Follow up to “An Unexpected Challenge”

Early last month I posted a small (but heavy) litany of problem/struggle areas I was having during the first very challenging segment of an extensive CELTA course I was tutoring alone. It bordered on a screed. Maybe a bit of a scream. As I write this now the other trainer has returned from elsewhere and taken over for the second half. My involvement is essentially over, kaput, in the bag…and things definitely turned out….OK! Maybe more than OK!

Why more than OK? First, the trainees are doing well. As of this writing they’re all about to get healthy CELTA passes.  Second, due to the rather rough n’ tough start and the reflection it forced on me (after the fit) it has turned out to be a really solid learning experience for me.

I’m glad I got that really negative post out, too, and expressed something that raw here for the first and only time so far (I believe). Those less-than-excited emotions about my job. This was good, because it was real.

Below I follow up with some brief reflections and updates on the original statements…

1. Only 4 trainees. I have to feel tweek and rework all the input sessions I’m just getting tuned up. This turned out to function as a really good filter through which to pass my still-developing take on a bunch of CELTA input sessions. I needed to adapt them I uncovered some interesting new angles and ways to go about achieving the session aims (as far as I yet can, anyway). 

2. Input session Saturdays = dominoes of timing problems when input sessions aren’t really tight. Lots of moving parts in a tight space. This got much better towards the end – mainly because I gathered the discipline to censor and edit myself when I found myself wanting to keep going. I noticed a bit of a self-interested edge there, and realized I was, subtly, putting my own desires ahead of the needs of the trainees – specifically the need for getting to GLP on time and not forcing them to stay beyond the regular time! GLP! Beyond everything that goes down in Input Sessions, it is GLP that the trainee craves. 😉 

3. My MCT is gone. Off to train elsewhere. The stabilizer I’ve come to depend on, pOOf! Gone. Well, this was really decent training, ultimately, for the next course…on which I was (and still am, it ain’t done) MCT. So I got good experience dealing with the glitches and the admin stuff that inevitably comes up. The lining? Yep, it’s silver! 😉

4. Literally alone with my trainees and TP students eves. Nobody at the front desk. Nobody to deal with late TPers. Mess? It’s on me to manage. That could be a little bit anxiety-inspiring, but it all turned out OK. No emergencies. No larceny. No deaths. 

5. Five weeks of me, me, me. I’d get sick of me too! Even more anxiety-inspiring, when the MCT comes back and takes over for the second half – I’m handing over these 4 trainees in a state unmistakably conditioned by me (and my weaknesses, blind spots, and eccentricities). Nothing blended in. The question, seems to me, isn’t whether they’ll be a gap, but rather just how dramatic it’ll be! The trainees turned out fine. A bit self-aggrandizing in a negative way there, me! Grandiose, that thinking. I just read their final assignment – the reflective paper…and they mentioned all kinds of development from my half of the course. Who am I to think I could have thwarted that? Silly me…of course I get to lack confidence and work with my insecurities as a newbie. But the above does strike me as a bit melodramatic now. And slightly uncharitable to those trainees themselves alongside. 

6. There’s like 10-12 other things! And really b-b-b-bad ones! But I’m already awash in anxiety now after typing out 5! Oi! Can’t even deal. Because…Aaahhhh! Wow, I really was flustered! 

That’s that. Like I mentioned above, I’m glad for it now. This is how I can grow. Like a garden: it really helps to have some manure in the soil.

