Life after CELTA | An interview with Dr Deepesh C.

Deepesh C

Academic qualifications do not place as much importance on critical feedback during teaching practice, as is available on the CELTA, and for me, that is reason enough to take the course.

This is part of a series of interviews I’m doing with CELTA trainees in India to explore their professional journeys after they complete the course.

It’s not uncommon to have trainees on CELTA courses in India who are highly qualified … not just in some random field but in education, linguistics and English language teaching. I’m always curious about why someone with that sort of background would want to do an initial teacher-training qualification. So I thought it would be interesting to catch up with Deepesh, who has a PhD in English language education, to explore his reasons for doing the course and his experience on it.

I met Deepesh when he was heading the CLIL@India project. I had some fascinating conversations with him about CLIL, pedagogy and research. He did the CELTA at the British Council in Chennai a couple of months ago.


What is your academic/professional background? 

Having an MA (linguistics) from JNU, New Delhi and an MA (English) from Madras University, I taught English in CBSE schools in Delhi and Doha-Qatar for over 11 years. I then pursued a full-time PhD in English Language Education from the EFL-U, Hyderabad and the degree was awarded to me in December 2016. Subsequently, I taught English courses in an engineering college in Chennai for about three years and then took on the Executive Director’s role in the CLIL@India project (The EU’s Erasmus project on piloting and adapting Content and Language Integrated Learning through four major universities in India). I have also led hundreds of workshops for school and college teachers in several parts of India for the past seven years.

What motivated you to do the course? 

I had been looking to bolster my professional development path using credentials that would help me not only in taking a relook at theoretical aspects of ELT research but also have me sharpen the practical skills involved in teaching adults learning English. After much thought, I decided to do the CELTA, even though I knew that most people consider it to be an initial teacher-education course.

What did you expect from the CELTA and did it live up to these expectations? 

I signed up for the CELTA to update my knowledge of theory (ELT) and to have the real-time evaluation of my practical teaching skills in the classroom. While I have been open to the idea, I haven’t had the opportunity to have my classes evaluated neutrally by a non-student. Students and junior colleagues (who have sat in) have always given me positive feedback and this hadn’t been very useful for me to improve myself in any way.

The CELTA experience provided me, for the first time, honest and critical feedback from three different experienced teachers (and trainers), as well as from younger and a few experienced peers, along fixed criteria. This was priceless as it gave me insights that I had missed all through my teaching and training career.

A lot of ELT professionals are perplexed when they hear that CELTA trainees have post-graduate degrees in language education. This is often the case on courses in the global south whereas courses with trainees who are for example predominantly from the UK may not even have an initial degree. Now that you’ve experienced the course, do you feel it genuinely addresses a gap in the existing academic trajectories in India? 

Different individuals have different expectations from the CELTA and therefore they take away different things from the experience. While I observed both groups of trainees we had in the course – fresh graduates with no teaching experience and those with teaching degrees as well as experience – I found out that what the CELTA experience does to an individual depends much on how willing the person is to receive fresh perspectives and to change one’s established ideas and practices. I would definitely recommend the CELTA to everyone who wishes to start/continue teaching English. This is because I am aware of the shortcomings in the teaching degrees we have in India. Academic qualifications do not place as much importance on critical feedback during teaching practice, as is available on the CELTA, and for me, that is reason enough to take the course. With a teaching degree (BAEd), NET qualification (for teaching in college/university levels in India) in two subjects (Linguistics and English), and a PhD in English Language Education, and with about 15 years of experience teaching young learners and young adults, I say without hesitation that the CELTA taught me a lot.

What are the strengths and weaknesses of the course? 

Strengths: Opportunity to immediately put into practice the theoretical inputs learnt in class; critical feedback from experienced teachers along set criteria and the opportunity to improve one’s practices based on this ongoing feedback; excellent templates for teaching skills (especially receptive skills – listening and reading) and language (especially the meaning-pronunciation-form template for vocabulary and grammar) lessons; internationally-recognised certification and rigor; fair and transparent assessment methods along declared criteria

Weaknesses (in my perception): Fixed templates with little room for classroom-based manoeuvre; assessment along set criteria with little credit for improvisation; insistence on using the British English pronunciation with little tolerance for General Indian English, especially in the drill stage of a language lesson

Where are you currently working and what sort of work does it involve?

