Why did you take the course?
I took the Full-time Trinity CertTESOL course this past summer because my current job as an elementary school ALT in Japan offers very little support and professional development. Although I am technically an "assistant", the English program in my city's elementary schools is very weak, and ALTs typically become the primary English teacher. Much of my "lesson planning" was centered around scouring the Internet and Facebook forums to find games and activities for a full 45 minute lesson. I was also trained to use a lot of classroom Japanese during my lessons. While talking to a fellow ALT friend friend in my prefecture about lesson plan ideas, I was told me about Shane's Trinity CertTESOL course and how much it helped him become a better teacher. After doing my research about the Trinity CertTESOL and the strong foundation and prestigious qualification it gives ESL teachers, I decided to take the course because I wanted to become a better teacher for my students.
Mornings are input/lectures about grammar, theory, IPA, etc. They're generally more discussion-based with a lot of group work. I loved my class of four. There's a break for lunch, and afternoons are for student teaching. I taught a lesson almost every other day. To be honest, I sometimes felt that there wasn't always the time to enjoy lunch because I often had to work on homework or prepare for my lesson. However, such is the nature of the course. In the end, I felt that I was able to learn best practices and become better at properly planning a lesson from start to finish.
Before taking the course, I was slightly apprehensive of IPA, and I was unsure of how I would fare as an American English speaker using British IPA. However, I grew to LOVE IPA and how useful it is in pronunciation. (And you know you've grown to love it when you start writing notes to your tutor in IPA!) Quite frankly, I have not been able to teach IPA in my courses with my young learners as it's not part of the curriculum; however, I hope to use it in the future if I teach adult learners.
The Unknown Language (UL) and Learner Profile (LP) journals were my favorite two projects over the course because they both challenged me to think from the perspective as a student and develop teacher awareness. The UL is a complete game changer towards teaching English because I learned that you CAN teach English without translation. To this day, I STILL remember the UL words I learned.
The most challenging project was the self-evaluations of the Teaching Practice. The "self-evaluation" is not "fluffy." Talk to your classmates, and talk to your trainers, who are more than happy enough to stay and talk and review any comments you received on your teaching practice.
The tutors are highly experienced and supportive, and they genuinely want to help you succeed not only in the course but also in your job. Tutors are generally available before and after class. They are also there to throw out ideas for your lesson, but it's up to you to execute the lesson successfully. As with any human teacher, no lesson is perfect, and we make mistakes. However, I've gotten better at spotting mistakes (nicknamed "bear traps" during the course) in my teaching, thanks to my tutors and multiple practice teaching opportunities. I appreciated their quick, responsive, and effective feedback. The tutors not only helped me with becoming a better teacher, but they also helped me with my own personal development as a learner. If you have the opportunity to be trained by either Sophia McMillan or Gavin Addison, you are in very good hands, and your course will be full of life and fun.
What advice would you give other people on the course?
The course is not a walk in the park, and it was as tough as previous students have said it is. I took the full-time course because it was the only course that would have fit with my job's schedule, but I probably would have taken the course part time if I had the chance. Talk to your trainers and classmates for help if you need it. Be prepared to work and figure out a study and self-care routine that will get you through the course efficiently and mentally healthy. There is a LOT of paper and a LOT of information in one go, and half the battle is organizing your papers logically in binders. I actually recommend taking a suitcase if you want to keep physical copies of your work; I left for Tokyo with a light carry-on suitcase, and I returned home with the suitcase significantly heavier.
Living close to the training center helped me get home at a reasonable time. I did not explore Tokyo while on the course, and I prepped as many meals in advance when I had the time. But as intense as the course is, take time off to recharge appropriately.
During the course, I used a laptop to take notes during class. This is not necessary, but it really helped me organize any details I needed to catch up on later while working on my homework, particularly during the UL lessons. I found I could better recall what happened during our UL classes much better with play-by-play notes of the class.
How has it helped you? What did you benefit from the most?
The entire course itself helped me change my approach towards ESL. Since teaching for six months after the course, I find that I continuously refer back to my UL journal and the materials that I was given. Even though I teach children instead of adults, I still find a lot of the material that I learned in class relevant to my work, particularly with lesson plan structure and drills. Now that I have new knowledge and key words (hint, Google "Young Learners" instead of "Elementary School"), it has made researching different teaching techniques much more relevant to the kinds of ideas I am looking for. I've also learned to appreciate simpler activities delivered with clear, staged instructions over complicated activities that may incur translation from my homeroom teacher. After taking the educational theory input classes/lectures, I am also able to better explain WHY I chose to do a lesson the way I did when asked to explain.
As a whole, my experience was quite enjoyable. This IS an expensive course, but the materials, knowledge, support, and friendships are well worth it.