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My workplace on #ELTworkplaces Tumblr


That was fun 🙂

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Diary Post: What I Did Today…

  • Emailed back and forth for GLP (guided lesson planning) with a couple of extensive (part-time) CELTAers
  • Started constructing the next intensive course’s input session schedule
  • Fixed a broken stapler (yaaaaaalp!)
  • Emailed someone about ‘preflection’ in regards to an upcoming webinar I’m doing
  • Entered trainees’ names into the ‘Advanced Course Management’ online CELTA system thing I’m just experiencing with a bit now
  • Started sorting out my demo lesson plan for next Monday
  • Planned for my guest session coming up – gonna do some fun reflection & ‘ask the ELT nerd’ with another CELTA cohort
  • Read some ELT blogs and tweets
  • Made copies of the ‘training to teach’ chapter of Rose Senior’s book The Experience of Language Teaching for trainees
  • Did face to face GLP
  • Observed 2 TP 4s: a grammar and a vocab lesson
  • Did 50 minutes of TPFB
  • Shared some pita chips and hummus with my trainees
  • Waxed romantic about meeting Betty Azar…and her shawls
  • Recommended to someone
  • Said hi to the trash guy
  • Left work just before 10pm
  • Now I’m back on the subway
  • Almost home
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What is discouraging after CELTA?

An EXCELLENT post I need to share and position here for more comments soon. Wow.


It is a spontaneous post and the list is obviously not complete, but here are some issues that drive me crazy.

  • I don’t have time to plan properly therefore I encounter various problems due to insufficient planning and feel awful exiting a classroom. Since CELTA it has been a couple of times when I was more or less happy with my lesson.
  • I spend all my free time planning and feel overwhelmed by work. My acquaintance has recently asked me what I do for entertainment, I said “Work or read Tweeter (that is about work as well)”. Frankly speaking, I love my job, I enjoy teaching, but sometimes it’s too much.
  • Tons of information including non-CELTA-way of teaching shatter my unstable foundation, unstable – due to the lack of proper experience. By ‘proper experience’ I mean lessons which I am satisfied with. That leads to the feeling of trying to…

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Really neat idea…

…for a blog/tumblr:

I’ve already taken a few snaps and will be sending in my post when I get a chance.

This isn’t frivolous, by the way. Just the opposite.

This is real, solid, developmental, and productive professional development. Reading this tumblr.

Funny thing.

All these oh-so-serious cutting edge professional workshops and highly paid speakers and big productions can kiss me tush.

Reading a tumblr page where ELT folks share pics and thoughts about their workspace: priceless.

So. Damn. Simple.

Essentially = anything that works against “the vacuum” is worth investing in (time, energy, resources) as developmental.

If I was a dissertation writer I’d write a dissertation in order to explain – to prove! – all the multi-faceted ways just reading a damn tumblr where ELT people share their workspaces is better than that $137 dollar a head 3-hour PD workshop we all carpooled out to.

Funny thing.

The best things are funny.


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Attending Mike’s Webinar. ONE SMALL PROBLEM.

In the New School webinar room, just now…

teddy: hi!

Matthew Noble (@NewbieCELTA): Hi Teddy

Matthew Noble (@NewbieCELTA): Oh, I think I’m alone now. (There doesn’t seem to be anyone around)…

Matthew Noble (@NewbieCELTA): Doo doo dooo

Matthew Noble (@NewbieCELTA): la laaaaaaa la laaaaa la

Matthew Noble (@NewbieCELTA): HELLO hello ello lo lo o (echoes!)

Matthew Noble (@NewbieCELTA): old school new school no school rules (that’s a Doug E. Fresh quote)

Matthew Noble (@NewbieCELTA): he said

Matthew Noble (@NewbieCELTA): to himself

Matthew Noble (@NewbieCELTA) Oops – I’m ONE WEEK EARLY!!!! ;P

Wondering if that’ll still be there for people to see when they starting filing in next week. I’m not sure whether to be simply embarrassed or, I guess, sort of proud of myself in a twisted, vaguely desperate maybe heroically so way*. 🙂

So annnnyyywaaaaay….seems like it’s gonna be a good one (next week, of course!). Check it out here:

Session abstract:

Are you integrating the global staff room into your everyday teaching practice? Using the internet for professional development and engaging with online communities can appear overwhelming; however, building a Professional Learning Network and participating in ELT communities online help teachers to both broaden their teaching perspectives and provide access to the rich and diverse global staff room. In this webinar, the presenters will share online experiences, resources and strategies for teachers to maximize the Internet as a resource. Additionally, the presenters will recommend some spaces, people, and organizations they believe are helpful for English language teachers.

