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 One (Focus on the Learner) due Monday, Assignment Three (Design two class activities using a newspaper article as text) due Friday, TP Five (40 minutes – done Mon and Tues), Six (40 minutes – done Thurs and Fri), and Seven (60 minutes, two students do it on Friday).
Everywhere you look online warns you of how hard CELTA is. People talk about never sleeping, never finishing things on time, and even crying during lessons. Weeks one and two weren’t that bad. I slept eight hours most nights and exercised before class, then usually had an hour to help classmates prepare in the mornings because class didn’t start until ten. Weeks one and two didn’t live up to the overworking, undersleeping hype that CELTA gets. Week three did.
For the course we are supposed to spend six hours watching experienced teachers, so on the Saturday morning before week three, myself and two other students went to observe a two-hour lesson. It was a decent lesson but by CELTA standards, it was terrible. It showed none of the things which were drilled into us. It had short, undetailed lesson plan (forbidden at CELTA, or anywhere really), a few minutes of activity at the beginning so late students wouldn’t be left behind (frowned upon at CELTA), periods where Teacher Talk Time covered more than simply giving instructions (frowned upon at CELTA), and the teacher explained concepts from time to time (frowned upon at CELTA). This, plus hearing our class manager remark “you’ll do this differently at a real job” in a different class gave me hope that teaching will be normal after finishing the course.
Our assignment to analyze a student and select activities to practice their areas needing improvement (assignment one, though it was the second we turned in) was due Monday. 9 of 11 students failed it. We were given until Friday to make corrections, as well as having a assignment three due on Friday which required us to analyze one of two newspaper articles and then design original activities using them, but with a focus more on analysis of the assignment than the actual lesson plan. It seemed significantly harder than the other two assignments.
After turning in assignment one, our sections switched classes. My section of six students spent the first two weeks designing and teaching lessons to a group of 15 pre-intermediate students, but now we will be teaching a group of upper-intermediate students while the other group in our class will teach the pre-intermediate students.
Teaching the upper-intermediate students was a huge relief. They spoke more smoothly and understood more easily, allowing us to joke with them and talk with a much more natural cadence, in addition to having a much wider vocabulary available to design lessons with.
Though I failed assignment one, the corrections were easy and I passed my first lesson that week easily so I stayed calm. This all worked until Wednesday, when I realized I had assignment three, assignment corrections for assignment one, and a sixty-minute lesson due on Friday. I diddled around for half the night and ended up sleeping for three hours with very little accomplished.
It all hit me Thursday night. Our teachers saw that we had corrections, a lesson, and a new assignment due and showed sympathy on our poor souls by giving us until Saturday morning to finish corrections. I didn’t sleep one minute Thursday night. I remember working for two hours in the middle of the night and then looking at my computer and realizing I hadn’t typed more than a paragraph. Eventually I resigned to the fact that I would fail the assignment and decided to do it just well enough to fail without the teachers thinking I didn’t try. I focused on the lesson instead. It was a shrewd decision.
On Friday I failed my lesson and passed assignment three. I felt like a robot (epilepsy combined with three hours of sleep over a two-day period tends to do that) and got frustrated when students were unable to do the class lead-in. When the basic principle needed to teach the rest of the class went straight over the students’ head I knew I had a problem. I couldn’t argue about failing. My teacher told me specifically beforehand to not worry about the section which trainwrecked, but there will always be excuses. The lesson was terrible. After failing the lesson I was confident about and passing the assignment I was sure I would fail, I realized that I was a walking case of the Dunning-Kruger effect.
Failing the lesson made me open up a bit. I argued less. I was more willing to adapt my experiences to the CELTA style and I started to better understand the logic of doing things the opposite way than I had done them studying Education, formally and informally learning three languages, and teaching professionally at two schools. I hadn’t worked too hard on lessons beforehand because I was passing and wasn’t drinking the CELTA koolaid, but failing the lesson lit a fire under my ass. At the end of the third week of a four-week class, I bought in.