So this live is actually about congratulating these lovely people for completing their CELTA course.
Yes, we want to congratulate everybody who survived our February-March CELTA course this year. Of course, those congratulations are extended to anybody who survives the CELTA course, because as anybody who has taken the course knows, it’s a lot of hard work and people make a lot of sacrifices, and it takes a lot of commitment.
This was the first face-to-face course of the year, so we congratulate those who survived it because taking a CELTA course as we said is not easy at the best of times, but taking a CELTA course during COVID-19 also adds some extra challenges. So huge congratulations on dealing with all of this in a very good humored way and also for being a very cooperative group and making our lives easier, as some groups are easier than others.
This is something we want to talk about tonight, is that a CELTA course is the beginning of your journey, not the end and because if it really is the start out in your career, even when you’ve taught before, it is kind of like a new beginning, especially if you came to the courses as an inexperienced teacher, because our group was a mix of experienced teachers and inexperienced teachers. So of course, their experiences will be slightly different, the course content is the same, but what you bring to the course will be different depending on your level of experience and the kind of experience that you have; some people had taught children before and others had taught adults, others hadn’t taught at all, or done a bit of voluntary teaching somewhere.
The candidates came from completely different backgrounds, that’s something else to bear in mind, which is very common on a CELTA course. This group was diverse, five Egyptians, five Americans. I believe this has left a kind of positive impact on you, Tuka and Ahmed.
Having different nationalities helps you, and from different professions because some of them were lawyers, businessmen, so they were mixed for me so it was really fun having them, and also Laura said in the beginning of the course that we’re going to exchange. We as Egyptian have the knowledge of grammar and the language itself and they have the correct pronunciation and they are the native speakers so we can exchange, we can help them with grammar and they can help us with pronunciation and it happened, it was really beneficial.
And that’s a very common thing, because those who speak the language as a mother tongue usually don’t know the grammar terminology because it’s your mother tongue, that’s when it’s very nice to have mixed nationalities on the course because you can help each other, so everybody brings something positive to the course.
So people who teach, who don’t speak English as a first language, usually have a fantastic grammatical background. It’s about what you bring to the course, your previous experience and your other type of knowledge.
Most people want to ask, do you have any tips for getting an A?
Listen to your tutors. Listen carefully. Read your feedback, read it once and twice. Read carefully your weaknesses and work on them, they really matter. Be careful with your feedback every time. Try to put in as much effort as you can. I know we have different abilities but just if you put in the right effort and you know what you can, at the end of the course, everything’s fine, whether you got the grade that you wanted or you didn’t, you would be satisfied that you did your best.
I’m going to ask Ahmed and then Matthew because they come from just different backgrounds. Ahmed, if somebody asks you about taking the CELTA course, and you’re quite an experienced teacher and from that perspective, what advice would you give someone who’s planning to take the course?
Well, I think that the CELTA course is going to help you a lot, especially if you have the knowledge about teaching like me but you do not know how to apply this knowledge and how to put it into practice and try to benefit the student, because in our teaching I was taught just theories and not how to implement them into the class. So I say that always work on your knowledge and try to take the CELTA course because it is the most practical one.
Although there are some other courses like the TEFL courses and I think TESOL, I think I went for the CELTA because it’s the most practical one where you can teach eight times, getting feedback, working on your weaknesses, knowing where you are exactly in teaching and how you continue to develop yourself as a teacher.
So Hussein, what would you advise people now with the benefit of hindsight? If somebody said to you, “okay, I’m planning to do A CELTA course?” What are the do’s and don’ts in your opinion?
Well first, prepare for a month that requires a lot of discipline and prepare to prepare a lot. And again you need to be very attentive and you need to listen for details. You need to ask your tutors, your tutors will never let you down and they will never let you go without giving you the proper information. So be very attentive, ask all you need, make sure to put all your effort into it and if you need to pre-study, it’s not a must but that would help a lot because it’s a lot of information that you’ll be given in such a short period of time.
It is good to do a bit of reading before the course. It’s worth doing. It’s not always possible because some people are doing full time jobs or they have other commitments. If possible, if you can do any kind of preparation, either a preparation course or read a bit.
As an experienced teacher on the CELTA course, was there anything that you had to change in your teaching by taking the course? Was there anything that was very different from the way you taught before you took the course?
Yes, a lot of things, it completely changed after CELTA. Although I had some knowledge before the course, I found that there are a lot of things to change in my teaching because my role before the CELTA, you can say that it was a lecturer and my classes were teacher-centered, but after the CELTA that completely changed. Now, I’m working on giving the opportunity for the students to work more and make my classes more student-centered and enough with the traditional ways of teaching, like lecturing the students and boring them out, things like that. CELTA actually is worth every pound I paid.
What about you, Tuka?
All right, so one thing that I changed after the course, or like it was really different in the past, I used to give instructions to all the students (beginners, intermediate, upper intermediate students), but during the course, I’ve been told that I could with the lower levels and it was really better because I gave a lot of instructions and nobody could understand anything. So the feedback was about giving instruction and my tutor Laura told me that it’s better to demonstrate in open pairs, and I started demonstrating, but with two people only, but she asked me to demonstrate with the whole class and everybody had to participate so they can understand how the exercise is going to work.
