Account of the Initial Qualification

This is the only pic of me teaching; in Kassel, Hessen
This is the only pic of me teaching; in Kassel, Hessen

I have a professional interest in ELT

Initially, I was on a break from my music and creative career in the late 90s and early naughties and I decided I wanted to live abroad for some time, see the sights and invest time in exploring a new culture.

My music career had just suffered a big disappointment and a setback after some initial success. So I laid low for a while and did a few odd jobs as a Chirstmas Casual for Royal Mail which was my first paid job (yes, as a Christmas sorter for the British Mail Company) a job I still do sometimes to earn around 2000 pounds over Christmas as and when required. I then worked in a store for a while for another great British institution Boots the Chemist of Nottingham, where I was a shelf filler in the evenings in Kim Weller's team. She did really well and is now a store manager but back then she was my line manager and a good one. She created a really great social life amongst the young workers. she gave me a half hour overtime to fill up the staff choccy bar machine. I also did date checking and helping customers in the store at Christmas. They were really sweet there some of the guys I know who worked there still do and I see them on occasions. I was also a factory worker on a print line for a day for Booker's publishers, but that wasn't for me. I also did a couple of days data entry and then I was offered six months at AXA Direct Insurance in Colchester where I was a telesales agent on motor and home insurance just after they took of Guardian Royal Exchange. I was quite a good salesman in the sense that I hit my 90-100 of my targets and a fair percentage of my CCAs but the job didn't really interest me it was really like watching paint dry despite the fact that many people would find that job ideal. I wanted to travel across America, all the way across and then live abroad and teach English because I thought of that as the ideal way to earn money out of the UK at the time and travel.

So in 2000 I signed up for the Taste of TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) course at International House Language Academy, London, UK and I liked it. I was actually in that class with someone who knew Ryan Giggs before he became a famous footballer and he fancied  doing ELT as well. I signed up for the full CELTA (Certificate in Teaching English Language to Adults) form Cambirdge University  Board (UCLES) the next year in July 2001. Just before I'd booked to go to America.

I wrote about it in my book My time in Kassel. this is an extract it namely the whole of the opening chapter. it describes the fun we had together on the course just a bunch of twenty somethings who wanted to do something with special with their lives.

I passed (honest), and that was something a second year student at Cambridge was supposed to expect form exams at that time. I got a Cambridge University Cert. in ELT and I was nowhere near that standard in literature A Level I realised my talent for English focussed primarily on language and creative writing which I wasn't allowed to do at school as a subject. So, that came as a bit of a delight. i was always a good linguist. Indeed, languages were my best subjects in terms of academic performance with an A at French and B in German and Bs in English and English Literature GCSE and 2 of those Bs could easily have been As so it was only natural I was a linguist and not a literary critic in English despite liking to read more literature in German now I can because that is so like being born again if you can do it. We were the first year in which A* grades were introduced and they were extremely rare in my day. I won 3 competitions at school and I wasn't allowed an A* overall only for the award winning performances. anyway here is the extract, enjoy!

I ran the text by my editor, Karl French, of the Literary consultancy London, Farringdon.

1.0 CELTA: International House London


1.1 The Fabulous CELTA Fives.


Thinking a year further back to the millennium in 2000, I was considering how to achieve my aim in some way, of seeing the world and earning some money at the same time. One easy way of doing that was to take an English Language Teaching course and then get a job abroad as an English Teacher to Adults. In 2000, roughly one third of the jobs were for people without degrees, holding a so-called CELTA or Cambridge Certificate in Teaching English Language to Adults. This information was provided by a little book called Talk your way around the world. The course cost about £1,000 to get the initial qualification. In order to be certain that it was what I wanted to do, and I wasn’t wasting money, I decided to do the A Taste of Teaching English as a Foreign Language course offered at International House

Language School in London 106 Piccadilly precisely for CELTA candidates such as myself, in the summer of that year. It was there that I had my first real taste of truly exceptional language teaching.


I’d been used to the bog-standard language GCSE and A level taught by a prominent essay writing academic armed with only a degree, who insisted on over-using vocabulary lists that were repeated with the regular, demotivating monotony of a hamster on treadmill, and language going in one ear and out the other because it simply didn’t work for my learner type. After my first demonstration lesson in Serbo-Croat at IH London however, I found that I could remember Jelim, sandwich se Sirom, molim simply with the lesson being demonstrated more effectively than at school. I never forgot that vocabulary item after just one 45-minute session. I was so smitten with that instant achievement. Moreover, the teacher appeared unshackled even happier in herself having been allowed to follow the freedom of her own style. Suitably impressed with how liberating language teaching could be I signed up for the full course in 2001. Indeed, there was a plethora of opportunities for Cambridge certificate graduates at the time. IH London’s CELTA graduates went on to work at the British Council abroad; for example, in places like North Africa and Syria.


