Every year between the months of April and May, ALTA runs a six week training course for potential tutors. The training course is known to be intense but extremely beneficial for prospective tutors, readying them almost completely for the ALTA classroom. The theoretical aspect of the training is completed in six sessions but the practical aspect is completed over one academic year in ALTA classrooms around the country. At the end of this, the trainee is certified as an ALTA tutor. One of ALTA’s 2017 trainees, Savita K-Mohammed who attended the recently completed training course in San Fernando, put pen to paper to share her experience with ALTA over the past six weeks.
My first experience with ALTA started with an interview at their San Fernando office. I could not understand how I could be nervous and anxious for a position I was volunteering for. Thankfully my interviewer’s soft-spoken and calm manner relaxed me. After a positive pass, the next step was the observation process – I had to observe an ALTA class in action for eight sessions. On day one at the Princess Town Library, I had a huge learning experience. Firstly, I didn’t know how I would feel, how to react to the students or how they would react to me. They seemed quite intrigued by a new person in their classroom and a burst of laughter broke the ice when I mentioned how nervous I was. I instantly, went from being anxious to feeling confident.
During the observations I was amazed at the methods and skills used in teaching. The ALTA tutors were very encouraging and enlightening. By the end of the eight observation classes, I realised that the ability of the students was a lot higher than I expected and their ability levels also varied. They participated enthusiastically in the lessons and those who completed their exercises with ease helped others who lagged behind. In this way, the tutors did not face the challenge of managing the large class alone.
At ALTA, students follow a set process of learning and move through these stages in a logical order. I observed that the challenges of teaching go beyond the obvious lesson planning, marking work and report writing. ALTA tutors are required to plan according to the various ability levels of the students and anticipate the different responses the students may have toward activities. The tutors seemed to complement each other while teaching and adapted the lessons for students of varying literacy levels.
The terminology and concepts which are used by ALTA were alien to me until I started the training course. During training, I definitely saw why the observation process was necessary. One of the best and most important parts of the training was learning how to teach the various skills of listening, speaking, reading and writing and knowing the approach needed to teach each of these skills effectively.
One of the highlights was when I had the chance to teach my fellow trainees as if they were ALTA students. This experience was very intriguing as we learned to work together just as we will be doing in the ALTA classroom.
ALTA’s founder, Paula Lucie Smith and her team of facilitators made many efforts to help us feel relaxed and confident and this had a very positive impact on how I feel about being in the ALTA programme. I would like to warmly and deeply thank all trainees and my colleagues for the unforgettable and enjoyable six sessions that we spent together. Our journey has just begun.