Learning English at University College Cork, Ireland

Life inside and outside the language classroom

A once in a lifetime experience – CELTA online

Yuhi Fujioka took our fully-online CELTA course this summer from his home in Japan. Here he tells of his experience.

Yuhi Fujioka

You  completed the fully-online 7-week intensive CELTA course? Tell us about that.

I would call it a once in a lifetime experience. Everything I went through (the lessons, teachers, fellow trainees, and students) influenced me so much in this amazing journey. It was surely a strenuous course, although the sweat and hard work were all worth it.

What was the first day like?

It was nerve-racking indeed as I was the only non-native English speaker within my group. Although I felt much better when everyone was very welcoming and supportive despite that. It made me have more confidence to be able to do my best.

CELTA is known to be a very intensive course; is it really?

It definitely is and the journey was way more challenging than I expected. Not to mention the time difference between Ireland and Japan, the writing assignments and preparation of lesson materials were severe and took a lot of time to accomplish.

If it is as intensive as they say, how did you balance the course work and your personal life? What advice would you give someone who is thinking of committing to doing a CELTA course?

As I own my company, I really had to make sure to handle both every single day. I’m the type of person who enjoys the challenge of accomplishing tasks and reaching goals instantaneously, so I worked and studied long nights, at times not even having the chance to sleep at all. If I were to advise someone planning to take the CELTA course, I would have to say be ready for everything. You have to be able to sacrifice time in general.

You were in Japan when you did the course and you were working full-time; how did you manage all of that?

Managing my own company and being part of the CELTA course was an arduous experience. As I mentioned previously, the time difference was tremendously a huge thing for me, as I had to stay awake from 10 pm to about 2 am or 3 am. It surely affected my body clock for 2 months. As I had to prioritize both my business and the course itself, I had to make sacrifices with time, energy, eating as well as sleep, though I of course enjoyed this experience. It helped me become a stronger person and grow more as an individual.

Thank you so much, Yuhi, for sharing this with us. We wish you all the best in your future endeavours and hope to welcome you here on campus in the future.

If you are interested in getting a qualification which will allow you to work anywhere in the world, a CELTA course might be for you. All details here.

Read more CELTA graduate interviews here.

 

CELTA is an experience that is like no other, and rewards like no other

In Janaury of this year we started what we thought would be a regular 10 -week CELTA course with 12 trainees on campus in our University. Covid-19 and a national lockdown interrupted this course and we had to shift to online to complete the course. CELTA is a demanding enough course without throwing into the mix a global pandemic. Philip Ryan was one of the trainees on this course. Read about his experience.

Philip Ryan

You completed the 10-week intensive CELTA course, but in reality it was much longer. Tell us about that.

 The 10-week intensive CELTA course was probably the longest 10-week course in the history of all CELTA courses run in UCC!  From the day the course commenced, Covid-19 had already been in the news for some time, and it was really only a matter of time before we had cases in Ireland.

As Covid-19 was spreading through Europe, Brendan Ó Sé, the course tutor at the time, discussed the possibility of UCC closing down over Covid-19.  I think it was very admirable that not only did Brendan raise the topic, it was a conversation that needed to be addressed.  Critically, he also made it clear that no matter what happened, that we would each get our certificate, maybe not to schedule, but again, to be aware of the strange times we found ourselves in.

Then, just before my final teaching practice, scheduled for March 13th, the country went into full lockdown. Realistically, everyone knew there was going to be some sort of action taken to try and thwart the spread of Covid-19, but for the full lockdown to be that swift, was astonishing!

Thankfully, the information that was needed for the progression of the course was swift, via email, Microsoft Teams, Zoom and WhatsApp.

 The switch to teaching online must have been challenging. What was the experience like for you?

 The switch to teaching online was incredibly challenging, as it was unscheduled in the course itinerary, but ironically, it was also something that I was aiming to do, albeit at my own pace!

The actual teaching online was a real an eye opener.  Although I had practiced using Zoom with my fellow trainees, online teaching and classroom teaching are really two different fields.  They both require different preparation for class, and they both can have their own potential unique difficulties.

For instance, losing power in the classroom is one obstacle, but to lose the power on your own computer while teaching online is quite another!  Nevertheless, everyone who taught a class online really appreciated the experience.

CELTA is known to be a very intensive course; is it really?

The CELTA course is very, very intensive.  You are literally burning the candle at both ends, and in the middle!  It is really the case of no matter how intensive you think it is going to be, it will be way more intensive than you could imagine.

What was behind your decision to do the course?

I think the main decision for doing the CELTA course is that you can travel with it, stay local with it, or even be your own boss!

How did you go about applying for the course?

Since I was already a graduate of UCC, I was very aware of UCC offering the course on the campus. With that, I started to look at the course information online, then I started asking people that I knew, who did the course, for more information.

