You’ve asked all your questions and now it’s decision time. Is it a yes or a no? Accept or reject? Sometimes, you’ll know after the initial ‘Why CELTA?’ and one language awareness question. They’re bright, keen, saying all the right sorts of things. More often, though, your mind is toggling between the two possible outcomes minute by minute. And there’s no-one else to help, to tell you the right answer when it’s not black and white, when you have to pick your way through grey areas. He could do that, but then he said this.
Through it all, your role as an effective interviewer is to help the probably-nervous applicant perform the best they can. That, and the fact that applying for a pre-service course, they don’t need to know it all, don’t need an encyclopedic knowledge of English grammar, points in one direction: your approach will be to give encouraging prompts. With your guidance, can they reach some kind of response that makes sense? The reason for this is that your goal is to find out ‘are they trainable’? Can they respond by thinking their way to ‘a picture’ or ‘it’s in the future’? An interviewee struggling is not a problem, if that struggling is healthy thinking and you can guide them through. This shows that they’ll be able to respond that way on the course during a supervised lesson planning session when they’re teaching the past perfect next day. In the words of my Trainer in Training last month:
Given that CELTA is a pre-service course, the pre-tasks and the interview concerning language awareness may seem rather challenging for the candidates. The objective of the pre-interview tasks and the interview is to check the candidate’s fluency and accuracy and also explore the candidate’s language awareness. However, after shadowing three interviews, I realised that the tutor also takes into consideration how much a candidate can achieve with appropriate prompting and how their language awareness and perception of learning and teaching can help them. The interview also ensures that the candidate is aware of the requirements and demands of the course while the manner of the tutor is friendly and very supportive.
Beyond that, make sure by the end you know their expectations of CELTA and that their aware of CELTA’s expectations of them. For an intensive course, check they’re not planning a weekend away and for any course, that there’s nothing about their health or homelife that’s going to affect their chances. Tick a box to confirm you’ve asked this.
You’ve still got to decide and it’s tricky when it’s in the grey area. Did they do enough? Another way to think of this is ‘Do they have a reasonable chance of passing?’ You’re about to assist this applicant in parting with a four-figure sum and need to be able to do that with a clear conscience.
What would another trainer say? If I’m really deliberating and I don’t have to give the outcome there and then, I’ve occasionally gone to a colleague and given a thumbnail of the interview. I haven’t actually needed the colleague to tell me, I can usually hear it in my voice, in what comes out and end up saying ‘I should give her a chance, shouldn’t I?’ or ‘Ahh, it’s just not enough is it?’
It’s easy to give the good news ‘I’m happy to accept you’. If you have to reject someone, hopefully the centre will allow you to say ‘you’ll receive an email with the outcome of this interview’. Otherwise, if your reasons are to do with trainability/ professionalism/character/sanity, then rather than rely on this subjective data, stick to facts and announce your decision based on need for development of language awareness. Applicants will find it difficult to challenge your professional take on this, but it could be inflammatory to tell an interviewee their personality doesn’t fit. If, in spite of your best efforts to be sensitive and deliver the message carefully, the response is anger, you have the confirmation you need that ‘reject’ was a good call.