Cert as CPD: Interviews with Anne pt. 5

It’s been a week since Anne Hendler completed her CELTA certificate course in Chiang Mai, Thailand. Congrats Anne! What an interesting and enlightening privilege to do this series of interviews with you! I hope we can do some further follow-ups about it in the future.  


IH Chiang Mai

At the time of publishing this post, Anne is enjoying some ‘island time’ down in the south of the country…I’d say much deserved!

But we left off our interviews back when Anne was toughing out Week 3 and just beginning to catch a glimpse of the finish line up ahead. How did the final stretch go? To start off this fourth and final installment,  we’ve got some of the Week 4 notes that Anne shared as the days unfolded…


This is Monday, week 4. Also, it’s my birthday. Having a CELTA birthday was a nice experience. Someone told the students and they made a thing of it, singing at the end of class. Some of my friends got a cake and got everyone together after lunch. That was really sweet as well. I felt pretty special. Which took some of the sting away from TP7.

TP7 kicked my ass. Why are language lessons so hard? I remembered what you wrote only afterwards and realized I should have skipped the rest of the worksheet and just moved straight to practice. Shoulda. WILL I EVER FIGURE OUT PACING AND TIMING?

Yeah, I really think you will! 🙂

BTW, Trainer 1 says HER demo lessons are NOT polished perfected lessons. I wouldn’t have know any different since I saw her demo on the very first day and Trainer 2’s on week 2 Friday. HIS lesson was definitely a polished product. Of course, all the input sessions are brilliant examples of teaching. I normally pull them apart in my notebook instead of doing the tasks they set for us, trying to pay attention to how they do the things I find challenging.


Tuesday. We had a session on professional development today. It made me really happy to see Trainer 1 share a page of must-follow blogs, including Mike Griffin, Anna Loseva, Tyson Seburn, Rose Bard, Hana Ticha, Kevin Stein, Marc Jones, Joanna Malefaki, Anthony Ash, Sandy Millin, and a few others. I took a sneaky picture and posted it to Twitter, but it didn’t turn out too well. I tried to explain why Twitter is super awesome. No one joined on the spot.

Our other session today was on using song in the classroom. It came just in time for our TP group, since our lessons tonight were all based around a song. I really disliked the song Trainer 2 chose. I assume he chose it because it’s something he wouldn’t mind listening to three times in a row and it was teachable. I learned that the peril of choosing ‘put stuff in order’ activities for listening is that if you miss one, you miss everything after it. I also learned that the more cognitively challenging the activity is, the less it matters that I don’t like the song.

Oh, and irritating ICQ of the day: “Should you circle the answers or underline them?”

We’ve decided to stop using the term ICQ at my center because trainees tend to equate them with CCQs and misuse/overuse them in place of describing and demonstrating tasks properly.  

By the way, trainees have been taking pics of each other during TPs, so I have photographic evidence of my CELTA teaching (and also of my trainer observing with her head in her hands in despair. Actually that’s unfair and it’s probably just a thinking pose).

Anne Pic 1
“Keep calm & pretend it’s on the lesson plan”
Anne Pic 2


Wednesday. We walked into class this morning to find the desks arranged in rows facing the board. Final exam style. I found it hard to see a place for myself in an arrangement like that, so I sat on the floor. And I wondered about my own belief: It’s good to change seating arrangements and desk arrangements. I didn’t realize that different seating arrangements speak so loudly about what kind of class we will be having.

Trainer 2’s review session featured more random groupings with non-random results. I think it had to do with where he started in the room. He must have thought it out while we were doing something else.

I wonder if we are harder to teach in week 4. It’s not that our enthusiasm has drained, but I think we’re all tired (and especially the three trainees in each group who teach first). So the people who tend to speak out in input sessions are unusually quiet. And when we aren’t quiet, we tend to go off topic. I feel bad sometimes, because I know how hard it can be to direct a class back to the topic of study when they get onto something else. Our trainers are experts, of course. And if they’re frustrated, they hide it well. (They’re probably tired too. I heard this is their second course back to back.)

In my experience there is a clear shift in atmosphere and behavior during Week 4. It can be frustrating as discipline and focus sometimes unravels, but it can be great fun and quite a bit more creative because the pressure is finally off (for most trainees anyway).

Moment of hilarity of the day came from a review activity – a body parts word jumble.

– ‘sinep’:  ‘Everyone has one. It keeps you erect’ –

It’s a spine, of course.


