Trainer Conversation with Hande Çalık

Welcome to post #17 in our Trainer Conversations series! This time, I am excited to introduce my colleague from Izmir in Turkey, Hande Calik, with whom we co-facilitated a course in 2018. To see how and why these posts started in 2020, and to take a look at the earlier posts, check here. Let our Q&A begin…

Z: Where are you based? What has your ELT journey been so far?

At the moment I am in Izmir, my hometown in Turkey, and have been teaching online for more than a year.

Z: What do you do in ELT?

I am an instructor of English, Professional Development Unit member, and recently have been assigned as the EAP coordinator at Izmir Demokrasi University. I am also a teacher trainer for the World Learning SIT TESOL certificate program.

Z: Where are you teaching now?

Right now I am teaching general English to students who have started their education at tertiary level.

Z: What is your ‘ELT Identity’ like: are you a teacher, a trainer, or both? And how did you get into training?

I am both a teacher and a trainer besides being a curriculum developer. I was not into being a trainer at the beginning. To be honest, when the scholarship for the SIT TESOL trainer program was offered in the institution I was working at earlier, I did not volunteer at first. In fact Hakan (whom you have already interviewed) tried hard to convince me to apply when the position was reopened. With his encouragement, my training journey started. Yet, besides his support, my role as a curriculum developer also caused me to end up in this journey.


At Yasar University `The Oscars`: we are not boring at all 🙂

Z: Tell us more about your curriculum developer role.

H: You need to find ways to communicate with the teachers/your colleagues and need to learn how the program you have developed works in class. It is also your responsibility to design a curriculum that is achievable, realistic, learner oriented and practical. The formal and or informal feedback from teachers or students may not always work (they can either harshly criticize or may not share anything at all); therefore, receiving first-hand insights on the program was another drive that caused me to be a trainer. But deep in my heart I am a teacher trying to find ways to guide her students in their learning process.


Chios Island in the Aegean Sea: Starfish. 

Z: In your trainer role, what kind of courses or sessions for teachers have you run? Do you do any teacher training now?

H: I had the opportunity to run SIT-TESOL certificate program both as an INSET course and as an intensive program when I was working at my previous institution. Other than that, as Professional Development unit member, I have been delivering some workshops and that is what I am busy with at the moment.


SIT TESOL INSET 2 in 2017: the last day of the course when our participants (aka colleagues) with their well-deserved certificates.

How do you keep your training skills up between the courses?

As a PD unit  member, I am responsible for delivering workshops and observing lessons. So, though not as intense as we had during the course, they still help me to keep my training skills active. Of course, it is needless to say the webinars or any training opportunities have been the most convenient ones at the moment. They provide me with varied ideas not only for in-class practices but also training-vise.


Maule’s quince and hyacinth. This photo reminded me of the beauty in variety.

What questions about teaching or training have you always wanted to be asked about?

It may sound ‘cliché’ but a question about my biggest challenge might be one.

A great question Hande! Not a cliche at all to me, as it is a rare occasion to talk about these with fellow trainers. So… can you say more about the biggest challenge in your work as a trainer, or an educator? 

H: The biggest challenge for me was working with teachers who have been teaching more than 25 years. You might have realized I did not say ‘experienced teachers’ despite the time they spent teaching mainly because they were not reflecting and, thus, were not aware of the reasons and consequences of their actions. The first time I had to work with such a teacher, I had little experience, especially for post-observation purposes, and I realized I was very naive (thinking that I had already known that teacher) and lacked assumptions. So, it turned out as `ego wars`. Reflecting on that experience, the second time I had a post observation meeting with the same teacher, I was aware of that person’s background and character and tried to be more appreciative of the lesson while pinpointing 1-2 items to focus on. At the end, the teacher left the meeting with positive feelings and satisfied for having the opportunity to think over the lesson and students. This rewarding experience was the first challenging one as a trainer and the one that always reminded me the meaning of `experienced teacher` vs `teacher with experience`. Thanks to this , I feel more confident but still cautious and aware of what I say and how I say.


Taken in Spain (2013), this image represents how I handle challenges. I am stubborn and don’t want to leave them unsolved.

Z: What question(s) about teacher training have you always wanted to ask other colleagues?

