Contributed by Chris Cooke, Celta Trainer and Coordinator
Here at ILSC-Montreal we offer the University of Cambridge CELTA program. The CELTA program is designed to train native speakers or near native speakers how to teach English. It’s a four-week program and is really intensive but provides a solid foundation in how to plan and teach all kinds of enjoyable, relevant and useful lessons for students. Most of our wonderful teachers at ILSC-Montreal are CELTA-qualified and the students love them!
As part of the program, the training teachers have to do a practicum which involves teaching real groups of students.
For us, it was an exciting opportunity to be able to do something for the community by offering lessons to new immigrants to Montréal. We contacted immigration agencies and job centers to let them know that we provide two hours of lessons every day for four weeks to recent immigrants who are looking to improve their English in order to increase their job prospects and to fit into the bi-lingual lifestyle in Montréal. The experience has been positive for everyone!
On each course that we run, we offer two different levels: elementary and intermediate. We have about 13 to 18 students in each class and they come every afternoon for their lessons. The students come from all over the world. During the last session we had students from Algeria, Morocco, France, Colombia, China, Moldovia, Russia, Haiti, Turkey, Iran, Chile, Ukraine, Tunisia, Italy, Brazil, Senegal and the Ivory Coast. English is the only common language they have, so it makes it easier for the teachers to insist that they speak English!
The students are incredibly motivated – they’re mostly looking for work or wanting to study in English, so they bring a high level of enthusiasm to the class. They know that they are being taught by teachers in training and they are really cooperative and helpful.
Apart from helping these newcomers to Montréal with their English, the students love the opportunity to meet other people in a similar situation to them. Arriving in a new country can be a lonely and isolating time and the lessons give the students a chance to share their experiences and to make new friends.
Another great benefit for the students is that they become aware of lots of different cultures. This is really important in a city like Montréal where almost one third of the population are immigrants. The teachers take advantage of the cultural diversity to create discussions and activities that help the students to find out about each other’s cultures, food, holidays, sports, important figures, history, customs and traditions. Apart from making for interesting lessons, this also helps students understand and get along with all the other immigrants who they will meet as part of this new life.
For the teachers in training it is a great introduction to the joys and rewards of teaching English, the satisfaction that you can get from helping someone not only with their language skills but helping them reach their personal and professional goals.
All in all, it’s a great experience for everyone involved: for the teachers in training to have such wonderful students and for the students to have free access to language training from such wonderful and enthusiastic teachers.
One day, one of our students stopped coming and was sadly missed. She then came a few days later to say that she couldn’t come any more because she had found a job … and that she’d gotten the job because of her English in the interview. One of the teachers had done a whole lesson on job role-plays just before that and she said she felt totally prepared for it! We all realized how much teaching can help change lives and what a rewarding experience it is.