In this Trainer Conversation post (see more about the series here) I am talking with Lina about her ELT beliefs and passions, and thoughts about becoming a teacher trainer (and not leaving the teaching role!).
Z: Where are you based now?
L: I’m based in Oslo, Norway.
Z: What do you do in ELT?
L: I am a pronunciation coach and English teacher, and a prospective neurolanguage coach. I teach General English, Business English, and IELTS preparation.
Z: What motivates you to join (ELT) teacher training?
L: Well, to be honest, I decided to become a teacher trainer back in 2016 when I was a CELTA trainee. I was looking at my tutors (Viacheslav Kushnir and Irina Grekova) and thinking ‘wow, that’s so cool! This’s gonna be me one day’.
Z: I had a similar reason, being inspired by Antonia Clare. So happy that she is still my role model (as a respected ELT author). From Rachel Tsateri’s post on her blog I learned that you have just completed a Cambridge Train the Trainer Course. What I know is that the course was run fully online by Anatolia training Institute.
L: Yes, that’s true. To be precise, it was back in January.
Z: I would like us to talk a little more about the course. What were your biggest ‘A-Has’ about TT?
L: Loop input and how elegant it is! I was mesmerized, honestly. It was also really interesting to learn more about different feedback styles and when to use which of them to make sure your trainee benefits from it. I mean I have experienced different feedback styles myself as a teacher-in-training but even if you practice first and then learn the theory, there’re still those a-ha moments, and it’s awesome. I was reading about all these different styles and thinking ‘oh wow, now I understand why my trainer gave me feedback this way and not any other way!’
[Zhenya’s note: you may enjoy reading Tessa Woodward’s article on Loop Input in ELT Journal, Volume 57, Issue 3, July 2003, Pages 301–304 https://doi.org/10.1093/elt/57.3.301]
Z: In what way did the course help you see your role/mission in TT? (if it did)
L: Before the course, I had a somewhat limited understanding of what TTs do, i.e. I only knew about being a tutor on a CELTA/TEFL course. However, the course showed me that there are many more ways in which you can contribute to other teachers’ CPD, e.g. by providing in-service training, giving webinars or simply observing your fellow teachers if they ask for it.
Z: As someone interested in reflective practice skills, I would like to see what you think about this aspect of the course: ‘there were plenty of opportunities to reflect in each unit’. In what way(s) did you and other participants have a chance to practice/develop reflection?
L: At the end of each unit, we had some questions to reflect on to summarize what we had learnt. We could do it in any format we liked, which was great. We also had to leave comments where we shared our insights and asked questions if we felt like it. Some of us chose to write reflective blogposts, some were tweeting about their experience, and some turned to good old journaling.
Z: Have you had a chance to apply some of the ideas after you completed the course?
L: Oh yes! Tim Hampson from the ELT Workshop was kind enough to give me a chance to deliver a very interactive online workshop on Foreign Language Anxiety. It was a wonderful experience! I enjoyed every single second of it. It took two hours to cover everything – can you imagine? As far as I know, the webinar received positive feedback from the participants, and I am very happy about it.
Z: Foreign Language Anxiety was a term I learned from you just a couple of months ago. If I am not mistaken, you got interested in this topic while teaching in Japan. Can you say a little more about it?
L: Sure. Actually, even though you might have never heard of it, you have definitely observed it at some point in your career. Basically, foreign language anxiety, or for short, FLA, is extreme fear and nervousness provoked by some tasks that the learner thinks are too difficult for them. Usually, these are speaking tasks – communicating in a foreign language is a rather stress-provoking activity, especially in those countries where people have fewer chances to practice outside the classroom, for example, Japan and Russia. My teaching career started in Japan where people tend to stress out about a lot of things, and social pressure to perform well is quite high. To be honest, I did notice that my students were nervous but had no idea how nervous they were until I introduced the dialogical feedback activity. Students had a chance to write about their impressions at the end of each lesson, and I was shocked by their responses, how bad they felt about their English skills and how anxious they were when they had to speak. So I started researching this topic and thinking of different ways I could use to help them cope with this anxiety.
Z: Is there a new training step planned?
L: Yes! There’s gonna be a live chat about teaching pronunciation with Teresa Bestwick from the TEFL Development Hub. There might be other things coming, too. [Zhenya’s note: the webinar took place on 8 April].
Z: What do you want to be doing as a teacher trainer in the longer-time future? Who are you planning/hoping to work with? Do you see yourself as a ‘full-time teacher trainer’, and why (not)?
L: Well, it would be nice to become a CELTA tutor and I am planning to work on it. However, my primary goal is to deliver online workshops for experienced teachers – this is the format I really enjoy. I would definitely not want to become a full-time teacher trainer because I love teaching students and see this as my main mission.
Z: Do you see yourself training 100% online in the future? Why, or why not?
L: To be honest, I don’t. I do love sharing my expertise with fellow teachers but I love sharing it with students more 😀 I want to be involved in teacher training more in the future, but teaching English will always remain my primary activity.
Z: A bonus question: what is one training activity you would recommend trying in an online training setting? It can be a synchronous one, or a task set for discussion/reflection, etc.
L: This is the activity I used at the end of my online workshop on FLA. Reflection is a very important part of any training session, and this activity will help you do it in a more structured way. You’ll need a Padlet account and board for this. Divide it into three sections, for example, one thing I learnt about today’s topic, one thing I want to use in my next lesson, and one question I have about today’s topic. Participants post their reflections under each category and can then compare and discuss them. As for the questions they have, you can either answer them on the spot or send a follow-up email.
Thank you for the chance to talk about teacher training with you, Lina, and good luck in exploring this professional activity more in the future. Hope we have another chance to talk about it.
Lina is a freelance pronunciation coach, English teacher, and blogger. She holds a Master’s degree, as well as Delta Modules 1 and 3, and a CELTA. Throughout her career, she has taught teenagers and adults of various levels at language schools, universities, and an international IT company. She regularly writes for her blog Side Notes on ELT and frequently delivers webinars and presentations at various conferences.