How to prepare for the Trinity CertTESOL - Tips from a trainer

So, you’ve been offered a place on the Trinity College London Cert TESOL course, paid the fees waiting to start the course and possibly completed the 20 hr TESOL Starter course. Wonderful. Now what? Should you just wait to start the course? 

It never ceases to amaze me when trainees begin the Cert TESOL course, what little preparation many have done to provide themselves with the best opportunity of getting the most out of the course and being able to manage the demands. Why does this happen? Did they underestimate the demands and intensity of this TESOL course? Did they think everything will be done for them? 

Those that have done some preparation are the ones that stand out from day one. They are the ones that thrive and overall are the ones that don’t struggle or get overwhelmed. It’s surprising how much a little preparation and organisation can help reduce the inevitable stress the course brings with it. 

Here are some practical, but often overlooked things you can do before the course to get you ‘in the zone’, whether it’s the for the Full time or Part Time Cert TESOL course.  

Tell your employer and make sure you’ve arranged time off 

The course requires 100% attendance for timetabled input sessions and Teaching Practice, except in exceptional circumstances. Work commitments are not an exceptional circumstance.  

If you’re on the Full Time course, you should have taken time off work anyway as you can’t manage the course and do any amount of your usual work. Don’t even think about it! There’s usually one or two that try and very quickly find it’s simply not possible and quickly fall behind. Even if you have arranged time off and your employer knows you are doing the course, make sure that they know they cannot call on you for work during the course.  

If you’re on the Part Time course, many people continue working and to some extent that’s the idea of the part time course. You still need to let your employer know you’re on the course, give them details of the requirements for attendance and get assurance that you will not be asked to work late or called upon to work/attend meetings at the last minute on days you are required to be in attendance on the course. I’ve come across three examples of this in the last week, which has created unnecessary stress and missing deadlines on the course

It can be a good idea to get your employer’s acknowledgement and consent to this in writing for good order and as a record, as memories can fade. 

Organise your diary 

At least for those days the timetable requires your attendance, clear your diary of all other events, arrangements or appointments. This means you can allocate sufficient time for the work you need to complete outside of the timetable e.g. lesson planning, writing up assignments.  

If you’re on the Full Time course then you’ll need to clear your diary for the whole 4 weeks of the course, evenings and weekends included as there will still be plenty of work to do at these times. You’ll need every minute you can get. That’s not to say you can’t arrange a little time to yourself on the odd evening or weekend, but be sensible.  

If you’re on the Part time course, you still need to make time in the evenings and weekends for lesson planning and writing up assignments. For the majority of people on the Part Time course, this will also mean clearing Saturdays or Wednesdays for Teaching Practice. If you’re scheduled to teach on Saturdays avoid the temptation to go out and socialise on Friday as this can have disastrous consequences for your course, which you have invested time and money in. This isn’t scaremongering, it’s happened more than once in the past and people have learned a harsh and expensive lesson. 

One particular date that you will need to keep clear is the Saturday/Sunday after the last day of the course, which is moderation. Trinity regulations provide that ‘trainees must participate in the moderation process. Where exceptional circumstances such as illness or family bereavement prevent attendance, they may be recommended for a deferred decision’. It’s important therefore that again the temptation to socialise on the day before moderation is avoided, as oversleeping or a hangover is not an exceptional circumstance. Yes, it has happened … Non-attendance at moderation is considered to be a withdrawal from the course. Don’t let this happen to you. 

Be prepared for feedback and reflection 

After each of your TP’s (teaching practice classes), you will be provided with feedback from the tutor who observes you. This is a valuable process and you’d do well to consider it as such from day one. Be prepared. It’s not simply to provide you with a grade or to find fault, but to provide you with guidance that will enable you to move forward in your development as a teacher. Feedback will not cover everything that happened in your lesson, but focus on the major elements of your lesson that went relatively well as well as some of the areas that could be improved upon based upon the what your observer actually saw. Be prepared to actively participate in this process and reflect not by simply identifying things that went well/didn’t go so well but be prepared to think about why and identify your main takeaways from each lesson. Participate actively, don’t simply focus on what you think didn’t go well (it’s not uncommon to do this), don’t ignore what did go well and don’t shut down. Feedback is for your benefit. 

Be open to alternative approaches, techniques and styles 

Regardless of the experience they have many people come onto the course in the belief that there is only one right way of doing things and that’s what they’re going to be taught. This can be very limiting for getting the most out of the course and an inhibitor to development. Pre conceived ideas can be the result of what people have been told or experienced.  

The reality is that there is no one right way and there are many TESOL approaches and techniques. All of your tutors will be qualified, experienced and Trinity approved, but as with everything in life, people come to the table with different personalities, styles and backgrounds. This means you’ll get a variety of perspectives and ideas in feedback and lesson planning sessions, which as adults with responsibility for your own learning, you can make your own independent choices.  

You won’t be ‘spoon fed’ and are expected to operate with increasing degrees of independence. Different perspectives and ideas from different tutors will be provided and you will be expected to engage with these as part of your development. Make the most of experienced specialists offering possible alternatives. Listen carefully to what your tutors say and don’t listen selectively. Trainees who easily get wrapped up with worry about doing it ‘wrong’ will be the ones who misinterpret sound guidance. Open up to alternatives and you’ll be setting yourself up for success and reducing the stress.  

About the Author

Sean Martin

Over the last 10 years Sean has worked in a variety of TESOL settings in Hong Kong, from teaching academic English to secondary and tertiary learners. He has also taught professional adults of various nationalities to develop their English skills across a range of commercial sectors including law, aviation, hospitality and leisure. In addition to his work at EfA as a Trinity CertTESOL tutor and delivering CPD workshops, Sean works with the University of Sunderland on their English for Academic Purposes programme. He has academic interests in sociolinguistics and its application in the classroom.

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