Or will they be encouraged to write whatever notes they choose? Or a combination of the two?
  • Will you be with the same group of students throughout the four weeks (e.g. always elementary) or will you change throughout the course (e.g. weeks 1/4 with one group, 2/3 with the other)?
  • When do the trainees change tutors?
  • How much of the course is paper-based? Does the centre use methods to share information/files, like Dropbox or Google Drive? Is this only between tutors, or do the trainees have access to it too?

If you’re freelancing, there are a few additional questions:

  • Do you know how to get to the school? How long will it take?
  • Is there a chance to go into the school before the course starts? This is a good opportunity to ask about things like photocopier codes, wifi, and printer access, as well as which rooms be used during the course and what resources are available for trainees.
  • Will your transport be paid for (both international and local)?
  • What is the accommodation like?
  • Where is the nearest supermarket? When will you have time to cook? (!)
  • Do you need travel/health insurance?
  • What about visas? Who’s responsible for them? How long do they take to get?

Week one

  • Are there any assignments to be set this week? Who will do it?
  • Stage 1 tutorials: When do you need to write them by? Do you need to meet any of the trainees?
  • Which input sessions do you need to prepare for week one?
  • Which ones do you need to start thinking about for week two, especially if you’ve never done them before?
  • When do the trainees start handing in plans and language analyses (straight away, or do they wait for specific input sessions first)? What is the deadline for them each day? What time do you have to mark them by? Do you need to give any feedback on them to the trainees before they teach?
  • Are you changing levels/trainee groups? How does the handover work? (e.g. When is assisted lesson planning? How will you arrange this with your co-tutor(s)?)
  • Do you need to write TP points for week two? Does the level of depth change?

Week two

  • Are there any assignments to be set this week? Who will do it?
  • Are any assignments due this week? When do you need to mark them by? What time do you have available to mark them in? When are resubmissions due in?
  • Stage 2 tutorials: When do you need to write them by? What time do you have available to do this? Is there a specific format at your centre? When will you meet the trainees?
  • Does anybody need a warning letter? What’s the procedure at your centre for this?
  • Which input sessions do you need to prepare for week two?
  • Which ones do you need to start thinking about for week three?
  • Are you changing levels/trainee groups? How does the handover work?
  • Do you need to write TP points for week three? Does the level of depth change?

Week three

  • Are there any assignments to be set this week? Who will do it?
  • Are any assignments due this week? When do you need to mark them by? What time do you have available to mark them in? When are resubmissions due in?
  • Does anybody need a stage 3 tutorial?
  • Does anybody need a warning letter? What’s the procedure at your centre for this?
  • Which input sessions do you need to prepare for week three?
  • Which ones do you need to start thinking about for week four?
  • Are you changing levels/trainee groups?
  • Do you need to write TP points for week four? Does the level of depth change?
  • When is the assessor coming? Factor in time to meet them (you’re unlikely to have time for much else that day, e.g. writing assignments)
  • When do you need to complete the information about trainees for the assessor? What format does it need to be in? What time do you have available to do this in?

Week four

  • Are there any assignments to be set this week? Who will do it?
  • Are any assignments due this week? When do you need to mark them by? What time do you have available to mark them in? When are resubmissions due in?
  • Which input sessions do you need to prepare for week four?
  • Is the assessor coming this week? (see above!)
  • When do you need to write final reports by? What time do you have available to do this? What format does it need to be in? Who needs the reports (e.g. main tutor, receptionists etc)? (If you’re a freelancer, do you need to sign them? When?)
  • Is there anybody who needs the final page of their CELTA 5 completed (e.g. because they’ve had a warning letter earlier on the course)?
  • When and where is the post-CELTA party? Are you invited? Do you want to go? ;)
The places you can go with a CELTA (a woman and a man looking at a world map)

The places you can go with a CELTA (my photo)

Is there anything I’ve forgotten?

