As advertised in the title above this blog is my so-called diary as a ‘newbie’ CELTA trainer-to-be. Hmm, do some cringe at that word, ‘newbie’? I think I might sometimes, but I like using it here because of the sense of, I don’t know, naiveté? A bit amateurish. Don’t get me wrong, I’m getting my shot at it by solid merits and I’m ‘ready’. But I find something productive right now in the notion that I’m a bit…naive. More positively, fresh. Over in Thailand they’ve tweaked the word ‘freshman’ – so there you’re a ‘freshy‘ during your first year at college. Well, I’m an incoming freshy (it’s entirely cute, very Thai, almost onomatopoeic) in teacher training. I just couldn’t decide to put that in the title of my blog. Nor does ‘al dente – a mite raw’ work, so ‘newbie’ it is.
Anyway, it’s a “diary” so it should have a lot of diary-like posts. This is one. I don’t really have a concept or a preconceived topic here; I’m thinking and typing and not looking back or backspacing back. It’s a winter wonderland outside my window just now here in New England. The snow is just thinning out a bit after coming down thick but soft all morning. Somebody somewhere is supposed to come plow the driveway, but it seems that contract may have gotten lost in a snowbank somewhere a while back. That just means I’m even more justified in staying (very, very) put.
It also meant, this morning, that I was able to attend my first #ELTchat on the ol’ twitter dot com. Noon GMT is 7am here. 7am here is, for me, exactly 3 centimeters on this side of reasonable for something with any real intellectual processing demands attached. 7:25, on the other hand…so, that’s when I could finally drag myself into consciousness and sign in (actually I was ‘up’ at 6:40 as per my plan, but then ‘up’ became ‘back down’). The chat was chugging along nicely when I got there, and I jumped right in. Unfortunately this being my first twitter chat I didn’t realize/remember to add the #ELTchat hashtag each time I tweeted. This was sad and I remember wondering, just before realizing my mistake, why nobody seemed to be acknowledging my groundbreaking and profoundly insightful idea-chuck tweet thingies (I’m still feeling out how twitter communication ‘works’).
This afternoon I’m going to try my hand at wrenching a summary out the transcript, maybe in collaboration with other person, well see (?). I’ve been looking over how these summaries have been written in the past for some guidance. They actually read quite well! At least I’ll be able to sneakily insert some of those errant posts I was ineptly trying to squeeze into the adult conversation between ELT professionals.
The “sinking feeling” thing was my suggestion; when I saw a tweet asking for #ELTchat topic ideas, that was the very first thing that came to mind. Why? I think maybe because I’ve recently been experiencing a bit more of it than usual (!) but at the same time also finding it a bit easier to ‘deal with’/’process’ than at some points in the past. The reason main for this: a staffroom wherein at least some of the teacher-team regularly discusses their classes, experiences, thoughts, and feelings during (and occasionally after) work hours. There’s a kind of ‘release valve’ there that fundamentally affects what I’ve always called ‘THE VACUUM’ – that experience of working in an echo chamber where it’s you, your classroom, and your students, and…you again. Though relationships and communication with students can and does satisfy some of the ‘need for connection around this’, it’s only another teacher who ‘gets it’ and ‘gets you’ when you talk about your work life in the larger context but also in the small, sometimes tiny and sometimes very interior details.
And what happens when you don’t regularly talk to other teachers? Well, for me, it’s something akin to an intellectual/emotional vacuum. Yes the web and PLN and such helps with this, but there’s nothing like the real thing. So, when I get “that sinking feeling” I can open the valve and I’ll know that a fellow teacher will lend me an ear and perhaps a bit of perspective. Without it, sometimes the bad taste in your mouth when you’re disappointed with yourself and/or your lesson or students after a class can…fester. And it’s what festers that leads to burnout (as does working a 12-hour day, but that’s another story).
There were some really great thoughts in the #chat this morning and I can’t wait to get tucked into the transcript later.
On a different note…today as I turn my mind towards my classes and the 4 weeks I have remaining with them before I say goodbye and head off for CELTA training stuff…I think of a handful of students I’m REALLY excited about. They’re the ones who seem to be ‘in the groove’. One of them just got an after-class tutor, and because I know the tutor and what high quality is, I feel what can only be described as joy. She deserves it! And then there’s the student who recently returned from almost 6 weeks back in China, and has signed on to produce a presentation about his trip to give for his class and others that I just know is going to be a great experience for him and for everybody else. Here as the snow starts coming down hard again, I just feel a visceral sense of appreciation for being part of the journey of my students – each one as unique as every white snowflake twisting down and clinging to the trees and parked cars.
And I’ve got some leftover green curry here. Is there anything better than some well-cooked Thai green curry (แกงเขียวหวาน/kaeng khiao wan)? I’m not sure there is!
Finally, I guess, I would like to say…WHOA. Why? Because I’ve just taken possession of several documents, namely: the CELTA trainer in training handbook, syllabus and assessment guidelines, admin handbook, and a blank blue book for my pre-training reading and perusal. Um…amazing, wonderful, fascinating, works of genius. AND = omg. What have I signed up for? 🙂
Seriously though…I’m happy to be sharing a bit of my journey here, publicly, with you, the reader, whoever you are. Diary as/with blog, blog with/as diary, + twittering here and there. It ain’t too bad. I’ve been ‘dreaming’ (I suppose you could say!) of this since 2004 (the teacher training, I mean, not the blogging etc., but hey, this level of connectivity was but a twinkle in the eye of a madman back then too) when I became an ELT person as a volunteer teacher at a little Buddhist monastic school in northwestern Sri Lanka, and not so long after took the CELTA over in Bangkok. What really ‘got me’ then and fuels my interest back towards the ‘training space’ is something I’ve seen and heard from many other CELTA grads about what they learned on the course – and it’s not specifically about teaching English. It’s something about stepping back from English and seeing differently. It’s something John F. Fanselow always talks about: the responsibility of the individual to get beyond what seems ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ in teaching or anything else and get into a groove of exploration and experimentation. “Try the opposite!”, he says.
While this post isn’t precisely the ‘opposite’ of the handful of posts I’ve already published here, it’s a bit different, it’s a bit more raw and open.
The snow has petered out again (who was peter?) and I’ve got plenty on my plate for this semi-expected snow day including the gym, lesson planning, CELTA pre-reading, cooking, shoveling (maybe lots of it!), errands in the car at 3 miles per hour (hopefully w/ good NPR discussion topics on the radio) and, of course, a tweet or two <—because nobody told me how addictive it is! So much for staying put after all.
And so long, dear diary, until next time.