Is it as simple as just sending in an application form?

Filling out the application form is one step, then there is the interview process.  When I arrived for my interview, I was given a questionnaire on dealing with grammar.  Once I completed the questionnaire, I was then interviewed by the tutor of the course.   It was formal, but friendly.

Do you need to prepare for the course? Are you given tips on what to do?

To prepare for the course, start organising before you start, have your folders ready, clear pocket sheets, etc.  Read all literature that will be sent via a link in an email.

Once the course starts, keep your notes in order, organise each and every handout you get. There will be a lot!

What was the first day like?

After an icebreaker, to get to know your fellow trainees, information was coming thick and fast.  By the end of the day, not only was I spinning from all the information dispensed, I had to produce a lesson plan as I was scheduled to teach for the next CELTA class at 9 a.m.

Is it true that you are teaching real students from the very start of the course?

That is very true! Depending on the schedule, you could be teaching the very next day of the CELTA course.  In my case, after the first day, I was scheduled to teach at 9 a.m on the second day of the CELTA course.  The remaining trainee tutors, who were not scheduled to teach on same day that I taught on, were tutoring on the third day of CELTA.

Tell us a little about the teaching practice? How is it assessed?

Each, and every time you teach, you are being monitored and graded by your tutor.  You are being assessed on the actual text of the lesson plan you have submitted the day beforehand to the tutor.  You are being assessed on how you teach, how you present the material, how you conduct yourself, how you interact with the class, right down to the minutes you have stated in your lesson plan aims for the full class.

After each teaching practice, you will get feedback from your fellow trainees, and tutor.  Feedback is crucial in the pursuit of the CELTA cert, as it helps you to improve every class you are scheduled to teach next, and to prevent a poor grade.

Although I have had teaching practice prior to the course, I still found it very stressful to tutor.  Thankfully, I had a bottle of water on the table, which I continued to replenish for each of the remaining teaching practices!

What else do you have to do in terms of assessment on the course?

Along with being assessed on your teaching practice, you will have to submit four assignments.  The assignments, although “short,” are somewhat painstaking at times, and will need to include evidence from reliable sources that can be found in the resource centre, or online.  Deadlines for the assignments are given early in the course, so it is best to start them early as possible.

Fortunately, if one, or all the assignments are not to standard, you can resubmit.  A resubmission will come with detailed information, where an improvement, or points, need to be made clearer.  Naturally, if you need to resubmit, you are given another deadline.

Is it as intensive as they say, how did you balance the course work and your personal life? What advice would you give someone who is thinking of committing to doing a CELTA course?

It is very intensive, and more! In balancing my course work and personal life, course work took over everything.  It really is the last thing at night on your mind, and the first thing on your mind in the morning.

The advice I would give to someone taking up the course, is be prepared to see less of your family and friends.

What part of the course did you enjoy most?

It is really difficult to say which part of the course I enjoyed the most, as it constantly it changed.  There were days when you had a great teaching practice, to listening to a fascinating topic being discussed.  Nevertheless, one particular part of a course I remember warmly, was tutoring a student who was very shy and timid in class.

As the weeks passed, you could see the student grow in confidence to the point where they were ready to take a risk giving an answer on question that was posed to the class.  To see the student change from the first class to the last class before my eyes was fantastic!   That, to me, is what being a CELTA teacher is about!

What were the tutors like?

The tutors were extremely professional, approachable, but very dedicated to the criterion stipulated by CELTA.  With each monitoring of your class, by your tutor, your stress levels will reach a new level from the class before, as your tutor expects you to implement improvements from your last teaching practice feedback.

While the pressure is certainly on, the tutors know this, but don’t feel you can’t ask for their opinion on an idea you have for the next class you will teach.  They are really helpful, and always ready to point you in the right direction of your ideas.

Doing your CELTA course in a university environment is a great advantage and looks very good on your CV also. Tell us a little about that.

The university has a charming ambience, which is always there no matter what the weather is like!  It is especially great to know that during your lunchbreak, you can get a breath of fresh air while taking a short stroll across the campus to get a bite to eat.

Furthermore, doing a CELTA course in UCC has numerous advantages.  Along with meeting up with likeminded individuals doing the same course, everything you need to assist you in your CELTA studies is located in the nearby resource room.

All of which is managed by the excellent, and extremely helpful staff.  Of course, having UCC on your CV is not a bad thing to have!

What advice would you give to someone starting the CELTA?

The main advice I would give to someone starting the CELTA is get to know your trainee tutors.  They will make your time doing the CELTA a lot easier.  Do not be afraid to ask them for tips with an assignment, or lesson plan, I did, and I am really grateful for the tips that I received.

Definitely know how your computer works, as you will be using it a lot, PowerPoint, designing handouts etc.  If you don’t have a computer, borrow one, get one, as you will be spending a lot of time on the computer once class is over.

