I thought this was a great opportunity to get my thoughts down after having a nice relaxing weekend celebrating the completion of my CELTA course.
I wanted to write something that would hopefully put peoples minds at ease who are also new to teaching and who are starting their CELTA courses.
I started my CELTA with no teaching experience at all! I had worked for a language school as Social Organiser for a year before taking the course which I feel gave me a huge boost of confidence when standing in front of students as a teacher during the CELTA. My grammar knowledge was and still is pretty average to be honest. But the course allows you to look at grammar and you get some invaluable experience watching your peers and observing other teachers working with grammar. I learned a hell of a lot just from watching other people teach.
One important thing I learned during the course was 'eliciting'. Realising that teaching is not all about knowing everything and being some sort of English linguist for the students. It's really more about the facilitation of students, being one step ahead with the grammar and encouraging student-student learning (get answers, feedback, thoughts and ideas from the students). Once I learned this I became so settled and aimed to master this technique. (I didn't master it in 4 weeks but It's a great thing to take forward in your development)
You also learn some fantastic and important methods of teaching and class structure. We were taught the structure of skills and language classes which is now embedded into my skull (I will never forget it!). The input sessions are vital so be active, participate, ask questions and take vigorous notes. It's important to take notes in your own way, some people may learn or benefit more from taking notes all the time... others may only take notes when something sticks out. Whatever is right for you... figure it out early on. Some of my break through moments during late night homework sessions were because of one little note I took early in the week that could then be applied to my work.
It's important to realise early on that the tutors do not expect the finished product. You are in development all the time and will be for the entirety of your teaching career so don't feel pressured into thinking your not good enough. Our class had people with varied knowledge and ability, I found the people who developed most were those who took on feedback and aimed to improve lesson by lesson. This is what I believe they want to see... constant progression. You are responsible for this in a way... The tutors do pump you with knowledge and notes and areas you can improve.. but ultimately it's up to you to look at these notes when you get home and apply them into your next lesson. I made sure I did this every time I did a lesson plan. I would first look at my feedback and summarise where I needed to improve and how I was going to improve that area.
Another really beneficial aspect of the course is being criticised, understanding it, improving yourself. You will get notes, you will get slammed for something you didn't even think about or consider before your lesson. I found this difficult at first but then quickly realised the tutors are trying to help me. This is KEY! don't get pissed off with any notes... improve on them for next time. This is progression. If you come away from a feedback session with no notes for improvement or no criticism at all... you may as well quit the CELTA.
Another thing to prepare for is homework! I was up every evening until 2am doing lesson plans or assessments.. it was intense. I had to work harder than some people though because my grammar knowledge is not perfect. My class awareness is not perfect. Some people may have zipped through the first few assignments in a few hours but it took me longer! I put in hours of preparation for lessons which was always a positive part of my feedback. I recommend doing the same.
However, It's important to get some rest! I dedicated my Friday evenings to chilling out and my Saturday mornings to watching rugby on my computer until midday. Then it was BUSINESS TIME! I probably did about 4-5 hours work on Saturdays and 4-5 hours on Sundays. I preferred to take my time and spread it all out... you could probably zip through everything in a few hours but the quality may not be to standard...Depends how much you know!
One thing that was so valuable to me was my peers. I had a wonderful teaching group and we supported each other immensely throughout the course. I think our entire group was very friendly and everyone got on. during input sessions I think it's important to ask questions... some people weren't so vocal but perhaps that was better for them just to listen and take notes. But the important thing for me was 'I paid over a grand for this course... I want to get the most out of it'. I asked questions and got involved as much as possible during input sessions, which really benefited my understanding of things and my personal gain. The tutors are WISE so ask them stuff because in 4 weeks they will be gone.. NOW YOUR ON YOUR OWN!
Another thing to not get disheartened about is your lesson grades. I was lucky to receive a few above standards for my lessons, but I also received a few standard grades. Getting an above standard grade gets harder as the course progresses, the bar is being raised every day. The important thing for me was to try and address my feedback issues with every lesson, which I achieved. I think if someone gets a few above standard grades they can get shaken or upset by receiving a standard grade... but look at that positively. It's giving you a chance to improve or take something away that you can work on.
One last important thing to mention is looking for work. I love being prepared, so I took it upon myself to apply for jobs even before the course started. Get looking on the internet and start applying. There are lots of jobs out there for CELTA trained teachers so LOOK! Get your CV updated and looking fresh and sell yourself. I was offered a number of positions but have settled on an opportunity in Spain as my first teaching contract for a year!
Overall my experience on the CELTA was amazing! I could not recommend it enough! don't get put off because of your grammar knowledge or lack of experience!! I went in with very little knowledge about teaching, no experience teaching and very little grammar knowledge and I achieved a B grade!
Enjoy your course!!