I think I am up to any challenge the classroom has to offer.
Here’s the next installment in my Life after CELTA series in which I attempt to document the professional journeys of Indian CELTA trainees. Parvathy Nair did the CELTA in Mumbai exactly a year ago. I was interested in catching up with her because in many ways, she represents how many trainees on the CELTA in India differ from those on courses elsewhere. The CELTA might be a pre-service course in other countries but in India, it tends to be a mid-career course that teachers do as a way of reinvigorating themselves professionally or finding new directions in their teaching careers.
Parvathy came to the CELTA, having taught school-level English in Pune for many years. I was curious about what she hoped to get out of the course as an experienced teacher of English and what kind of impact, if any, it’s had on her teaching practice.
What sort of work were you doing before the CELTA?
I was teaching as a primary teacher in a CBSE School in Pune, when I took a month-long break for my CELTA. And now I am the Head of the Department.
What motivated you to do the course?
I did not have a certification that qualified me as a language teacher. Specialising in English for my B.Ed. did not help me in any way either. The B.Ed. was more about the philosophies of education proposed by the various thinkers and educators of modern India and there was little about language teaching. I felt it was high time I learnt the pedagogy of language teaching. And CELTA fit the bill.
What do your employers/colleagues know about the CELTA?
When I told my employers about the course, they asked me why I wanted to do it – a reaction that probably stems from the comfort zones that the teaching fraternity often operates out of. I had to convince them that this certification was important for my personal and professional development. But a couple of my colleagues who had taught in international schools knew about the CELTA.
What kind of impact did the course have on your approach to teaching?
Pre-CELTA, I was in an ‘ignorance is bliss’ mode, and thought that the techniques that I was using were the most appropriate. But once I completed the course, I discovered multiple approaches to teaching language. While the CELTA, by definition, is targeted at teaching adults, my experience over the last year has been that it works wonderfully for young learners as well.
What kind of impact has it had more generally on your professional life?
I have become a very confident teacher. And I think I am up to any challenge the classroom has to offer. I never thought I had it in me to teach a class that comprised a visually impaired child, children with learning disabilities, first-generation English learners and children with conventional needs, all at the same time.
Have you had opportunities to apply what you’d learnt outside your regular school context?
Yes, I have been fortunate enough to apply it in the curriculum that I am designing for the RTE students. These are first-generation English learners without much access to learning resources and are typically from economically challenged backgrounds. While they attend their regular classes during school hours; two days in a week are dedicated to language learning under my supervision. I used my CELTA learning experience to design the approach used on this course.
Many newly CELTA-qualified teachers in India would like to work with schools but find this challenging without a Bachelor of Education (B.Ed.), existing experience teaching at a school, and/or lack of awareness among school administrators about the CELTA. What advice would you give them?
If a teacher intends to teach in an ICSE, CBSE or State Board school, a B.Ed. is a must. These schools do not see the CELTA as a recommended qualification, but just an additional self-development course. The CELTA does not impact your pay scale and does not offer job security either. A B.Ed. on the other hand ensures a salary as per the prescribed government pay scale and also secures your job (unless the school flouts the government-laid rules and regulations). The IB and IGCSE schools though, do not have B.Ed. as a prerequisite, as the affiliations are not based out of India. But these schools are far fewer in number and do not cater to the larger population either.
CELTA course administrators will have to work with policy makers, government and schools to emphasise the importance of this certification. Until such time, B.Ed. will remain a prerequisite.
What are your plans for continuing professional development?
There are two courses that I would like to take up in the future – an M.A. in English Language Teaching and short course on the history of English.
Where to next?
At least for the next two years I intend to continue in the same school.
In India, we get a lot of trainees, who like you, come to the CELTA with many years of teaching experience. What suggestions do you have for experienced teachers who intend to do the CELTA?
Unlearning is, as much a part of learning and one should have an open mind. I would leave it at that.
Parvathy blogs at The Nomadic Gene although it’s not strictly ELT focused. You can also connect with her on Instagram. She’s a talented poet and I hope she doesn’t mind me sharing a link to ‘I sent the horses back home’ which she wrote in response to the sexual assault and murder of an 8 year old girl in Southern Kashmir last year.