‘My First Classes (Post-CELTA) by Anne Delessio

My First Classes (Post-CELTA)  (don’t feel obligated to read!  but I thought I’d share a bit about the experience…..sorry it is so long!)
It started out simple enough – a friend sent me a text message, explaining he was sick and asked if I would cover his classes, Tuesday and Thursday.  I’d have to leave home around 2:30ish and return about 9:30.  Ok.  Sounds like a good opportunity and I said yes.  Wanting to know a bit more (i.e. level, age groups, how many classes, etc.), I gave him a call.  Unfortunately, the reception wasn’t so great – I asked him to explain a bit more, and his response was something like, “es una pavada, no te preocupes, tienen todas las fotocopias alli, los libros, hay un grupo de chicos de 12 anos, y despues unos màs grandes, y no tenès que preparar nada – es fàcil!”  Ok.  It wasn’t exactly a detailed response, but it sounded doable!

I did not, of course, quite believe my friend about “no tenès que preparar nada.”  But what to prepare?  12 yr olds?  Well, the basics…a ball.  On second thought, two balls, just in case.  Some notecards with different verbs, tenses, and negative/positive/questions.  A few pictures.  Ok – I felt more prepared, though still a bit nervous!

My friend’s co-worker picked me up at 2:30 as planned, as she drives and the institute is located in Berisso (about 20 min away by car).  Chatting with her, I asked about my friend’s classes.  “Ah, si, es fàcil, no te preocupes.  Primero un grupo de jovenes, 12-14 anos, y despues otro grupo igual.  A las 17:00 tenes un medico, esta preparando algo para una conferencia y va a tener preguntas.  Despues otro grupo de chicos, 7 – 8 anos, y ultimo ‘septimo’, estudiantes que son muy avanzados.  El libro esta en mi bolso, sacalo, van a hacer phrasal verbs hoy.”  I responded, “Ok, bueno….parà, un medico?  solo – one-to-one?”  (My CELTA tutors had warned me this was possible at an institute).  And her response was, “Si, si pero va a tener preguntas, no te preocupes.”  Ah.  Ok. I took out the book for the last class, it seemed straightforward enough.  For homework they’d had to fill in verbs, lots of different tenses. Also, the other professor assured me that the director would have everything organized and explain more when we arrived.

We arrived – cold and rainy weather meant a quick run to the entrance.  The institute is adorable – a quaint little house full of posters and post cards and all sorts of odds and ends from the US and Europe.  It was about quarter to three, giving me fifteen minutes to get an idea about what I would be doing for the next six hours.  Great! (I could hear your voices in my head, ‘adapt the material on the spot,’ ‘think on your feet…’).  To start out, we sat in the tiny space alotted for the two chairs across from La Directora.  She seemed lovely, quite sweet, but not so organized.  I sat down to speak and she asked the normal questions, “Que haces aca?” (what am I doing in Argentina/La Plata).  Then, she said that there were different groups, did the other professor already explain?  I said yes, anxious to see the classroom and the books I would be using in the ten minutes before the kids were scheduled to show up.  She showed me the classroom, the other professor found the books.  Headway, a familiar!  I’d used the Pronunciation series.  Thankfully, they were quite nice, seemed user-friendly.  The director than gave me a bunch of conversations the 15:00 class had written, and suggested I practice questions with them.  Wait a second – I had not remembered a board marker! But I did remember then the importance of finding one before class starts!! Thankfully, they had one and I felt a bit better.  Now, attendance lists?  The director left to attend to the people at the door, and the other professor helped me find the lists.  Ok.  It was 3pm.  Time to start!

In came the students.  I had been told English only – it didn’t exactly work, but kind of – they just seemed incredibly surprised!  I used the name / ball game, and learned their favorite foods.  Then they had to practice questions, I had been told, but turns out I didn’t have the right book, and half of them didn`t have books anyway.  Ok. Pyramid question game time!! Thankfully, that, a some review as a class, took us to the hour mark.

16:00.  I expected another group to come in, same age and level, and planned to repeat the activities.  Wait….three of the students didn’t leave the room!  They explained that they stay for extra help.  Ok. We practice dialogues. It was ok, I think.

