The purpose of the pre-course training phase is to familiarise you with the bulk of administrative and regulatory documentation produced by Cambridge Assessment and your training centre. You need to be familiar with these documents to a very high degree, and you also need to become aware of any changes to these documents in a timely fashion.
This will involve a lot of desk study of handbooks, timetables, rotas, application forms and other paperwork. The tasks your centre asks you to complete while inspecting these documents should get you to appraise them critically as well as relate them to each other.
Having said that, bear in mind that you are the novice in this relationship and it is generally better to ask for the reasons why something is arranged the way it is if this is not apparent to you, than it is to assume that the arrangement could be improved; there may be restraints of which you may not yet be fully aware.
In the TinT Handbook, Cambridge outlines 9 areas of study for the pre-course phase, each of which is linked to a task. I won’t repeat completely what you will find in the handbook here, but instead make a few comments and give some tips of my own in relation to them. Your own training supervisor may have other advice and if this is the case, follow their lead and see where it takes you.
Preparation of a task schedule
We all know how it is. You want to do the boring stuff, or the hard stuff, which you know you have to do in the week ahead. Maybe it’s washing the car, maybe it’s clearing out the cellar, maybe it’s reading a pile of administrative documents. You want to do it, you really do. But then life gets in the way and suddenly it’s the end of the week, and you… you haven’t done any of it. But oh! there’s the couch. And your tipple of choice. And Netflix.
Cambridge understands. Cambridge knows that this is how life goes. But luckily for you, Cambridge also has a solution. Put it in your diary. Make a date with your hard work as if it were a night out with friends you haven’t seen for years (except without the hangover next day – or is that just me?)
Plan a schedule for your work on this pre-course phase and you are much more likely to stay on track with it so that when the relentless forward progress of the course proper kicks in, you won’t be playing catch-up.
You may be tempted to scoff at this rather condescending preliminary step – you are a professional, after all. Stop. Check that ego at the door. Write the damn schedule. Then stick to it. You’ll thank them later.
Familiarisation with Celta administration
The first bit of desk study you will need to do is read the 60-odd pages of small print that make up the Syllabus and Assessment Guidelines and the Administration Handbook. These are what make up the vast majority of doctrine (to steal a phrase from the military) with which course design, tutor evaluation and candidate performance must align.
You don’t need to memorise this, but you do need to be familiar with it and know where to look when you need answers to technical questions like “is a candidate allowed to teach a 1-2-1 lesson as part of their TP, and if so, are there any restrictions on at which stage of the course this may occur?” (the answer to this is on page 16 of the Administration Handbook 2017, by the way. You’re welcome.)
The Syllabus and Assessment Guidelines is, as the name suggests, where you find outlined all the stuff that a candidate on the course is expected to show knowledge of and competence in by the end of the course. By extension, this is also where you find outlines all the stuff that needs to be covered by a training centre’s Celta course timetable, TP arrangements, and written assignment rubrics.
The Administration Handbook is, as the name suggests, where you find the rules for running a Celta course. How many trainees a single tutor may be responsible for in TP at any one time (p. 4), penalties that may be applied for candidate plagiarism (p. 18), the arrangements for the assessor visit when there is a trainer in training who needs to be externally assessed (p. 26) – you will find all this and much, much more outlined in detail here. These are not like the Pirates’ Code in Pirates of the Carribean; these are very much not guidelines and are very much rules.
When the course assessor visits each course worldwide towards the end of the course, she or he will be looking to see whether there have been any infringements and, where these have occurred, a so-called “recommendation” will be included in the report. In Cambridge-ese, a “recommendation” is a “Sin crying to Heaven for Vengeance”. If it hasn’t been rectified by the time the next Assessor visits the centre, there is Hell to pay. Don’t be that tutor who sits there all surprised when a visiting Assessor points out that they are breaking all kinds of regulations that they should have known about.
In the TinT Handbook there are simple but useful tasks to help you read all of this purposefully. Do what they recommend and take clear notes, especially of anything that confuses you, and bring these up in your subsequent meetings with your training supervisor.
In the next post, let’s look at the nest stages of the pre-course phase (the course programme, TP standardisation, and beginning your journal)