Postscript

I know people look on my blog for some tips about training as a CELTA tutor, and it’s something I’m planning to write about, but haven’t got round to yet. One day… In the meantime, you might also be interested in my diary of a course I did in February 2015: week oneweek two, week three, week four.

I just looked at the IH YouTube channel and found my face looking back at me :) I’d forgotten that I was asked to talk about my experience of doing the IH COLT course while I was at the IH DoS Conference in January.

Here’s my 3-minute testimonial about the course.

If you’re interested in doing it too, you can find out more information on the IH Online Teacher Training Institute. The courses are available to anyone, and there’s a discount for IH teachers. I hope you find it useful!

ih logo

The short answer is: I have no idea, particularly since reading all the things written on various blogs over the last month or so, triggered by Geoff Jordan’s talk at the Innovate ELT conference.

I started writing a very rambling comment on his post about materials banks, and decided that I’d share it as a post instead as I’m not really sure what I’m trying to say with it, it’s late, and I don’t want to add such a rambling contribution with no clear point to such an in-depth discussion. Instead I’m posting it here, since I’m allowed to ramble on my own blog! Can anyone enlighten me on what I think?!

Coursebooks

Image taken by Sue Annan, from the ELTpics collection and shared under a Creative Commons 3.0 licence

“[In one of the comments] Patrick said: “I’ve discussed this a lot with learners and they seem generally to agree that working with language that has emerged in their daily lives is more useful and more engaging than studying something simply because that’s what’s next in the coursebook.”

This is exactly how I was studying Russian. I told my teacher what experiences I’d had with Russian in the time since my previous lesson, and she gave me words and phrases I could use next time round. However, I was living in the country so had plenty of opportunities to experiment with the language, I’m very motivated, I’m an experienced language learner and teacher and like to think I know a fair amount about how I learn (in terms of what works for me), it was mostly mediated through English, the class was 121, and my teacher was good at coming up with things on the spot. When I didn’t have anything I wanted to cover, I’d tell her which bit of grammar I wanted her to show me so that I could start to notice it if I came across it. I was at A2-ish level by the end of a year, having already had Czech to build on. I’d learnt Czech by following a coursebook at my own speed, then having classes from my second year, mostly based on continuing the same coursebook, with some ad hoc lessons based on my immediate needs. It wasn’t as fast, but it did help me to know what I could study next, especially for a language with not many materials out there. If any of the conditions for my Russian classes hadn’t been fulfilled, I doubt it would have been anywhere near as useful for me, but I have to say I learnt it 3 times as fast as I did Czech as I got to the same level in a third of the time (I did a lot more self-study too though!)

I wish I could have lessons like that with all of my students, but when I was teaching last year my students had almost no exposure to English in their daily lives unless they actively sought out things on the Internet – it was hard to get ‘real’ books, films, etc in English where I was living. When they came to class with something different, we always looked at that rather than coursebook, and we often went off on tangents. They’d bought coursebooks though and in some of the bigger groups it was a unifying factor, with me adapting, extending and rejecting bits as I thought necessary.

I also showed them ways of extending their learning outside the classroom through the use of tools like Quizlet, offering them pre-vetted sets of vocabulary (vetted for accuracy, level of challenge, appropriacy etc.) which they could choose from, and shared my experience of learning languages to attempt to encourage them to try different methods out. Despite repeatedly demonstrating and encouraging them to use these techniques, they pretty much all defaulted back to lists of translations, with the occasional outlier of a student who actually tried to e.g. record vocabulary with a picture/English definition/collocations etc. When I tried to find out what they were interested in or what they wanted to study, I had the same experience as one of the commenters above, with them telling me I was the teacher and should decide. I’m not attempting to argue that the coursebook was the best answer in this situation, just describing my experience.