Then, 17:00, time for El Medico.  I’d been told he would have questions, so I was actually looking forward to it, just answering questions.  In he came, seemed nice enough, just surprised to see another professor!  I introduced myself, and right into English communication we went.  Only, turns out he did not have any questions for me.  Nothing specific.  Crap (I thought for yet another time during the day).  Well, conversation here we go!! I asked lots of questions about his work, understood about half of the answers.  It wasn’t just his English, but the vocabulary – dykensias? akinesia?  basal ganglia?!!  Well, made it through the hour, barely!

Then, 18:00.  The dreaded class, 7 yr olds!!! In they came, and it did not look good.  First, no attendance sheet was to be found.  But the directora did give me a pile of tiny black and white pictures of animals.  Practice ‘Can you see..’ she instructed me.  Ok. Deep breath.  Think Fran and EFL songs.  Make them stand up!! Then sit down!  Then move around and sing! Then quiet calm time! I stayed as true as possible to these ideas, and I made it through the hour!

Lastly, the advanced class, 19:00-21:00.  I felt like it would go well, though I was a bit nervous as I did not get to look at the book more.  The classes at the institute start and end on the hour, meaning no down time between them.  And a 7 yr old had started yelling at one point during the previous class (after which I recognized the importance of Spanish).  I was feeling just a bit frazzled, but at least all English.  We started out, the group seemed relatively advanced.  And I was pleasantly surprised to find they had homework, and we could review it together! Although they didn’t speak much in the whole class setting, and quickly switched to Spanish in pairs, and the classroom setup did not make pair changing easy (it is a narrow space with desks in a row making any other arrangement difficult), overall I feel that my CELTA training really paid off.  I made it through, and as was emphasized, I think that the students learned some English, and enjoyed the process.

Ok, end of first day story!  Now…

My Job Update
Since last Tuesday, my first crazy teaching day, things have continued to be kind of crazy and busy but quite enjoyable.  I am covering classes again this week (the same twelve hours as I did last week), and I have my 3rd lesson scheduled with the English professor.  She has asked me to fill in for some classes when her baby is born, which may happen any moment!  At the institute in Berisso, la directora is planning to split some existing classes and I may decide to do that (though it is a bit far away, although the pay is fine at almost 30 per hour).  Kate, your former student English professor contacted me and we might be able to arrange something, although she is in Abasto a bit far away.  She told me she is working on organizing the schedule of her students. 

Tomorrow evening I am meeting with an adult class and their current teacher at an institute just a few blocks away, and in May I will likely start with them (the teacher is leaving) Mondays and Wednesdays (we still have to discuss pay..but they seem nice).  Today I had an interview with El Instituto Britanico, which very much reminded me of International House.  They said they frequently need professors at the last minute to cover classes, and a course specifically to prepare students for FCE would be happening later in the year (I would need to participate in a training, which I think would be interesting). Overall, a very professional, direct, and British atmosphere!!   And they were very nice, and a bit after I left they called to ask if I wanted to do two Business English classes (a total of six hours per week).  Ok! A little bit of everything!! Tomorrow I am meeting with a woman there again, to discuss the details of the arrangement and find out what company they will be sending me to – it feels a little Coca-cola in Poland!  But I will just have a few hours per week, so I’m hoping it works out well!

Oh, I have also started teaching quite a few family members, and yes, charging, though below-market rates.  The classes have been fun thus far, and we have another tomorrow.  Other clases particulares – I feel like I have a lot on my plate and haven’t done any type of advertisement yet, I figure I will wait until my schedule seems a bit more predictable. 

So, that’s my very long summary!  There was no word limit that I´m aware of 🙂 but I hope it has not been too boring.  I figure you can just skim the sections lacking excitement. 

The point is, I wanted to let you all know I am very satisfied with the course and your instruction.  With each challenging teaching experience, I feel that I know how to deal with it and how to find resources to improve my lessons.  Even though I still have lots to work on, CELTA gave me some great foundations to build on and the confidence to deal with all sorts of last minute situations. So, thanks!

I will keep you all updated (don’t worry, there won’t be anymore 3000 word essays), and thanks again!  I hope all is well in Belgrano!



About International House Buenos Aires Teacher Training

At International House Buenos Aires Teacher Training we teach languages and train teachers. As part of the International House World Organisation (IHWO), one of the leading language providers worldwide, our goal is to promote excellence in language education. We provide high quality English & Spanish language instruction and internationally recognised teacher training courses, which aim to increase standards in teaching and learning in wider contexts.
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