Hello to all my readers. I would like to wish all my valuable readers a wonderful New Year … a Lunar New Year that is. It is now the Year of the Snake and what better way to kick start this Lunar New Year than with another monthly teacher interview, this time with a newly qualified teacher. This teacher is Lusine Avetisyan. She has been quite active with the CELTA Facebook Group, which I set up a number of years ago in response to the CELTA Course that I undertook at the British Council in Seoul. I was so moved by my experiences, that I wanted to continue with correspondence with those candidates from the course and this was a response with the founding of one such group. It has now grown to over 1,200 members and Lusine was one particular member who was keen to answer some questions for this month’s blog post. Nevertheless, “Who is Lusine?” I hear you ask.
Lusine Avetisyan is a newly certified English language teacher having recently completed the CELTA Course from Armenia. She currently holds a BA in Foreign Languages, a graduate from the State Teacher Training University of Armenia, as well as undertook General and Business English courses from St Giles International based in London. Her interests include languages, travelling, reading and cooking. She also mentions that she loves photography.
So … let’s get down to the questions about her experiences of teaching.
It was always funny how I never imagined myself in a teaching career even though I was studying at the State Teacher Training University at that time (2006-2010) unless right after the graduation. I felt I missed something and that was the communication with learners, the strong wish to pass my gained knowledge to others in need of it. I had internships at local schools and other educational institutions, as well as working for my old school for one year on voluntary bases then and … I just loved it! My biggest step after in my career was the employment as a language instructor at one of the most important organisations in the country from where my actual EFL teacher story began.
I don’t know anything about Armenia. Could you tell our readers about the country and potential teaching opportunities?
Well … Armenia is a small Christian country that connects Europe to Asia. It the third largest state in the Near East after the Roman Empire over 2000 years ago. Now Armenia is a modern country with nice and talented people, ancient history, historical monuments, traditional hospitality, delicious food, and beautiful nature. RA is a member of the United Nations, Council of Europe and other international organisations. As for teaching opportunities, being a developing country Armenia is getting more and more connected to the outside world, hence the knowledge of English is getting very important in international relations and business, as well as to be a part of today’s English speaking public. With the requirement of language awareness, teaching is becoming very much in demand nowadays. Consequently, language schools are growing like mushrooms!
Before you completed your CELTA Course, you were teaching as a language instructor for the Ministry of Defence in Armenia. Could you tell me a bit more about your prior CELTA experience?
My teaching period at the Ministry of Defence of RA gave me an introduction to life as an EFL teacher. The job was quite challenging since I was dealing with officials holding important roles in the country. I had 3 groups of students with a maximum of 14 students in each. I grew professionally along with each lesson, my materials became more achievable, my lessons got more enjoyable and my students became much better familiarised with the language. The positive results each time gave me the motivation for the upcoming lesson. I absolutely loved teaching there. Being though not familiar with CELTA methods yet, I used to have more traditional approaches to teaching which considerably changed after I took the course in UK and started to follow its advantageous teaching policy. At the moment I conduct my lessons based on the CELTA.
Having recently completed the CELTA, what advice would you give other potential CELTA candidates for the course?
My advice to the candidates would be as follows: forget all your social and private lives for that short period in order to be completely devoted to the course, since it’s really challenging with the massive potential and input on you as an EFL teacher. Be ready for lots of self-study, team-work, and more importantly be open to feedback. The effort is definitely worth the incredible results!
What is the most memorable thing that has occurred during your teaching career within the classroom?
You know there are students with behavioural difficulties at times (not always, luckily). There we go, I remember having my, so far one and only classroom crash at the earliest days of my teaching career when I was standing in front of the class so speechless and unfamiliar with how to deal with similar situations. Fortunately, I handled it well after a while! This served a great lesson as a starter in causing me to do the relevant research on similar cases. Though there are many more fun experiences in the classroom, like being the teacher of a group of doctors so curious to learn every word about body parts!
Do you have any classroom or teacher related New Year resolutions or plans for this year?
Oh yes! This year is going to be fully devoted to teaching – I am planning to get as deep in the field as possible with the relevent work and exchange programmes. So far it’s going smooth and according to the plan.
What do you think are the potential benefits and drawbacks for teacher-centred lessons?
After the CELTA my opinion on this differs hugely to what it was before. I attach much importance to interaction. To my belief, teacher-centred lessons have got more disadvantages than the opposite since students study and enjoy the language when they are encouraged to use it as much as possible and to be able to resolve the language barriers on their own (of course with supervision of the teacher). This gives them the feeling of achievement, whereas teacher-centred lessons may build walls for the students to talk and the chance for them to be a natural user of the language gets less and less. Even though in the earlier years of a teacher-centred policy being adopted, which still is strong in most places in my country, I strongly stand for the former – lessons should be student-centred with the supervision and right monitoring of the teacher.
How would you describe your perfect classroom?
My perfect classroom naturally has got the image filled with all study related aids but because I am familiar with the negative sides of technology and how it can let the teacher down, I prefer making use of mostly the basic tools with the whiteboard being my first best assistant.
Teachers that have been newly qualified should use every possible opportunity to put their knowledge into practice. Use it or lose it, that’s how it works. Do lots of research. The sooner you start grabbing something and working, the better and more confident you will get in teaching. Even if it’s voluntary, paid or not, just give your best and always plan and conduct your lessons as nicely and thorough as you did during your CELTA course.