“In pairs, take ten minutes to discuss statements 1 to 5 on the worksheet.” The instructions had been clear enough. And yet the class was bewildered. “You mean… talking to each other?” To the 2nd-year undergraduate students of English in that state university, it came as a novelty: having gone through primary, secondary and high school education in the Romanian public system, they were still so unused to performing pair-work speaking activities in the English class that they found them puzzling.
Though things have somewhat changed, our students are still quite accustomed to being lectured. A class is a time during which the teacher, seated at the big desk in front of the classroom, talks at them. They are just supposed to listen, take notes and occasionally repeat what they hear – and very much tempted to check their smartphones under their desks, all this while, send furtive notes to each other or be otherwise engaged…
We, too, as teachers, have been trained, on state-run pedagogy courses, to regard teaching as equivalent to lecturing. We talk “at” our students because we have been told that that’s what teachers do, that’s how teaching works. More contemporary pedagogy training, however, especially Western-derived approaches, tell us otherwise: it’s interaction and bidirectional communication that matter in (English) teaching.
The CELTA course is probably the best example of such training. It stands for Certificate in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages, it is supervised by the University of Cambridge, it is recognised internationally, and it will change your teaching philosophy and practices in four areas:
- The students should be at the centre of the lesson. They should have the longest talking time during a class, and be co-responsible for their learning (including by generating tasks and activities).
- The teachers should not be know-it-all lecturers, but facilitators who activate the learners’ knowledge and engage them actively in the teaching process during the class.
- The lesson should have carefully planned stages that ensure a high level of student involvement at all times, through elicitation, guided discovery, inductive processes, etc.
- The teaching materials are there to be adapted. Teachers should extend and exploit communicatively textbook exercises, and they can create worksheets which meet a specific class’s needs and interests.
A Romanian state-school teacher who completes a CELTA course is very likely to see her/his teaching substantially enriched and to feel significantly more confident about her/his performance. Last but not least, after a CELTA course English teaching becomes the fun, enjoyable and rewarding work we have all always dreamt of.
The full-time CELTA course is four weeks long. It can also be done part-time and, at least during the pandemic, online.
The course has five thematic strands:
- learners and teachers, and the teaching and learning context
- language analysis and awareness
- language skills: reading, listening, speaking and writing
- planning and resources for different teaching contexts
- developing teaching skills and professionalism
In Romania, there are two centres authorised by Cambridge Assessment English to run the CELTA course, whether face-to-face, online, full-time or part-time.