Despite doing the CELTA course over 13 years ago, at the British Council Seoul, I can still remember my first day. I had just travelled over 2 hours from a small town outside of Seoul to get there and was very keen to become a fully certified English language teacher to foreign language students. What I hadn’t anticipated was the intensity of the course, coupled with the two-hour commute to Seoul and a two-hour commute back home. However, it was not going to be anything like my undergraduate degree (travelling to Southampton, from Eastbourne a few days a week for 2 years – a total of 4.5 hours).
I arrived at the Centre, along with eleven other trainees, and we were ushered into a classroom for a brief introduction and to undertake a get to know you (GTKY) activity. During the GTKY task which demonstrated the CELTA methodology for first day activities, we learned more about all the trainers, with their comparative experience, and the other trainees. After introductions were finished, a welcome talk was prepared and the Director of the British Council Seoul entered the room where he spoke about the CELTA course and it being recognised of the ‘boot camp’ of training English language teachers. A wonderful analogy, but one where I failed to mention that I had also been in a military ‘boot camp’ for the Royal Air Force eight year prior to the course. Once the Director of the Centre had said his words of encouragement and wished us all luck, one of the trainers prepared to deliver a foreign language course.
The trainer had organised a Polish language lesson where we learned more stock phrases, such as ‘I like x’ and ‘I don’t like x’, it also demonstrated the methodology of the CELTA and how language learning can be achieved a the suitable pedagogy. We were reminded how the CELTA course focused on communicative ability, rather than an an underlying knowledge/awareness of grammar. I was pleasantly surprised that I was able to express my likes and dislikes in Polish in under an hour and wished that my Korean achieved the same success in such limited time constraints. After the language lesson was delivered, we all had a chance for a break. It was an opportunity to go for a coffee and a small bite to eat. Trainees left together and we headed towards one of the many eateries nearby. Lunch was a quick affair but I enjoyed the opportunity to develop rapport with the trainees outside of the Centre. Before we knew it, we had to return to the Centre for our next input session.
Back in 2007, I believe that the British Council in Seoul was one of the first Centres in South East Asia (possibly anywhere in the world) that had interactive whiteboards (IWBs) in all classrooms with computers connected to them. All audio was connected through their central server, so all audio for coursebooks could be accessed via their internal server rather than having to juggle with CDs or tapes. However, CDs and tapes were available within their staffroom. Our next input session involved learning about their IWBs and how to use them while in class. It was great observing actual British Council staff use the IWBs while delivering a class, and teachers were all focused on the same CELTA methodology. It seemed to just work and students enjoyed their lessons. The session on IWBs finished after an hour and we had a very brief break before returning to the main CELTA classroom.
The next part of the session focused on the Teaching Practice for the CELTA course and the lesson planning. Much input was provided about lesson planning and a digitalised pro-forma template was shared to all trainees and were introduced to the coursebooks that we were to use during the four week course. We were using Natural English and Cutting Edge for the course, depending upon the group that we were teaching. We had time to prepare our lesson plans for the following day with the tutors explaining that we needed to prepare a 20 minute lesson, write up the plan to accompany this as well as attach all material that was to be used. The trainees spent over an hour preparing their lesson plans and before we knew it was 6 o’clock – we had been at the Centre for over 9 hours already and we hadn’t finished.
At half past six, we were separated into various groups to observe different experienced English language teachers delivering their lessons. There were over 15 tasks to complete over the 4 weeks and it was a great chance to gain some ideas for teaching our lessons. We finally finished at 8 o’clock in the evening and we all left the Centre feeling excited for the next day, yet a little tired. I had a two-hour commute to return home and complete my lesson planning for the next day. I eventually arrived at home soon at ten in the evening, spent a few hours with my good wife – who at that time was covering my English classes with a local private English institute.
I still have many memories from the tutors and staff that were involved during my CELTA Course. Thank you Joanne, Richard, and Michael who were so integral for such a wonderful experience and welcoming all trainees all those years ago.