Teaching and Working with English in China: How the CELTA equipped me
Guest Blog: To give you a taste of the kind of things people do with their CELTA training and where they go, Lewis Tatt talks to us about his life post CELTA. This is the first in a series of guest blogs by CELTA graduates from our partner centre in York.
Image: Lewis Tatt, CELTA Graduate from York, teaching in China, pictured with his son.
Originally, I wasn’t sure how much I would get from the CELTA but I knew it was at least something I needed to get under my belt if I wanted to work towards the Delta and be taken seriously as a teacher. With several years of experience teaching and studying foreign languages I already had a reasonable amount of knowledge. As well as enabling me to bore my friends and family to death by constantly talking to them about things such as phonology and language learning theory, this prior knowledge also made the intense CELTA course a bit easier. That said, if you’re completely new to teaching English as a foreign language you shouldn’t be put off. The course is entry level and assumes no prior knowledge or experience.
In the general scheme of things six hours of teaching practice isn’t a lot. Most EFL jobs expect you to teach twenty or more hours a week. But this is exactly why the CELTA is so useful; you have the opportunity to watch lots of other teachers (both experienced and inexperienced) and time to fully reflect on your own teaching and how to improve it. In the process, you’re exposed to lots of new teaching styles, approaches and class ideas.
Working with Universities in China
After completing the CELTA during the summer holiday I went back to Guangzhou, China, where I work setting up joint degree programmes between Zhongkai University and universities in English speaking countries. I take part in and interpret during negotiations, translate documents and correspondence. I also arrange for guest lectures and academics visiting from our partner universities. I regularly travel between different school campuses, one of which is outside of the city, by the picturesque Baiyun Mountain.
I live just an hour away from Hong Kong by train and during the long holidays I’m able to travel around China and other parts of Asia, such as Thailand, Taiwan and Japan. Working at a university in China gives you a lot more free-time than most nine to five jobs back home. If you use your time wisely you can learn the language, travel to beautiful places or just make lots of new friends. For me, I’m able to spend more time at the park with my son, go to the gym, play football with my students and read more about linguistics and language teaching.
Another important part of my job is of course teaching English to some of the classes that will be studying abroad, and taking the CELTA has transformed my approach to teaching these classes.
Some of the most useful things I have learnt from the CELTA have also been the simplest.
Image: English language learners benefit from student-centred approaches learned and applied by Lewis in his classroom.
In hindsight many of my classes in the past did not go smoothly because I didn’t demonstrate or model activities or use techniques like instruction checking questions. When taking the course, I realised “do you understand?” is a useless question in the EFL classroom. If a student answers “yes” it could mean they understand, it could mean that they think they understand (but don’t) or it could mean that they just don’t want to admit that they don’t understand (and we can all empathise with that). The CELTA trainers on my course gave us lots of ideas about how to effectively demo class activities and ask useful instruction checking questions.