What have you been doing since you got your CELTA qualification?

Since I have gotten my CELTA qualification, I have registered on a number of teaching online sites, updated my LinkedIn profile, and brushed up on grammar notes.  In the future I would like to teach in class in Germany for the summer months, as I have a vested interest in the German language.

Is there any question I have not asked, but you would like to comment on?

Read Padlet, it is akin to an online noticeboard operated by your tutors, from start to finish.  It will be immensely helpful when drawing up a lesson plan.  It is also regularly updated throughout the course with other useful information.

Upon finishing a lesson plan, for a teaching practice, follow the times designated on the lesson plan to the second.  If a “live” teaching practice runs over, or under time, it shows straight away that something went wrong, which will definitely be relayed to you in your feedback. To prevent this, practice the night beforehand with a clock/stopwatch, then practice, practice and practice some more!

Lastly, if you are still reading this, I wish you all the very best in your CELTA journey.  It is an experience that is like no other, and rewards like no other.

CELTA was a really positive experience for me

Molly Twomey graduated in August, 2020, from our first-ever, fully-online CELTA course. Find out what the course was like and her teaching experience since the course ended.

If this gets you thinking about the opportunities a CELTA course can offer, check out our webpage for all details about our CELTA courses.

Week 11 of our fully-online CELTA course

When you said it in the interview, I did not believe you.

It is so common to hear this from trainees as they discover what CELTA is really like, but usually the comment is in relation to the relentless nature of ongoing demands of the course, but this time it wasn’t. This time it was a trainee talking about the fact that a wonderful collaborative bond does in fact emerge among CELTA trainees as the course evolves.

You were all so lovely. I could not have done it without you! 

At the outset of the course, I was worried how the shift to online, with tutors and trainees hived off remotely, would impact on the building of relationships. Would they bond? Would we bond? Would they be there for each other when things got tough? Would the tech be an obstacle? And you know, as with so many other aspects of course, I discovered that no, it wasn’t. The trainees’ dynamic was not dissimilar to that of a campus-based cohort. They adapted. They built bonds. They got each other through. Sure they are missing out on the opportunity to head off together as a group from campus to the nearest pub for a few well-deserved end-of-course drinks, but to use a Covid cliche staying apart has brought them together.

And with that, my final blog is all about the trainees. and their experience. Before I pass you over to read about this fully-online CELTA from a trainee’s perspective, I just want to thank them. For us, this was a new endeavour. We were learning as we were doing, but we all got there. Also a very big thanks to my colleague, Sally. It took us eight months to complete two courses, but we did it!

I posted questions and prompts for the trainees to answer.

  • The thing about having to teach online classes is….

perspective. One of the things I dreaded the most was the fact that it would be online. “What if my internet fails in the middle of teaching?” “I’m not the best at technology”, “how on earth will I actually teach online, how does that work?”. The answer to all of those things is, it does. Tech fails, you have to learn to use a new platform, but teaching online does work. It’s all about how you adapt to a new teaching/learning environment and by the end of the course you will go from wanting to throw your laptop out the window to feeling like you are ready to teach anyone on the globe because you have a device that allows you to do so and have developed the tech skills to do so effectively.

________

You are much more restricted physically. The screen can feel like a long narrow tunnel and the students feel far away. Everything takes longer to set up and run. It’s easy to lose your place in a plan, so clear (even colour-coded) steps that condense the plan is crucial to keep track. There’s even more prep needed to have everything on a google doc so you can copy and paste activities or instructions. Things will stop working and you may even end the meeting prematurely. You will survive, it takes practice and slowly it gets easier.

  • The tech is great for….

Connecting people from all over the world. We had students from across the globe such as Argentina, Brazil, Columbia, Kenya. It’s also great for those who feel more comfortable learning in their own home. I believe it should be an option for all to learn online. Though we all know there are so many benefits to learning in a ‘real’ classroom, the main goal is for students to learn, so it is important that online learning is an option for people.

________

It is surreal to know that one student is cold in the Colombian winter, while another is drinking tea in Argentina as you teach. In some ways the tech makes it more intimate, between teachers and students (it feels like you are having a one to one conversation often) and between trainees who text at 2am to ask a technical question but they are really grateful when they get a reply! I’m not sure it would have been so intimate in a real world course, though the testimonials from previous suggest this.

  • Using tech in a language classroom does not…

mean that people are at a disadvantage. It takes a bit of getting used to, both for the teachers and the students (and the tutors!) but the quality of what can be learnt is just as good as what can be learnt in a classroom, it’s just a different way of going about it.

  • What I know now, that I wish I had known about CELTA at the start of the course?

