Wednesday, November 16, 2016

CELTA Certification -or- My Intense Back-to-School Experience

As I've thought about ways I'll like to engage with my society in Mafraq, ways I might contribute to development efforts of the refugees in our city, I began to focus in on teaching English. Learning English a felt need for Syrian refugees who are in the process of immigrating to the west, and a desire for personal development for those who plan to remain in the Middle East. And as I considered opportunities for my own personal development and instruction in this area, I applied to take the intensive CELTA course offered by Cambridge English and the British Council of Amman. Since I love to learn and enjoy teaching, it seemed the perfect fit.

The course in three adjectives: excellent, practical, and INTENSIVE. Friends who has taken the course had used these same adjectives to describe it to me, but you have to experience it to appreciate that they meant intensive in all caps. Of the sixteen trainees in our course, I was the oldest. The youngest was (nearly) twenty and the rest were somewhere in between, though mostly in their twenties and thirties.

The CELTA is a lot about methodology for communicative classroom teaching of English, so age and homeschooling experience were not necessarily helpful prerequisites. Indeed, my self-described weakness was overthinking things. Many of my co-trainees had classroom English teaching experience, but again, not a helpful prerequisite, as they had to break old habits and focus on learning and teaching the CELTA way. And, many of the trainees were not native English speakers--a growing trend in the ESL world. I was very impressed by the hard work and effort they put into this course. Did they ever know their grammar!

Practical should probably be put in all caps as well. The strength of the course (and the really hard part!) is that it has the trainees teaching real students on day two of the twenty day course: twenty minutes to start, and then forty minute lessons every other day throughout the course. All lessons are observed by other trainees, as well as one of the CELTA trainers, who is writing a thorough assessment of his or her observations. These are then discussed with the trainee teaching group each morning after classes are finished.

Here I am teaching the use of ago, since, and for with the present perfect and present perfect continuous. I'm glad to see that I look happy in this picture as it was my most difficult lesson of the course!

Afternoons were for input sessions, in which we were the students. Our trainers taught these sessions using CELTA methodology, of course, giving us example upon example of how this is done. 

Evenings, and yea, early mornings were for preparing lesson plans. For a few of my nine lessons, the pressure felt intense. Sleep hours were few and restless. A couple of trainees confessed to staying up the entire night to finish preparing for their lessons.

But we all went through it together, and we all survived.  All sixteen trainees passed the course! Below is a group shot of the trainees, trainers, and our wonderful students on the last day of the course. We had a party to celebrate (note some of the remaining food in the foreground of the photo) and many celebratory selfies were taken. Some of our students are shown here, holding their certificates. They were a joy to teach and were so appreciative and encouraging.

I returned to Mafraq last Thursday and promptly came down with a cold/flu on Saturday. I heard from a couple fellow-trainees that they were sick as well. I'm feeling better today and so I organized my CELTA notebook before putting it on my desk. A new cycle of English courses will begin in January at our church's community center, and I hope to be teaching one of them!

1 comment:

Holly Newman said...

Congratulations on your hard work and achievement! God has many exciting things for your future.