Monday, 25 August 2014

The difference between good learners and bad learners

In language teaching, we can say that the difference between good learners and bad learners is not the way they behave, but how we behave towards them | Luke Prodromou

Tuesday, 19 August 2014

Current and coming CELTA courses

Course starting August 27—September 26

We have 24 trainees starting their four-week CELTA course in Barcelona on August 27.

Catherine and Claire, Francesca and Rosa (left to right, shown above) are the course tutors for the two groups of 12 the trainees are divided into.

We also have around 60 TP students this month -- the learners you teach in your TP (teaching practice) sessions on your course.

Other CELTA courses coming up shortly

In Barcelona
September 8—December 19 (online)
October 6—October 31
November 3—28
November 3—February 23, 2015 (part-time)

Other dates | Apply for the course

CELTA courses in China | Next course in China: November 3—27

CELTA courses in Mexico | Next course in Mexico: Sept. 8—October 3

Monday, 4 August 2014

Are you cut out for TEFL?

Could you sit in that chair...? CELTA course tutor Lynn Durrant explains what it takes

"What makes a good CELTA trainee?" I asked Lynn Durrant, one of the CELTA course tutors at International House Barcelona. "How do you know if you're cut out to do the course ­ and to be a teacher?"

"Well, you don't, until you get into the classroom," Lynn says. "But if you can't get on with other people at a communicative level, then it's probably not for you. What matters is whether or not you can interact with people, that's the first thing. So, you've got to like people. The rest ­ or lots of it, at least ­ is a question of techniques that you can learn. And you've got to be a good listener".

A good listener? "Yeah, not wishing to categorise people, but if you work all day with computers, then you're maybe not a great communicator. You can turn a computer off ­ but you can't turn off the faces sitting there in front of you in the classroom."

A teacher isn't someone who is in a class to teach people, it's someone who's in the class to help them learn.

Listening for a lot

What are you listening for? An awful lot, by the sound of it: "What you can use for the next stage of the lesson, what the students' grammar is like to see if you can shape it, who the weaker students are, who needs more time. You're also listening to see if they can help themselves, rather than you jumping in to help them."

My definition of a teacher isn't someone who is in a class to teach people, it's someone who's in the class to help them learn," Lynn says. "What makes a really good trainee is someone who by the end of the course stops performing and starts teaching. You inevitably worry about yourself ('How's my lesson going?') but you want to change that worry into wanting your students to learn. You've got to forget that someone is watching you."

Don't be shy!

Someone who is very shy is probably going to suffer a bit, Lynn feels, getting very nervous about being observed. Most trainees overcome this though, especially as everyone is in the same boat.

It also takes someone who doesn't panic -- "someone who's prepared to be patient, who's not afraid of silence in the classroom, someone who doesn't talk to fill the spaces," as Lynn puts it. Sometimes silence in the classroom can mean people are thinking -- and that's not a bad thing!

But there's more to it than that. "You get people who start the course really well," Lynn says, "because they do get on well with people, but then by Week 3 they're struggling because they haven't got the ability to self-analyse."

The sort of trainee teachers students like

It's partly many years of experience as a CELTA course tutor that has given Lynn such a keen insight into what it takes. But she's also taken the trouble to go and find out -- by asking the students, those learning their English from the trainees -- what makes a good trainee. "They always say the same thing: 'someone who we can see is enjoying being with us'. That's the basic ingredient," Lynn says: "Wanting to be there and wanting to be with people and listening to them - and enjoying it!"

The many years also mean once you get Lynn going on the subject, she can tell you an awful lot about what sort of person is cut out for it. On the four-week intensive course, you've got to take such a lot on board fast, and show you can do that, sometimes that same afternoon. "You've got to be someone who can keep calm under pressure, someone who can analyse what your weak areas are, someone who can manage your time well, be organised." If you're not like that, Lynn recommends the part-time rather than the full-time intensive course.

Do some people drop out of the course?

There are not too many dropouts (Lynn estimates about 3 or 4 in the roughly 50 courses she's done in the last ten years) and less than 5% fail the course -- partly because the interview process weeds out anyone really not suitable. It varies: on the last course Lynn taught all passed; in the previous summer, 3 out of 12 failed. Dropouts tend to be people who haven't enjoyed the teaching, often because they can't come to terms with being in front of a class full of people.