I knew this course would be intense, and I had fair warning about that, but I thought to myself ‘hey, I’ve done an MA, it can’t be much more intense than that’… well, I was very wrong. It is far more intense than that. I should have guessed because it is done over such a short period of time in comparison. What I will say though, is don’t let the warnings about how intense it is turn you off doing the course, because how rewarding it feels to complete it far outweighs the intensity of doing it.

________

Online learning is a different beast, and no matter how proficient you are in a lot of things – tech, presentation skills, rapport, language skills – you have to relearn it all to do CELTA well. It takes a lot of brainpower to keep your focus on a few areas at the same time. Work smart not hard, and keep a separate file for notes from each part of the course. Grammar is your friend as it is unchanging as the North Star and can guide you. The present perfect tense will haunt your dreams for weeks, but you will come to see it as an old friend. 

  • The best thing about using Zoom as a platform is….

The breakout rooms. These are so important in the class. It means we can still decentralise and allow for student-led feedback and peer correction. That is the tool that I think makes Zoom such a strong platform for teaching online.

________

It’s like a flying machine, it’s amazing to have such a tool, to show videos, listen to audio, write on a board, share visuals, changing the screen every two – three minutes. With practice this feels like a miracle! 

________

The best thing about Zoom is you can try to imagine you’re teaching on your own without the constant pressure of being assessed, because observers turn off their mics and cameras.

  • The worst thing about using Zoom as a platform is….

It can be difficult for time management, but I think that is the case for getting used to any online platform. I found the most difficult thing with teaching online is factoring in how long it would take to set up breakout rooms, copy and paste instructions, get everyone on the same google doc (getting the links to work) etc, into the lesson plan.

________

Everything takes so long to do and you can’t plan for it, one hiccup and you’re a few minutes behind, two hiccups and you are close to panic!! It takes WAY more practice than you think, and even if it’s boring, it has to be done, because the lesson plan will not make up lack of practice.

  • The Cambridge Moodle is…

Stressful. I found it incredibly difficult to use and though you become more familiar with it over time it isn’t the most straight-forward site. There is a lot of clicking on links to get from A to B, a lot of opening pages and closing pages to get to where you need to be and a save button for every section that needs to be recorded as part of your portfolio. The units themselves (the content) were good, but there were some issues with them being recorded as complete even when you know you finished them in full and this was a major point of stress for a lot of us. (S)

________

Is unfortunately the one aspect of the course that really tests your grit to get through them. I wish there was a better way to say that. But moodle is only one part of a large and immersive experience.  

  • CELTA is stressful and the best way to deal with that stress is…

Lean on your peers! I cannot stress that enough. They understand what you are going through, they’re going through the same thing. Open up to them about your stress, ask them for help, and that could be anything from asking about assignments or lesson plans to just ranting and raving about how intense the course is. Lean on your tutors too, they are also there to support you.

________

Reach out for help. My fellow trainees were simply incredible, every one of them offered as much help as needed, and never gave a whimper of complaint. Talk it out, moan and complain, even when doing the modules, text other trainees and give out like mad! It’s a really close and supportive environment, use your trainees and be there for them.

  • My fellow trainees were…

Amazing. I simply don’t have the words to describe them (ironic, since I’m learning to be a language teacher) but they were all supportive and kind and funny and some of the loveliest people I have ever met.

________

Some of the best people I’ve met in my life. This is crucial: when you read testimonials praising the other trainees, they are completely true and honest. CELTA brings out the best in trainee humanity.

  • Tell us a story about your TP students…

Two different groups, all such lovely people. On our last day together they offered us feedback and advice and it brought me to tears. One said to us ‘whatever you do, just don’t give up, if this is your dream then keep doing it’, another said, (and I’m paraphrasing) ‘what we have here [gesturing to everyone in the group] is something really special. People from all over the world, learning together’ and another said ‘you all have different teaching styles, but you are all good teachers’. You will bond with your TP students, you will care about them an awful lot, and that is nothing short of incredible. The more you care, the better you will do.

________

A pre-intermediate student, on the last day, who was always struggling to put his sentences together, told us, in a speech that could have made Churchill blush, that we were good teachers, that he saw it, adn that we should follow our dream to be language teachers, with patience and passion. It touched everyone. He could have almost added “we will teach them on the beaches, we will teach in the air”. It was a moment that I’ll keep close. 

  • Now that I have a CELTA qualification I am going to…

Start applying for jobs. I will teach online for a while, something that I’m not concerned about doing because I have had practice at teaching online, and then I will teach in the city once the language centres start opening again. After that, I will most definitely travel. All the while I will make sure that I am doing everything humanly possible to become a better teacher. I will go to webinars, seminars, anything and everything that I can do to keep improving. It is so important to me to be a good teacher because if I’m not, I’ve said it before, I wouldn’t teach. It wouldn’t be fair to the students.

