When I was writing my post on the shortcomings of CELTA, I was delighted to receive a notification about a new ebook dedicated to professional development of newly-certified teachers. The book was written by Pete Clements, the author of the excellent blog ELT Planning. He has posted many reviews of books, apps, and other resources on his website, so I was curious to see what his own product looks like.
100+ Professional Development Tips for Post-CELTA Teachers can be bought for 4 US dollars on Amazon or Smashwords (UPDATE: The book is now available for free!). I chose to get it from the latter because I have already purchased several books through the website. In his ebook, Clements recommends other self-published titles such as Sandy Millin’s ELT Playbook 1 and Phil Wade and Anthony Gaughan’s Teach Reflect Develop: A Month of Reflective Teaching Activities (this one is for free as well). I find the idea of publishing an ebook really intriguing because I guess it feels a little more serious compared to blogging. At the moment I don’t feel ready for that, but maybe I’ll explore this option at some point in the future.
It seems that the book is available only in the EPUB format at the moment. I’d prefer to have the option to download it as a PDF file because that would make it a little more convenient to read on a PC. You can use one of many free online converters to help you change the file type, so it’s not a big deal. When it comes to the book itself, there are no unnecessary gimmicks and it’s all about the content, so let’s take a look at what you can find there.
At first, Clements suggests checking out some useful resources. It’s nice to see Scott Thornbury’s book About Language among the recommended titles because there isn’t enough time to study grammar on the CELTA course, and that book will help you gain more knowledge in the area. There are also plenty of links to helpful blogs, Facebook groups, podcasts, etc. In addition, the author provides a few tips for developing on the job.
Most of the ebook comprises practical tips for your teaching practice. For example, there are useful sub-skills and strategies that you can teach in a conversation class (e.g. backchannelling, hedging, and vague language). The author also mentions helpful techniques for building speaking confidence with teenage students, which is sometimes challenging even for experienced teachers. Other sections extend the knowledge gained on the CELTA course in relation to classroom organisation and whiteboard work.
There is also a chapter dedicated to writing formal lesson plans. While that ability is undoubtedly important when taking a course with assessed teaching practice, I wonder how often teachers in entry-level positions actually have to do that. When I landed my first proper job, I was relieved to find out that I didn’t need to produce detailed CELTA-style lesson plans in my day-to-day practice! Yes, it’s important to consider many aspects of the lesson you are about to teach, but I think this topic could have been made a little less daunting by emphasising that you don’t need to write everything down when you plan your lessons. When it comes to being observed, I’d recommend sticking to the lesson plan template provided by the employer or course provider in order to avoid getting bogged down with trying to include as much information as possible.
My favourite part of the ebook deals with teaching pronunciation. Novice teachers often struggle with this area due to not receiving sufficient training. Understanding phonology requires a lot of studying from the teacher’s side, and gaining confidence to use that knowledge in the classroom takes some time. Clements provides some pretty cool ideas and pronunciation activities. Of course, it’s important to go beyond individual phonemes and focus on features such as connected speech or sentences stress since they play a crucial role in terms of intelligibility.
If you are familiar with the ELT Planning blog, you’ll know what to expect from the ebook. The author’s writing style makes everything clear and easy to follow. When you read the book, you feel like you are receiving useful advice from a supportive experienced colleague, which is exactly what newly-certified teachers need. I highly recommend this title to those who have recently started teaching. I wish I had read something like this immediately after finishing my CELTA because I spent the following 18 months learning to teach through trial and error, and it took me a long time to discover resources that pointed me in the right direction.
As the author himself points out, 100+ Professional Development Tips for Post-CELTA Teachers isn’t a comprehensive guide. For example, I think that newly-qualified teachers would also benefit from learning more about teaching listening skills or working with children. The ebook doesn’t explicitly deal with online teaching either even though being able to do that is now part of our professional lives. Clements suggests that this could be the beginning of a series, and I hope that he publishes more titles on professional development. New teachers don’t always receive enough support from their employer, so looking for advice elsewhere is a very good idea. I believe that reading this kind of publications can help them a lot in the first few years of their career.