An Interview with Yulianto Lukito - Senior Teacher Trainer Sydney/Bondi Beach
"The CELTA course is often labelled as rigid and prescriptive, and there's a grain of truth in that because everyone needs a certain degree of prescription to start off with. Otherwise you don't know where to start. Imagine building a spectacular mansion with sophisticated architectural designs on partially saturated, fragile soil prone to liquefaction or tectonic upheaval. Without a solid foundational skeleton, it will totally collapse. This applies to teaching. Once you learn the basic rules, you can explore the many possibilities."
- Yulinato Lukito, Senior Teacher Trainer at Sydney.
In this interview Yulinato tells us about his journey into ELT, into training and what he feels are the strengths of the CELTA and Delta programmes. He also has some great advice for anyone going into the CELTA course and frankly, has us sold on doing a CELTA in Bondi Beach!
Earlier in life, your initial degree was in the field of economics, what were your motivations for transitioning into English teaching?
Actually I’d never intended to get involved with English language teaching until half way through my university degree when the opportunity to teach English in high school came up in 1997 in Indonesia.
Somehow, the principal had faith in my ability to teach English despite my lack of confidence and total absence of experience. Back in those days, I hadn’t undertaken any formal training in teaching, but I told myself to grab this opportunity and see how it would go. I thought to myself, “It doesn’t hurt to get some extra cash while finishing my degree in economics.” The rest is history.
Being 21, I was the youngest teacher and only a few years older than my students. It was tough because I had to deal with behavioural issues of some delinquent adolescents. I remember feeling very nervous on the first day, walking into the classroom full of 17 and 18 year-olds staring at my every movement. But soon it became apparent that the students enjoyed my lessons and I felt that I had built the rapport necessary for mutual respect and reciprocal acknowledgement of our roles in our interactions, which I enjoyed tremendously.
My high school teaching experience gave me an insight into the complexity of my students in terms of personality, behaviour, diversity of learning preferences, etc. This fascinated me and generated a sense of curiosity on my part, which eventually led to further exploration of this field by enrolling on a one-week teaching course called “Introduction to Teaching English”. You might think how nerdy I was because I had so much fun in that one week!
At the beginning for your TEFL career, you taught English in Indonesia without the CELTA certificate, what advantages do you think this qualification has had on your development as a teacher?
The CELTA course has clearly sharpened my own teaching skills and provided me with the theoretical as well as practical understanding of the basic teaching principles. Prior to taking the CELTA course, I had already been doing many of the common ESL activities and I was already confident enough in explaining some difficult concepts of grammar, which happened to be one of my favourite areas of language learning and teaching. However, it wasn’t until I undertook the CELTA course that I began to fully understand the reasons behind those activities.
The very practical clarification techniques that I learnt from the course also opened my eyes to the many possible ways of clarifying tricky concepts effectively and efficiently. I remember thinking, “Ah...of course, I can do it this way! Why didn’t it occur to me to do it like this?” or “Yes of course this is much clearer and engaging for the students! I wish I’d done that ages ago!”.
What do you think is so great about the CELTA course over similar qualifications?
One short answer to this question: Very hands-on and practical! I’ve spoken to many teachers with various teaching degrees who claim to have learnt so much more from the relatively short CELTA course compared to their 3-year teaching degrees. The CELTA course provides the basic foundation of teaching and it does include sound theories but they’re presented in a highly practical manner! Different course providers employ different approaches to the course delivery, without a doubt, but all in all, the candidates receive immediate feedback on their performance. At the Bondi CELTA centre, the candidates will have plenty of opportunity to evaluate and analyse various lesson types through demo lessons, so they can get a ‘feel’ for what it’s like to be a student, and get a glimpse of what they’re expected to do in their own lessons.
It also creates a mental picture of how the lesson is staged and a visual reference that should aid the execution of their own lessons. In short, the CELTA course had made me re-evaluate and question my own previous teaching techniques as I gained a much better understanding of the various lesson structures.