________

I’m going to think about volunteering for a while, and then plan for somewhere in Europe before I look for a more exotic destination with that experience under my belt. 

  • You didn’t ask me this, but…

Just that it is important to remember to enjoy yourself. Enjoy the teaching, enjoy helping people to learn. It is important to enjoy life because that kind of energy is infectious. Bring your love of teaching to the classroom because you never know, that might transfer as a love of learning for the students. 

Thank you to everyone who organised the course, well done for getting it up and running online, it was a major success in my opinion! (S)

________

This course never ends. Until it does. And you’re through. With new friends, a new skillset, and a perspective on other people who want something you have had (Present perfect!) since you said your first word, something you can help them get, and that is priceless.

  • Why should we not worry about the future?

Everyone worries about the future, myself probably more so than many, but that’s okay. When it comes to teaching I say, just give it everything you’ve got and remember that there are people who will want you to succeed so lean on those people. 

________

I watched Jojo Rabbit recently and at the end of the film the director placed a line from the German poet Rilke: Let everything happen to you / Beauty and Terror / Just keep going / No feeling is final. It just felt like a philosophy we could all live by as we face the future and it came at the right time for me to lift it for myself.

Online CELTA Summer 2020

So that is it. 11 weeks of a fully-online CELTA completed. My colleagues will finish their course next week, and in October we will run another CELTA online over ten weeks. What is it they say about CELTA? Oh, ya. It’s relentless.

Read about Week 10 here |  Read about Week 9 here  |  Read about Week 7 here. |  Read about Week 6 here. | Read about Week 5 here.| Read about Week 4 here.| Read about Week 3 here. | Read about Week 2 here. | Read about Day 2 here. | Read about Day 1 here.

You can find more information on our CELTA courses here.

UCC Language Centre

 

Week 10 of our fully online CELTA course

By the end of next week, my co-tutor and I will have completed almost eight months of CELTA. On March 12, when our university shut we were one week from completion of a campus-based course. We finally got to complete the course online at the end of May and then we embarked on this fully-online course in early June. Now entering our eleventh week it is hard to believe that after next Friday, we will be CELTA free –  well, for a while – until we offer another fully-online course in October.

Sure we are experiencing CELTA fatigue and are eagerly awaiting the deserved break at the end of it. CELTA at the best of times is a demanding course for tutors and navigating the new terrain of an online context has made it more so, but it has been a good opportunity for us as tutors, and as a centre, to expand our offering.

On Friday, we had our assessor’s visit – perhaps, not a visit. She stayed at home; we stayed at home. It was different. I missed the social aspect of an assessor’s visit. I commented that so much on CELTA is predictable from course to course, but conversely so much is totally unpredictable; nothing more so than this pandemic. However, having a couple of online CELTAs (our centre is running parallel courses at the moment) under our belt will stand to us on the next one we offer, but I bet we will encounter scenarios that we just cannot imagine at the moment. And in a way that is the great thing about CELTA. No two courses are the same, much the same way no two trainees are the same.

The assessor’s visit went well. We received very positive feedback from both the trainees to the assessor and the assessor to tutors. It was heartening to hear in our meetings that the technology did not form a big part of the discussion. It goes to show how adaptable we all become.

One of the conversations emerging with our trainees is the prospect of work opportunities available to them in this new landscape. We feel they have a great advantage. They are leaving certified with training to teach online and, of course, in real, classrooms too. They are not restricted by location or ability to travel when teaching online. There will be some great opportunities.

I am looking forward to the delivering the final instalment of this blog next week, when I will turn it back over to the trainees to hear from their overall experience on what will have been our first fully-online CELTA course.

Read about Week 9 here  |  Read about Week 7 here. |  Read about Week 6 here. | Read about Week 5 here.| Read about Week 4 here.| Read about Week 3 here. | Read about Week 2 here. | Read about Day 2 here. | Read about Day 1 here.

You can find more information on our CELTA courses here.

UCC Language Centre

Week 9 of our fully online CELTA course

CELTA cliches

We are now one one-hour lesson from completing the assessed teaching practice component of our fully online CELTA course.

To use that CELTA cliche – the course is all about showing progress and it is heartening to see trainees all make improvements both in the planning of lessons and their execution.

And not to blow our own trumpet – but why not – it is also quite pleasing to see how well we, as a team, here in the University Language Centre have adapted to the delivery of CELTA in an online format. We have been offering CELTA now for over 25 years. I was one of the first through the doors who took the CELTA all the way back in 1994. For me it was probably the first education experience that clicked with me. My two tutors, Richard and Cathy, were brilliant. More than anything it was how genuinely interested in their trainees they were and their constant encouragement helped me start out on my teaching career.

