Saturday, June 21, 2008

How the CELTA course motivated me to be a better Muslim

For those blissfully out of the loop, the CELTA is a month-long course touted as ''an internationally recognised teaching qualification, highly regarded throughout the world'' by the University of Cambridge.

It's also notoriously ''intense''.

Consider, for example, the 'Nature of CELTA', according to the Uni. of Technology, Sydney, that ends with the ominous ''although this course is very rewarding, it must be emphasised that the full time course is an intensive course and most people find that it demands 100% of their time, effort and psychological reserves. The part-time course appeals to people who work but it also requires a considerable commitment. You need to be in a good state of health and be able to manage the demands and stress produced by the course. ''

Consider also, a typical day in the life of a CELTA trainee:''The morning is devoted to learning about teaching - how to manage groups, how to analyse language for teaching purposes, different approaches to pronunciation and so on. The course programme is designed to reflect the syllabus as set out by UCLES. Each course will also take into account the needs of the individuals within the group, as reflected by negotiable sessions and regular revision of techniques. The afternoon is devoted to putting it all into practice. Trainees are divided into 2 or 3 groups and these teaching practice groups work with their trainer to advance the learning of practice students. Each trainee spends 2 weeks teaching each student group, guided each day by the trainer who is supervising them. The trainers endeavour to create a real-life teaching situation by having trainees work with contemporary published materials, keep attendance records and so on. After teaching there is group or individual feedback, the opportunity to comment on what has been more or less successful and why. As well as learn from the experience of teaching and watching their peers, trainees also observe 8 live lessons taught by an experienced teacher on the staff. ''

By virtue of having lived life in the 'intense' lane for the past decade and more, having got through days of maximum aggravation on minimum sleep and producing written work on laughably short notice, I had thought the course would be a cinch.

How wrong I was!

(to be continued, iA)

Meanwhile, check out this absolutely hilarious ELT glossary from a brilliant site...
Disclaimer: Makes complete sense only to CELTA trainees/trainers, though.

''A glossary of ELT
The word aerobics came about when the gym instructors got together and said: If we’re going to charge $10 an hour, we can’t call it Jumping Up and Down. (Rita Rudner)

This is a simple glossary. I have not included terms like inductive learning or procedural syllabus, as it would be far too boring and also I have no idea what they mean.

