Dear Mr. White
CELTA Course -- IH Portland
Further to your email of 30 September, I am writing to advise that your portfolio and your letter were scrutinized during a recent CELTA award meeting.
The Award Committee found that the evidence in your portfolio from your teaching practice does not support a Pass grade.
The main evidence to support your final Fail grade is your lesson planning. The lesson plans in your portfolio showed poor staging which lead to a lack of support stages to prepare students before activities.
The tutors' written feedback on your lessons was found to be helpful and sensitive and full of practical suggestions.
In your mid-course tutorial, you agreed that your performance was not to standard, and you did not raise any explicit complaints that were recorded in the CELTA 5 during this tutorial.
I realize that this result will be a disappointment to you, however may I take this opportunity of wishing you well in any future career developments you may undertake.
Clare Harrison, Subject Officer, Cambridge ESOL
CELTA Course -- IH Portland 25 Oct 05
Dear Ms. Harrison and the CELTA award committee:
I received your letter of 6 October 05 saying you had considered my complaint. Thank you for taking the time to give it your careful consideration.
I have gone over your reply carefully, and it leaves me profoundly disturbed because in your analysis you seemed to have missed a deep contradiction. In your evaluation of my complaint you say, "The main evidence to support your final Fail grade is your lesson planning. The lesson plans in your portfolio showed poor staging which led to a lack of support stages to prepare students before activities." and "The tutor's written feedback on your lessons was found to be helpful and sensitive and full of practical suggestions."
The contradiction you have missed is: all these lesson plans were reviewed by the tutors two to six hours before the lesson was conducted. These lesson plans were Tutor Approved before I taught from them.
So, here's what was happening at my course:
1) I unwittingly construct a "suicide lesson plan" -- one with failure designed into it.
2) I take this lesson plan to one of my tutors and say, "Please review this. I'm not sure if I've done this lesson plan according to what you would like to see done."
3) The tutor reviews it, hands it back and says, "It looks fine." (Please note: the tutors always said the lesson plan looks fine. If he or she had said, "It looks weak, Roger." I was ready, willing and able to change it. Also please note that I was always sure to get this review done well before class time. Time pressure was never a problem with my lesson plans.)
4) I teach the lesson closely to the lesson plan, and "crash-and-burn."
5) My tutors review how my lesson went by first saying, "Tsk, tsk.", and then giving me the "helpful, sensitive advice, full of practical suggestions" that you mention in your letter.
Hmm.... (I'm thinking)
Hmm.... (I'm thinking some more.)
You don't see a problem in this teaching style, eh?: I ask my teachers for help, and they will only give me help when it's too late to matter.... Ah well... thanks again for taking the time to review my complaint.
Good luck with your program,
Roger White, Michigan Language Academy, CELTA2005@whiteworld.com
The more I deal with these ESOL people the more I think I'm dealing with some grown-up version of a kids' club rather than a certifying organization!
Once again, I'm blindsided by CELTA logic. It never occurred to me that these people would open up the topic of lesson plans as a reason for failing performance. I'm temporarily delighted because this was an area where I happened to be playing M-I-C... C-Y-A... M-O-U-S-E fairly well: I was diligent about making sure every lesson plan was pre-reviewed by one of my teachers before I taught the lesson. If the ESOL committee people say I was producing obviously poor lesson plans, and my teachers didn't point this out... what does it mean?
The proverb, "With friends like these, who needs enemies?" comes to mind, and after that the Roger Saying, "Don't think conspiracy when simple incompetence can explain the result."
But mostly it comes back to emphasizing, once again, that this CELTA verson of the ESL world is off on Planet Pluto somewhere. They have built a standard that outsiders have some respect for, and that respect has cut them off from the real world. Now they are becoming more and more delusional, and will continue to do so until a harsh reality reigns them in.
Do I expect anything to come of pointing out their obvious logic flaw? No, these people clearly like themselves a lot.
Does it further weaken my respect for CELTA? Yes, a lot. So much so, that I'm much less likely to retake the course. Instead I will find some alternative. I know what these people think they're certifying, but the more I deal with the organization, the less its certification seems to have anything to do with teaching English as a second language.
Call on me when you decide to rejoin the real world, CELTA.
PS. A week after I wrote this, I figured out why CELTA brought up the lesson plans. Not conducting a class correctly is something that CELTA would have to take action on. But if the problem is with my lesson plans, not how the class was conducted, then they don't have to take any action.