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: Assignment Two (grammar worksheet, turned in before assignment one) TP Three (40 minutes – Monday, for the half of class which didn’t do it on Friday), TP Four (60 minutes). Assignment One (interview and analyze a student, then find two activities to improve areas they struggle with).
The assignment due Monday morning looked like it would take an hour, but for most people took at least six. The assignment wasn’t particularly difficult, but it was long and with no clear directions for several parts people took shortcuts. Four of the six students in my section passed; two had to make corrections and resubmit it. Students have to pass three of the four assignments in CELTA but are allowed to resubmit any failed assignments once and still pass the assignment. CELTA makes it easy to fail individual assignments and lessons but very hard to fail the course as a whole. We had another assignment due the following Monday, but were supposed to spend this week preparing for it. The assignment was to select one student from class, interview them and take notes on their learning, analyze their strengths and areas for improvement, then find two activities which will help them with an area for improvement. It seemed much easier than the first assignment and most of us procrastinated doing the core of the work until Friday.
The two lessons we taught in week one were twenty and forty minutes, so the two lessons we taught in week two were forty and sixty minutes. The longer classes were easier to teach because there was so much material to be covered. Sixty minutes gave us time for reviewing, practicing, and clarifying ideas while still meeting the lesson’s goals, though a few were frightened by the idea of teaching for a full hour without breaks.
We started writing full lesson plans this week. The plans were more detailed and took longer to make than the plans I had used to teach high school and for a military program, but scripting the lessons helped a lot when we were stumped by a question — we weren’t allowed to explain anything to students or use Spanish. I became more and more discouraged every time I compared CELTA to my previous teaching. We weren’t allowed to ask open-ended questions, instead we needed binary questions or ones with one-word answers. In CELTA we weren’t allowed to explain things, instead we had to ask the students questions until they said they understood — imagine teaching somebody what a lime is. I could just say ‘lima’ and be done with it and in other teaching jobs I would do just that. At CELTA I needed to ask a series of Concept Checking Questions (CCQs) about what a lime is or isn’t: What color is it? Is it a fruit or a vegetable? Is it citrus? Is a green citrus fruit a lime? Ta-daa!
While we understood the purpose of using CCQs instead of explanations or comparisons, it made us rethink the way we taught. In fact, during the first two weeks the experienced teachers were often behind those with no experience because we had “bad” habits. CELTA took the art of teaching and boiled it down to a science, full of binary questions and answers which didn’t allow students to explain or express their thoughts. I asked a lot of questions to clarify precisely what CELTA expected whenever it differed from what I had learned, then became a sacrificial lamb of sorts when other students asked me to ask “stupid” questions they were too embarrassed to ask.
We had an assignment due the following Monday, but we spent this week preparing for it. The assignment was to select one student from class, interview them and take notes on their learning, analyze their strengths and areas for improvement, then find two activities which will help them with an area for improvement. It seemed much easier than the first assignment and most of us procrastinated doing the core of the work until Friday.
That meant of course that we spent our weekend working 18 hours a day on the assignment, but we all finished it before 9:00 on Monday.