This post is a little late but… I survived!
As you may know from my previous post, I did a CELTA course last month and I can honestly say that it was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. The course was so enriching and I learnt so much and met so many like-minded people that I (almost) didn’t want it to end. For those of you thinking of doing the CELTA, here’s my experience of the four weeks to give you an idea of what to expect.
Having to do four 1000-word written assignments can seem daunting at first, especially when they set the first one on the very first day of the course! But I actually found that the most difficult thing about the assignments was adhering to the word count. The assignments are designed so that it is extremely easy to write 1000 words on the topic. In fact, I ended up going way over the word count on some of my assignments, and anyone can tell you that it’s much more difficult to try to cut stuff out of your essay rather than to think up of new things to put in. As complying with the word count is one of the criteria to pass an assignment, I can tell you that I spent more than double the amount of time ruthlessly editing my papers to reduce the word count than I did writing them. Even if you have to resubmit any assignment, something that I was very lucky to avoid, the tutors will give you guidance and support on what you should do to pass it on resubmission. Stick to the rubric and don’t overthink, you’ll be fine.
On teaching practices (TPs)
My only tip here is to enjoy your TPs. I know that this is easier said than done; I was still nervous before each class, even right down to my final TP, and it’s hard to enjoy the class when you’re frantically trying to remember your lesson plan and trying not to slip up with the tutor assessing your every move. But, if you can let go of some of those worries and actually enjoy your TP, it will make your time on the CELTA a lot less stressful. As for making mistakes during your TP, don’t even worry about it. I learned more from what I did wrong in the classroom than what I did right – just aim to not make the same mistake twice! Also, if you can just relax a little you can focus more on the students and actually teach them, which is the ultimate goal of your TPs. I was grateful that my students were generally responsive and cooperative, which made my TPs more enjoyable. Remember that the students are there to learn and not to make your life difficult, so don’t dread questions from the student. Instead, acknowledge that this is a learning curve for both of you, and you’ll be able to not only help yourself grow as a teacher but also help your students learn something new. I personally miss all my students after the course ended, even if I only had them for a month.
On your peers
The course requires a lot of cooperation and teamwork with your fellow course mates; if you can get along with your peers, it will make your four weeks so much more pleasant and less taxing. I was very lucky to be in a team that worked well together because your peers will not only provide a help and support system during the entire course, especially with the teaching practices, but they will also make the whole experience more gratifying. Get to know them and open up to them; after all, you’re in the same boat together… more or less. My course mates were one of the reasons I didn’t want the course to end – I miss them all!
On your tutors
Although it might seem like the tutors are there to give you hell-ish assignments and add to your already mounting pile of workload, they’re really there to help you get the most out of the course and give you support and guidance. If they set you extra work and tell you to do language or lexis analysis on top of detailed lesson plans, it’s because doing them will help you improve and make your teaching practices go a lot smoother. Don’t hesitate to seek help from your tutors if you’re really struggling with something. They might be busy people, but they will always make time to see you. Again, I was very lucky to have two wonderful tutors who were encouraging, professional, and made every day of the course a fun learning experience.
On time management
As I’ve mentioned in my last article, the CELTA is a pretty intensive course; it requires your undivided attention for the whole month. This means that you can’t be having other agendas while on the course; that includes full-time or even part-time jobs, family or friends engagements, personal or professional projects of any kind. Basically just drop everything and give your 100% to the course; as a reference, I spent my nights and weekends holed up in my room working on assignments and lesson plans for the whole four weeks. Abandoning your loved ones and any kind of social life for a month might seem a bit extreme but trust me on this, it will make your CELTA experience way more manageable. If you can balance your time well, you can really get a lot (and more) out of the course and it will really be worth your while.
So what now that I’ve completed my CELTA? Well, at the moment I can’t really say for sure, but who knows maybe this qualification will open up opportunities for a job abroad. All I know is that it’s opened my eyes to the world of TESOL, and that’s a step in the right direction.