Being equipped with the practical tools to deal with issues during the lesson, I felt much more confident in my delivery and was very much at home in the classroom immediately after I completed the CELTA.
You are very lucky that you get to work at the stunning Bondi Beach, why do you think potential CELTA candidates should study here?
Why not? What’s not to like about Bondi? They’ll be at the beach in no time whenever they feel the need to chill out and unwind after the whole day of intensive learning during the CELTA course. CELTA is famed for its intensity, and there’s nothing we can do about it. It’s the nature of the course. But I do believe in the importance of taking a well deserved break and cherishing every moment of possible rejuvenation to keep our sanity!
And where else can you get it from other than the vibrant yet calming Bondi beach? Bondi Junction also offers an array of cafes, restaurants, shops, etc., not to mention its convenient location, being super close to the train station. A quick 10-minute train ride will get you back in the city before you even know it. Above all, the school environment is relatively quiet and peaceful, which is exactly what CELTA candidates need in order to concentrate on their work. It’s very well equipped with good facilities and a great classroom atmosphere.
Last but not least, locations and facilities mean nothing if the trainers running the courses aren’t competent. Needless to say, our teacher training team is comprised of highly competent, qualified and experienced teacher trainers whose expertise in this field is top-notched, if not second-to none.
How likely do you think CELTA or Delta candidates are to find employment in Sydney and the surrounding areas?
Very likely without a doubt! There’s always teaching opportunity in Sydney all year round. Some months are busier than others, but the various private colleges in Sydney are always on the look out for new teachers. We are also quite well connected with a few different schools in Sydney as we send our CELTA candidates to those schools as part of their compulsory off-site observations of experienced teachers teaching in real unrehearsed classroom settings. The directors of studies from these colleges come over to run a very informative career session on the last day of the CELTA course, which is when they directly recruit the candidates when they need teachers. Of course, our own centres in Bondi and Sydney frequently recruit our successful candidates.
Newly graduate CELTA candidates frequently start their career immediately upon completion of the course, sometimes as early as the first Monday of the week following the last day of the course.
What advice would you give to someone who is going to take the CELTA course?
- Free yourself from any external commitments throughout the one-month full time course. You will need to commit yourself 100% to the course. It’s like a one-month boot-camp but you’ll get it over and done with in record time.
- Organise your work and set mini deadlines which are realistic to meet. Aim to achieve what's plausible within a given timeframe without expecting perfection.
- Be strategic about your planning. It's tempting to dwell excessively in certain aspects of lesson planning only to catch yourself off guard of the impending tasks. Before you realise it, it's already past midnight and you haven't even rehearsed your lesson for the next day. By this time you've already entered the early phase of fatigue and none of the effort you put in is productive at this stage. Feeling enervated, you've subconsciously created a domino effect which adversely impacts your subsequent work.
- Get some sleep. This is pivotal for maintaining your energy level required for successful completion of the course. Ensure your workload is evenly distributed across the span of several days instead of being a night owl and staying up all night the day before your lesson. Trust me, your brain won't be functioning the way you expect it to operate in that state of mind.
- Activate peer support and promote mutual cooperation. Take notes of useful tips and strategies from your peers. They're your 'teachers' throughout the course. There are countless moments during their lessons that cause the light bulbs to glow. Those moments bring out the dormant creativity and ideas buried inside you that you may not have realised beforehand. Cooperativeness also generates motivation and a sense of togetherness which keeps you going especially at times of stress and struggles.
- Keep an open mind to new approaches that may be unfamiliar to you! There will be explicit constructive criticisms throughout the course but remember they’re nothing personal. It's understandable that the intensity and exhaustion sometimes trigger negative emotions, but keep in mind that everyone else is going through this together.
- Try not to be too hung up on your previous knowledge and experience. Reserve this for later. There's plenty of opportunity to do that beyond the course as the world of teaching is so vast. The Celta course provides a mere survival kit in order to thrive as a novice teacher. You're not there to prove ground-breaking methodologies.
- For those with prior teaching experience, be prepared to undo or drastically change your 'teaching habit' and be receptive and/or responsive to feedback.
