In this article, Annie Heringer shares her story about preparing for the FTBE certificate alongside other daring ELTABB members, the challenges that came with it and the benefits she reaped.
FTBE, FTBE, FTBE.
It took me almost a year to get these four letters right. The “First Certiﬁcate for Teachers of Business English” doesn’t exactly roll oﬀ the tongue. This professional qualiﬁcation, oﬀered by Pearson and the London Chamber of Commerce and Industry, is awarded to English teachers who have proven competence in a Business English specialization by passing a two and a half-hour written examination.
Sound intimidating? I thought so, too. But luckily, I had two friendly faces to usher me into the world of functional syllabi and the client approach. Just two of the topics we tackled in our ELTABB FTBE study group led by Evan Frendo and Mandy Welfare.
They would provide the structure, guidance and feedback, while the participants would research and present the curriculum topics which cover a range of teaching strategies and learning approaches speciﬁc to Business English. The FTBE isn’t the only professional certiﬁcation of Business English teaching. The Cert IBET is also available but costs a pretty-penny more.
Starting off slow…
I had seen many of the faces at ELTABB events and knew a couple names. It was illuminating to hear everyone’s backstory and learn about their individual working situations. I wasn’t the only CELTA certiﬁed teacher who had drifted into Business English without any real training. Evan and Mandy reminded us of how valuable any professional experience can be when teaching Business English.
Over the next months, we met at each other’s houses and took turns presenting the topics from the exam curriculum: the lexical approach, feedback & evaluation, authentic materials, etc. At each meeting, one to two topics would be presented with Mandy and Evan there to ﬁll in the gaps as well as oﬀer speciﬁc tips on how to use the information on the exam.
Because we had to present the topics ourselves, each presentation was diﬀerent. Sometimes we’d be using Powerpoint, other times taping pieces of paper to the wall. Often we organized activities and tasks for the rest of the group to take part in. The various presentation styles oﬀered a valuable lesson themselves as they were a unique opportunity to observe our colleagues employing their own teaching methods. There was lots of lively discussion, with snacks and then more exchange following.
Preparing for the big day
Not surprisingly, the material that we were covering also made its way into my teaching practice. My students unwittingly became guinea pigs for the new concepts I had picked up and was anxious to try. To their beneﬁt of course! We arrived at the critical point when Mandy and Evan promptly pushed us out of the nest – we had an exam date! Friday, June 13th, 2018.
For me it was the moment of truth: would I actually take the exam? I had already gotten so much out of the course, did I need a certiﬁcate to prove it? After much consideration, I decided I had come too far to give up. Even if it meant taking a two and a half-hour exam. The likes of which I had not seen since my undergraduate days some (gulp!) twenty-years previous.
The last weeks leading up to the exam were intense. Four of us had registered and continued to meet, this time focusing on taking practice-exams under exam-like conditions. Then meeting again to go over all of the answers together. The experience brought us even closer – Galina, Sherri, Sarah and I were a team by this point.
We divided up the remaining basic business concepts we needed to learn and crammed over brunch, e-mail, WhatsApp and even on the S-Bahn as we hurtled towards the examination location on June 13th, the morning of the exam.
Was it worth the effort?
A long summer came and went while we awaited the results. Our group dissolved and I missed our meetings very much. As the days passed, I became more resolved that whatever the exam result was, the experience of being part of the study group alone was worth it all.
I was a better teacher of Business English, well-versed in its terms and practices. And felt I could approach potential employers and clients with a new conﬁdence. None of this would change whether I passed the exam or not.
Then one day, we all received our results in the mail: four embossed FTBE certiﬁcates for each of us. We had all passed with ﬂying colors!
I was surprised at how deeply proud I felt and immediately updated my resume, typing the words with a new found ﬂuency – First Certiﬁcate for Teachers of Business English – pass with distinction
That single line of print represents a huge growth in my professional development and it felt great to make it official. I know a little about how to teach Business English, and I have the certiﬁcate to prove it.