^ I love the notion of “the global staff room”! 🙂

*damning pictorial evidence:


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Another Whiteboard Snap: Task Complexity

This one is from TP Feedback just now. Emergent stuff, during discussion of a case of a listening task that was well below optimal…doability (that’s a technical term in my book!). We talked about ways to reduce ‘task complexity‘ for these pre-intermediate learners we’re currently working with. It was a sentence-editing task; change the statements minimally so that they’re true according to the story being told…most learners initially did it as a T/F first because it wasn’t a) set up thoroughly and b) something they intuited was doable anyway, so they went ahead with T/F (naturally). Ultimately most learners failed to engage productively in the task because the complexity involved wasn’t sufficiently addressed by the teacher.


What do you make of this issue/area? How difficult is/was it to gauge task complexity and anticipate problems in ‘doability’? What other general considerations and strategies might you add to the little list we produced this evening? Use that lovely little comment box below, ya hear? 🙂

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Whiteboard Records

I’ve been teaching a one-to-one class this week and thought I’d share 3 sessions worth of WBs. I (almost) always snap a pic of my whiteboards at the end of classes (and input sessions) these days and keep a folder of these images as an easy record. There’s really nothing to it, and it feeds my practice (including my reflective practice) in really productive ways. I’m fascinated by the way(s) people use the whiteboard and love it when someone forgets to erase the board after a class – I’ll sit down, take the WB in, and proceed to visualize how the class that generated it went. Perhaps you can do the same with these…

Hint: I’m a dogme-type of teacher…

Looking over this again, I’m reminded about my conspicuous spelling ‘doh!’ moment with ‘allinance‘. ;P

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A blogbreak for the webweary?

Despite the fact that I don’t even post all that often or write really in depth, involved stuff anyway…I’m taking a bit of a break from the ‘newbieness’ (here and on twitter – FB, too really) over the next few weeks. In fact I’ll be trying to stay off the whole of the internet because I’m feeling more than a bit of the ol’ info-overload recently and feel a real need to consolidate and simplify both physically and mentally. I’m distinctly sensing an “over-stretchedness” at the root of some recent doldrums and frustration, and it’s not coming out of real-world busyness; it’s more to do with the number of tabs I’ve had open on my browser (and in my mind) for the last month or so.

I have both home and work projects upcoming that I really feel deserve my full and complete attention. It’s almost like I’m losing touch with what that MEANS anymore…my *full and complete attention* and that’s a bit scary. A few things just today nudged me to make this resolution:

1. I went to the beach with my wife for the first time in forever…and we both realized we haven’t been spending hardly enough quality time together.


 2. At said beach I was reading this…


 …in which DFW talks quite a lot about his own sense of information-overload, of discontinuity, malaise, and general yearning to simplify and be of and in a place even while somehow being connected in…and it really resonated with me. Of course, the blogging is really the MOST ‘whole’ and grounded activity I actually partake in online, so it might actually turn out to be the thing I don’t end up ignoring more for this little while…but it’s HERE…in a TAB…next to everything ELSE…and it almost feels like I’m just now lacking the self-control to resist clicking interesting twitter and FB links. Interesting isn’t enough, I need real, local, human inspiration and perspiration to make the positive summer shift I desire.

3. Oh, there was a third thing (see?): simply seeing, briefly, this afternoon a special old friend (here) who is the most grounded and mindful and focused person I think I’ve ever met. That ALWAYS helps, just that presence.

So…until August 1st at least: here’s hoping I can kiss the less constructive aspects of my online life goodbye. After writing this I realize even more that I don’t really need or want a break from writing blogposts, but instead from everything that makes them relatively shallow/short in the first place.

So…see you next post, whenever that is: and refreshed, I hope!

…and RIP David Foster Wallace!

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