I completed my CELTA course before it was normal to carry a laptop around so all of my lesson plans and written assignments were handwritten, I am only telling you this so that you can get an idea of just how long ago it was….
I thoroughly enjoyed the course and loved my fellow trainees as well as 50% of the tutors (there were 2 tutors on the course). Now that I am a CELTA tutor myself, I often think back to my course and reflect on why I didn’t warm to the other tutor – I think it was probably just down to a clash of personalities. The tutor I liked (X) was the one whose feedback was perhaps more critical but it was delivered in the nicest possible way, we were able to laugh at the things that had gone wrong in the classroom. The other tutor (Y) was probably the more positive one in feedback but now that I think about it, I believe I was a bit more resistant to Y’s feedback. The two tutors were completely different types of teacher and I was aiming to be like X but I now realise that I was being unfair to Y, I let our personality clash get in the way of learning from a very experienced trainer (not that she would have known, I never voiced my feelings).
So, as a trainee, how should you deal with feedback?
It is important first to explain that tutor feedback is based on a set of criteria* laid down by Cambridge, good teaching is of course subjective, therefore, what one person thinks is good practice another may think is unnecessary. But, as Pablo Picasso said “Learn the rules like a pro, so you can break them like an artist”
So when you are told, for example, to make sure you check the students’ understanding of the target language by asking CCQs, (criteria 5g) the tutor is not just saying it for the sake of having something to say, it is something that you have to show you can do to be able to pass the course.
Most tutors are very good at delivering what might be perceived as negative feedback in a constructive way, just remember that it is in everyone’s best interests to make sure you pass the course, no one wants anyone to fail so take tutor feedback on board and learn from the people who have a lot of experience behind them.
We tutors are fully aware of how intensive the course is for you and are here to work with you not against you. You will have off days occasionally, just remember that you have plenty of opportunity after a bad lesson to brush yourself off and improve in a later lesson – the important thing is that you have shown you are a capable teacher in all areas of the criteria by the end of the course, no one is expecting you to be perfect right from the outset, that’s why you’re doing the course in the first place. If you come into the course thinking there is nothing to learn, you are likely to struggle.
You’d be surprised at how many people I have seen over the years who came into the course already with some teaching experience. Very often such people are more resistant to feedback. Only when they start accepting the feedback and working on the points suggested by the tutor do they start to really enjoy the learning process. It is rare that anyone has been resistant right til the bitter end but it has happened – don’t let that be you! Even if you do have teaching experience, start the course with an open mind and I can guarantee you will reap the rewards!
*You will find the criteria at the back of your CELTA 5 administration booklet.
See also: How to make CELTA easier for yourself!