I’m still not really sure I could put together a personalised syllabus that would be very detailed at the beginning of a course if I didn’t already know a lot about a group of learners – this is the main area where I struggle, since if I’m not using a course book, I tend to work on a lesson-by-lesson basis. That’s fine if it’s low stakes, but as soon as you factor in exams or anything else high stakes, it puts a lot of added pressure on the teacher. I did once try to teach an intensive FCE course without a book by selecting materials from a range of places, but the students complained about the randomness of it and we ended up using an exam prep book instead. I think putting together a syllabus is a challenging skill, and not something I’ve ever found/had effective training in. I’ve never really found a readable, accessible guide to putting one together either (the ones I’ve seen have been pretty dry and I’ve never found them very helpful).

I guess I’m saying that although I know that coursebooks aren’t necessarily the best way, I’ve found them a useful support structure as a teacher, and I have learnt from them as a student, even though I know that it’s not been the fastest way for me to learn.”

This is part of a series of posts showing you all the different ways you can approach the Cambridge Delta. They are designed to help you find out more about the course and what it involves, as well as helping you to choose the right way to do it for you, your lifestyle and the time you have available. If you’ve done the Delta (or any other similar higher-level teaching course, including a Masters), and you’d like to join in, let me know by leaving me a comment or contacting me via Twitter @sandymillin.

Emma Gore-Lloyd started teaching four years ago after doing her CELTA at IH Wroclaw in June 2011. She worked at IH Huelva in Spain, where she enjoyed presenting at the IH Andalucia and ACEIA conferences, and started the DELTA in 2014 before moving to work at the British Council in Madrid. She blogs at https://hiveofactivities.wordpress.com/

Emma Gore-Lloyd

How did you do your Delta? How did you arrange the modules? (i.e. in what order and did you do them in different places?)

I did an intensive Delta 3-2-1 course at IH Seville (CLIC). This intensive course starts with an introductory course for Module 3 [the extended assignment], which served to prepare us well for the other two modules and also, as it was the least demanding week, gave us a chance to settle in and get to know one another a bit.  Module 2 [the observed teaching] came next, and that lasted for 6 weeks. Last came Module 1, the exam preparation course. Because we had covered most of the input we were able to focus on exam practice in this time. Then in the new year when I started work in a new job, I got going on Module 3. IH Seville set us deadlines for each part and offered feedback on each part and a final draft before we submitted the final thing.

Why did you choose to do it that way?

I chose to do as much as possible of the Delta face-to-face because I’m not a fan of online learning or of studying at the same time as working. My choice of intensive course was limited by the fact that I wanted to keep the summer free and start in September (most intensive courses seem to be in the summer), but luckily for me, IH Seville was close to where I’d been living, and I later heard that it has one of the best pass rates for the Delta.

What do you think you gained from doing the Delta?

It was a great opportunity to fine tune my teaching skills and to read more of the literature – I feel much more knowledgeable about English language teaching now. This can also make you more critical and/or cynical, which could either be an advantage or a disadvantage! I really enjoyed doing the experimental practice as it was an opportunity to learn about something new and try it out in the classroom without the pressure of being observed. I’m definitely more confident about how to tailor a course to my students’ needs now. I made some good pals on the course too.

How much time per week would you estimate you needed to spend working on the Delta in the format you chose?

Ha ha! All of it during Module 2! I would get up around 8 and try to do some yoga and then some reading over brekkie, before heading to school for the first input session at 10. The best part of the day was the breakfast break at 11.30. Then there was teaching practice, lunch, and often another input session. There may have been more input than that on some days or less – I can’t quite remember now! I’d get home around five and then work until about 11pm. Weekends were a bit more intense. It sounds awful, and perhaps it was a bit too much because I was ready for it to be over by the end of the fourth week – not great when the teaching practice that counts is in the sixth week! Module 1 was less full-on, which was great because we all had Delta fatigue by then. Module 3 was a bit different – I chose not to do much during the week when I was working and then spend the weekend focusing on it, but you could do it in other ways. I didn’t have much of a social life anyway, so it suited me to do it that way. If you’re organised and make a good headstart, it shouldn’t be too much of a headache.

What were the downsides of the method you chose?

