Review: 100+ Professional Development Tips for Post-CELTA Teachers

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

100+ Professional Development Tips for Post-CELTA Teachers can be bought for 4 US dollars on Amazon or Smashwords. 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). 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. The ebook is available for a reasonable price, and I highly recommend it 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.

Six ELT talks raising important questions

In my previous post on education-related talks, I selected six videos dealing with topics directly associated with teaching. Of course, there is much more to discuss when it comes to the ELT industry, so I would like to share more talks I found thought-provoking. When you work as an English teacher, it’s easy to say that you focus only on teaching the language and the rest is irrelevant. However, I believe that it’s important to be aware of some issues in our profession even if you aren’t directly affected by them.

Six ELT talks raising important questions

Nicola Prentis & Russ Mayne: Where are the women in ELT?
The speakers point out that while women represent the majority of English teachers around the world, most speakers at ELT conferences are male. In fact, I was guilty of overlooking women in my previous article because I focused on the most visible names in ELT, who happen to be men from English-speaking countries. Prentis and Mayne explore reasons for this phenomenon and provide some potential solutions. I recommend that you visit their blog Gender Equality ELT for more information on this issue.

Silvana Richardson: Professionalism in English Language Teaching
This talk deals with the fact that ELT isn’t always considered to be a serious profession. Richardson provides relevant examples of threats to professionalism in the industry and states that English is often taught by people who should be nowhere near the classroom. The main problem is that it’s extremely easy to get into TEFL because some employers feel that a £49 certificate from Groupon represents a sufficient qualification to become a teacher. As a consequence, they hire native speaker conversationalists without pedagogical skills or teachers whose own English is not good enough. The speaker emphasises the role of CPD in tackling this issue.

Charlotte Williams: Diversity and inclusion in an ever-changing world
Most published ELT materials are rather bland and don’t accurately depict what happens in the real world. Some topics are simply ignored by the majority of coursebooks. Charlotte Williams highlights the importance of making the classroom an inclusive space and suggests ways of promoting diversity in a workplace. She says that we can do much more than some standalone lessons on one narrative. The speaker also provides tips for handling prejudice and microaggression in the classroom.  

JPB Gerald: Decoding and decentering whiteness in the ELT classroom
This topic isn’t easy to discuss, but it’s something that needs to be done. At the beginning of this talk, Gerald defines relevant terms related to whiteness. The issues of race and language are inextricably linked, which leads to individuals’ ethnicity playing a bigger role than it should. The talk includes suggestions for dealing with the subject on both structural and individual level. In addition, the speaker addresses tokenism and the problem with images in published ELT materials in the Q&A part of the session.

Jo Krousso: Paperless teaching
According to the speaker, ELT is a backwards industry when it comes to using paper in the classroom. The pandemic forced teachers to digitalise their materials and teach without the use of paper, but the question is whether we can learn lessons from that when we start teaching in the physical classroom again. Krousso argues against going back to piles of worksheets and other paper-based materials. She provides a lot of useful tips for paperless teaching, which is beneficial not only for the environment, but it may also lead to more engaging lessons for the students.

Vijay Ramjattan: What does an anti-racist pronunciation teacher do?
This talk focuses on the topic of prejudice associated with speech accent. Listening isn’t just a passive activity, and we sometimes make stereotypical assumptions based on someone’s ethnicity. Ramjattan points out that even some native English speakers are perceived as foreign-sounding just because of their appearance, which affects their employability. Ramjattan also criticises accent reduction services and the way intelligibility is defined. He suggests that teachers make students aware of these issues when teaching pronunciation.