Posted by Abu Abdurahman | No Comments yet
Floating around the Arab world with a pregnant wife and no apparent source of income left me with the need to find some sort of work. The most available job unfortunately was and still is teaching English. While completing a short stay in the United Kingdom, I took advantage of the opportunity to take a CELTA. The CELTA is basically the top of the line certification in teaching English as a foreign language. It’s quite desirable by hiring companies and can even land you a University position. The best thing about it is throughout the course they teach you next to no grammar, sentence structure, or anything for that matter related to the English language. So what’s the big deal?
What did I learn from the CELTA? The CELTA has 3 important aspects in my opinion. (This is not an endorsement for the course, you can do just fine without it.)
The first is that it gives you access to a classroom and students to practice with. In your case you have children to work with.
Secondly it does what every homeschooling parent knows how to do very well, and that is look things up and to be resourceful. It wasn’t important to them if we had a master’s degree in linguistics, or did our thesis on the differences between the past perfect and present perfect. What was important was that we knew how to look things up, find the correct information, and apply it in the classroom. Use a reference book, Google, or ask a friend. What mattered was that you found the information you needed for the following class. For me it was another affirmation of why having a degree or a certificate was not the most important aspect of evaluating someone’s teaching ability.
Thirdly and the point of this post is that the course gave you access to constructive criticism. You needed to have thick skin because some of your peers would be blunt and to the point. (My first evaluation revealed that I sounded more like a Football coach than an English teacher) After each teaching session we would gather and everyone would point out your good and bad points. It was this process which allowed you to learn and improve your skills more than anything else. Often times while we are homeschooling we are doing it at home outside of the sight or ear of others. There’s nobody around but you and the kids. It’s one thing to go onto forums and ask for advice and teaching tips, but to have someone sit in on your lesson silently without interrupting, but focused with their pen and paper writing down all of their observations good and bad, is where you’ll get a much stronger evaluation of what you’re doing right, what you’re doing wrong, and ideas that you didn’t think of all together.
For this reason I would suggest that all of us try to find a peer teacher to observe some of our lessons once or twice a year. It could be your spouse, or another homeschooling mom or dad. What is important is it that it is someone you feel comfortable taking criticism from. Not only will you benefit from their advice and the things that you didn’t see but they did, but when you return the favor and observe their lesson you will also learn a lot. You will reinforce ideas that already had. You might be able to see your own mistakes more clearly in someone else. Observing another homeschooling mom or dad may reveal positive traits or teaching skills in that mom or dad that even they didn’t realize. Your exposing these traits may be a revelation for both you and them.
As always teaching is learning, and helping someone else improve their teaching skills will only help you improve yours. Although sometimes it is tought to swallow, I always benefit when my wife comments about the way in which I interact with my children. And I am certain that she as well benefits form the process as well. In fact I wrote this post as a result of observing one of her lessons and sharing some of my advice with her. I always learn a lot from the process, and inshállah if you try it, I hope you will too. The purpose is to always try to achieve the best and one of the ways we do that is through evaluation. Many times the microscope is on the children, but it is also good to take a look at ourselves.