I don’t work full-time currently, and all I am doing is an occasional teacher-training session for school and college teachers of English.

Have you been able to use what you learnt on the CELTA?

I haven’t been able to use what I learnt on the CELTA as yet, but being a conscientious practitioner, I have resolved to use two of the biggest learning from the course in my practice, wherever and whenever I teach – to reduce Teacher Talk-Time (TTT) and increase Student Talk-Time (STT), and to use the CELTA lesson templates for the skills and language lessons and improvise based on the class contours.

What sort of impact has the course had on you professionally and/or personally?

Apart from what I have mentioned in my responses to the earlier questions, there are a few other effects this course has had on me: I have begun to connect with ELT professionals across geographical boundaries on Twitter and engage in meaningful discussions about ELT theory and practices, and also do this through emails. I have realised the importance of CPD in a much bigger way and I seek to do it in multiple ways now (unlike earlier, when this was done mainly through presenting papers at conferences). The CELTA has given me wings to do this.

Where to next?

I am slated to move to Canada for work in a few months and I look forward to an opportunity to use what I learnt on the course in my teaching practices.

What sort of advice would you give to prospective trainees from the global south who like you have some sort of academic background in TESOL/ELT?

Sign up for the CELTA if you want to reinvent yourself as a teaching professional. Read up as much as you can about it before the course and keep an open mind throughout. Adopt whatever is positive about the course and what you can learn from it, and simply play along doing the things that otherwise go against your teaching philosophy or understanding. Remember that knowledge comes from all sides and learning is most effective when you are ready to accept change. It is the most receptive people who benefited most from the course and not those who kept grumbling about one thing or the other. Good luck!

Deepesh’s handle on Twitter is @deepeshc1975

Upcoming webinars for ELT educators | Feb & Mar 2019

ELT webinars

I’m a bit late this year with my list of webinars but there are lots of extremely interesting webinars to keep you occupied till IATEFL. An asterisk (*) means you’ll need to register. Let me know if I’ve missed any.

Assessment

Business English

EAP

ELT management 

English as a medium of instruction 

ESL

Games

Inclusion 

Storytelling 

Teacher training

Technology

21st century skills

Vocabulary 

Young learners

Miscellaneous 

Conferences

Spin to win | A verbing game with ‘body parts’

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In July, I did an ITDI course with Katherine Bilsborough on Creating ELT Materials. I plan to write a longer post about the experience at some point. In the meanwhile, you can have a look at this summary by Geraldine who was also on the course. Over the next couple of weeks, I plan to share the materials I designed for the course’s assignments.

Here’s my first one … well it’s actually the fourth and last assignment. Interestingly, it was the simplest (at least from my perspective) and the one that I spent the least time on.

Katherine asked us to create a game or a puzzle for this assignment.  Spin to win – the game I designed introduces Business English learners to idioms that use parts of the body as verbs in a process that’s called verbing. But I reckon you could could tweak it a bit and use it for other contexts because not all the idioms are necessarily businessy. You’ll find teacher notes on page 4. Let me know what you think!

 

Upcoming webinars for ELT educators | Sep & Oct 2018

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Here are some webinars to keep you busy over the next two months! I’m especially curious about this new ‘What about …’ series from MAWSIG. There are also a couple of interesting ones from Oxford and National Geographic. I’ll keep updating the list if I come across any others. Do let me know if I’ve missed any.

An asterisk (*) means that you’ll need to register to attend.

Business English & ESP

CLIL

Materials writing

Large classes

Learner autonomy

For Teacher educators

Technology

Testing

Young learner

Webinars for Teacher’s Day

The British Council is doing a series of five webinars to mark International Teacher’s Day on Oct 5. You can register here.