I learned so much on that course and it has stood to me so often as a tutor on CELTA courses now. Another CELTA cliche comes to mind – to put yourself in the position of the learner, or in this case the trainee. CELTA is not an easy course. One the biggest lessons I began to learn on my own CELTA course was – and apologies for more CELTA cliches – that teaching does not equal learning. It can be easy to think that trainees don’t get things. As trainers we can feel that we have modelled it for them, we have checked their understanding, suggested relevant reading,  – but they still don’t get it. But maybe it is we, as trainers, who do not still get it. CELTA is an entry-level teacher training course and of course where so much is crammed into so short a time. Trainees are not going to get everything. But they do begin to get things. I find I need to remind myself that it is process not product.

With just two weeks to go we near the completion of this course. A week later another of our CELTA courses will complete.  It is great to think that we will soon have our first-ever CELTA graduates from fully-online courses; teachers ready for the changing demands of how English is learnt and taught. As a centre, we have learnt so much on these courses and it really has put us in a strong position as we look to continue to offer fully online CELTA courses (next one starts in October).

And while none of us could have planned for all the changes Covid-19 forced upon us, we have had to adapt and will continue to do so. That is what makes learning interesting, and to finish with another CELTA cliche – you got to teach the lesson, not the lesson plan.

Read about Week 8 here. |  Read about Week 7 here. |  Read about Week 6 here. | Read about Week 5 here.| Read about Week 4 here.| Read about Week 3 here. | Read about Week 2 here. | Read about Day 2 here. | Read about Day 1 here.

You can find more information on our CELTA courses here. 

UCC Language Centre

Week 8 of our fully-online CELTA course

There is light at the end of the tunnel

The end is in sight

Eight of eleven weeks down. The end is in sight on our fully-online CELTA course. By Tuesday trainees will be moving on to their seventh of eight teaching practice lessons and three of the four assignments will have been submitted. The following week our external assessor will arrive and pre-provisional grades for the trainees will be decided.

The advice I give to trainees at this time is to be aware that the remaining weeks will pass quickly, but that they won’t be able to get this time back and they should commit their all to reaching their potential in the time left.

In interviews for the course, I find myself repeating three things to prospective trainees:

1. No matter how hard I tell you the course is going to be, you will not believe me until you experience if for yourself. But it is. The course can be hell!

2. You will learn so much; so much that you can put immediately into practice and experiencing that is so rewarding.

3. You will form friendships on the course that will be so supportive in getting you through the intensive demands of the course. Remember, the course is hell!

And it is the final point which I am always struck by. I have been doing CELTA for years now, and honestly I can count with thumbs only the number of times there has not been that great CELTA collaborative vibe on a course. Teaching is a profession that requires empathy and on a intensive course like CELTA, trainees need to be empathetic. Firstly, with themselves and then with their peers. And they are.

It is great to see how they come online an hour before TP starts to rehearse parts of their lessons and to test the technology together. Those teaching are, as you can expect, nervous about the upcoming observed and assessed lesson, but their fellow trainees are there to support and reassure them, to give suggestions and feedback on what might and might not work in the lessons. Feedback to TP is the hardest part of the course. I recall the dread I used to experience as a trainee myself when I did the CELTA before TP feedback. It was like walking along a cliff edge as the tutor hit me with a series of questions leading me to that sometimes, penny-dropping moment. It got even worse on the DELTA, when at times it was like I was being psycho-analysed. In this scenario you need the support of your classmates. Sure, you need them to give you that constructive criticism, but you also need them to be there for you.

On Zoom, I sometimes set them a task of things to identify and exemplify in relation to the main lesson aims’ achievement and while they do it I mute my mic and turn the camera off, but I tune in to what they are saying. I find feedback can work so much better when I am not in the room. Trainees often tend to navigate towards a response they feel the trainer wants to hear than to deliver their own opinion. When I am not in the room, they tend to be more confident in giving that opinion and they also do it in an empathetic way to their fellow trainee. It is great to see, because if they are sensitive and kind to their classmates, then the likelihood is they are also going to be sensitive and kind to their students. We can train many things on a CELTA course, but empathy is a hard one.

And so as we enter the final stretch of our fully-online CELTA course, trainees and trainers are getting tired, but there is light at the end of the tunnel.

Read about Week 7 here. |  Read about Week 6 here. | Read about Week 5 here.| Read about Week 4 here.| Read about Week 3 here. | Read about Week 2 here. | Read about Day 2 here. | Read about Day 1 here.

You can find more information on our CELTA courses here. 

UCC Language Centre

Week 7 of our fully-online CELTA course

When I started out writing this blog about our fully-online CELTA course I thought the blog would write itself each weekend. Embarking on a new venture, I envisaged there would be much novelty to report on as we progressed through the course. The truth is that shifting from a classroom, face-to-face CELTA to an online context does introduce new challenges in a new context, but much of a CELTA narrative remains the same. None more so than the trainees’ adaptability. This week I have flipped things. I set out ten questions to our trainees and invited them to comment on their experience so far. So this week the perspective has shifted to that of a trainee.