By July 2001, a month before the America trip (see America Illustrated), I had given my notice in at work and completed the pre-course task together with the diagnostics, thus proving myself ready to compete. Apparently, the course was originally called the CELTA Five, there being five elements of assessment for successful completion of it. The duration is one month. There is one theoretical essay of written work a week (4 essays in total), assessed teaching practice which was taught in the afternoon, and 3 hrs of theoretical input before lunch together with other criteria. Lunch took place in the lovely basement café or at a restaurant in the nearby Shepherd Market depending on budget and varying appetite. That was why at the end of the course the address list bore the name The Fabulous CELTA Fives so that we could keep in touch if we wanted.


1.2 Barnard and Lynch


The head tutor was called Matthew Barnard and his deputy was Brenda Lynch. Matthew Barnard was a former pupil of Liz Soars, the inventor of the Headway series of ELT textbooks, the most successful ELT series of all time. Quite a few textbook writers worked for IH London, like Mark Powell and Paul Emerson in Business  English. It was a rather successful school. I remember watching a video of Liz Soars teaching and she was quite a scary sort of woman with a posh voice and an annoying habit of clicking her fingers at pupils in order to elicit answers very quickly. Brenda was such a nice and caring lady with a lot of experience. She worked for IH London for years.

1.3 Theory and Teaching Practice


As said above the day was divided into two parts, theory and teaching practice. Theory was always in the morning and teaching practice in the afternoon, preceded by lunch in between. It was in the student café that I met a student who was a so called true digital learner for the first time. A digital learner is a pupil who learns words from lists easily. He was studying hard for his FCE or Cambridge First Certificate in English which is based on learning the two-thousand most common words in English. He had taken this task literally and got hold of the two thousand most common words in the English language from the General Service List (1954) and was busy learning them all parrot fashion in order to do well in his exam. In there you met the craziest foreign language students the world had ever seen.

Another mad moment a teacher at International House taught me about was even more zany. A teacher had made a display with maggots and earthworms for pupils to describe in which direction the worms were moving.

These worms were situated behind a pane of glass. Unfortunately for the teacher, it had been a hot day, too hot indeed, for the worms to survive. They were dying in the display and the only thing pupils could describe about them was how they were shrivelling up in the heat. The lesson plan had been to teach them the difference between left and right.


1.4 The Pre-Course Homework


The purpose of the pre-course homework was to familiarise ourselves with the tenses in English and the basics of pragmatics and morphology, phonetics and phonology, and to learn chapters from a book called Learning Teaching by Jim Scrivener.


1.5 The Three Ps of Lesson Planning in Task-Based Learning


The three Ps of lesson planning are preparation, practice and production; preparation consisted of a short, teacher-focussed demonstration; practice is carrying out the test demonstrated; and production is producing a record of that task in some way. For example, you could  ask pupils to think of a folk tale from their home country, discuss it with other children from their home country as (preparation). Students would discuss this as a complete class (practice), choose one, and then prepare a dramatic scene which they would then perform (production). They might receive a mark, comments, or language focus work, as feedback in order to help them improve.

An example of language focus feedback might be to surreptitiously listen in to what pupils are doing during a task, write down a list of ten linguistic errors they make then and write them on the board. When they’ve finished they might be given a chance to correct their own mistakes in class, or alternatively you could print them out as a worksheet for homework.

1.6 Gist Task, Main Task


This is the classic double exercise whereby one is presented with a gist task or introductory task lasting about five minutes and then this is followed up by an indepth main task lasting about twenty minutes which is usually on the same theme. This helps with lesson planning. Headway is full of gist task, main task exercises. For example, for a beginner’s class a gist task might be reminding ourselves of the days of the week  checking through them with a partner. Then the main task might be discussing with them what you did on them last week and feeding back to the class. (Pair Work).