- Teachers often use the label "CELTA method'. It's a myth! The reality is there's no such thing as the CELTA method. It's based on communicative language teaching methodology and the content itself has evolved greatly over the past decades and will continue to do so.
You are a Delta graduate and now work as a Distance Delta Module 2 Local Tutor. Can you tell me what benefits you have seen first-hand from taking this qualification and what advancements it has had on your candidate’s careers?
The Delta qualification is a huge bonus to my teaching career, and it’s a complimentary and welcomed addition to my Masters of Applied Linguistics and M.A. in TESOL. I feel that the Delta is an excellent qualification for teachers with 2 or 3 years of varied experience who wish to pursue their career further or simply desire better awareness of the theories and pedagogical implications of teaching. What makes it distinct from the masters programmes, in my own experience, is the perfect combination of theory and practice that we gain from the Delta course.
I certainly obtained valuable theoretical knowledge from my M.A. and it was highly informative, but it didn’t make me a better teacher, whereas the Delta did.
Many Delta qualified experienced teachers stand out mainly because of their sound understanding of ESL pedagogy as well as its direct application in their classroom practice. They seem to have better awareness of the students and their needs as evidenced by the quality of tailor-made materials/resources that I have seen and the diversity of their experimental teaching practice. A few of my friends with Delta are now successful senior teachers, head teachers, directors of studies, teacher trainers, curriculum developers and material writers.
Find Delta courses: Go to the course search on our home page
You’re currently developing a pre-Delta course, how do you think this will help those looking to progress towards taking the Delta?
The pre-Delta course isn’t necessarily a course designed primarily for potential Delta candidates. It’s a course specifically developed to focus on advanced teaching methodology suitable for experienced teachers who may wish to undertake a post-graduate qualification in this sector. The syllabus centralises upon certain theories of teaching beyond the basic principles covered in the initial TESOL qualification.
The Delta course is fascinating in that it offers the candidates the freedom to explore the various approaches and think outside the box. They’re encouraged to try out new techniques and even critique their current practice. In brief, anything goes as long as it’s justifiable and supported by reliable literature.
This Advanced Methodology course will hopefully provide teachers with a rough idea of what the Delta course entails as they learn about classroom activities and the rationales for various task designs.
You seem to be constantly striving to improve and develop areas in the EFL field, what’s next for you professionally?
I’m quite keen on collaborating with other professionals in the field in conducting action research, course-book writing, and ongoing professional development. I find sharing of ideas to be a very enriching and valuable experience as we always learn new things from every teacher regardless of their qualifications and experience. I’m always interested in hearing about new ideas in the staffroom, and even from my own trainees. Quite often, I explicitly praise my trainees for demonstrating phenomenal teaching techniques and tell them that I would like to ‘steal’ their ideas for my future input sessions!
I emphasise the fact that we, as trainers, learn from our own trainees as much as they learn from us. It’s a two-way learning process!
I don’t know what the future holds, but I’m quite keen on developing teaching programmes for volunteers who wish to teach English in specific communities such as Buddhist monks and nuns who cannot afford to pay for formal English courses. I think there’s so much that we can offer to those who genuinely want to help others by teaching English but have no formal qualifications. It would be a waste not to share our skills and knowledge with them. I’m also quite passionate about the possibility of taking teacher training beyond the ESL world. There are many communities out there that will benefit from short workshops and/or teacher training programmes that can be applied to their own contexts without the need for formal qualifications.
I have always liked the idea of mobile teacher training in which the training course can be specifically tailored to the needs of the teachers in particular contexts such as large classes, aviation English, high school setting, etc. To my knowledge, there aren’t many training courses that focus primarily on Academic English and/or exam preparation classes. While the main principles of teaching are not that dissimilar to those of General English, there are enough differences that warrant the importance of a specially designed training programme dedicated to teachers endeavouring to specialise in these courses. I know there are many high school and primary school English teachers in Indonesia who are interested in and will certainly benefit from highly adaptable teacher training programmes that can be modified to suit their teaching environments/contexts.