I've recently become a CELTA tutor and thought it might be interesting to comment on my experiences over the first 5 or 6 courses.

Problem is, I've already done my training and my first course, so the first two entires in my blog will be reflections on the last two courses.  When the next course comes up, it'll be reflections on each course itself and what I've learned about both teaching and about teacher-training.

So here's the first... my experience as a TiT (a Trainer-in-Training)

General feelings:

  • Beforehand:  confidence, excitement, and a tiny fraction of apprehension
  • During:  none - I was too busy to consider my feelings
  • Afterwards:  surprise (at how much there was to do), relief (both that I'd made it and that there was a stress-free weekend coming finally)

Basically, it started with observing videos of teachers (or soon-to-be-teachers) doing their practical teaching sessions on a CELTA and discussing that lesson in relation to the Cambridge ESOL CELTA Syllabus with an experienced tutor who I'd just met that day, and who would be my mentor (and assessor) for the next month.  His name was John. 

That was followed by three days of cramming page after page of various CELTA handbooks, including a hundred or so pages each on: the syllabus, the administration guidelines, and the trainer-in-training programme... and then doing a bunch of tasks that encouraged me to get to the core of each of these documents, as well as to familiarise myself with the upcoming course (One of the many tasks was along the lines of: Look at the Course Schedule.  Which of the main aspects of the syllabus does each session on the course cover?  Are any aspects of the syllabus covered indirectly or over the duration of the course rather than in a specific session?  How do the course assignments relate to the syllabus?)

Then the course actually started... What was I to do?  Observe at least 85% of the training sessions led by the two tutors using a combination of self-prepared and tutor-prepared Observation Tasks and on occasion adding more subjective points to a journal.  Observing all the teaching practice and feedback sessions.  Constantly updating the journal with things: I'd learned; that had surprised me; that I knew I'd need to practice more carefully; that I did already; that I'd need guidance for in extreme occasions, etc... etc... as well interesting tips and ideas I'd picked up and also with comments and observations on how the teachers reacted to the training and/or tutors.

That was the basic stuff, that took up my normal 40 hours week... My 'homework' involved: designing training session materials, whole training sessions, assignments, teaching practice points, observation tasks, feedback tasks, and a hoard of other stuff.  

And then there was the actual tutoring - I did 3 of the input sessions: one combining a focus on The Perfect Aspect with Anticipating Problems, one on aspects of Connected Speech (eg. elision), and the one young learners focus that we include at our school (lots of young learner teaching in China, so it's appropriate here).  I also did some of the observation and feedback of teaching practice... and all of this was observed and assessed by John, with even more assessment by the Moderator who came over during the last week and observed several of my sessions.

Needless to say it was a hectic, crazy month - if you've ever done a CELTA, add on an extra hour or two each evening, and that's what a TiT does... but it was fantastic regardless!

As for the Trainers... John was pretty cool - he didn't know how to iron his shirt, and he claimed he wasn't a 'social butterfly' but everyone knew he was really.  He basically put together my training programme, which was fantastic, and he was easy to get along with but still happy to give me constructive criticism where appropriate.  The other tutor was awesome too - in fact, the combination of the two was great, because she was a bit stricter and a bit more formal, whereas he was a bit more laid back, and they both got along great despite having very different approaches to some things.  It was good to both their perspectives and advice and suggestions... And the course got 100% great feedback from the trainees and had some very strong passes - so it was clear that they were both brilliant CELTA tutors.  Lucky start for me!

The trainee's were brilliant too.  Despite being run in China we had just 2 Chinese teachers on the course, and when it came to the others, they were from all over the place.  A fairly young bunch (only one person on the course was older than me, and I still consider myself to be young enough), very active, friendly, and at times over the top and crazy... made my TiT Training all the more interesting and enjoyable.

 Well... I wish I'd written this just after the course, because I'd've had so much more to say - 3 months and another course have passed since then, so a lot of it's just a blur now... But...

NEXT UP: my 1st course as a full-time CELTA Tutor.

Comments

Hello Heath,

Your comments were very interesting. This is all so familiar. I am sharing your blog post with other former TiTs in the CELTA centre where I work. One question we used to ask our trainers during our TiT programme was: is there life after being a TiT? Well, we're all alive and kicking!

Alberto Costa, Brazil

Hi
I am fresh off the CELTA and I often wondered what goes through the mind of my fellow 'celtees'. It was interesting to read your  post and actually see what happens on the other end of the spectrum :-)

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