1.7 Grammar


1.7.1 Tenses


Explaining the tenses is particularly hard at first if you haven’t done it before at school. The rule of thumb is to keep it simple because you can waffle yourself into a big hole trying to explain tenses to foreign students. All you have to remember are the rules. Present simple is a simple fact, something permanent that began in the past and is continuing through the present e.g. Michael IS a sensational talent at football or - a repeated action - Michael plays footie every day. Michael plays football four times a week. It is also used for verbs for which there is no present continuous for example some senses like to taste and to smell. It tastes good not it is tasting good. It smells good not it is smelling good. Certain errors can be attributed more to the native tongues of particular races due to the grammar of their languages. For example, speakers of Hindi and Urdu might make the mistake Oh, no, it is smelling good,  quite commonly. Teachers such as the excellent Michael Swan documented some of these common mistakes in his book Learner English. Some of these common errors were satirised - some would say in a patronising way - in the 1970s comedy series Mind Your Language, which was criticised as racist, but I learned that many students from other races couldn’t get enough of it and knew every episode.


1.7.2 Completion of the Verb and Adjuncts


A verb can take a subject, a subject and a direct object, or a subject, an indirect object and a direct object. In English, thus there are three possible completions of the verb depending on what they require to make the sentence grammatical. Dogs bark, is a subject and verb alone. Jenny loved me, has a subject, verb, and direct object. Jenny gave the dog the ball, contains a subject, verb, indirect object, and direct object. We learned all these things in theory class and then we put them into practice taking it in turn to teach refugees at a very cheap price for them (indeed a £15 administration fee) in the afternoon for one month.


1.8 Inka Wissner


On this course, I met a very nice young Swiss girl called Inka Wissner who went off to teach at IH Madrid at the end of the course. As I took it on myself to arrange the end of course meal at the Italian restaurant in Shepherd Market just around the corner, she shared my meal with me without asking. I think that was a little show of appreciation from a nice girl, that she wanted to share my tortellini. Then again, maybe not? Maybe she just didn’t want to pay?


1.9 Bydgoszcz and Kassel


I got a place at IH Bydgoszcz in Poland after the holiday in America the next month. Unfortunately, they changed their mind and pulled out at the last minute. That’s why I got a B for attending to administrational activities which is a really good grade at level five from Cambridge University. After successfully completing the one-month course, back then that meant you could start your career in English Language Teaching. After much looking around I got a job at Inlingua in Kassel in Hessen with Mr Harold Klußmann - so called Colonel K.- at the helm. Here are some of my marks for the course. We were awarded the IH Certificate with the marks listed on as well as the Cambridge Certificate. Cambridge don’t give out the marks. IH did. Their certificate also functions as a certificate of attendance.


My Whole Career Blog in ESOL (ca. 4000 hrs Lesson Time) 2001-2010


This Blog has been extracted from two of my publications My Time in Kassel 2001-2002 and Wuppertal Times 2002-2005. The extracts from the latter book,  Wuppertal Times have not been extensively edited yet so please do forgive me. My total earnings form this market sector including my PAYE earnings from Kassel and all my own endeavours running my own business are the high end 40,000+ euros around 7000 a year on average part time as a student of music in Wuppertal, and Musicology English and German in Cologne. I still have a lot of the invoices. The reciepts for S4B, Lennon's, and Gough's alone stand between 32-35,000 euros I'll have tot tot them up again. The true figure form start to finish is like to be near and in excesss of 60 I would assume the sheer amount of people I've worked for. The lowest I've ever been paid is 10 euros a 45 minute lesson and the highest 25 euros a 45 minute lesson or 28.50 a clock hour. most of the time they paid you 15 then but from two companies I got some classes at 18 and 17 one firm with a contract for full time on a monday and wednesday paid 13.50 I think becuase they gave me more hrs.

Kassel Era 2001-2002

1. Inlingua Kassel

Wuppertal Era 2003-2005

2. Kern AG Essen

3. Skills for Business 

4. Volkshochschule Wuppertal

5. Private Classes etc.

6. Kern, Wuppertal

Cologne Era 2005-2010 Coming soon!

7. Lennon Language Services, Düsseldorf

8. Activ Lernen, Cologne

9. Tandem, Cologne

10. Kern, Bonn

11. Gough's Language Centre, Solingen

12. Carpe Diem Kids Academy, Cologne Widdersdorf

13. Volkshochschule,  Cologne

14. Volkschochschule, Frechen

Colchester Era 2007-2008

15. Language Study Centres at Essex University.

Courses Taken in the Wuppertal Era 

CERTEB Certificate in Teaching English for Business from ARELS / LCCI at IH London