Hey Daniel thanks for taking the time to do this. Now that the four-week intensive CELTA course is over how do you feel?
I feel great. There is a great sense of achievement in finishing the CELTA.
Good for you. You worked hard on the course. Can you tell me what were your reasons for doing the course?
Well, I was always very eager to do TEFL in a foreign country. After completing my degree I decided that I should do a TEFL training course. I spent a lot of time researching the different courses offered. The evidence was overwhelming that the CELTA course was the most attractive to recruiters, and the course that best equipped TEFL teachers with the skills needed to succeed in the classroom.
Can you tell us a little about the application process? What did you have to do?
Before the interview I took an hour long exam. Afterwards I had an interview with someone from the Language Centre. It was quite relaxed really. At the end of it I was offered a place on the course. I can remember that the heavy course workload was stressed a lot during the interview.
Yes! We do emphasise how stressful it is. What about before the course – were there things you had to do in preparation?
We were given a pre-course task designed to prepare us for the course. Also we were given a list of books that would be helpful pre-course reading. Reading one of the recommended grammar books will help you during the course.
Tell us about the first day? What was that like?
My over-riding memory of the first day is how quickly all the trainees gelled. I was quite nervous on that Monday morning, because I didn’t know what to expect from the next four weeks. That morning we played games which helped us learn each other names and to break the ice; these had a great effect. For a lot of the first day, the tutors explained the structure of the course to us. In the afternoon our class, of eleven, was divided into two teaching practice groups.
They say the course is really intensive. It is as relentless as they say or is it exaggerated?
Trust me, the course is very intensive. Trainees on the four week course are in class for forty hours each week. But that’s really only the start of it! I spent many more hours at night preparing documents needed for the following day. I put down 70 hours during each of the second and third weeks. That said, the giant workload that everyone was facing helped build great class comradery.
Yes, you guys were really supportive of each other. On the course you have to teach for a total of six hours? How does that work out?
The course is really built around those six hours teaching practice. During the course you teach every second day. For someone like me who had no teaching experience, these six hours were really useful. After teaching a class then you, your classmates, and your tutor discuss the strong and weak points of your class. Trainees take this advice forward to their next lesson. This close attention paid to how trainees are progressing is for me the best aspect of the CELTA.
And in these classes are the students ‘real’ students?
It’s surprising, but yes the students are very real. All students on our course were very friendly and eager to learn. They were from many different countries, such as Pakistan, Poland, Iran and Kosovo. They were very eager to practice English and tell us about their countries. I really enjoyed getting to know them.
On average how long did it take you to prepare for a lesson?
About five hours. As the course progressed I was better able to fit in an hour of preparation here and there, for example while commuting. That made the process much more manageable.
Did the tutors give you a lot of help in the planning stage of your lessons?
Yes, they did. On day one they gave us examples of strong lesson plans, by previous trainees on the course. Throughout the course, these templates were very useful. In addition, early in the course we had input classes that covered lesson planning. On our course the trainees also shared lesson plans with each other by Gmail, which was very helpful.
So, in the morning you have teaching practice and then in the afternoon you have input sessions? Tell us a little about those.
Yes, from nine to eleven trainees teach. Then, from eleven-thirty to one the trainees that taught that morning discuss their class with their tutor and the other trainees in their teaching practice group. In the afternoon we had classes with our tutors, in which we covered a a huge range of topics. But these classes are unlike standard university classes that are very ‘teacher fronted.’ During our afternoon classes the trainees were very involved.
What is the hardest part of the course?
For me, it was the lack of sleep. I had quite a long commute which didn’t help. But I was surprised that I could function well on 3 hrs or so a sleep a night. The course is so intense that trainees can learn a lot about themselves in only four weeks. I guess that was one thing I learned.
Was there anything you found easy?
There wasn’t anything on the course that many of us found easy. That said once you’ve taught a grammar lesson, everything else on the course might seem easy!
Was there anything you had not expected at all; something that surprised you?
I was surprised how prominent technology was during the course. Our group used Gmail heavily to communicate during evenings and weekends. This was really helpful. Personally, I only bought my first smartphone a few days before the course; this was a stroke of luck! I can’t imagine how I would have been able to organise myself without an app called Wunderlist, as well as the Gmail app. Finally, I know it’s a cliché but I was surprised by how helpful and generous my fellow trainees were. There were many occasions when classmates had done a lot of work on something or thought up really creative ideas, and chose to share their work and ideas with the rest of us.
What advice would you give someone preparing for the intensive 4-week CELTA course? Are there any books or websites you would suggest?
The best advice I have is to clear your schedule for four weeks. Especially during weeknights you can’t have demands on your time. If you can brush up on English grammar before the course than it will help, but most important is to clear your schedule for the four weeks!
And finally, now that the course is over what are your plans? How do you intend to use your CELTA qualification?
I have a job in Spain, so I’m looking forward to moving there in a few weeks!
Thanks Daniel. Enjoy your time in Spain. Keep in touch.
If you are interested in doing a CELTA course with us here at the Language Centre, you can find all information here.