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My CELTA Progress
Certificate in English Language Teaching to Adults
ECCThai, Phuket Thailand July-August 2008

Sunday, July 13, 2008

       We had a 4 hour meeting to get to know each other and the tutors and do some administrative work. It was a good meeting and it allowed us to jump right in on Monday.

Monday, July 14, 2008

       We had some good classes in the morning with a few breaks. The classes really seemed content oriented. I didn't feel like they were giving us fluff. It was actual and practical useful information. The breaks were only 10 minutes, none of those 15-30 minute time killers. In the afternoon we each had to teach a lesson for 15 minutes. I hated this and felt I had way too much in a short time. Plus I thought we were teaching way too early. I don't want this to be a "self discovery" course since I didn't need to fly to Thailand for a month for that. We all went over time, off topic, and generally sucked.

        [Updated Later] The students are almost all Thai with one Korean guy. They know we are student teachers and either signed up at a severe discount or might not have to pay anything at all. There are about 13 regulars and other people drop in on occasion. They know what we expect from them as well as how many mistakes we will make and are very forgiving and kind.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

       Three of the six had to teach a 35 minute lesson today and the other three (myself included) teach tomorrow. A 35 minute lesson has more of a life cycle and should be better. The three lessons today were much better than Monday since we aren't nervous anymore....maybe that was the point of the Monday teaching. Or to give us a low point to improve from. We were given our first (of four) written assignments today.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

       I over planned my lesson and felt I was reading from the script too much, but I did add some instructional checking and humor. At this point I feel I have already doubled what I knew about teaching. I would definitely recommend this course and school to someone interested in CELTA.

       In the morning we had a class where we each taught a lesson in a foreign language we speak. We only taught three vocabulary words to the other 5 CELTA candidates and the tutor, but it was interesting. One guy taught Arabic which was impossible and nearly made me gag since it was somewhere in the bottom of the throat. One guy taught Telugu, a girl taught in Polish, another guy taught in Spanish, someone else in Nepali, and I taught in Japanese. I taught book, chair, and phone and it went over well I think. It was interesting learning that way. The other class was about making lesson plans which we have to do from here on out.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

       We had some good classes on grammar in the morning. (Every morning is for classes and methodology and afternoons are for teaching practicum). Three candidates gave lessons today. None seemed to do instruction checking, but were overall very good. The drama of groups and personality conflicts are starting to emerge, but only slightly. Certain people are uncomfortable receiving negative feedback from other candidates. We had great discussions about ways to elicit student centered feedback. The tutors are very knowledgeable and balanced. Although I get along with one slightly more than the other, there is no problem with either of them in anyway. I would still highly suggest both this school as well as the individual tutors. I have a 40 minute lesson tomorrow on reading.

        I'm having some trouble planning lessons because I typically think about what I am going to do for a few days before the actual class. Here I have to pre-plan it and present it to the tutor who then gives feedback, then I have to plan it quickly and do it the next day. Often there are lessons in the book that were planned by brilliant PhD in Linguistics ESL gurus, but they don't really make sense to me or they have the open ended instructions like "talk about this with your partner". That equals "chat about this in Thai".

Friday, July 18, 2008

       Today we had three classes in Course books, phonology, and lesson planning. They were all great and I actually decided to possibly consider using a course book in my classes back in Japan. It would provide some structure and give them something to take home and review (ha ha - if Japanese kids did that).

       In the afternoon I taught a lesson as well as two other people. I was second and the first guy went way over on time. Then the tutor told him to wrap it up, but the trainee insisted on completing the lesson so he continued with that activity a few more minutes. Ok, this is a good stopping point, but..."ok now make a pair and work on this for about 5 minutes". At that point the tutor just stopped him. Oddly nothing about time was mentioned in the follow which I thought was really odd. Luckily I go first next week.

       My lesson was considerably better. I was more relaxed and most everything went much better. I had an idea of instruction checking where I would forget what I just explained and have someone explain it to me. That worked great for a second, but then it stalled out. The other bad thing was one activity was way too tough and  a huge level jump in the lesson. I'll work on all this stuff since we have a different tutor next week.

       After the class we all went to a local bar and had a few drinks. Even the tutors came which gave us a chance to chat with them informally about non-class related things. It was a good tension breaker, even though there wasn't much tension.

Monday, July 21, 2008

       I turned in the first CELTA written assignment today, but I didn't feel that great about it. It just wasn't clear to me exactly what they wanted. I'll find out tomorrow if I need to do a resubmit. In the morning we had two more lecture classes. One was "teaching grammar from examples" and the other was "concept checking questions". Both were really interesting and thorough. In the afternoon, I observed three other trainees do their teaching practicum with a new tutor. He wasn't as scary as we thought. We only think he is scary because he doesn't respond to everything we say all the time. If I make a joke, he may stare at me deadpan serious and we don't really know if he's mad or just not amused.

         Now I am planning my lesson tomorrow. I find I spend the first hour or so simply looking up what all the silly technical words mean. It's like someone thinks people won't take ESL seriously unless there are long vague words that mean simple things. For example we don't ask students what a word is, we "elicit a lexis". We don't give example sentences, we "demonstrate marker sentences". We don't write things on the board, we "highlight the written form". I seriously spend most of my time figuring out what these things mean.

          Starting Wednesday we don't have to use this text book for the lessons, just the topics from the next lesson. I'm so glad since I prefer to have a lesson theme and come up with activities myself. I find this book, well most really, rather restricting and often times too dense. Most of the other trainees in the class are terrified of not using the textbook, but I find it's too easy to hide behind it.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

       I got my CELTA written assignment back with a "resubmit" request. It was for reasons I expected. I felt strongly about the first part, but then my interest and organization faded with the second part. To be honest I don't really like the written assignment part of the course anyway. I feel like it was added since that's what scholarly courses include, some written assignments about pedagogy. We need to prove we can use the unnecessarily big words in a formal paper a few times. I have three days to resubmit the paper.