This week has been killer, but thank god my group works so seamlessly together. Trainee C stayed up half the night with me, both of us working on our lesson plans and keeping each other awake and focused. Trainee B wisely went to bed. They both taught amazing lessons today. I think if there’s an area that our whole TP group has all improved on in this course, it’s context creation. On Monday we taught lessons around ‘Hindsight’. On Tuesday, the other three taught brilliant interconnected lessons around animals. Today we created lessons around the theme of a murder mystery. I guess if you consider we’ve been making our own materials all week starting from scratch, it’s no wonder we’re so tired.


Thursday night and pretty much finished up now.

You were right about creative feedback in week 4. Trainer 2 hasn’t varied his style according to that group, but Trainer 1 had some surprises for us: feedback based around materials for TP7 and creative feedback for TP8. Feedback with colorful posters was delightful. A creative way to give positive feedback.

Anne Pic 3

There are trainers who do that (and that kind of thing) for peer feedback towards/at the end and trainers who don’t. I’m definitely one who does; I don’t think it’s a trifle…it’s some of the most important peer-feedback on the course. The CELTA has a stiff upper lip, but also…a soul. 

We decided to make a positive feedback poster for Trainer 1 as well. So we’ve been up half the night working on it. We started with the idea of teacher hats, and ended up with the words we brainstormed on a scarf instead, since she doesn’t really wear hats.

Anne Pic 4

What a wonderful gift for a trainer. I’m sure your trainer really appreciated it!

After classes tonight, we had a party with the students. We gave some of them certificates. They had a really hilarious time listening for their names (and begging us to repeat in our terrible pronunciations just so they could laugh more). All in good fun.

Trainer 2 gave us recommended readings. I already decided which one I want to read (first): The English Verb (if I can find a copy that’s not $70!).

I found a cheap copy of that (maybe because lots of highlighting) and I’d be happy to send it to you. The question is, where are you going to be? What’s in your post-CELTA future?

First, I want to sleep until Forever.  After that…I can’t even begin to guess yet. When I am less tired, I’ll try to answer the big question: what is the next step for me?

Wow, what a great piece of writing. In case you missed it, dear reader, click ^ that link to check it out…

Anne Weakness

Anne, I can see how that previous job was draining and not leading someone like you towards your best position, which you made up for in other ways. But when did you sleep? And the self-doubt. Oh, the self-doubt! Also, sounds like you re-energized since giving yourself that time off, but the hyper-intensity of the CELTA course was a double-edged sword. Someone here, just the other day, floated the ‘why, I mean WHY isn’t this thing FIVE weeks?’ pondering – a not uncommonly heard Week 3 sentiment. Folks get worn down, sometimes worn out. Of course there are good reasons why that’s not standard, but the level of stress involved in this wonderful course is not a small issue. What’s gained and what’s lost? Something I think about a lot. And I know it can certainly affect trainers, too – at least, still green ones like me! 


Finally, some punchy “listicle”style Q & A to account for the experience as we reflect and celebrate your achievement…


Memorable moments from input sessions?

The learning or the laughter? There was a lot of both and I think they are both valuable parts of the experience.

  1. Dictogloss – the queen of dictations. That was also a lesson which occurred all over the school and generated a lot of enthusiasm.
  2. Making board art about young learners with two other trainees – and seeing how all our different ideas mesh together.
  3. And of course the Professional Development session, seeing all my friends’ blogs up on the screen.
  4. The phenomenal Lexis input session with Lennie’s Menagerie. I have never seen anything like it. Trainer 2 set the context (Lennie, who needs some help sending his animals to good homes), delivered the lesson as a Test-Teach-Test with every part connecting to the context so there was a purpose to every activity, and followed up with games and activities that led to consolidation. And even though I was only half-paying attention to the content of the lesson because I was trying to pull it apart to figure out how he was doing it, I still remember most of the words and details about them. This is completely because of the elaborate story of Lennie (who called to mind the character from ‘Of Mice and Men’ – another stroke of genius), and the need to recall and use the information in order to help him. This lesson was absolutely genius.
  5. Trainer 1 had a lot of extension questions ready. It seemed like whenever I finished something early (which only happened in the first couple weeks) there were additional questions to think about. Best yet, some of them were not display questions and I never found out the answers. I hope I wrote them down now that I have more time to think.


Tough or terrible lesson planning experiences?

  1. Grammar analysis sheets! They take so long to make, and I still have no idea how to use them.
  2. The day my USB died and I had to redo anything I had done since the last backup.
  3. Not checking the length of the recording when I added up the time for TP 8. What a rookie mistake.


Good or great lesson planning experiences?

  1. Staying up late at night creating contexts to link our lessons together, and being a bit silly about it.
  2. Figuring out how to color-code my handouts so I didn’t get lost (this is why multicolored paper clips are great)
  3. Making my first ‘guided discovery’ grammar worksheet, and seeing how it could make me shut up and let the students do all the work. (Still trying to figure it into my time management, though)


Critical incidents from your TP lessons that stand out?

