An Interview with Philip Grace - Head of Teacher Training, Cheltenham
If you're an English teacher looking for a suitable TEFL or CLIL course for your Erasmus Plus project, it's often hard to know exactly which option is right for you.
How will my teaching improve? What will I learn? Will I become a better teacher at the end?
We spoke to Philip Grace from our CLIL and TEFL refresher teacher training centre in Cheltenham, England, about the Erasmus Plus funded courses, who they're for, and how they can help a non-native teacher's students and career.
Tell us a little bit about yourself - when and where did you start teaching?
I've been a teacher almost all my working life. Having started teaching history, geography and PE to secondary students in London, I then ventured abroad and turned to teaching English as a Foreign Language. I spent many years teaching American English to teenagers and adults in Fez, Morocco.
It was there that I developed my skills in training other teachers. Many of my ideas come from realistic reflection on what happens in classes and I am always looking for creative solutions to new contexts and situations.
I took the DELTA and took an MA in TEFL at Bath University before starting work at the Cheltenham teacher training centre. Since taking over the teacher training department, I have been developing Certificate, Diploma, Refresher and CLIL courses.
How can taking a CLIL/TEFL refresher course benefit a non-native English teacher? How can it benefit their students?
CLIL teaching seems very challenging to start with. Subject teachers often need to boost their own confidence in using English. They are worried that students will not make much progress in their subject knowledge when their knowledge of English is so limited.
However, using a wide range of well-developed methods of teaching from EFL, it is possible to ensure high level thinking skills are achieved even with limited language.
There aren't many CLIL textbooks, but as part of the course we lead teachers to the huge range of subject resources available on the internet. Then we explore how these can be made suitable for their learners.
Resources include written texts, diagrams and videos. Although usually created for native speakers, we show many ways of ‘scaffolding’ learning so that students benefit from the content and also develop their listening and reading skills.
The biggest benefit to a teacher is that they leave excited and inspired to try CLIL teaching. At least that is what we aim for! Don’t we all want to be excited about our work?
Take me through the general aims and syllabus of the CLIL courses for primary and secondary. What new skills can a teacher on the course hope to attain?
Input sessions are practical and include: how to teach new words effectively, how to make writing tasks easier for learners, how to teach listening, reading and speaking skills, where to find resources, how to adapt resources, using technology in the classroom, how to teach aspects of grammar, guidance on pronunciation.
All sessions include examples of how activities and games can be used with classes to make learning interesting and fun.
What makes the courses in Cheltenham different? Why should teachers pick Cheltenham over another location?
Flexibility – we aim to meet the needs of each participant. Different subject need different approaches to language and we make sure that teachers go away with ideas, resources and language that will suit their subjects.
Cheltenham is also a lovely, spacious, quiet town surrounded by the beautiful Cotswold Hills. It’s easily accessible by all of the major towns and cities of the UK and has plenty to offer in terms of sports, arts and culture. It is really a taste of England and provides full exposure to the English language, life and people.
Can you tell me a little bit about some of the facilities offered at the Cheltenham centre?
Yes, our school is in the town centre so it is easily accessible to the cafés and shops in the area. We have our own small library of TEFL resources and self-study computer room as well as recreational computer room. We also have free Wi-Fi throughout the school, common room and large garden which is just lovely in the summer to sit and relax in.
We have a regular social programme that all students can take part in, activities and regular excursions to places of interest every Saturday. There is something for everyone!
We have regular festivals throughout the year including literature, science, jazz and food just to name a few so we have so much to do throughout the year. We’re not just a place for the summer.
Can taking a CLIL/TEFL refresher course assist with a teacher’s career prospects? Are these courses widely recognised?
The courses are complementary to a teacher’s existing qualifications. It’s an extension of what they already know. The knowledge that a teacher gains from undertaking the course and having it on their CV shows potential employers that the teacher is motivated and proactive in continuing their professional development and this is an attractive prospect to many schools as they are looking for teachers who are highly engaged with teaching as a vocation rather than a job.