Teaching higher-level students can be quite daunting for teachers a lot of the time; it certainly was for me in the early stages of my career. As students move up levels, they have certain expectations of learning ‘sophisticated’ or ‘professional’ language when they reach C1 and C2 levels; these expectations and wishes just come with the territory. To better prepare ourselves we are oftentimes scrambling to get dictionaries to equip ourselves with concrete definitions of words and phrases we sometimes don’t use productively, or checking a corpus like SKELL to share examples of collocations that are seen as correct instead of saying to the student, “this collocate just doesn’t go with this word” which can leave the student frustrated.
While this is all true, there is something that I have recently learnt after receiving feedback from a C2 level student.
I don’t think many of us at the start of 2020 imagined how impactful this year would be and how it was going to flip our world upside down. For people around the world, life in 2020 was like a Hollywood movie with a few ups and many downs. That simple analogy was certainly true for me. Every generation goes through a traumatic, era-defining global event, as the picture above shows where you have children trying to learn during the Polio outbreak, and the COVID-19 pandemic was the one that I had to navigate through.
The year started brightly. One of my resolutions for the year was to be more sociable (bit of a jinx, no?). I went to a few events my friends had organised and really enjoyed this time after completing the Delta exam the previous month. I cherished these moments with friends and new ones, too. I’m normally quite shy around new folk, but as soon as we get to know each other I show a bit more of myself. It’s weird because I have no problem working with new students! I had no idea that those few weeks of socialising, relaxing a little, feeling great about getting more comfortable meeting new people would turn out to be the only real interactions I would have with people in large group settings for the remainder of the year. Mad thinking about that now.
I would say, hand on heart, that if 2018 was the year that I dug myself out of a hole, 2019 was a year of stability and calmness career-wise, and eagerness to develop as a teacher. I was firmly back on the saddle ready to get back on the trail and in full control of my life and career, something that eluded me the previous year. It was a year that fashioned a trajectory of positivity and yearning to do more that, perhaps, propelled me forward to this time of writing. This year was also less dramatic, so this should be a shorter blog than the previous ones!
Thinking back on it now (being 2021 at the time of writing), 2019 was when things finally started to click, or the way I always tended to be self-critical – overly at times – the needle seemed to slowly move away from that mentality. I was starting to be more assured and confident with what I was doing in the classroom. I guess the nascent stage of my career came to an end during this time.
Moving into 2018, I was very much looking forward to putting the previous year behind me which really proved to take a toll on me physically and mentally. The year started really brightly. I had put my time on placement firmly to the back of my mind, I was working hard on my written assignments, and my girlfriend and I were settling into our first home we had just bought.
We were incredibly lucky to have got the place and for the banks to have accepted our bid. The place was a doer-upper so we were excited to learn a few skills on our way to renovating the place. Some of the rooms and the way they had been treated by the bank/previous owners, e.g. the bathroom and kitchen, were egregious and were in need of urgent surgery; far from being a sight for sore eyes. It used to be the case for most of the year that we would do our 9 to 5’s then try to find the energy and motivation to work on the house when we came home, not that we were complaining, mind; we were in a very fortunate position, those in our age bracket don’t have it as good as our parents had it.
I was asked earlier in the year to contribute an article to a brand-new ELT magazine from New Way Press Publishing (NWPP) – a new publishing house that you can find out more about here – and I jumped at the chance.
I am delighted to announce that the magazine has now been published and I am fiercely proud of everyone involved from the writers, to the editors and everyone at NWPP, and to the graphic designers who got this magazine over the line. I was excited like a kid on Christmas morning running down to the tree when I received the email from Mara, the magazine editor and my former Delta tutor, to let me know that this magazine was ready to come out of the oven.
I completed my Cambridge CELTA in June 2015. With regards to the full-time course, when they say it’s an intense course, you’d better believe it. Before I started my course, I was rummaging around the internet to find any information I could on what I would be expecting from the course and good advice to enable me to have the best possible chance of passing the course.
Now, I want to give back to the community a little bit and help any trainees in need of support as they embark on this journey. Here are some tips to keep in mind while navigating the course.
Consider your motivation(s) before enrolling on the course
CELTA is a very intense course. Your tutors will get you through a lot of content, you will need to complete a lot of assignments, and you will be expected to practice your teaching from the get-go. This may go without saying, but it’s very important that you ask yourself before the course if teaching is something you really would like to explore as the course demands a lot from you.