  1. Feedback that included the word ‘defeated’ (or something really similar). And I knew why. And it helped me change my attitude.
  2. Completely losing my place in my lesson plan in my first TP helped me realize I need to up my organization game.
  3. An ah-ha moment when I realized that I was married to the lesson plan and that’s one reason why I was failing to manage the timing.


Meaningful and/or memorable moments with TP students?

  1. Hearing about a student’s childhood experiences and realizing how amazing it is that we met at IH. Also amazing how willing the students are to share their lives.
  2. The boy who can draw like a boss! He brought his binder to show us his work. If we’d had more time with that class, I’d’ve found a way to add some of the animation he and his friends like into the materials.
  3. The moment when one group of students decided genetic mutation will help save the Tasmanian Devils and another student said it would make them mutants like x-men.


New perspectives on ELT gained from the CELTA?

  1. I will never look at a lesson the same way again. From now on, I will know what my students have learned.
  2. I will never plan 7 hours for a 45 minute lesson. But I will adapt the useful bits of the format to fit into my planning time.
  3. I disagree with the party line on collaborative writing, and I would love to play devil’s advocate for reading aloud.
  4. (Bonus) Breaking down the process of everything that goes into teaching really helped me get a new perspective on what I do in a classroom and why. It’s the ultimate reflective practice. I can’t wait to get more into this!


Pieces of advice you’d give potential CELTA candidates?

  1. Don’t be afraid to take risks in the classroom – it’s how you grow.
  2. Even if you’re an experienced teacher, there is still a lot to learn from your tutors and from the fresh eyes of the other trainees, whether they are experienced or not. Be open to it.
  3. Whether you are experienced or not, you’ll find you have your own strengths. Share.
  4. (Bonus one) The camaraderie between the trainees on my course was what made it manageable. Try to be kind even when you’re stressed.
  5. (Other bonus one) Read the books! Really! Trust me!


Impressions of Thailand/Thai culture:

  1. I had a sort of negative image of the ‘land of smiles’ before I came. It came from experiences in the islands and the impression that the smiles hid negative thoughts about me. This month has reversed that impression. I love the people here and find them genuinely friendly and helpful.
  2. The temples are beautiful. The monks are always on the move. Where are they always going?
  3. Thai drivers are not as dangerous as Korean ones (from a cyclist’s perspective).



Awesome..now I get to add my own: some things Matthew appreciates about and honors in Anne: 

  • the amazing drive to learn from every experience & reflect with your PLN
  • the openness and generosity in how you’ve shared very personal experiences here 
  • the seemingly casual but often totally brilliant photography you do, I love it! 



Postscript: a trainer appreciation by Anne

I talked a lot about Trainer 1 in these posts, but haven’t said much about Trainer 2. I wrote this description of him on the first day of the course:

“Trainer 2 writes with a fountain pen. He wears his glasses on top of his head. He is wearing an IH collared shirt. He gestures with his left hand when he speaks, and he puts his pens and markers in his breast pocket. He wears a silver watch on his left hand, and a gold claddagh ring on his ring finger. He has another ring on the middle finger of his right hand.”

Trainer 2 is quite a gifted teacher and an excellent story teller. Last week when he was telling us about adult literacy he presented us with an unfamiliar script and had us copy it out left handed to give us an idea of what it feels like to write in English for the first time. I was so focused on completing the task that I didn’t even bother looking at the script as anything other than dots and lines. It wasn’t until I’d finished writing that I wondered where I had seen it before. It took me a while to recognize the runes Tolkien used. If he and I had met in other circumstances, I think we would have got along.


Thank you so much Anne! Readers, please share you comments below! 🙂


10 thoughts on “Cert as CPD: Interviews with Anne pt. 5

  1. Thank you once again for your kind words and for helping me organize my thoughts and reflections, and giving me courage and support to write honestly. And tell me, please, why ISN’T it a five week course?
    -Your tired friend on the beach.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Thank you so much for coordinating this Matt, and thank you to Anne for sharing your experience in so much depth. The job you were in before was clearly demanding way too much from you, and I’m amazed that you stuck it for so long. I’m sure that you will find the right job for you, and that the time off and the reflection which you are experiencing now will stand you in good stead for a long time to come. Good luck with the next step Anne, and I look forward to reading more about it.
    Oh, and that piece of writing could very much be a blog post if you want it to be – it’s a reflection of the real experience of what being an English teacher abroad is about that would add to the richness of your blog. But no pressure 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

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