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  1. #1
    intj is offline Newbie
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    Default Horrific CELTA interview: feedback requested

    I had my first CELTA interview the other day. It went terribly and I received an email rejection. I would like some feedback before I try to apply to another training center. I have been teaching English in southeast Asia for about a year and a half. I must get a CELTA certification if I am to find work in a legitimate school, as opposed to the typical language factories.

    Some Biodata
    I have a humanities MA.
    ESL experience 1.5 years
    Tutor experience 10 years (academic writing, LSAT prep, GRE prep, etc..)

    The pre-interview task
    I blew five grammar questions (I have not taught much grammar mostly IELTS prep, business English and literature, so my grammar has gotten rusty). I was asked to fix those errors. Everything else seemed fine.

    The interview: the horror begins
    The interview was to be via Skype at 10 am. I logged onto Skype 15 minutes early. At 10 I tried to contact my interviewer (skype showed him as available). No reply, so I waited. At 10:15 I sent a message. "I will be online for the next several hours." Just as I sent the message, my neighborhood lost power. I tried to call the school but I could not get through. My cell phone network is notoriously bad at making international calls.

    I got my laptop and materials and headed to a KFC, they always have reliable wifi. Sure enough, their network was down. I headed to an internet cafe that I have used before: they were closed! I travelled to a second internet cafe, which I had never used before. I logged on the computer to find the interviewer was still there. It was now 11:04 as we began the interview.

    We began with an overview of the course. This went well. Next we discussed two of the grammar questions that I had gotten wrong. He asked me if I knew why they were wrong. The first one I knew. The second one I only had a partial explanation. He explained it to me fully. I said something like "wow that is really interesting." (Note: I positively responded to his feedback.)

    He then asked me to talk about a time I was given feedback that I disagreed with. I told him that I had worked for an international school with appalling standards. My director told me to fabricate test results and to not follow the syllabus. He said the students were too stupid and lazy to learn. I told the director that I would not cheat my students and he could fire me if he liked. Of course, he fired me.

    The interviewer said that was not what he had in mind. He asked me what I would do if I received feedback in the CELTA course that I did not understand or agree with. I said that if I didn't understand the feedback that I would try hard to understand and ask questions. He then asked, "but what if you understand it and don't agree with it?" I said that if I didn't agrree there would be no point in arguing, reasonable people can disagree. What is more, I want to take the course to learn the CELTA method, so I would just carry on. He then said that there is no CELTA method and that the CELTA course is based on sound research. Basically, that what they teach just is the way to teach English. I kept my mouth shut and let him continue.

    He then moved on and asked me to explain how I would teach two similar sentences. Just as I was about to give an answer my internet connection died!!! Why? The employee at the cafe told me that they cut off the internet every 40 minutes, at which time you have to pay your bill and log on again.

    Why would they have such a bizarre policy? Why would they not ttell me that before hand? Why would they use such an odd time increment?
    This is Asia!

    By the time I paid the bill and logged back on the interviewer was gone. He sent me an e-mail and told me to answer the question via e-mail. I answered the question and sent it to him.

    The aftermath
    The next day I received an e-mail from him telling me that I was rejected. An excerpt from his e-mail:

    Cambridge ESOL regulations prohibit us from accepting candidates onto the course who we do not feel will be able to respond to the intensity of the course; in your case, with evidence from your application, we are not confident that you can analyse language appropriately in various teaching contexts, interact appropriately with trainers and respond appropriately to instruction and feedback. (my bold)


    Once again I would like to thank you for the effort that you have put into this application and wish you the best of luck in your future teaching career.
    Wow! I take from this several things. I understand I need to bone up on my grammar. That, I understand. But two things trouble me. First, he does not think that I would be able to handle/use feedback. Second, he does not feel there is anything that I could due to remedy this and thus did not suggest that I reapply. Does that sound like a correct interpretation of what he wrote?

    I have no idea what I could have said or done to make him lose confidence in my ability to "interact appropriately with trainers and respond appropriately to instruction and feedback." I was polite and enthusiastic.

    Everyone who has made it this far into my post, thanks. I appreciate any feedback. As I said earlier, I need to get a CELTA. There just is no other option, other than changing careers.

  2. #2
    5jj's Avatar
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    Default Re: Horrific CELTA interview: feedback requested

    Welcome to the forum, intj.

