My CELTA Instruction Manual: Week One

While considering attending CELTA and then preparing for it, I found a dearth of information on how good, bad, or stressful the program is, but no information on what to expect beyond “lots of work” or “lots of stress.” With that in mind, here is a week-by-week guide of what is due, how to do it, and what to watch out for.



Due this week: Teaching Practice One (Tuesday – 20 minutes), TP 2 (Wed or Thurs – 40 minutes), TP 3 (Friday – 40 minutes, for half of class. The other half will due Monday). Assignment two (grammar worksheet) due next Monday.

Class started at 9:00 on Monday. We wasted no time, jumping straight into Get To Know You activities which were meant both for us to get to know each other and to familiarize us with teaching styles and activities. There were 12 students in class: Half of us had professional teaching experience, five of us were Colombians (one Colombian had spent most of her life in Florida), and nine of us were older than 25. The course director was a Californian who had been working for international house for 30 years; the second teacher was an Argentine woman living in Mexico, and an English woman with no official responsibilities was shadowing the director as part of her credentialing to be a teacher at CELTA.

After lunch we discussed teaching theory. We watched a video of an experienced teacher, who gave an hour-long lesson with roughly 120 different activities. I was confused: The teacher was schizophrenic, but this was the ideal lesson. After the video we talked about the student-centred approach the teacher took and his avoidance of explanations. When I saw “explain” crossed out on board I knew the course would be more difficult than I expected.

After the discussion we split into two groups. My group featured myself (a 31 year old Californian with teaching experience), two Colombian mid-career teachers, a Jamaican teacher in her late twenties, and a young American-Colombian with no teaching experience. We stayed in these groups for the entirety of the course and, through sheer luck, I ended up in the superior group. Our group “clicked” immediately, though everyone in the class got along.

We jumped into teaching day two. There was no lesson plan, we were just given a strip of paper and told to do what was on it. Each of us taught for 20 minutes and struggled to fit everything we were expected to do within the time limit. After teaching, we had an hour of feedback with our teacher, then took an hour lunch and had four hours of class in the afternoon. This would be our daily schedule for the next four weeks.

As with any separated groups, the teachers taught the same concepts but with different standards and styles. My section’s teacher was a drill sergeant who told us what to do and how to do it; the other section had a mentor who encouraged creativity and guided them when needed.

I spent much of the first week comparing the CELTA methods with previous teaching jobs I’ve had; Teaching is an art, and the style I learned is very different than the art taught at CELTA.

Next Monday would be a holiday, so our section spent Sunday at my apartment preparing for lessons and finishing our first assignment, which was ten pages of grammar or usage questions which we needed to correct and explain, as well as break down grammar and verb forms.

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