Make sure you have an idea of what you want to do after the course with the certificate later in hand. A lot of graduates go on to work in schools in their country and/or abroad. You will hear of other courses such as Dip-TESOL and Delta, but don’t be confused as I often see on social media of candidates not knowing if they should get a CELTA or Delta. CELTA is just your initial teaching qualification. It will get you in the door. Those other certs are diplomas to help you pursue careers in management, teacher training, publishing etc. As you can guess, you need to have been in the game a fair bit before taking those courses.
The Cambridge CELTA (Certificate in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages) is a pre-service teaching qualification for those who want to teach English as a foreign language. CELTA is recognised and required by a lot of employers around the world when you are looking to step into the industry.
I completed my CELTA in June 2015 and have written a few blog entries on my experiences:
The course is great for those who are complete beginners, like I was, when it comes to teaching. The course provides you with the knowledge, skills and practice you will need to be a successful and confident English language teacher. Experienced teachers who are looking to provide evidence to prospective employers that they meet the required standard for teaching or those who are looking to improve their skills also take the course.
I enjoy working with students one-to-one just as much as I do in the normal classroom environment, but at first I was thrown by how different it is. That’s why I devoted my Delta Module 3 assignment to this context so I could understand the context properly.
If you are getting into the context of one-to-one teaching for the first time and not sure what to expect (or if you are already working in it and things are not going as well as you had hoped), have a look at my tips below to help you get accustomed to the change.
Understand the context you are walking into
One-to-one teaching is a completely different animal from the group settings you may be used to. You need to understand this, as does your student/client. Firstly, it is more intense for both parties. The student will be on task for a majority of the lesson. The teacher will be monitoring, making notes for feedback, going into a lot of depth with regards to systems and skills work, stepping into different roles not normally fulfilled in the normal classroom e.g. coach, mentor, shoulder to lean on, and you will find it difficult to find those moments to breathe and prepare for the next task as you do normally in the grouped setting. It really is all systems go from start to finish, so energy levels will need to be managed. Having a short five minute break can really help. Head to the toilet or grab a coffee to give your student some respite as your presence can often mean ‘work time’ and your absence for a brief time can give them a breather mentally whilst also allowing them to work well independently from you.
2017 was without a doubt a whirlwind of a year for me. It was a year where I felt that I had fully spread my wings in the teaching world and things were really starting to click.
If you remember from my review of the previous year, I had spent some time travelling around South America. It was an amazing experience, memories I will cherish forever. When my girlfriend and I got to Peru, she received word of a job opportunity back in Dublin that was hard to pass up. Just when you think you have escaped the rat race, they find a way to reel you back in. So, we made a collective decision – a surprisingly quick one – whilst eating food in a bus station, that we would stop travelling and head home. For me, I would take my next step in my career – post-primary teaching; something that I had initially planned to do at some point while teaching English but was putting it off until I felt comfortable in my role as a teacher. I needed to apply for a Masters and was going to go with Hibernia. I was very sad to scrap our plans to travel around South America, and I hope we can pick up where we left off again some time in the near future.
After Christmas, we were back in Dublin, my girlfriend was settling into her new job, and I applied to Hibernia. The next thing for me was to find a job. I applied to four schools: Delfin, Berlitz, Atlantic, and The English Academy. I didn’t bother with Kaplan as I knew I probably wouldn’t get the hours I needed to pay for my college tuition fees. My first interview, with Atlantic, was awful. I was given a coursebook and was asked how I would go about planning a lesson from one of the book’s two-page spread. I drew a blank. I didn’t know how to go about it. I was offered really low-pay based on my interview, which was fair enough because that interview was an absolute stinker. I just needed to blow off a few cobwebs and get my head firmly screwed on that I was back teaching and not travelling.
At the time of writing, it has been 3 months since I started this blog and there are still things I want to tweak and add to it, so it is still very much in its infancy, but I am enjoying this journey very much. However, it has been 3 weeks since my last blog entry which makes me a bit uneasy. Granted, I have been putting my efforts into renovating my house (at the flooring stage at the moment) and don’t have much energy and motivation to write in the evenings, but I also realise that I am somewhat off the tracks and need to get myself back on it.
Now, I may have periods like these when I don’t, or can’t, sit down and write something, and I just need to accept that, but I hope I don’t leave it for too long, otherwise I fear this blog will turn into a lonely, inactive place like my Instagram account. Having said that though, leaving the blog alone for a week or two allows past entries to shine.
If you are blogging for the first time or suffering from a lack of motivation to write, I have noted down some traits in my routine that have helped me to knuckle down and write that you may wish to incorporate into your routine. I’d love to hear yours as well, so do get in touch and comment below.