As a tutor, the hardest thing is when you get a fail candidate. You think 'Maybe I could have done more to help this person'. I actually cried the first time I got one. It's not easy to fail someone but as a trainer you've got to accept that responsibility.

A role model

So after so many years, does Lynn still enjoy it herself, teaching CELTA courses, I mean? An emphatic "yes": "It's great to see someone who's quite nervous on the first day who by the end of the third week you can see emerging as a teacher," Lynn says. So to a considerable extent being a good tutor requires precisely some of the qualities we've mentioned here as being necessary as a trainee? Lynn felt that was probably true: "to some extent you're a role model," she says. At IH Barcelona you always get at least two tutors, plus sessions with other trainers, so you end up seeing a number of different "models".

And you thought TEFL was going to be easy, did you? In fact, being a good teacher has a lot to do with the ability to do ten different things at once. And not being afraid to ask for help. Lynn says: "It's about knowing what to ask, why to ask it, when to ask it."

So now you know! Whatever you do, get yourself a good course and hope your tutor is going to be someone like Lynn.

Friday, 1 August 2014

Tips from other CELTA course trainees

On the last day of their CELTA course, tutor Francesca Pelli asked her trainees to write down advice they would give to anyone starting the course.

This is a selection of what they came up with...

Breathe in, relax, keep a cool head and enjoy it! Mark

Seeing Barcelona
  • Get there early and do the tourist thing before the course starts as with the workload you won't be able to enjoy it fully later on. Iain 
  • Do your sightseeing before or after the course, because there's not time during. Miguel 
Grammar and language analysis
  • Study the grammar. It's not really necessary that you know your grammar or are good at language analysis but it will help give you that extra edge. Doing the pre-course homework will help you with this. Tammy 
  • Don't worry about your language analysis. Most of the trainees come on to the course unable to analyse a name tag, let alone a complex grammatical structure You will learn how to research the specific language for a given lesson - just concentrate on the day in hand. Ian
  • In the classroom When teaching, speak slow and clear, or else students will look at you blankly and whisper "¿quĂ©?" to each other. Miguel 
Working with other trainees
  • The people I worked with were always ready to help with your lesson plan, organising materials and so on. Colleagues' feedback after the lesson was invaluable. You get not just the tutor's opinion, but that of 4 other people and I found this to be really constructive. Fiona 
  • Try to solidify as a group with your colleagues as a team. Working with your teaching group will yield many benefits. You will help each other prepare lessons and have people to bounce ideas off. Tammy 
  • Help each other as much as possible because you are each other's resources, support, friends and counsellors. Anna
Teaching practice
  • Teaching practice is nerve-wracking but having a laugh about the things that went wrong over a beer in the bar afterwards makes it all feel ok. Claire 
  • Don't get nervous about your teaching practice. It's all about learning, not trying to prove what a great teacher you are. Mistakes allow everyone to learn, so appreciate them for that reason. Remember, if you were the perfect teacher you wouldn't have signed up for the course anyway! Tammy 
  • Don't worry if you have terrible lessons occasionally and don't take any failure personally: it's a learning curve and some days I had lessons that must have made my students want to call a taxi for me but then the next day a lesson would go really well. Iain 
  • Remember that making mistakes is the best way to learn. The teaching can feel great but can also be very disappointing when it doesn't go to plan. Just remember to laugh! Anna
  • If you're worried about teaching, don't be. The first time in front of a new group is always a bit scary but the more you get to know a group, the more relaxed you feel. Try and talk to the students as much as possible in breaks and before the lessons: knowing the students more personally helps you to teach them more confidently. Mark 
  • Feedback from colleagues and tutors is very useful [but] the criticism can be a bit heartbreaking after you have tried so hard [only] to be told that you hadn't done it right. Taking the attitude that it will be tough but of value is far more effective. Iain
Creating free time
  • Keep at least one day at the weekend free because you need some time to think about something other than teaching. You have lessons in the morning, teaching in the afternoon, lesson planning in the evening and then assignments at the weekends. But there's always time to chill with a beer in the bar and hit some dodgy bars on a Friday night. Mark 
Surviving CELTA
  • The best way to survive CELTA is to work out as quickly as you can where your strengths and weaknesses are and concentrate on the weaknesses. Mark