The post below has not been edited in any way and is a letter sent to me by one of our recent CELTA trainees – her group started online but with the teaching practice component done in situ, at CELT in Athens. Until, suddenly, one day in March, we were told we had to close down the school and, after a few days, given permission by Cambridge to continue assessing the teaching online. Not all of our trainees of that cohort agreed and Maria was very relunctant at first. In this post, she reflects on why she changed her mind and how the whole experience felt to her in retrospect on the last day of her course
Maria Psoma has given us permission to reproduce her message as a blog post.
Our CELTA course started in January 2020 and is officially finishing today, Friday 8 May 2020 – at least for those of us who ventured to continue the TPs online, after a month’s interruption due to the coronavirus situation and the ensuing lockdown.
I clearly remember when you, Marisa, as our online tutor, announced to us that Cambridge had decided to offer us the option of continuing our TP”s online. My heart sank and my immediate response in the chat section of the screen was “I don’t think this is for me!”, and then you replied, “I would think about it if I were you”…
It seemed scary: TP’s are generally stressful in a classroom situation, so imagine how much worse, if we were to do them online… This is what I thought initially. Still, I had recently started teaching online myself and, although quite new to the practice of online teaching, I started to feel that it might be a good thing … What also helped was the fact that the platform chosen was the one I had already been working on. That, together with the fact that the time when we might continue with our TP’s in a real classroom wasn’t in sight helped me finally decide to go ahead with the online TP’s – I didn’t feel confident, however – far from it!
So what was it like? The students were great: upper – intermediate to start with and then pre – intermediate. All polite, pleasant, fully cooperative, clearly aware that it must be hard for their teachers and eager to help us, a pleasure to teach! And our tutors? Helpful and understanding, guiding and supporting us, firm when that was necessary, and always exhibiting this amazing ability to show us exactly what it was we had to work on, when we ourselves saw there was a problem but were at a loss to say how we could put things right! This had been there since the beginning of the course, in the actual classroom, and continued throughout the online teaching practices. Our tutors themselves are more suited to say what added difficulties online observations of our lessons posed for them, but for us, their presence was definitely equally unobtrusive and extremely helpful.
With the TP’s behind me, then, and a couple of months’ experience teaching online, I can safely say that the online classroom is not so different from the real one. Your students are the same, the rapport you had is still there, and, in the case of children or younger teenagers, they can be more focused and cooperative, both because the immediate distractions of proximity are absent and because they feel comfortable using technology and they see themselves as learners in a much more … professional light! Pair- or group-work is still there through the breakout rooms of the online platforms. The lesson needs better organization, of course, in that you need to have all your materials ready in advance, you have to mail students materials to use in the lessons (or the TP!) before they actually start, and you need online tools so that you can correct homework etc – but there are lots of options available and the whole thing takes some getting used to – but not much!
Continuing with my TPs online was a decision I haven’t regretted! If anything, the January 2020 CELTA course armed us with one more, invaluable skill as things currently are: the ability to teach online – and do it well! Hopefully, the present situation will change, and we will all be able to gradually return to our classrooms. Still, knowing that we can do it if need be is a comfort and an added source of confidence for us teachers.
Thank you, Marisa, for not letting me lightly dismiss the option of online TPs!
Thank you, Alexander, for strongly encouraging us to go for it!
Best of luck to all the colleagues who are starting their fully online CELTA course now! Demanding it is; really challenging it can sometimes be, but it is also definitely worth it!
Blog post contributor – Maria Psoma Saturday 9 5 2020 – Maria completed her CELTA with a Grade A
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