H: Wow, I have been waiting for this moment for a long time 🙂 Almost all the teacher trainers I had the opportunity to work with (Ellen, Susan, Sergei, and you Zhenya) have always been very humble – not only as a trainer but that was their personality. (In Turkish we have a word that describes such people `kamil insan` – in English the translation goes as `perfect human being` but I would also add ‘mature’ as a descriptive to that translation.)  I have always wondered if this is a hidden feature to be selected as a trainer or does the time and experience help those wonderful and giving people to become one? 

Z: This is such a big question to think about! And I would like to develop it into a post on its own. Thank you! And I am grateful and humbled to be put together in one line with these wonderful professionals…

H: It would be interesting to read the reflections on that post… Let me share one picture here: me and Susan Barduhn at TESOL TURKEY II International ELT Conference `Teaching Generation Z: Passing on the baton from K12 to University` at Eskisehir Osmangazi University; the last face-to -face conference I attended before the pandemic in 2019. It was also the conference at which Susan declared to the whole crowd that she is passing on the baton to me and Hakan.

CIBW7659 (2)

Z: So powerful: the conference theme, and Susan’s words… How do you see your teacher training role, or projects in the longer-term future? Who are you planning/hoping to work with? Do you see yourself as a ‘full-time teacher trainer’, and why (not)? 

H: I really love being a teacher trainer but I also like my role as a teacher. The adrenaline you have, the challenges you go through as a teacher are different and they are the ones that feed you in as a trainer. It also helps you to keep the pulse of the classroom. So I see myself wearing both hats.

As a teacher trainer, I had the privilege to recognize how important it is to work with someone you know and get along with very well. I mean from the tone of voice, or from a glance, knowing what that person might be thinking and taking an action based on that is priceless and soothing. As a trainer you have a huge responsibility on your shoulders and when you have such magical support from your co-trainer, the experience becomes unforgettable. Apparently, I was lucky enough to experience that with Hakan and this is one of the things I really miss about. So, definitely I look forward to any opportunity working with him. Oh…… and Susan… our Trainer-of-Trainers (more about this in Hakan’s post). With her, it is more than ‘doing the work’ and her presence in my life means a lot. She was the one I learned and internalized what being a ‘mentor’ is/was like.

day 12 (9)

Z: What is one training activity you would recommend trying in an online training setting?

H: As a teacher, I really enjoy integrating Flipgrid in the lessons. It gives students a room for personalized interaction in an asynchronous setting. Besides, limiting the time of the recording it also allows you to use some emojis when recording yourself (you can also replace your face with an emoji if you want more fun). I have always thought of using it as a tool for reflection. One way to do that may be asking the teacher to focus on a slice of her/his lesson and share only that scene in the Flipgrid video and talk about it in the following order:

  1. What are you  doing in the classroom?
  2. What might be the possible reasons why you are doing that?
  3. What are the results of your action?
  4. Will you make any changes in the future if such an instance reoccurs? Why?/Why not?

Z: I can see the very familiar stages of the Experiential Learning Cycle here…

H: Then, the other teachers could be invited to share their reflections or responses to the same scene – maybe they might be doing the same thing without recognizing it is working; or that they might realize what they need to do if they come across such a moment. Especially in a setting where teachers are not used to such practices, or that they are anxious about such sharing, I believe positive experiences should be emphasized. 

Hande, thank you for the chance to talk with you about teaching, training and learning! Reading your answers and questions made me want to jump into a training room again. Hope this can happen soon! 🙂


Hande Çalık has been working at the tertiary level at different positions for 14 years and at the moment she is an instructor of English, PD unit member and EAP program coordinator at Izmir Demokrasi University. In 2004, she graduated from American Culture and Literature at Bilkent University. After receiving her ELT Certificate from Hacettepe University, she worked at Çamlaraltı High School for a year. In 2008, she earned her MSc in Curriculum Development and Instruction from METU. She became a licensed teacher trainer by SIT in 2016. As a life-long learner who received grants for national and international trainings and courses, she is also one of the founding members of TESOL (Ingiliz Dili Ogretimi ve Mesleki Gelisim Dernegi) association in Turkey. She loves spending her free time with her family and is passionate about her plants.

About Zhenya

ELT: teacher educator, trainer coach, reflective practice addict
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1 Response to Trainer Conversation with Hande Çalık

  1. Pingback: Trainer Conversations: Introduction | Wednesday Seminars

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