Years ago, I did the old RSA Certificate, and I did some TEFL for a while before getting side-tracked with other things.

Years ago, I did the old RSA Certificate, and I did some TEFL for a while before getting side-tracked with other things. 

Now I'm half-way through the CELTA, in a big effort to up-date myself and to try teaching again.

Of course, the CELTA is a very different experience from the RSA Certificate - for all sorts of reasons. 

Leaving aside the fact that I'm very different from my much younger self, many other things have changed.

The technology is probably the most immediately obvious difference (the web, the Interactive White Board, text messaging, etc.).

But for me, the biggest difference this time round, is the way I'm able to get to know the learners better.

They are not just 'victims' for my teaching practice!

(Actually, there's a lot more teaching practice this time, which is wonderful.)

The key thing of course is my attitude.  From my first session with the learners, I wanted to find out about their individual needs, preferences and particular issues, and to try to cater for these.

The CELTA course encourages this mindset, and our tutors give us lots of useful feedback on how we're doing.

One thing I'm trying to get beyond (one of many things!), is to give the learners meaningul, challenging tasks to do, rather than simply practice activities (such as "make up sentences to describe these two rooms, using 'very', 'so' and 'too' "). 

I need to use games, role-plays and competitions.  And I need to dig around a lot more in the Teaching English site, for inspiration!

Best wishes -




At the moment I'm working on an assignment which focuses on one of the learners I teach in my teaching practice sessions.  I have to produce a short case study on the learner, which addresses their motivation for learning English; their learning preferences; and their strengths and difficulties with English.
We didn't do anything like this with the old RSA Certificate.  The learners remained a total mystery from one TP session to the next!  Partly because we didn't have continuity - the learners were different each time.
I'm finding this assignment fascinating. Finding out about the learner's own language, and how 'interference' from their mother tongue presents them with particular difficulties, is so valuable to me.  Then there's the challenge of comiing up with a brief plan designed to help them practise and improve.  I've been digging around for online resources, in the hope I could find some enjoyable listening material.  It'll be interesting to get the learner's reactions to these.

Dear Penny,I did the old RSA certificate years ago too, back in 1982/3. Although I have issues with some of the teaching practice techniques we were obliged to do, notably PPP and all that drilling, we were, nevertheless well acquainted with some of the other issues you mentioned: learner centred approaches, motivation, case studies, first language interference and so on. It was an amazing experience then, with all the new developments in skills work, the notional/functional debate, communicative approaches and so on. Not surprisingly, the debate continues with new insights into multiple intelligences and neuro-linguistic programming, different approaches to practice, and a greater acceptance of different approaches to teaching/learning. Obviously, new technology cannot be ignored, but not all of us have this luxury. When push comes to shove, you need to be able to manage without them.I think you will find a lot of help on-line. However, your best way forward is to think it out for yourself, with a little help from your friends, and try to develop your own resources and approaches. Ultimately, what works in the classroom is the proof of the pudding. Invite your own students into this debate, and find out how they feel  Not all groups or individuals fall neatly into other people's ideas and plans. Finding out about learners starts with a needs analysis. I am really surprised your RSA course didn't deal with this.I wish you every success.Best wishesKate (Wong)

Dear Kate -
Thank you for your message - it's full of useful advice and thoughts. And thank you for your good wishes too!
I'm sure my old RSA certificate dealt with the theory of needs analysis (my memory is fuzzy in many respects after so long).  But I don't remember the same opportunities as I'm having now to see the same students 'in action' over a period of time, or to talk with the students outside the TP sessions in depth about their language learning issues. 
I think there are many reasons for this.  I think the fact I'm doing a part-time course, rather than an intensive four-weeker, is one key factor for me, personally.  (I'm the sort of person who needs plenty of time to ponder - sigh.)
So it may well be that it's less a case that my CELTA course is very different from the old RSA course in this respect, and more a case that, for me, choosing a part-time CELTA rather than a full-time one, was a particularly good move! 
It would be really interesting to hear from other people who did the old RSA, and others who have done/are doing the CELTA, whether full or part-time.  What were/are the best things about these courses for you, personally?
Best wishes -

Well, my part-time CELTA course is almost over. 
My last assessed teaching practice session is tomorrow (all being well). 
My last class was cancelled because of snow.  (Yes - I can hear all the teachers from far more snowy countries laughing at the UK's inability to cope with snowfall!) 
That wasn't the first time I've had to miss a class.  A couple of weeks ago, I hurt my back (the result of bad posture and carrying too much - a few muscles went 'pop' very painfully; I've learnt my lesson, and will be far more 'body aware' from now on).  Thank goodness I was on top of my assignments.  I certainly don't recommend missing any CELTA sessions.  It 'breaks the rhythm', if nothing else, and can interfere with your teaching practice confidence as a result.
I've learnt so much from the course - especially the teaching practice.  I've acted on the trainers' feedback - even if this has been with mixed success on my part sometimes! - and now I feel I've got a good basic 'toolkit' that I can use to build my skills further.  I'm pleased that I've been able to try out a few different things in the classroom, such as games; using a video (inspired by Jamie Keddie); using the IWB (although only the absolute basics); and drawing and writing my own materials (picture cue cards, role play cue cards, a text to present an aspect of grammar).
I'm really looking forward to teaching properly - i.e. to have responsibility for classes; to help learners enjoy learning English and to make progress; and to find out what works best in different situations with different learners.
Let's see what 2011 brings!  Season's Greetings and Happy New Year to all -

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