    I'll go through some of your post bit by bit:
    Quote Originally Posted by intj View Post
    I blew five grammar questions (I have not taught much grammar mostly IELTS prep, business English and literature, so my grammar has gotten rusty).
    If you need to brush up your knowledge of grammar,'Practical English Usage' by Michael Swan is very helpful indeed. You might also find a student's practice book such as 'How English Works' (with answers) by Michael Swan and Catherine Walter helpful. The test at the beginning will show up your weaknesses and lead you to pages of explanations with exercises for practice. Though it's not my favourite book, Raymond Murphy's 'English Grammar in Use (with answers) also has pages of explanations with practice exercises. It has saved many beginning teachers a lot of embarrassment.
    The interview: the horror begins
    Your internet horror is most unfortunate. It must have caused you a lot of stress. However, it seems that this did not affect the interviewer's opinion, so you'll just have to try to forget it.
    We began with an overview of the course. This went well. Next we discussed two of the grammar questions that I had gotten wrong. He asked me if I knew why they were wrong. The first one I knew. The second one I only had a partial explanation. He explained it to me fully. I said something like "wow that is really interesting." (Note: I positively responded to his feedback.)
    You did positively respond, but it's possible that you could have given the impression that his explanation was mind-blowing to you. If it was a fairly basic point of grammar, this might not have impressed him.
    He then asked me to talk about a time I was given feedback that I disagreed with. I told him that I had worked for an international school with appalling standards. My director told me to fabricate test results and to not follow the syllabus. He said the students were too stupid and lazy to learn. I told the director that I would not cheat my students and he could fire me if he liked. Of course, he fired me.
    Two points here:

    1. You misunderstood a fairly straightforward question. This can happen to all of us when we are under stress, and most interviewers have a degree of understanding, but we shouldn't be surprised if this raises a doubt in the interviewers' mind.

    2. It is generally not a good idea to criticise a present/former employer or colleague to a third party. If you have to give a reason for leaving an employer in a situation such as this, something like, "I could not agree to certain things which I regarded as unethical that my employer demanded" is quite enough. Don't forget that your last employer might be a good friend of the interviewer!
    He then asked, "but what if you understand it and don't agree with it?" I said that if I didn't agrree there would be no point in arguing, reasonable people can disagree. What is more, I want to take the course to learn the CELTA method, so I would just carry on.
    This could come across as "I want to pass the course so I'll just so as I'm told even if I think it's wrong". Perhaps you could think more about this.

    Also, some interviewers might think that if you were really interested in the CELTA, you would have done a little research and discovered that there is no CELTA method as such. Did you visit this site: CELTA (Certificate in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages) | Cambridge English, and download the free materials?
    "Cambridge ESOL regulations prohibit us from accepting candidates onto the course who we do not feel will be able to respond to the intensity of the course; in your case, with evidence from your application, we are not confident that you can analyse language appropriately in various teaching contexts, interact appropriately with trainers and respond appropriately to instruction and feedback. "
    I am afraid that, from what you have said, I might have written something similar to what the interviewer did had I been in his place. You have more or less admitted the truth of the part I have coloured red. The part I have coloured green is difficult to judge without being present, but I have suggested in my previous comments some points that may have led to this judgement.
    I need to get a CELTA. There just is no other option, other than changing careers.
    This could be part of the problem. Whether you intend to or not, you give the impression that you need the piece of paper, and are not particularly interested in what is involved in getting it. Course providers like to feel that people apply to take a CELTA course because they want to learn how to become good (beginning) teachers. If you do want to become a good teacher, then you need to find some way of getting this message across to your next interviewer. If you are really interested only in the piece of paper at the end, you may not find it easy to be accepted by any CELTA course-provider.

    I am sorry if parts of the above sound negative, but I tried to give some idea of how the interviewer might have reacted to some of the things you said.

    I wish you luck in your next application, and hope that some of what I wrote may be of some assistance to you.

  3. #3
    Tdol is online now Editor, UsingEnglish.com
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    Default Re: Horrific CELTA interview: feedback requested

    I have lived in Cambodia and know the internet problems- a friend had a power cut in the middle of an interview that took down the power for his area so he was unable to get back in touch. These problems send stress levels stratospheric.

    However, I would say that your preparation left something to be desired. The pre-interview grammar questions are not that demanding and you should, with your experience, have been able to sort them out. I would suggest dealing with this before re-applying. Mind you, your report about feedback sounds strangely similar to me, so the tutor may have a narrow view of the teaching world.

    PS I hope this doesn't sound patronising and sorry if you already know this, but if they're doing random electricity brown-outs to save power in Phnom Penh, which they used to do when I was there, then head for an internet cafe near the Prime Minister's house. We used to live near him and while friends elsewhere got four hours without power a day, the random brown-outs never affected us.

  4. #4
    Raymott's Avatar
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    Default Re: Horrific CELTA interview: feedback requested

    "He then asked, "but what if you understand it and don't agree with it?" I said that if I didn't agree there would be no point in arguing, reasonable people can disagree."

