I didn’t manage to write anything last week because things have been totally full-on with the CELTA course (with a bit of Spanish bureaucracy thrown in for good measure).
Anyway, as I don’t have much else of interest to report, I thought now might be a good opportunity to write a little bit about my course. Now, I’m aware there might be people reading this who have done a CELTA course previously, or are doing one right now, (perhaps even with the same provider as me!) and so here’s a little disclaimer: I am going to be writing about my experience of my course. Your experience of CELTA might have been – or might be (if you take it in the future) – quite different. All I can do is write about how I’ve found it.
And the first thing to say is that it is full-on.
Now, I’m aware there will be plenty of people who’ll wonder what on earth I’m complaining about. Many – perhaps even most – CELTA candidates take the qualification as a 4-week intensive course. I’ve gone for the 8-week semi-intensive version, but while it may be easier to cope with, the pace is still relentless, particularly if you’re a perfectionist like me. (I’m not the only one in our cohort.) There is more than one candidate on our course who is also working part-time, but one of them in particular has found it to be way more demanding than he had expected and has gone through the first six weeks of the course in a permanent state of exhaustion. So, my advice would be this: even if you’re taking the course over 8 weeks, be realistic about what else you can take on. For me, the TP prep, assignments, classroom time and the stress and strain of trying to get myself registered as a legal resident and self-employed tutor against the backdrop of Brexit has been quite enough.
I went to observe an experienced tutor this morning, who completed the 4-week CELTA last year. She was told at interview that if she chose to do the intensive course, she wouldn’t have time to cook, clean or do anything else about the house. She didn’t quite believe it, but it was absolutely true.
So. You have been warned.
But now to the positives. The course is non-competitive, which means that we have been encouraged to support one another as colleagues and the group has developed a really good group dynamic. We’re a really varied group of people, as I’ve said previously. We come from all over the world and I am one of only 4 native English speakers (out of 10 candidates). Although a few of us have (loosely) taught before, only I and one other candidate seem to have worked in formal educational settings. And that’s great because it means we all bring different world views, opinions and experiences to the course. We are learning not only from the tutors, but also from each other.
And we have learnt so much.
To be honest, I signed up for the course as a confidence-builder. I signed up for the course as a foot in the door, a way of meeting people, something to do with my time while I got established in Valencia and a way of finding out about job opportunities. Oh, and if I got myself a formal ESL qualification at the same time, great. I knew I would learn on the course because I had never taught ESL before, but I had taught modern foreign languages (mainly Spanish) and I had been a Learner Support Assistant in English classes in the UK, as well as working in educational management. How much could I learn, really?
Oh boy. The answer is a lot.
I don’t think my first TPs were dreadful. I think there were some real positives about them. But there were also plenty of things I needed to work on improving, such as simplifying instructions and getting used to putting all the target language on the board (no Smartboards here – and besides, it’s no good if you change slides and all the TL disappears). And as we’ve gone along, the tutors have gradually introduced more and more elements of ESL teaching practice for us to incorporate into our lessons.
The positive for me is that in the second half of the course, they stop providing such tight guidelines for exactly what you should be doing in your TPs. Whereas some candidates found the ‘TP Points’ helpful, I think I found them quite restrictive. And so, as we’ve been given more freedom, I’ve started to come into my own. My experience of lesson planning – backed up by all the new theory I have learnt – has been really helpful.
The other positive for me in moving to the second half of the course has been that I’ve gone from teaching post-beginners to upper-intermediate students. I loved working with the first group, but I feel much more confident with this group.
I have two teaching practices (and one assignment) left to go. The next TP – as with all the previous ones – is from the coursebook, but we have the flexibility to design exercises of our own if we prefer. I’m really excited about what I’ve come up with. (I hope my tutor will approve!)
The final TP is different. For that, we have to find an authentic text to teach from, and then design all of the classroom exercises ourselves. I’ve chosen a text on the subject of ‘eating insects’ (which some of my Spanish students might just recognise as one I’ve taught in Spanish before). I think it’s an interesting subject because it combines food choices and environmental awareness. And I think it’s a great text because it incorporates diagrams, heading and subheadings, facts and figures. So, I’m excited about that too – although I know there is a lot of work that needs to go into it before the big day.
And then that will be it. My last TP is on 15th March, which is the very last day of the course. It feels really strange to think that in two weeks’ time it will all be over.
Then what? Well, the first thing will be to sleep – although with Fallas going on, that might not be the easiest thing in the world! And then, if my residency has been granted (which is still a big if!) it’ll be time to start looking for work.
The good thing is that with the internet available as a teaching medium, the world is a very small place. With three languages I can teach and a whole city at my feet, the options for securing teaching work should be plenty.
But for now, I’m going to enjoy the last two weeks of CELTA. Because it’s hard work, yes, but it’s great fun too. And I really will be sad when it’s over.