Well, obviously I had to give up working while I did the intensive course (and I had to pay for it myself), but I was prepared for this and saved up. By the end of Module 2 I think we were all quite tired and it was hard to stay motivated during the module 1 prep course. At this point I was also concerned with finding work starting in January. If you find yourself in the same situation, don’t panic – job vacancies appear at the beginning of January too.

What were the benefits of the method you chose?

I got most of it over and done with quickly!  I was reminded that my choice was the right one when I was doing Module 3 at the same time as working. It dragged on forever! (It is possible to hand in Module 3 on the same day as the Module 1 exam in December, but that’s a bit full on and our tutors didn’t really recommend it). Doing Module 2 before Module 1 definitely made sense for me because we had already applied the knowledge we needed for the exam meaningfully and it was therefore more memorable. I imagine learning a list of terminology without having applied it would be a lot harder.

The face-to-face factor was definitely a benefit for me: studying with actual, physical tutors and peers (rather than virtual ones) can mean the difference between something seeming a bit dull and something being totally inspiring – for me, anyway. It can also be eye-opening to meet teachers who have worked in totally different environments, and it’s nice to be able to support each other as you go through the course.

What tips would you give other people doing the Delta?

  • Read Sandy’s and Lizzie’s posts on doing the Delta for excellent tips.
  • Start reading before the course and make notes on things that you think are interesting or that you disagree with.
  • Be organised! I found Evernote really helped me keep everything sorted.
  • Don’t expect to feel great when Module 2 finishes. It’s more of a weird anti-climax.
  • Take Sandy’s advice and have a holiday before and after Module 2 – you’ll need it.
  • Take the advice you give your students and plan your essays really well because there’s no room for waffle in those word counts.
  • Do as many past papers as you can for Module 1.
  • Keep to the deadlines your tutors give you for Module 3 so you can benefit from reading their comments.

In retrospect, what would you have done differently?

It’s hard to say, but because we had so much useful input in Modules 3 and 2, I might have been able to study by myself for the exam. However, the school gave us access to lots of past papers and examiners’ reports, and they are the best resource for learning what Cambridge want (providing an excellent test example to analyse for reliability) – and it was good to be with my study buddies.

There are a lot of wonderful blogs out there, but sometimes it can be a bit hard to find what you’re looking for when you need it.

I found this when I started teaching a student who was almost completely blind, which is why I wrote my Rethinking the Visual posts. I also came across English With Kirsty, and was happy to get help from her with my classes. She later wrote a post called The Inclusive Classroom with tips on working with blind and partially sighted students.

Naomi Epstein writes one of my favourite blogs. She teaches deaf and hard-of-hearing students, and shares lesson plans and reflections on her teaching, among many other things. Some of the categories which you might find useful are:

Chris Wilson has collected a set of dyslexia resources on his blog. He’s also written about how dyslexia affected his own language learning.

In a similar vein, Joanna Malefaki has written about how colour blindness affects her life and her teaching, from which you can gather suggestions about what (not) to do to help colour-blind students in your classes. She also pointed me in the direction of the Colour Blind Awareness YouTube channel, particularly the Rainbow Song, which is the first time I’ve really understood how different the world looks to someone who’s colour blind.

Three students chatting

Image taken from ELTpics by @yearinthelifeof under a Creative Commons 3.0 licence

I know there must be many other posts out there to help you integrate more students into your classes, so what have I missed?

I’d particularly like to know about helping students with ADHD as I’ve recently had a trainee with it and I didn’t know enough about it to advise them. All help appreciated!

 

Where’s home?

Home is here. Home is now.

Home is Palma today, Hartwell tomorrow, Barcelona on Sunday.

Home is where I am. Home is where I’m not, where my family is, where my friends are. But where are they?

Wolverhampton

Home is Wolverhampton, the house I grew up in, the one my brother still lives in, except for when he doesn’t, when he’s driving his truck around the country five days a week. The city where my best friend lives, with her partner and their new baby. My things, in the attic. But not all of them.