    I've never had anything to do with CELTA, nor Cambodia, but this is possibly where it went badly wrong. Since "CELTA course is based on sound research", there should be no instances of students disagreeing with teachers. Where would CELTA be if all their students wanted to think for themselves!?

  5. #5
    intj is offline Newbie
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    Default Re: Horrific CELTA interview: feedback requested

    5jj thanks for the reply.

    1. You misunderstood a fairly straightforward question. This can happen to all of us when we are under stress, and most interviewers have a degree of understanding, but we shouldn't be surprised if this raises a doubt in the interviewers' mind.
    I thought I was answering his question. My former employer gave me feedback on my teaching methods. He thought that grading students honestly and assigning them homework was beyond their ability. I disagreed. Besides, I thought it would demonstrate that I have integrity and that I love teaching so much I would rather be fired than do a poor job. I had thought it was a good answer, but I see now that it can be viewed in an alternative way.

    This could come across as "I want to pass the course so I'll just so as I'm told even if I think it's wrong". Perhaps you could think more about this.
    This is confusing to me. What would a good answer look like? If I honestly dissagree with my instructor then there is no point in arguing and holding up the class. That does not entail that I am only interested in getting the certification or that I am not interested in learning or being a better teacher. It simply means I don't think debating points of linguistics would be productive in the course.

    Also, some interviewers might think that if you were really interested in the CELTA, you would have done a little research and discovered that there is no CELTA method as such.
    I know there are many competing theories in the field of language acquisition and equal disagreement over best practices in teaching. Likewise, there are many competing philosophies of education. Whatever you learn in the CELTA course it is based on some perspective of language acquisition and a philosophy of education: whether explicitly or implicitly stated. No practice is theory neutral.

    Regardless, I have done research online and downloaded source materials. I would say that CELTA teaches people a set of methods: the use of complex lesson plans and elicitation of answers from students, etc... Such methods are not the only way to teach. For example, I taught a group of Japanese exchange students. Most were at low intermediate level, but they suddenly had to do univeristy level work in English. We used no lesson plan. Essentially, we sat in a circle and they took turns posing problems they had with their schoolwork: with vocab, idioms, collocations, complex tenses, etc. I provided explanations until they understood and we moved on to the next topic. The whole class was student driven. Use of a lesson plan would have inhibited their learning. I have also found that some students dislike heavy use of elicitation and others just don't need it. Different students have different needs. Not every method is appropriate for every student. That being said, I am interested in learning the methods that CELTA offers: more tools for the toolbox.

    Whether you intend to or not, you give the impression that you need the piece of paper, and are not particularly interested in what is involved in getting it. Course providers like to feel that people apply to take a CELTA course because they want to learn how to become good (beginning) teachers.
    I would like to think that I am a good teacher. My goal is to become a better teacher, and I think the CELTA course would help me in this regard.
    In my application I was asked about my motivation for applying and what I expect to gain from the course. I wrote the following:

    After many years of teaching, I worry that I may have hit a plateau in my development as a teacher. I hope that by enrolling in the CELTA program I will be challenged and grow.I expect to gain an objective account of my weaknesses and strengths as a teacher. Additionally, I expect to acquire skills/methods/knowledge to transcend my current limitations.


    I must find some way to convey that in my next interview.


    I am sorry if parts of the above sound negative, but I tried to give some idea of how the interviewer might have reacted to some of the things you said.
    No worries, I asked for feedback and you gave it. I really appreciate your input. I would like to hear what others think as well.
    Last edited by intj; 27-Apr-2013 at 16:41.

  6. #6
    intj is offline Newbie
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    Default Re: Horrific CELTA interview: feedback requested

    Quote Originally Posted by Tdol View Post
    However, I would say that your preparation left something to be desired. The pre-interview grammar questions are not that demanding and you should, with your experience, have been able to sort them out. I would suggest dealing with this before re-applying.
    It is funny, in the past 1.5 years I have not taught a lesson on tenses. I have taught literature classes (Animal farm grade 11 students, The Scarlet letter grade 7). I have done IELTS prep. I taught business English, we skipped the grammar because they had mastered that portion. I taught young students whose grammar lessons stopped at parts of speech. Somehow, I got by without ever needing to recall the distinction between past progressive and past perfect progressive. That kind of knowledge falls out of my head if unused for long periods. Sadly, I didn't realize how atrophied my knowledge of tenses was until after I had submitted the application. I should have been more careful.

    Quote Originally Posted by Tdol View Post
    PS I hope this doesn't sound patronising and sorry if you already know this, but if they're doing random electricity brown-outs to save power in Phnom Penh, which they used to do when I was there, then head for an internet cafe near the Prime Minister's house. We used to live near him and while friends elsewhere got four hours without power a day, the random brown-outs never affected us.


    Thats right!

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