The CELTA Class in Bangkok, Thailand

by Roger Bourke White Jr., copyright December 2005

Rainy Day in Bangkok, CELTA class members from left to right:
Janice (tutor), Ruby, Griet, Albert, Dom and Pete


In June 2005 I took a CELTA class at International House in Portland OR, and to my amazement was judged "not to standard" (in CELTA-parlance, flunked in common English). (Here is that sad story.)


I complained about this to Cambridge ESOL in UK and to my web site -- neither action changed the verdict.


In November 2005 the opportunity came for me to retake the class, and I took it... this time with Elite Training in Bangkok, Thailand.


You could always tell a rainy day at Elite. The umbrellas would pile up in the hall. Ruby is watching over them.
Dom, Pete and Xander take a break.
Griet, Ruby, Roger and Dom journey off to the British Council in the Siam Square area to watch some off-site teaching.
Our teacher to observe.


There was a lot that was similar about the two programs, and much that was different. The similarities were the subject matter being covered and the way it was taught. The teaching method drove me batty again, but this time I'd learned enough that I adapted to it. This time I diagnosed the heart of the teaching problem: the CELTA teaching method is auditory-oriented -- it expects students to learn what they hear about. I'm a visual and kinetic learner -- information doesn't stick until I read it or try it out. As a result the most common CELTA teaching techniques are like listening to a screeching chalkboard to me.


What was different this time were the fellow student-teachers and our tutors. The Portland student teachers never did much together. The Bangkok student teachers did, and so we worked together a lot more. Here's what I picked up about my fellow student teachers. The teaching group was split into two, so half the people I got to see teach, and the other half I didn't:


Those were the teachers in my half of the class. These others formed a second group that I never got to watch teach.

The tutors (teacher teachers) were also different between Portland and Bangkok. The tutors and I went into this session with eyes open -- before I signed up I talked with them about the problems I'd had in Portland -- and we were able to communicate much better when rough spots came up. As a result, I was able to keep the more positive elements of my style from getting thrown out, so my classes felt a lot better. Here's a little bit about our two tutors:

Prep time

About half of each class day was spent preparing for the next class to be taught. It never seemed like enough time.
Here Griet and Jennifer are hard at it.

The Copier of Life

We were always making copies, so this was one of the centers of life at Elite, as Ruby and Albert are demonstrating.
Another constant of the course was lesson planning. Alice is busy prepping up a lesson plan.
Griet is getting something off the computer. She could be typing a lesson plan, pulling a picture down from a site on the Internet, or getting some printing done.
Graham is making flashcards. What is spicy we will have to wait for class to find out.
Jennifer is getting ready for the class where she will put on a slide show with her computer.

The student teachers spent a lot of time prepping for classes, and the student students came each day to attend those classes. Our students were all Thais. They were adults who came from local businesses. Some were good speakers and others were beginners.

Some students waiting for class to begin. Beside them is Stuart, one of our tutors.
Man is another student.
Here he's sharing a strawberry smoothie with Pete, one of the teachers.


In the end, I did OK. I consistently performed to standard, and there never was any crisis like there had been in Portland.


After experiencing the classes at both schools, my feeling is that the IH Portland school didn't conduct CELTA classes often enough, and as a result they were "rusty" at doing them, and this showed up as a lack of polish:


If I had gone to Bangkok the first time, would I have passed the class? ... it's hard to say, but I think so, because I didn't have to do a lot better to pass.


What I am sure of is that the Thailand experience was a much better one than the Portland experience. I can recommend the International House, Portland experience... to fourth grade teachers I don't like. For the rest of the world, the Elite Training in Thailand experience was much better.


Griet says "Hi"

Shortly after class Griet went to Beijing with Thorsten... quite a change from a Bangkok November!