Home is Hartwell, the place I stay when I go back to the UK now, my aunt, my uncle, my cousins. A village in the beautiful English countryside, a place I’ve got to know so much better this year.

Home is my official address, the one I share with my mum, my grandma, my uncle. Where all of my documents go. Where my grandy was and is and always will be in my memory.

Home is England, land of my birth, land of my family, land of the language which my life revolves around.

Palma

Home is where I am right now: Palma, Mallorca, finishing a CELTA course. An apartment just outside the ring road which replaced the city walls, within walking distance of the school which rents it for students studying Spanish. Next month it will be someone else’s home.

Home will be Barcelona and Bydgoszcz and who knows where else?

Around the world

 

Asunción

Home has been on four continents: Pfreimd, Borneo, Asunción, Metz, Ardingly, Brno, Newcastle, Leeds, San Diego, Vancouver, Chiang Mai. All home at one time or another. Many in multiple times and places.

Sevastopol

Home is Sevastopol, caught between what has been and what will be. Where my things are. But not all of them.

Durham

Home is Durham, the place I return to again and again. A place I fell in love with on my uni open day, when I imagined myself there as a student two years in the future and twelve in the past. Where my favourite building is, a cathedral that I can’t get enough of, holding so many memories for me, and more every time I go back, but not to live, never to live, unless in the houses facing the cathedral across the river, homes I might one day retire to. How many other homes in between?

Jungle, summer school, hotel and hostel

Home is my hammock in the jungle, my room for summer school, a canal boat or a cottage for a holiday.

Home is my hotel for a few nights, my flat for a month, my house for a year.

Home is my bedroom, the place I sleep at night. Home is my kitchen, where I cook what I can’t buy. Home is my suitcase, which comes with me everywhere.

Home is the internet, carried in my computer around the world. My friends online and off who I know are there for me, wherever I am. Other people’s homes waiting for me when I travel, welcoming me in with open arms, sharing their lives, their time, their kitchens.

Home is my photos, my memories, the space inside my head.

Home is tears, sickness, sadness. Home is distance. Home is a thought you hold in your head, a place to return to, ephemeral.

Home is laughter, happiness, health. Home is intimacy. Home is a thought you make real, a place you create, personal.

Home is a dream. A dream of a family, a husband, a home of our own. Where my things are. All of them. The things I buy for my future home to remind me of this time when home is everywhere. The cross stitch I do now to go on my wall then. A dream of stability, of health, of happiness. A dream of a future, who knows where, who knows when.

Come in and make yourself at home.

[inspired by Lemn Sissay’s Homecoming]

ELT News is the journal of the Austrian teacher’s association, TEA (Teachers of English in Austria). The latest edition features my review of one of my favourite podcasts. You can find the full table of contents, complete with links to all of the articles. There’s something for everyone: business English, younger learners, activities, polemic, and entertainment. My favourite article is ‘Unhand me Sir, for my husband, who is an Australian, awaits without’, which I would heartily encourage you to read :)

Pouring tea

Why not grab a cup of tea and read the journal? Photo by Dace Praulins from eltpics, used under a Creative Commons 3.0 licence

Sandy Millin:

My mum has answered these questions in response to a challenge from the iTDi (International Teacher Development Institute) blog. You can read the original three posts by following this link: http://itdi.pro/blog/2015/05/10/from-the-teachers-family/
Thanks for writing it, mum, and for your constant support!

Originally posted on musingsofacoeliaclibrarian:

I have been asked by a number of people why I ‘let’ my daughter travel abroad. It is always a question which stumps me, as I don’t feel that what she want to do with her life is really anything to do with me, so I don’t understand why I should be letting, or indeed stopping, her from doing what she wants to do. I am happy to support her in her life choices, especially asI can see that she is enjoying her life and getting a lot from what she is doing.
Together in Praque Together in Prague
Sandy asked me to write about this, but I was struggling to know what to write until one of her friendscame up with the following questions. So here are my answers, some of which will also the answer the question in the title of this post.
1) What are three good things about having…

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