Chris Roland – CertTESOL trainer and conference circuiteer

When did you work on the CertTESOL at Active Language in Cádiz and what did you enjoy about training?

It was a few years back now. If I’m right, the summer courses of 2012 and 2013. I was a full-time member of staff at Active the first time round. The following year I had relocated to Seville and came down just for the summer. Both times were equally fun. The first time I was living in my own flat and the second I was sharing with a Chilean doctor – really nice chap. Sometimes I’d pop back up to Seville on the weekends (an hour and a half train ride) but wow was there a difference! I remember coming back one August afternoon and it was 44º in San Bernardo in Seville where I’d catch the train and 33º when I got off in Cádiz – gotta love that Mediterranean sea breeze! So yeah it was a while ago, but I still often list myself as an Active Cert trainer, basically because I still plan to come down and do another few courses with you!

What did I enjoy about the training? It’s a rollercoaster ride. It’s impossible to describe training – or taking – a Cert course to someone who is outside of ELT. It’s kind of like Big Brother, but you can all leave the house and come back each day – and you actually do something useful.

Seeing people develop, seeing them ‘get stuff’ and also start to manage the discourse and terminology – that’s all great. When they start worrying about their students more than about themselves – that’s also a lovely turning point.

Interestingly enough, one of the trainees, I think on the very first course I tutored on, has started work in our centre this year. It’s nice when elements of your work come back into your life like that.

Do you think Cadiz is a good place to take a CertTESOL? Why?

I think Cádiz is an amazing place to take a CertTESOL. It would be and has been my first choice to recommend to friends and even family. Why? First and foremost because of the team. It’s a solid team. I loved being part of it. There’s professionalism, structure and humanity in just the right proportions.

And Cádiz as a place? That’s important too. The thing is that on a five-week course, you are kept pretty busy. I remember one lad that came over to do the course who had plans to go and visit Morocco while he was there. After the first week he realized there wouldn’t be time and scaled down his ambitions to seeing Gibraltar. After the second week he realized that wasn’t going to happen either. If I remember rightly, on the fourth weekend he managed to get to Tarifa, a coastal village in the very same province of Cádiz.  He didn’t mind much either though and the reason why is my actual point: If you are going to study intensively in a place, then it’s worth picking a place that is nice, in itself. You might only have half an hour free at lunchtime but if you can walk along a seafront or sit in a square eating olives listening to the tinkle of fountains – that makes a difference. Learning and having that at the same time – that’s living.

What advice would you give new teachers?

For very new teachers – that is, people on the course, I’d recommend getting your logistics right. If you organize your workload well, you could spend at least some time every Friday, Saturday and Sunday on one of the city’s beaches.

For new teachers in general? Well, it’s a world – or it can be. You can make a career out of this but you have to go some. You have to make yourself a professional. That means getting in those first couple of years’ practice but at the same time going along to conferences, or reading a book or two on methodology – not losing touch with the field or resting on your laurels – even if you do well on the Cert course. Energy investment creates surplus. You put in 2 hours planning for each day in your first year. Those processes, all that decision making, starts to compound and compact over time. Things get easier. But not only that, if your classes are working well then other people become interested in your work. It means you might be putting in a bit more time than some of your colleagues but at some point you will be invited to share ideas – on a local level – maybe as a short in-house workshop. From there… well, you’re no longer a new teacher.

How has your career developed since working on the course?

Chris in action at a conference

When I came to you chaps I’d already been hammering away on the conference circuit. It started with sessions in Syria and Lebanon, then Madrid, Barcelona and Portugal – mostly through the British Council who also part-funded my DELTA and MA TESOL. But one of the reasons I wanted to come and work with Active in the first place was the chance of training on a formal course. After Cádiz I started to tutor on the Trinity Diploma for Oxford TEFL as well as form part of a team of 5 trainers for ELI, a language academy in Seville [in fact the institution where I first started teaching]. I’ve continued to deliver sessions and write articles like a maniac and I’ve had a lot of fun doing so. I now have friends all over the world and I’ve seen places, not just as a tourist but under rather more of a meaningful paradigm, than I ever would have done.

What have you been up to?

In June 2017 I was invited to speak at English Teaching Professional’s Live! conference in Brighton – on the back of articles I had contributed to the magazine for many years. A conversation there lead to my first methodology book: Understanding Teenagers in the ELT Classroom, published by Pavilion. That kept me busy most of last year but other really eventful stuff included going to Russia and the Ukraine – I’ve even started learning Russian on Duolingo! Plus, I’ve been back over to see my old friends at APPI, the Portuguese association of English teachers and done a recent regional event for TESOL Spain. We’ve got the big conferences for both APPI and TESOL Spain still coming up this year. I’ve made a video with Ben Beaumont from Trinity and I’ve done quite a few webinars too. I’ve even run into Simon and the gang at the ACEIA conference (the Andalusian teaching centres’ association).  But the busiest I’ve been is with my own regularly scheduled classes. I’m having a great year. I’m on top of corrections and homework like I’ve never been before, my teens are sending me no end of digital assignments and audios and I’m really enjoying being with the people in the room. Thanks for giving me the space to talk about all those things here. All my very best to everyone at Active, staff and students alike!

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