Terribly old-fashioned concept, in which students worry their pretty little heads about boring grammar, etc. Not nearly as important as fluency.
authentic materials
An article or poem that the teacher raves on about and the students cannot understand.
Basic four-week ELT qualification. Impossible to fail unless you are really thick.
communicative approach
Prevailing ELT orthodoxy, in which students chat, play games, have fun and produce lamentable English.
Satirical composition that the school owner rewrites whenever the fancy takes him.
Cuisenaire rods
Little ludicrous bits of wood which your more demented colleagues may use for a range of pointless demonstrations in class. Worth borrowing if your lesson is being observed.
Advanced qualification for misguided sad gits who want to make a “career” out of teaching English.
Director Of Studies. Pronounced “doss”, an informal British word that means “an easy task giving the opportunity for idling”.
Useful tool for humiliating uppity students.
Asking the students for information that they will not have, then dropping increasingly unsubtle hints until the nerdiest student finally gets the answer.
As anyone with a Delta can tell you, not the same as mistakes (which see).
Utterly forbidden technique shunned by all good teachers, who practise only eliciting. (See also translation.)
By the teacher: telling the students that their mangling of the English language was brilliant, excellent, a great improvement, etc, but there are one or two teensy-weensy little areas that might need extra practice.By students: reporting back from a Find Someone Who with enthralling revelations such as “We found that Ari and Ria have never been waterskiing, Wawan, Dani and Sri think Titanic is a good film, and all the class want to go home.”
Something meant to fill an unavoidable gap in a lesson. Typically lasts 90 minutes.
The ability to produce gibberish at speed. Far more important than accuracy.
Find Someone Who. Students stand up clutching bits of paper and gossip while the teacher sits down and wonders what to get them to do next.
Things like agreeing, suggesting, offering and insulting. For example, “Do you like hospital food?” is either asking someone their opinion or warning them to shut their gob.
The G word. Once taught only by unimaginative fascists, but now possibly coming back into vogue.
hot correction
Pointing out a mistake immediately, instead of meaning to do so later and forgetting all about it.
jigsaw activities
Activities where students have differing and incomplete information, which they need to pool. For example, one has a map that shows only a garage, a hospital and a post office, while the other has a map that shows only a library, a school and a restaurant. This information gap is meant to reflect a real-life reason for communication. As in real life, students efficiently bridge the gap by showing each other their maps.
L1 interference
First language interference. The reason you give for your students speaking such dreadful English.
language aims
Something you need to write out at length on a lesson plan.
lesson plan
An over-ambitious document that you give your DOS before an observed lesson.
materials development
Photocopying pages from books and laminating them.
Pointless activity that uses up loads of time and gives you a chance to sit down.
Quite distinct from errors (q.v.).
needs analysis
Pointless ritual you are meant to do when starting a new class, especially a company class. The students do not have a clue what they need—and will usually answer, “Grammar. And speaking. Oh, and writing.” But it looks good and keeps your DOS happy.
Neuro-Linguistic Programming™. Barmy and rather sinister methodology that teaches you how to “program your brain”.
Vogue word in ELT theory. In ELT practice, what teachers cannot help doing when (say) Irma comes into class wearing an extremely tight school uniform.
Dangerous thing to do. Point this out to your DOS when he asks why you did not cover some crucial point in an observed lesson.
Activities where students gossip animatedly in their native language and the teacher cannot work out what anyone is saying.
peer correction
Getting students to “correct” the errors (or mistakes) of their classmates, giving you a chance to nip out for a cigarette.
phonemic symbols
Those squiggles on the wall chart that neither students nor teachers understand.
Presentation, Practice, Production. Old-fashioned methodology, where you teach the students something like “be going to” for future plans, then they practise simple sentences (controlled practice), then they start using it all the time (free practice). The only problem with PPP is that it does not work.
Lesson preparation. Fresh off the Celta this takes about 2 hours, after six months of teaching, 10 minutes, after 2 years of teaching, 0 minutes.
Pronunciation, “that part of a student which is the same at the end of a language course as at the beginning.” (Tom McArthur)
Things you can lug into the classroom to impress your DOS. For instance, if you are teaching the names of parts of a bicycle, you wheel in your old bike. Only done by teachers fresh off the Celta.
recent research suggests
Key phrase used in English teaching journals to justify the writer’s latest barmy idea. (The research is never cited.)
role play
Good time-consuming skive.
senior teacher
The lance-corporal of the ELT platoon. Earns fractionally more money in return for numerous thankless tasks like doing placement interviews, relabelling cassettes, laminating games, attending extra meetings and nodding sympathetically while teachers whinge about the timetable.
Silent Way
Barmy methodology, where the teacher rarely opens his mouth. Potentially useful ploy if you do not know what to say.
student-centred learning
Good phrase to use when you are trying to explain why you were out of your classroom having a fag, chatting up the front desk staff, etc.
study centre
Ill-lit cupboard with a few ancient books that nobody borrows, some dog-eared magazines with the pictures missing, and possibly a computer used by the school caretakers to look at pornography.
Barmy methodology, where students lounge about listening to baroque music. Possibly worth trying, if you happen to like baroque music.
task-based learning
Brilliant skive. You and the students just sit about, writing a brochure or drawing pictures or building a website, and you never have to teach them grammar or anything. They just magically absorb English. Highly recommended, if you can get away with it.
teacher-induced error
This is when, in ignorance or drunkenness, you tell the class something like, “Use will for plans and be going to for spontaneous decisions.” It instantly becomes the one grammatical commandment they will never ever forget.
Bizarre American exam, in which candidates listen to robots intoning things such as, “Wow, I sure hope my meticulously assembled entomology collection has not gotten misplaced by the faculty janitors.” A deep-voiced robot then asks, “What does the woman mean?”
Total Physical Response. Barmy methodology, in which the students act out instructions from the teacher. Still in vogue, so worth droning on about if you want to look keen.
Despicable practice abhorred by keen teachers and craved by all students.
Teacher Talking Time. What the students think they have paid for, but DOSes do not like.
Vulcan mind meld
As practised by Mr Spock on Star Trek. Not actually part of current ELT methodology, but probably the only way you will ever get your students to learn English.
Ordeals arranged by sadistic DOSes to sabotage the teachers’ mornings off.
zero conditional
A structure taught for no very good reason at a low level. Useful if you want to say conversation-stopping things like, “If you heat water to 100°, it boils.”
New terms
language bandit

Annoying student who arrives 10 minutes early or sticks around at the end of a lesson and engages you in meaningless banter just to get a few more minutes of “free” English. This species can also be found in their droves at Language Fairs. (Thank you, Fergus Crossen, who attributes this coinage to his uncle, Ernie Crossen.)
Preparation/Execution Quotient: the time spent planning an activity divided by the time spent doing it in class. For example, the hour you spend searching the Internet for a ten-minute filler would have a quotient of 6. A fifty-minute role play that took you five minutes to dream up would be 0.1. Any activity that has a PEQ greater than 0.5 should definitely be avoided.

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