Warning Caledonian: by Paul A Alvarez H.
Prague- The Caledonian School is a British registered, Czech owned language institute in the Czech Republic. It has various campuses scattered throughout the country and they offer, amongst other things, a teaching course (TEFL).
The Program is, like many others, a month long certification program. It is run by an American expatriate, and consists of various workshops and teaching practices run and supervised by different teachers.
Having recently and successfully completed the program, I must strongly dissuade anyone interested in obtaining their certification abroad from doing so through this particular program.
First of all, the various instructors don’t appear to be teaching from the same curriculum. Usually there are two to three workshops per day. Often you will receive contradicting information from the various instructors running these workshops. This is not, of itself, a fatal flaw because as we all know the only real way to learn how to teach is to do it; however, the problem is that during your teaching practices you will invariably be tested on the material, and if you have been given various possible options by different teachers it becomes a difficult task to know which of the various contradicting answers will be accepted as correct. Consider that your sizeable investment and teaching certificate hinge on these evaluations.
An experience I had personally was regarding writing vocabulary on the black board. During a workshop, one of the instructors said new vocabulary ought to be written on the board with the part of speech pertinent to the lesson next to it; however, during a live teaching practice I was marked down by another instructor for not writing all possible parts of speech for each word.
Another student was failed during a live teaching practice for not teaching the exact grammar point as described in the book. However, and I can testify to this, in the workshops students are repeatedly encouraged not to teach exactly what is in the book. It is not that these observers are inordinately harsh, but this is just another symptom of the lack of organization that is prevalent in the school. The instructors don’t seem to be communicating, and therefore they are teaching and evaluating from their own personal experiences and possible biases.
Another more serious problem with the Caledonian program is a combination of what this author perceives as the unprofessional behaviour of the head instructors combined with a lack of supervision by the top administrators. While, as I said, there are various teachers the final judgment of your work will be made by two teachers. It would serve you well to find out who they are early and gear your work to them for the duration of the program; unfortunately, this might not be enough.
Amongst some of the most troubling displays I personally witnessed were the following: During a teaching practice feed back sessions one of the instructors was evaluating the performance of two students. She sat them side by side. One student, is a personal friend, who I know to has worked for several years as a professional English teacher and the other student is completely new to the field. The head instructor asked the new student, in a open forum, why it was that he/she could not perform as well as this other student.
Furthermore, during several workshops, a student called upon to provide and answer would routinely be ridiculed in front of class for his or her inability to provide the right answer. Again, this is not a defining flaw but it is undoubtedly unprofessional behaviour; especially, coming from a school that claims to pride itself on professionalism. Consider, that both of the above examples were observed behavior of the two head instructors.
As far as administrative supervision is concerned it appears to be non-existent. Personally I brought up some of these issues with one of the head instructors. While I maintained a non-argumentative and professional attitude in presenting the issues; her response was to my comments was that I should not be so argumentative and should simply focus on the work.
A fellow student then tried approaching one of the head administrators with the same issues, and was told simply that these two women were the best qualified candidates for their position.
To conclude, for each point I have made there are several more relevant examples; however in the interest of keeping the article short I have omitted some but would be more than glad to share them with any interested parties.
If you need any further information please feel free to contact me by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org
and good luck with your teaching career.