This really helped me in the other TPs. I was pretty much simpler with them, they got everything easily. Second point was grading my language, because in the past I wasn’t natural, I have to admit, Laura told me you have to grade your language, you don’t have to be slow, use the contractions. Students need to be exposed to natural speech, so when they listen to native speakers, they won’t be astonished and they would make them out and they will understand everything.
Hussein, how about you? I mean anything that changed in your teaching as a result of taking the course?
Well, everything. As Ahmed said, it became student-centered more about this. Also understanding the importance of preparation and things like Guided Discovery, like guiding students into understanding something that they might be relating to or have some information about, the things like the fact that most students have most of the information in the subconscious back, way back, and you’re just helping them make speak the language or do the language consciously fully aware of what they already have.
The teaching methodologies, the Test Teach Test (TTT), PPP, all these things, nothing remained the way it was. After CELTA, I realized how important it is to relax as a teacher, that the students have their work, group work or pair work, instead of making it all the time that I am the one who is doing everything in the class, but, let them share and take part of discovering the language themselves. Letting students take charge of it, more responsibility for their own learning.
And the appropriate practice at the end like your practice should replicate or mirror real life, like there is no use of giving such activity at the end and then the students will do it just for the sake you ask them to do it, it should be something meaningful related to what you have taught already. When we teach language lessons, when we follow the MPFA, following this technique really organizes things and actually works very well with the students, that’s something I really cherished during my CELTA course.
I did try this, the systematic approach with some students of mine later on and it worked like a charm. They were really excited because we know what we’re dealing with, they’re always excited. They become really excited and they want to be around you more, receive information.
So your students are more motivated now. That’s the direct result of improvements in your own teaching.
Are you all still doing so? And are you all doing a teaching at the same place or has anybody changed their positions in any way, shape or form?
Same place but different position. I was promoted. After CELTA I became an education supervisor. I do teach but I became an education supervisor after the CELTA and it’s a really good experience so far.
Did the CELTA help you get that promotion?
Yeah, without it, I couldn’t get it. You have to have CELTA before being a supervisor,
So as an educational supervisor where you work, are you helping other teachers to improve themselves?
Yeah, sure. There have been bigger sessions and giving them feedback and it’s like helping them prepare, I’m trying to give them the advice that I was given in the course and advise them to read some books and some chapters to help them get rid of those bad habits, it would be like having a problem like teacher-centered, it really helped me.
You’ve become a teacher trainer! Excellent! That’s wonderful.
Okay, so I’ll ask Hussein. So are you still working at the same school that you were working at before the course?
Currently, yes, I’m still working at the same place, getting more replies, we’re in hard times, anyway, it’s the corona virus time. There isn’t as much work going around in especially international schools because people can’t move around which is another issue. People from outside of Egypt started replying, but it never works, but this is because of personal reasons or their offer is not good.
You get rid of bad offers, you know, they don’t offer much and then suddenly as things improve again, you’ll get more respectable offers because it does depend on countries, doesn’t it? Some countries are getting a bit stingy these days and then other countries are throwing the money around.
So my last question, I’d like to ask how your experience of doing the CELTA with us, IH Cairo and Reach out academy? I’m sure people would like to know if doing the course with us was a useful experience, was it a positive experience and why or why not?
Tuka, can I start with you?
Okay, I would say that the staff here is really helpful, all of them, they’ve provided us with everything we wanted, especially with the stationary because we were really greedy, I used so many things. They provided everything they could and the place is very comfortable and it was really convenient, it’s really near to my home. The view there is pretty breathtaking if you want to prepare in the garden so it’s going to be wonderful in the morning.
So Ahmed, how would you describe your experience of doing the course at IH Cairo?
It was lovely, I enjoyed my experience with the CELTA course. Actually, one of my friends took the CELTA with Reach out and he highly recommended Reach Out and also the staff. The staff, as Tuka said, are very helpful. My tutors are approachable and friendly. I couldn’t expect that much of help that I got from you on the course because in some other places, I know that the tutors are not that helpful, you just go and do your own stuff. But I enjoyed my experience. I think the support staff are amazing, people at the reception are lovely, ladies are absolutely incredible, I’m always amazed at how helpful they are. Nothing is too much trouble.
Okay, Hussein, please.
Well, first, the moment we came in, there were like all the sanitizers, and things like that for your safety, the staff was really helpful. The stationary, like Tuka said, it was like a great tool for help. Whenever we ask something, whatever they have coffee in the morning, that would be really good. And also the tutors, I have had help like I have never had in my school time or university time. Really nice, really supportive.
You should all be very proud of yourselves because it’s never an easy thing to do. It’s a lot of work in a short time but it can be very stressful and, and for experienced teachers, there’s a lot of what we call unlearning or recalibration going on. So a bit of a culture shock in the way you know, you were teaching before, but you all adapted, which is absolutely fantastic.
And then for people who haven’t taught before, of course, they were, sometimes a bit sort of like “how am I going to cope with all of this” but I think that this shows you what a lot of hard work and dedication can achieve, and I think you’ve all learned a lot about yourselves and this is also an important message for anybody planning to take the course. You do learn a lot about yourself on a CELTA or what you can do, the amount of work you can do, the stress you can put up with and most importantly, some improvements in your own teaching and your approach.
And it does open doors. Some doors will open more quickly than others and for a variety of reasons, because as we’ve said, COVID doesn’t make things any easier, but there’s still plenty of work around and things can change as a result of taking the course.