  • Connecting with Teacher Educators | Kirsteen Donaghy, Ellen Darling and Sirin Soyoz | Oct 5, 0800 UK
  • Using your brain: what neuroscience can teach us about learning | Rachael Roberts  | Oct 5, 1000 UK
  • ‘Native speakerism’, identity and ELT | Neenaz Ichaporia and Manisha Dak. Hosted by Chia Suan Chong | Oct 5, 1200 UK
  • Ideas and strategies for low-resource classrooms | Deborah Bullock, Amol Padwad and Richard Smith | Oct 5, 1400 UK
  • Constructing the multilingual mindset | Maria Norton | Oct 5, 1600 UK

Other topics

Image attribution: Photo by Dillon Shook on Unsplash

Life after CELTA | An interview with Parvathy Nair

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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. 

When wo/men speak up | An evidence-based activity

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It’s international women’s day and I just happened upon some management research into the differences in impact on status and potential leadership position between men and women as a result of speaking up. This research was cited in the latest Harvard Business Review (March-April 2018, p.24) but was originally published in the Academy of Management Journal, 2017 as The Social Consequences of Voice: An Examination of Voice Type and Gender on Status and Subsequent Leader Emergence, by Elizabeth J. McClean et al. It just goes to show that while some progress has been made, we’re still very far from equity and you don’t need to look beyond the article’s title to see what I mean: Men Get Credit for Voicing Ideas, but Not Problems. Women Don’t Get Credit for Either

Here’s an activity for business professionals designed around this text/research


  • Lead in by asking learners what the phrasal verb ‘to speak up’ means and whether there is a culture of ‘speaking up’ in their organisation.
  • Ask learners to then draw this matrix in their notebooks.

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  • Get the learners to individually decide if speaking up in each of the situations helps men and women gain (+)  or lose (-) status in the team or organisation. For example, if a man points out problems, is he likely to gain (+) gain the respect of his colleagues and increase his status or lose status (-). They can also decide that there’s no impact (=).
  • Put them in small groups and have them compare their answers.
  • Ask learners to then access the article on their phones. It’s quite short and the title (Men Get Credit for Voicing Ideas, but Not Problems. Women Don’t Get Credit for Either) says it all. Encourage learners to compare their guesses to the research.
  • Have them read the article again and identify what promotive and prohibitive voice mean and which one they tend to hear in their own team interactions.
  • Finally have them read the last line of the article and discuss what this might mean in terms of team dynamics, diversity, equity, innovation and productivity.

”The researchers say that their findings highlight an impediment to objective, nongendered evaluations of team members’ contributions.”

  • As a follow-up task, learners could come up with suggestions or guidelines for working towards ensuring that everyone’s inputs are valued regardless of who they are.

Photo by rawpixel.com on Unsplash

 

Free secondary images for corporate training materials

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A secondary image is a picture that has a background. I prefer using primary images (which are basically cut-outs on a white or transparent background) in print materials but secondary images can look really good in presentations if used well. Here are some sites that provide free downloads of secondary images under a creative commons license. Note that some images under creative commons require attribution and others don’t – this is usually mentioned next to the image when you’re downloading it.

  • Unsplash: different collections including  Workspaces, It`s business time, Computers, phones & tech, Desk + Work, Work and collaboration, generally no attribution necessary but some individual images may require you to credit the owner under Creative Commons.
  • Pixabay: a huge variety of business images including primary and secondary images as well as illustrations. Some require attribution, others don’t.
  • Picjumbo: Some beautiful shots but the range is limited to hands and laptops on desks unfortunately. No attribution necessary.
  • Gratisography: a limited range but high quality whimsical images including the one I’ve used in this post. After accessing the site, search for key words like business, work, technology etc. No attribution necessary.
  • Pexels: corporate looking images. No attribution necessary.
  • Burst: a nice range of business images with no fuss downloads. A bias for hands on laptops though. No attribution necessary.
  • Stockvault: free business stock photos – quite a large collection with no attribution necessary for their free stock photo collection. You’ll need to be careful on this site though as you could easily end up on Shutterstock signing up for a paid account.
  • Stockphotos: a limited collection of pictures but includes some primary  images, attribution necessary.
  • RGBstock: scroll down to the business categories – there’s a combination of illustrations and photographs. The site requires registration. I have to admit that I’m not completely convinced that the people who’ve uploaded pictures to the site actually own them.
  • Freerangestock: you need to register to download. This is another site where you can quickly end up being asked for your credit card details on Shutterstock. No attributions required.

Do you have any favourite stock photo sites which have a free section for business-related images?