       In the morning classes we learned about "building a lesson around a task", "task based learning", and more supervised lesson planning. They were all spot on and very helpful. I'm still pleased with the course and the tutors and would highly recommend it to anyone interested.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

       We had our first casualty today. One guy, who had never taught before and was doing this merely for the English grammar knowledge, left after the TBL class and never came back. We thought he assumed the supervised lesson planning was free time or individual study, but he missed his teaching practicum as well, so we assume he quit. He mentioned he also received a resubmit, but they requested a major rewrite.

       I resubmitted my CELTA written assignment and received a pass this time, though there was some hesitation by the tutor. I did much better, but still missed some points. I wasn't fully into it when I received the assignment and don't really like the assignment idea anyway. I am trying to focus on what we are learning and the TP, but there are these pending written tasks to do as well. Such is life.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

       I taught today and rocked the house. I did a receptive skills lesson (skills in receiving English i.e. listening and reading) using some authentic text and I received "Above the Standard". I was expecting "To the Standard", but I wasn't entirely surprised with AtS. I followed all the steps and only had some small issues with the speed and pace of various parts. Overall I was pleased with the lesson and the day in general.

Friday, July 25, 2008

       Today was a bit annoying. In the morning we had no input session, just one-on-one tutorials (which really means just progress reports on how we are doing in the course). The annoying this was that we had to plan our lessons for the next two weeks with the new intermediate classes. That in itself was expected, but there was some unclear rush to get it done. We also had to submit the CELTA written assignment 2 by 6 and I needed to do some finishing touches as well as do some odd administrative paperwork like self reflection and so on. While I was trying to do these things with clear and obvious deadlines, we were being told to write exactly what we planned to do for the 4th week of lessons.

       My rationale was A) I don't care right now since that is a week away, B) I have 101 other things to worry about and think about, and C) I don't immediately produce a plan when given directions, I need thinking time. But it was crucial that we get this stuff written on the board. One humorous thing was that during my tutorial (progress report) I was asked why I didn't fill in a certain thing. My response was that I was given the assignment at 10am and told it was due by noon and I was in the middle of preparing for my lesson at 2. It was about #83 on my list of things I was worried about.

         However, overall I am still pleased with the course and the tutors. I would still highly recommend the course, school, and tutors to anyone interested in taking the course. Most of my issues are with the fact that I learn a certain way and this course was not designed to accommodate me.

         Since one trainee dropped out we had an empty slot today so we made that slot the last slot and played some games that ended up being a real challenge. I played a game called word chain where I wrote a word on the board and one student had to say a word that started with the last letter. It was good focus for Thais because they typically drop the last consonant sound. Then we had them ask us questions and finally we took some photos since it was our last class together.

Monday, July 28, 2008

       I taught today in the second spot, which is still speaking practice. I taught "used to" which is easy and was fun even though the guy present taught for 55 minutes and barely introduced my grammar point. In the morning input sessions we started at 10 and had unsupervised lesson planning until 11 and then a class on receptive skills which was helpful for the 3rd assignment on receptive skills due Wednesday. When I got home I wrote out a rough draft of the CELTA written assignment 3 which fit perfectly under the 1,000 word limit and seems to cover all the criteria. I'll re-read it later.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

       I have to teach a 20 minute slot to fill in the "Creative Time" opening from when a trainee quit last week. I'm not mad that he quit since his cons outweighed his pros for the course. I'm a bit irked that the tutors don't take this opportunity to model some practical lessons to "show us what we are learning". One tutor did last week and made a point to say how he wasn't pleased. It's a little annoying that we have to double up our work to fill the gap when it would seem to make perfect logical sense to watch them do some lessons. "Here's what I am talking about in the input session". It makes me wonder why a guitar teacher would never let his students see him perform live. That seems counterproductive.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

       I had good lesson that was to the standard today. It was yet another speaking activities which I am rather good at since I do that so much in Japan. Tempers are getting hot and people are getting mad at certain things. Being an American I want things told to me flatly and clearly. I don't do well in self discovery "what do YOU think the answer is" situations, which is what this really is. I am doing ok, but I could be doing much better with less of the SD. One of the trainees got railed for putting something out of order, even though it was a good lesson. It's getting annoying how we must do things a certain way even if the students learn something from us doing it slightly differently.

     I would still highly recommend this course as well as the location and the tutors. Americans might find it difficult at times, but that's more related to the course itself and not related to the ECCThai course specifically. The papers are annoying and seem to be tangential, but I can understand why we have to do them. They would weed out people just coasting by. I had a resubmit on my 2nd CELTA written assignment which I thought was really just being nit picky and splitting hairs. But I don't care and I am still on track to pass.

Thursday, July 31, 2008

       One Brit trainee had the first full 55 minute lesson today and did it to the standard. He has one more lesson next week and then he's done. I have a grammar presentation lesson tomorrow and I went through the exact details with the class today. I tried to get it in the North American style, but they kept veering back to the fluffy roundabout Euro-way. I would ask "specifically where does content checking go" and the tutor would start in with "well where did we decide it went when we discussed this". Seriously dude, I DON'T KNOW. If I knew I wouldn't have asked just then. "Ok, well then where might it go in this model". JUST CUT THE CRAP AND TELL ME. So basically if you can handle the self discovery method you will do great. If you hate it or find it unnatural then you can still pass, but it might be difficult. The tutors said that's the European way of learning and might very well be better way of learning, but I don't learn that way and won't learn that way.

      Is it obvious there is only one week to go?

















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