University College Cork

You are now past the half-way point of the fully-online CELTA course, what has been the most enjoyable thing about the course? 

I have found it very rewarding to get to know the students’ strengths and weaknesses throughout the various TPs, the more I get to know them the more confident I become with knowing what they need from me. I have also loved getting to know my fellow trainees. This is an intense course but it is so much more manageable when you know you can rely on each other for guidance every day (and it is every single day that we help one another)What has been the most challenging thing about the course?

I actually love the live rooms, they are way less stressful than teaching and it’s nice to be a student for a while and it also gives us a chance to reflect and check in with each other.

What has been the most challenging thing about the course? 

Two things, first is time management. With having to do lesson plans, units, observations, and teaching practices every week, plus the assignments, I find it hard to know how much time to dedicate to each every day so I find myself working all day every day with little time to rest. The second thing is confidence. Though that has improved slightly as time goes on, it definitely hinders me in the TPs from time to time.

If I was to be totally honest, it would be the nerves before teaching which would happen to me in person too, it’s hard to sleep the night before a TP!

Collaborative learning is a big part of the course; what have you learnt from your fellow trainees?

My fellow trainees have helped me every step of the way. From being unsure about timings in lesson plans to checking the understanding of the assignment rubrics to bouncing ideas off one another, they have helped me a tremendous amount and I like to think that I have helped them too. Most importantly though, we are always there for one another in times of major stress, pressure and doubt.

How has the course matched your pre-course expectations?

I wasn’t really sure what to expect other than that the course would be intense and that is definitely the case. I did expect (or at least hope) that the course would make me feel prepared for teaching as a profession, and it has definitely helped with that.

What has surprised you most about the course so far?

The amount of autonomy in the course. We are guided through everything in ALP and given the tools we need, but it is up to us to piece it together to make an effective lesson. With the liverooms, it was a pleasant surprise that we are given the opportunity to guide the direction of that class with any questions that we need to ask.

Oh my God, I didn’t believe anyone when they told me it was intense, I just brushed those comments off but wow it is intense!

With the course being fully-online how do you think your training would (or might not) transfer to a real classroom setting?

I think the timing of a lesson is more difficult online because we have to factor in how long it takes to use the tech, e.g. setting up breakout rooms, so I think that has helped us in terms of being prepared for things to take longer than anticipated. I think I’ll be much less nervous about time management in a real classroom setting. Other than that, we have everything we need for a real classroom setting. We still do our lesson plans, we still use decentralisation even though it is through a different medium, we can still monitor and provide feedback from that monitoring, so overall, I think it generally equips us well.

I’m worried about this, as I can keep saying it’s going to be easier in a classroom but how am I to know? There is a kind of comfort in being in your own home, it’s much more vulnerable (I think) to be fully in front of students and messing something up, whereas behind a screen, there is a slight shield.

Talking about technology, what do you feel it allows you to do in an online context that you might not be able in classroom?

I think the main thing here is realia. In a real classroom setting you need to think of realia beforehand and bring it into class, which is the case for online too, but being in your own home allows you to grab something relevant to the topic to help students if you think of it on the spot.

It is so much more flexible in terms of being able to see your family for lunch and things, avoiding commuting too, I think it’s easier to play audio as there have been so many times when I’ve wasted time in a lecture or class watching a teacher struggle with speakers.

What do you think will be the most challenging thing in the remainder of the course?

The criteria that needs to be met for passing the TPs. Now that we are entering the second half of the course the criteria that needs to be met and what is expected of us becomes more difficult. The workload will no doubt be difficult too.

I want to push myself to become more creative with my materials as we are now at the stage where we know the basics but this will bring its own challenges like learning to use different apps and sites.

Do you have any funny stories from your time on the course?

Sometimes the students we teach can have very witty comments. For example, a few weeks ago I was asking an appropriacy question “would you say ‘get on with it’ to your boss?” and it made the students laugh, they all found the concept of doing that hilarious and that you would be instantly fired. I found their reaction funny but it also showed me that they understood that it is certainly not something you would say to your boss!

Is there anything else you would like to add?

Something that has helped me throughout the course is that I think of my students a lot. What I mean by that is I try to remember that it is about them, not about me. As someone who has always wanted to be a teacher I have always known that my main aim was to be a good teacher, if I’m not a good teacher I simply won’t teach, because it wouldn’t be fair to them. I know they know we are trainees, but my goal is always to have them learn something new from our classes together, that is always what I strive for, hopefully that is something that I sometimes achieve. Thinking about that always takes me out of myself and my self-doubt and focuses me on making sure I am doing my best for their sake.

