January 5th, 2015 was my son’s 3rd birthday and the day I started the most important course in my career, it was the day I started my CELTA course.
I must confess that I had mixed feelings. While feeling excited about the course, I kept asking myself “Was I ready for CELTA?”; “Was I crazy to be part of a course like this?”; “Was I good enough?”
One year later, here is what I’ve learned pre, while, and post CELTA:
- Before you send out your application, make sure you research about the center you intend to enroll. Check out their information on the Cambridge website, ask who the tutors are, check out their CV on LinkedIn (you might say “Oh, I’m not going to snoop on anyone.” Well, you should. You’ll spend a fortune on this course, you might as well know who your tutors are going to be. Believe me, great tutors make all the difference at the end.) Talk to your colleagues, ask them questions about the center, about the tutors, about the tasks, about everything CELTA related.
- Fill out your application form and ask a few colleagues to proofread it.
- During the interview, make sure to answer all the questions your tutor asks you. However, the most important thing is for YOU to ask questions, so you understand what you’ll be facing during the course.
- Read all the books about ELT you can put your eyes on. Some suggestions to start with: Jeremy Harmer, Jim Scrivener, Penny Ur, Adrian Underhill, newsletters, blogs, chats, anything and everything ELT related.
- Make sure you have at least two binders so you can organize your handouts (even though I don’t agree with the amount of trees killed during a CELTA course due to the hundreds and hundreds of handouts you receive, and how most of these things could be transferred to an online drive – but that’s not the point – the point is: Be organized!).
- If you’re taking the intensive CELTA, make sure you plan your month well and have no obligations or appointments during the course, because let’s face it, you’ll do nothing but CELTA for a month. If you’re taking the semester course, plan your weeks because it’s very easy to let your work interfere in the course.
- The day before CELTA begins, check your material, enjoy your life, have a delicious dinner, maybe watch a movie and relax, because that will be last peaceful moment you’ll have in a month. (Seriously, I’m not lying.)
- On your first day, engage in all GTKY (Getting To Know You) activities and talk to people. You’ll be spending 4 weeks or a semester with these people, so get to know them, you might be surprised at how stressed and nervous they might be, just like you!
- Pay attention to what your tutors tell you, how they behave, the sessions, your peers’ classes, and most especially, pay close attention to feedback time (and not only to yours, but to everyone’s feedback time – that’s where you’ll learn the most).
- A special note about feedback: don’t think that everyone knows how to provide feedback. I assure you that you’ll learn what to do and especially, what NOT to do. You’ll know instantly who (your peers) knows how to give feedback and who has absolutely no idea what this really means and the impact that bad feedback can cause on a person’s feelings and development. They might be rude (even though they’ll certainly believe they’re super gentle and sweet) – but that’s OK, you’ll learn either way.
- You’ll start questioning yourself as a teacher and questioning if you know nothing about teaching and you might even enter a slight state of depression and/or anxiety. Well, think like this “You’re a great teacher, but not according to Cambridge standards.” That’s not bad, really. There’re a million ways to teach English, but remember that you willingly enrolled to this course, you must be aware that you have to follow Cambridge rules. Tutors expect a few things, so don’t play around, stick to the rules.
- You will feel extremely stressed, however don’t throw a hissy fit during CELTA, seriously, just don’t. Your tutors are observing you all the time, and all the time means 100% of the time, even when you’re not in class. (Believe me, I learned this the hard way.)
- On your final two weeks, you definitely start feeling the stress, and it’ll start being sometimes unbearable. The third week tends to be extremely tiring, however, your final week will be a nightmare. “OMG Karin! I’m not going to do this course anymore!” Hold on tight, I’m getting there. I’ve gotta be honest, though. Your final week will be hell on Earth. You haven’t been eating well, sleep deprivation is out of control, and you just hate every living thing and you want CELTA to be over. So, breath in, breath out, and suck it up! Remember, you paid a fortune for this. Nobody has forced you. And c’mon, you haven’t go to the good part yet. #notlying
- Breathe! You have survived CELTA and you should be proud of yourself.
- Now, let’s get down to business! That’s where the real challenge begins.
- You’ll start questioning yourself (yes, even more), your career, your dreams and goals. Now you have all this information, what do you do with it?
- First things first: be part of the ELT community (in case you’re not yet). Become a member of your local ELT association, be part of online groups, talk to colleagues, attend events, read, and wait. Yes, WAIT. You’ll need time so all this new information sinks in, and you’ll start reaching to some conclusions.
Here are mine…
- I certainly don’t know even half of what I want to know yet, but now I know where to go and what do do.
- Listen to your tutors! They know better. You might disagree with them, you might want to shout at them (I know I did), but suck it up and listen to them. They were trained for this, and you must listen to them. Again, you came into the course willingly, nobody has forced you.
- Be organized. Not only during CELTA, but in your career, in your life. Being organized can make a huge difference in your perspective of life and business.
- I have finally found what changes I want to do in my career, what courses I want to attend, what organizations I want to be part of, and the difference I want to make in ELT.
- CELTA was the best and worst thing that ever happen to me as a teacher and as a person. Would I do it again? Absolutely!
Special thanks to my tutors and to my peers who taught me a great deal. (and who put up with my stress for a month hahaha).