155 B Ave. Suite 220
Lake Oswego, OR 97034
Director of Assessment, Main Suite and Teaching Awards
University of Cambridge ESOL examinations
1 Hills Road
RE: Complaint to University of Cambridge about the conduct of the CELTA course started 6 June 2005 at International House, Portland OR.
Dear Linda and Director of Assessment:
At the end of the class conducted by Julie Norminton and Ray Parker at International House, Portland, Oregon, I was determined to have performed not to standard. I do not feel that decision was justified. I think there were shortcomings in how the class was conducted, and those shortcomings contributed to the teachers' decision to give me a not to standard rating.
Here are the specific shortcomings I would like you to consider:
1) In the final teaching session I taught on Wednesday of Week Four -- one in which I was graded not to standard -- there were only three students attending the class.
2) In the written assignment Focus on the Learner, my recommendation of having the student practice pronunciation sentences was rejected by Julie with the comment, "Tongue twisters are an exercise in failure for students." I don't know how Julie uses tongue twisters, but the sentences I provided as part of that assignment are an exercise that I have used for five years with my students. I have used it because it is consistently popular with my students of all levels.
Regarding Julie's statement that students fail when doing these, when I use them, students never fail. They get to take them home, and practice, and when I listen to them as they say them, I encourage them and patiently explain how to pronounce them better. My experience is the students always get a great sense of satisfaction when they finish a session with me.
Julie's choice to reject this exercise was arbitrary, and wrong, and the assignment was returned for a rewrite. Sadly, in Julie's eyes I did not come up with a satisfactory replacement for that exercise, and the whole assignment was failed. I should not have had to come up with a replacement -- the original exercise was a good solution to the problem.
3) My teaching session on Friday of Week Two was declared not to standard by Ray Parker. He declared it not to standard even as he acknowledged that the session was well taught from the student perspective. He declared it not to standard because it didn't follow the lesson plan I had prepared -- I ran through the lesson plan much more quickly than I expected, so I ad-libbed the last ten minutes of the forty minute session.
He declared me not to standard on Friday of Week Two because I did not follow the lesson plan, but on Wednesday of Week Three he opened the lecture by saying, "Some of you are under the impression that following the lesson plan is more important that teaching the students. That is not so. Teaching the students comes first."
This whipsawing of judgment criteria left me very confused for the final weeks' teaching sessions.
All in all, I feel the course went poorly. I felt the teachers were consistently poor at explaining what they wanted me to do, and as a result I could not perform to their expectations.
A week after the course finished I finally managed to reach Linda, the school head, to express my dissatisfaction with the course (five messages before my call was returned). What follows is the conversation in full:
Roger: "I was calling to find out what your policy is on retaking a CELTA class."
Linda: "We don't have a policy per se. But we usually recommend that if a student wants to retake they should do so at a different school."
Roger: "So... I've spent $2200 for a month of memories?"
Linda: "Was I not clear?"
Roger: "OK. Just checking. Thank you."
And that was it.
I'm not sure what Linda or the Assessment Board can do about this, or want to do about this, but I would like you both to know that I am not happy about the result of this course, and I'm not happy about how it was conducted.