Read about Week 6 here. | Read about Week 5 here.| Read about Week 4 here.| Read about Week 3 here. | Read about Week 2 here. | Read about Day 2 here. | Read about Day 1 here.

You can find more information on our CELTA courses here. 

UCC Language Centre

 

 

Week 6 of our fully-online CELTA

Arriving at the half-way point and this fully-online CELTA thing does not seem so new and strange anymore. The fact I have yet to meet any of the trainees face to face does not seem unusual. Similarly, for them not being in the same physical location as their TP students does not seem to be as challenging as it once was. Zoom has become a comfortable medium of delivery and by now we have seen a whole range of English language lessons performed on the platform and its functionality employed to its potential.

On Friday, I assessed my first writing lesson on Zoom. In assisted lesson planning, we had concerns as to how monitoring of students’ writing could be achieved; would over-the-shoulder error correction be possible? The plan we came up with was to assign tables on a single Google doc to each TP student and give them edit rights to the doc. They inserted their name into the table and after some teacher modelling of task they began writing. The format worked really well. The trainee could see all of the students’ contributions, respond positively as she monitored, prompting some immediate error correction, and later allowed easy-to-implement peer editing. It was great to see a writing lesson work so well online.

Sure, there are some things which are a little challenging. We had mid-course tutorials this week and the LMS with all its save buttons on the Progress 2 page is ridiculous. Do we actually need to hit save for each individual section? As the course progresses, I am finding less and less reason to grumble about the technology we are using, but the LMS is – in a word – clunky.

On Wednesday, I attended the CELTA webinar from Cambridge. It was interesting and somewhat informative. I realise with the number of attendees present that it is not going to be possible to answer everyone’s questions, but I would like to know if Cambridge is planning to allow the fully-online CELTA to continue. I would hope they are, as there certainly is going to be an ongoing demand for this. From this then, I would like to know will there be inclusion of input to address the different needs of a teaching online context and some modification of the assessment criteria to reflect this. And finally, will there be an update to the LMS and more importantly the input materials, some of which for 2020 are outdated.

I imagine the fully-online CELTA will become a stand-alone course, and this can only be a good thing. If you had told me back in February that we would be running online CELTAs in tandem by July with more planned for autumn, I would not have believed you. Now, I do not think there will be a time when our centre will not offer online CELTAs, and sadly, it is hard to imagine when exactly we might be able to return to offering campus-based CELTAs which would have up to 23 people in the same room on a given teaching practice, but this day will come.

Our trainees switch level this week. Submissions and resubmissions of assignments are due.

The relentless nature of the course takes force as we head into the second half of the course.

Read about Week 7 here | Read about Week 6 here | Read about Week 5 here | Read about Week 4 here.| Read about Week 3 here. | Read about Week 2 here. | Read about Day 2 here. | Read about Day 1 here.

 

Week 5 of our fully-online CELTA course

“It was a not a technology lesson this time, it was a real English lesson.”

This was one of the comments from a trainee in group feedback this week after the first of our one-hour lessons as we come up to the mid-way point of the course. The technology and the context of teaching online has, without doubt, been a challenge. It is reassuring and positive to see the trainees come to terms with the technology, be experimental with it and deliver effective English language lessons. Zoom has a simplicity to allow for this. The functions like sharing screen, using the chat function, splitting students into breakout rooms and the controls a host has over the microphones of the others works well. As we progress through the course, trainees are beginning to evaluate lesson materials and supplement these appropriately, and employing the technology to allow for this.

On the other side, our TP students are now displaying more familiarity with the technology also and when our trainee teachers divide the class into breakout rooms, the students are now able to enact instructions and take the initiative to share their own screens to allow for reference and discussion. While decentralising using breakout rooms will never be achieved as swiftly as in a physical classroom setting, for the context of online, it does work. One issue it does impact on is timing and pacing. Trainees can allocate 3 minutes for a decentralised feedback stage, but it may take them that time alone to set up the task, allocate into groups and get the trainees into the breakout rooms. Factor in also that the TP students will have differing connection speeds and this can further impact on timing.

Another emerging strength is seeing trainees adapt their lesson plans as lessons evolve; making decisions to allow more decentralised time for students and cutting the number of items in a task, or skipping a second or third listen if they judge that sufficient time had been allowed already in the lesson. Teach the lesson, not the lesson plan!

We have organised the TP like this: three forty minute lessons from TP 1 to 3 and then a 60 minute lesson for their final TP before switching levels. This brings us up to our mid-course tutorials next week. How time flies. We are arriving at the mid-way point of the course units and also this week, their first assignment is due in. Things are gathering momentum.

Missing our beautiful campus

Read about Week 7 here | Read about Week 6 here. | Read about Week 4 here.| Read about Week 3 here. | Read about Week 2 here. | Read about Day 2 here. | Read about Day 1 here.

You can find more information on our CELTA courses here.