My First Day As An English Teacher in Turkey

Another long title for yall, but what can  I do? 

I’m writing this while I wait for my hubby to get home from work so we can have dinner and talk about my first day, 

And what a day it was! 

For those of you who don’t know, 

1. I live in İzmir, Turkey 

2. My only experience teaching ENGLISH (I taught microbiology lab in uni) was my supervised teaching while getting my CELTA a few months ago… And I taught adults. 

So my stomach was doing little flips when I walked dutifully into my first 5th grade class with lesson plan and board markers.  I mean, we’re only doing ice breakers at first, so what’s the worst that can happen? 

OH but I wait. There was no board.  

That’s OK, we’re using smart boards (glorified TV screens mounted on the wall that runs as a touch screen computer).  OH BUT WAIT 

They deleted every dang thing off the system. Even paint.  Which was there before the holidays. 

So there I am, staring down a group of 10-11 year old, wearing bright red (I thought I’d be able to keep their attention with red) with nothing to do.  My entire lesson depended on the white boards being in. So what did I do? I pulled out some dash darn pieces of computer paper and stuck them on the bulletin board.  Because I am woman, hear me improvise. 

 I was pretty amused that I had planned 4 stages to my lesson and we only got through 2. But the kids couldn’t tell, they loved me anyway. 

The next period I had 9th grade.  I like teenagers, since I’m used to 19/20 year olds. The lesson was OK, not exceptional but not a failure. And I had a board so that was nice. The kids were pretty good. 

I had a break before lunch and had a minute to gather my thoughts for the 4th grade class after our meal. 

The meal we couldn’t eat because there was a line going down the stairs and they ran out of cutlery because they couldn’t wash it fast enough for the 500+ people trying to eat at the same time. 

So we went to the canteen and paid for tost instead of the free lunch we’re due.  I’m sure this hiccup will be solved soon. 

So I go to the fourth grade class and they were quite rambunctious! They got a big kick out of my drawing on the board. God they wouldn’t stop talking! In Turkish! I struggled to keep them on task, but with 15 minutes left they were called to play outside. 

Then I missed a class because of a communication error. But no one was mad.  They didn’t have a board in that classroom anyway.. 

Or the paint application! 

School let the primary kids go early to ease their adjustment, so my last 2 classes were canceled.  

I’m anxious to see what 2nd grade is like! 

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All About the CELTA

After one long month of training and a 10 day bayram…

I’m baaaaack

Now I can finally, FINALLY, catch ya’ll up on everything that’s been going on.  Which, I guess, wasn’t all that much from an outside perspective.  But for me and the other CELTA candidates, it was a whole lot!

 So let me rewind.  I started my CELTA course here in Izmir earlier this summer, and it lasted for one month.  CELTA is a teacher training course/program that, after completion, results in a certificate from Cambridge saying you are certified to teach English as a second language.  This is basically accepted everywhere (except in the US and maybe Canada, because we ain’t having none of that British English!), and it never expires.  To learn more, check out the course online.  The thing that I liked about CELTA vs other TOSEL or TEFOL or what have you is that CELTA is accredited by a well known institution, is accepted worldwide (besides the exceptions I gave you), and also gives you hands-on experience. Also, CELTA mostly focuses and works with adult learners, but it is also acceptable for young classrooms.

 You don’t need a degree in English or anything like that, in fact you only need to have passed high school or an equivalent.  But everyone I worked with had a degree of some kind.  But there were a variety of people, from engineers to tourism and business graduates to actual English Teaching graduates and experienced teachers.  And then me, the Food Scientist.

 Let me go into a bit of detail about my experience, for those who are considering CELTA…

  When they say it is completely consuming, it absolutely is.  On day 3 we started teaching.  Well, by “we” I mean someone in our groups.  At the very beginning we were broken into groups of around 6 and assigned a teaching level (elementary or intermediate- the students we would teach, I mean) and a tutor (certified CELTA trainer).  Then, those groups were split into two groups of three, group A and group B.  Groups A and B rotated teaching days (myself, as a B, taught on day 4, while my friends in group A taught on day 3.  Then I would teach again on day 6, while they taught on day 5…etc).  Each person in their respective group were given a 45 minute slot of teaching time, and the three would teach to actual students (ranging in number from 3 to 10, but that was just our classroom. Others had 14+ students) in the mornings.  After that we would have a break, then the teachers would be taught something by the trainers (teaching methods, observing certified teachers, etc). It was an all day event, going from 9am (prepping for the 10am class), to 5.30 pm at the earliest.

 No wonder I wasn’t blogging!

 Aside from teaching (8 lessons in total), we had four assignments to complete.  The assignments were word-counted, some in essay-ish format, and some in other formats that you would have to see to understand. Between planning those lessons and completing the assignments, we were running at full speed!

But assignments are boring, lets talk a bit more about the teaching…

 Our first lessons were basically planned for us.  They told us what our aims and sub aims were (teaching grammar/vocabulary/speaking skills/listening skills), who would teach first, and basically word-for-word what activities you would do, the materials needed (in a course book), and when in the 45 minutes you would execute them.  As we continued our lessons, however, the amount of info decreased.  In lessons 3 and 4 we were given our aims and some suggestions on what to do, and pages in a book.  In lessons 5 and 6, we were given aims and a page number, then by lessons 7 and 8 we had to choose our own aims, what were going to do in our time, who was going to teach at what point in the day, etc.

  While we taught and interacted with real-life students (ranging in age from 20 to 38, in our classroom), our trainers observed us in the back of the room, taking notes on our technique and whatnot.  Unsurprisingly, I talk way too much (but to teach you need to talk right? Maybe not…you’d have to take the CELTA to find out!) and often too fast.  I developed my own teaching style and classroom habits tremendously in only 8 lessons!

  Half way through the course (starting with lesson 5), we changed teaching levels (I began in intermediate then went to elementary, still adult learners) and continued teaching.  When going down in skill level, I found myself struggling to appropriately grade my language.  Even monitoring the tenses you use can be a challenge!  But at the same time, it was quite fun.  The students got a real kick out of it, and the teachers did too!

I know I still have a long way to go in actually learning how to teach (don’t even get me started on the G word…), but this course has given me a whole new boost of confidence when it comes to teaching.  I’m so glad I took this course, even if it ate up a month of my life!  Besides walking away with a teaching certificate, I met some awesome people (some who live here) and have gained a huge new level of independence that was introduced to me through navigating Izmir on my own.  Now I can take on the world!

So long story short…should you take the CELTA as opposed to other, online courses? In my opinion, it is absolutely worth the money and the time.

 I want to give a special shout out to the folks at the CELTA training program in Izmir.  They went above and beyond to make sure we would succeed…and we did!

It’s a process

Learning crutches
Learning crutches
The most stressful part of preparing to move to a new country is learning the language.  On one hand, you MUST learn as much as you can when you have the time, but on the other hand, you need to retain everything you are cramming into your brain.  Personally, I do my best to speak Turkish with my husband whenever I can.  This is a hindrance to him, though, because he needs to keep using his english in order to stay fluent.

Besides my limited grammar and stunted vocabulary, my biggest failing is my listening skill is horrendous.  I can understand my husband when he is speaking, and I can understand his father…but his mother sometimes speaks too fast and ALL TV shows worth watching (i.e. NOT sesame street!) are the same.  I’ve taken to listening to turkish pop in an attempt to grab some words and become accustomed to their pronunciation, besides by my own tongue. I have taken to the following:

  1. Tarkan
  2. Mustafa Sandal
  3. Maher Zain

I’m still exploring other musicians, but these are pretty easy to understand!