There’s a lot of observation of teaching on a CELTA course. This is in two parts- Part of the course is 6 hours observation of experienced teachers which might be live or on video and might include watching your tutors teach, and another big part of the course is watching your peers teach.
Watching your tutors teach, or other professionals, is a really useful part of learning how to teach, It’ll give you great ideas and a really good model (although no one is perfect- I’ve been teaching for 30 years and still have days when I want to go and put my head under a pillow after class sometimes). The problem with this- as with watching any professional doing anything, is that it’ll be so smooth and polished (most of the time!) that you might have trouble seeing how they DID it!. Like the proverbial swan, they might be paddling madly underneath, but it’ll look as if they are gliding along smoothly.
What you do have, as a much easier-to-deconstruct model, is your peers. When you do teaching practice, you’ll be in a group with up to 5 other people and a tutor. You’ll teach the class yourself but you’ll also watch other trainees in your group teach the same class and talk about these lessons with the group and your tutor in oral feedback afterwards.
Now, in my experience, this is the great strength of a CELTA course. You have the potential to learn so much this way and this is why. When you are up the front and teaching, your head is going to be full of a million things – what’s next on my plan, how do I start the recording, how can I explain this word or answer this question – and you haven’t got much brain space to actually analyse what you are doing.
BUT when you are at the back, watching one of your peers teaching, you DO have that brainspace. You CAN think about what’s happening in the class. You CAN see the effect that the teacher is having on the learners. You can pick up lots of good ideas from other teachers. Sometimes they’ll do great things. But perhaps most importantly, you can see the kind of challenges that you are also facing, because your peers are also likely to be facing them, and you can think about how you’ll change and improve your own teaching. So, watch your peers carefully, make lots of notes and learn.
This is all very well to say and it sounds obvious, but the truth is that many trainees don’t take full advantage of this. CELTA is stressful and time consuming and it’s easy to think that you’ll just quietly use that time when you are supposed to be watching other trainees teach to plan your next lesson or maybe even have a sneaky peek at Facebook. Watching other people teach can be boring, too and it’s very easy to drift off. But the good news is, the more carefully and actively you watch, the more interesting it’ll be. And the people who get Pass As are the ones who use this opportunity to learn.
Your tutor might provide an observation task for you to do, or they may be asking you questions on an online channel like WhatsApp while the lesson is going on. These will help you to really SEE what’s going on. The key here is to always try to relate it back to your own experience. You see concept checking questions that aren’t very clear. Do you have this problem too? How would YOU check that the learners have understood? (write it down, perhaps). You see a great activity- could you use something like this yourself in another lesson? How do your peers monitor, how do they interact with learners, explain grammar or vocabulary? LISTEN to the LEARNERS, too. This is also a great chance to get to know more about them. What language problems do they have? What mistakes are they making? What kind of people are they, too?
Cambridge say that Pass A candidates:
...show very good awareness of learners and can respond so that learners benefit from the lessons.
Candidates can reflect on key strengths and weaknesses and consistently use these reflections to develop their teaching skills.
Watching your tutors’ and your peers’ lessons closely will make a real difference to how well you can achieve these things, so Watch and Learn!
I have one more tip for you in the final video in this series and I call it Plan for Success. See you then.