Anne Hendler is a teacher. I’ve never met Anne in person but this much I know. And I mean it in an “I can tell this person is the real deal” kind of way: here’s someone who is never quite fully satisfied with yesterday’s lesson, with standing still professionally, with not exploring further, who is constantly looking for that next opportunity for growth and deeper understanding and thinking about the possibilities of tomorrow’s lesson. A teacher!
In her “Letter to my Younger Teacher Self” she wrote: “…learning as a teacher never ends, and I hope your craving for it never will either”. I’ve been learning quite a lot myself reading Anne’s blog, tweets, iTDi posts (plus enthusiastic participation in online courses there), and more for a few years now. Among other things, despite going nowhere near the peninsula I somehow feel like I know just what it’s like to teach YLs & teens in Korea. How’d you do that, Anne? Anyway, I’m simply thrilled we’ve gotten all PLN’d up.
So now teacher Anne’s craving for learning and growth has led her to do a CELTA course, and guess what, we’ve decided to keep in touch as she does it. And the bloggable product of this correspondence will be a series of interviews/check-ins posted here over the course of the month. Neat, huh!?
This isn’t Anne Hendler’s first rodeo being interviewed on an ELT blog. Back in October of 2014 she got the Michael Griffin treatment on ELTRR. While it’s difficult to resist asking pointed follow-ups to killer questions like “Who would win in a game of golf, Mike Ditka Tony Gurr, Kevin Stein or God?”, this time around we just going to focus on one thing and one thing alone: Anne’s experience on a CELTA course. So…let’s grab a guava, hail a tuk-tuk, and get this show on the road! 🙂
Part 1: As the course begins…
Matthew (in italics): You’re in northern Thailand…and I’m incredibly jealous! I haven’t been back to the country where I cut my ELT teeth, got married, and consider my second home for too long now. Why did you choose Chiang Mai to do your CELTA course?
Anne (in bold): Chiang Mai is a beautiful city, and there is a lot of nature and a lot of things to do. I was here once when I was travelling a few years ago and only got to stay for a day. How lucky you are to have spent so much valuable time here!
I came to escape winter, mainly. But also because this course was recommended to me by friends who had completed it (and even by one who didn’t!). My awesome PLN has rallied to make sure I’m comfortable here. 🙂
Well be sure to have at least one bowl of Kao Soi, one of my absolute favorite Thai dishes (and a northern Thai speciality). But as my stomach rumbles, back to the topic at hand: you’re an experienced, dedicated EFL teacher with an MA in TESOL. Why do a CELTA now?
Actually my MA is in Applied Linguistics. Close enough, but with a really important difference. I don’t have any practical teacher training at all. In 13 years, I have been observed 3 times. And it seems that the more I know ABOUT how to teach, the less certain I am that I practice what I believe.
And here’s my confession: I had a job interview a few months ago where I was asked to do a demo lesson (with real students). I didn’t get the job and the feedback I received was that they were concerned that my classroom management was not what they were looking for and that my goals were unclear.
There’s nothing like an event like that to light a fire under a dedicated teacher, is there? So, what the top 3 things you hope the CELTA will do for you? It sure would be fascinating to ‘track’ these as your course experience unfolds. We could check in once a week or so and reflect on developments in these specific areas, if you’re game!
- I want feedback on my teaching, not just from the trainers but from everyone on the course.
- I want to to improve my classroom management skills, maybe pick up some strategies for time management and managing the space of a classroom. I want some practice giving learners structure, but also choice.
- I want to develop lesson planning skills.
I kind of learned on the job, as many people do, and so I don’t know how I’m doing. Hopefully this course will help me to know where I’m at.
Fantastic! I think the systematic self-reflection and feedback on the teaching practice lessons is really the beating heart of the whole endeavor. We simply don’t get enough feedback as working teachers, do we? So the ‘feedback flood’ on the course is great. And I think part of the value lies in the group dynamics involved, the getting and giving, how it’s largely co-created and co-managed by the trainees themselves, along with their TP tutors’ input and facilitation of course. I also really like the “structure vs. choice” dichotomy you bring up: seems like a productive tension to dig into. As far as lesson planning goes, I can’t wait to hear about how you tackle that.
Anne, you answered the first three questions above the day before the course began. This final question is for after your first day: how was it? I assume you did some ‘getting to know you’ ice-breaker activities first, had an input session on something (classroom management, perhaps?), observed one of your trainers teach a lesson, and met the TP students. Does that sound about right? Any surprises? What’s going through your mind now that you’ve made first contact and broken the seal on your CELTA journey?
It was busy! We started with breakfast at 8:30am and didn’t stop at all until dinner at 8:15pm. (Well, we had lunch, but it really was a tiring day). I learned a few words in modern Egyptian Arabic, of which I remember “hi”, “market”, and “money”. I learned one important jargon: blocking vocabulary, which is the words that students might not know that would interfere with their ability to do a task. I also met our students, and we got to participate in some activities with them. Actually I think my tutor used us really well as another resource in her planning. I was pretty impressed.
So now I’m tired, and worried because I’m going to be teaching tomorrow and I’ll have to fake a confidence I don’t have and focus on an area I know myself to be terrible at: classroom management. The students are very nice, though. Teaching adults looks easier in some ways than teens. Let me stop procrastinating and get to work!
Wow. Busy indeed! Can you imagine at this worry-laden moment that many course grads, looking back, cite the TP1 “trial by fire” experience as a crucially important and positive part of the process? Anyway, there’s truly no way to be fully ready for it, experienced teacher or not; TP1 really just functions as a ‘calibration device’ for each individual, and also bonds everyone together in the vague trauma of it all…and of course everyone is absolutely “faking it” in some way or another, until they’re not. 😉
Well, thank you so much for that and congrats on the launch of this phase of your impressively continuing PD/teacher-learning adventure and let’s check in again sometime after week one! Choak dee (โชคดี = good luck)!