My CELTA Instruction Manual: Week Four

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 Four (Analyze your strengths and weaknesses and develop a plan to address them) due Mon, Teaching Practice Six (60 minutes, four students do it Mon and Tues) and Seven (60 minutes, done Wed, Thurs, Fri).

It was all downhill this week. We turned in our final assignment (assignment four) on Monday, one where we analyzed our strengths, weaknesses, and growth during the class, then had two more lessons. We could have sleepwalked through the assignment and after three weeks of lessons, planning, and feedback, we could have sleepwalked through the final lessons as well.

Most of us could have sleepwalked.

‘You have one more chance’ to get this right, a teacher told me before handing me back a resubmitted assignment (assignment one) I had failed again. If I failed the re-resubmit then I would fail the assignment; this seemed important to me at the time but we were allowed to fail one assignment and still pass and get the same grade that 80% of the class would get.

Another student was unable to sleepwalk through the lessons as well. He had failed two previous lessons and after one of them a teacher told him that if he failed one more, he would fail the course. He was also turning in lessons late and was so busy studying that he wasn’t able to sleep or hang out during the course. His final lesson was one of the worst I’ve seen, but through a Christmas miracle he still passed the lesson and the class.

After talking like a robot during my first week with the upper-intermediate students (week three), I was told to speak faster than I had with the pre-intermediate students and “lighten up, be yourself,” which usually works out poorly for me.

This time it worked out well. I joked with students, teased classmates, and generally made an ass of myself, but I also gave my two best lessons of the course. Even though I was pushing aside many of my teacher instincts on concept checking, it felt good to finish on a positive note. Even though I don’t completely agree with CELTA’s scientific approach to the art of teaching, I’m glad that I’m able to do a great job performing it.

On the last day of class, our teachers gave us advice and contacts to find teaching jobs. They approached the better students in private to offer them jobs at the Bogota institution but did their best to help everyone else as well. While looking for jobs I realized that I didn’t even want one yet. I needed all of December to take care of various medical needs as well as preparing to actually live in South America instead of just backpacking. Since the course ended at the beginning of September, I realized I couldn’t work for three months then ask for an entire month off. Instead I decided to go volunteer at refugee camps again until December. I tuned the teachers out completely and instead made vocabulary lists in Farsi and wrote sample conversations.

My final line from assignment four explains my thoughts on teaching after finishing CELTA:

In the short term, my hope is to volunteer again at refugee camps. I’ve felt for a long time like that it’s where I belong, but it’s unsustainable. With my new skills in teaching English I hope to support myself by teaching English part time, then offering free lessons to those entering Europe without the language skills to live comfortably. Or maybe I’ll live on a beach in Panama and teach night classes. How boring would life be if we knew what was coming?

If I have any advice for the CELTA course, it’s this: Don’t depend on your own teaching experience or training, just use the CELTA style and pretend you’ve ever done anything differently. And don’t procrastinate during week three. It’s a cold-hearted bitch.

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