Núria Massot, a Catalan native, recently completed with flying colours a four-week intensive CELTA teacher training course. Here she talks to me about her experience.
Hey Núria, thanks for taking the time to do this. Now that the four-week intensive CELTA course is over how do you feel?
I feel so relieved and proud of having successfully achieved the CELTA. It is a great feeling, a combination of both a personal and a professional success. I do not only have the certificate, but also everything I learned during these 4 weeks is fantastic, overwhelming.
Can you tell me what were your reasons for doing the course?
I was looking for new job opportunities in teaching and one of them was to teach English as a foreign language in Spain. After some research on different training courses and after asking for advice to some English teachers, I realized this certification was the best for me and it would open up new doors, especially in Spain.
Can you tell us a little about the application process? What did you have to do?
The process was very straightforward. First, I had to complete a 1-hour long test on my knowledge of the English language and then I had an interview with one of the tutors. In the interview, the tutor gave me a clear idea of how demanding the course was and how to get ready for it.
What about before the course – were there things you had to do in preparation?
Yes, there was a pre-task, which I had to do before the course, and I also read a couple of the recommended books. I also registered to Cambridge English Teacher where I took an online course, as once you register for the CELTA you get a free online course. It’s worth doing it!
Tell us about the first day? What was that like?
I knew I was about to start a big project and I was nervous. We started with some ice-breakers, which were great to get to know each other and to produce confidence, and then the tutors told us about the administration and planning for the course. After the lunch break (on the 1st day we could still fully enjoy our breaks), we were divided into 2 groups and started with our first input class about planning, as the next day at 9am we were already teaching! This was quite impressive.
They say the course is really intensive. It is as relentless as they say or is it exaggerated?
It is incredibly intensive. The tutors advise you it is going to be very demanding but I could not imagine that level of intensity. In those 4 weeks I could just focus on the CELTA, nothing else. My mail and my phone were just for my CELTA colleagues. FB? For those 4 weeks, FB meant nothing else than Feedback!
On the course you have to teach for a total of six hours? How does that work out?
You have to teach 3 hours with each level (pre-intermediate and upper-intermediate). In two weeks you have to teach 3 x 40-minute lessons and a 1-hour lesson with one level. In the following 2 weeks, you teach the same amount of hours with the other level.
Are the students ‘real’ students?
Yes, they are real! The students are very cooperative and give you a lot confidence, so from the very first class it is easy to create a good atmosphere. The students have very different profiles and nationalities, and they are all very supportive, willing to learn English and to enjoy your classes.
On average how long did it take you to prepare for a lesson?
It could take me about 5 hours. Lesson planning is really demanding, as everything has to be very accurate. You have to make sure you set up the appropriate steps for the lesson, you define both your teaching and personal goals, you implement the suggestions from your previous lessons, prepare your Whiteboard… A good lesson plan is fundamental for your lesson to succeed, so it’s worth preparing it well.
Did the tutors give you a lot of help in the planning stage of your lessons?
Yes, they did. The tutors are really supportive. In the first days, they helped us a lot in the planning stage, both before and after the lessons. As the course went on, the teachers continued to guide us but we were supposed to be more independent at each lesson. In the last 1-hour class, we were totally independent, although the tutors were available in case we had some questions.
So, in the morning you have teaching practice and then in the afternoon you have input sessions? Tell us a little about those.
We start at 9am with the teaching practice until 11am. Then, after a short break, we are back to class to provide feedback to the trainees that were previously teaching and to plan for the following day.
In the afternoon, we have input sessions. Although they mainly cover aspects of theory, they are all very practical. Every input session was helpful for different aspects of our classes: planning, language analysis, teacher roles, classroom management, etc.
What is the hardest part of the course?
For me, the hardest part of the course came after the first week, when I had a couple of assignments to submit, I was starting to plan my lessons more independently and I also had to plan my 1-hour lesson. Moreover, I was also getting very tired and lacking hours of sleep. However, once you get through it, you are already half way, nearly there. The important thing is to keep visualizing the end of the course, when you will get your certificate and when you will also become an English teacher.
Was there anything you found easy?
I would not say anything was easy. Maybe I found easier to explain some aspects of grammar and to give tips on how to prepare for the listening or reading tasks, as I had already experienced it as a foreign English student myself. However, the limited amount of time and the huge pressure we were under made every aspect of the course very demanding.
Was there anything you had not expected at all; something that surprised you?
Although in the interview I was already told about the good friends I would make, the comradeship really surprised me. I would highlight the strong relationship within the group and the great cooperation and support to each other at all times. This was also really important for us to succeed, one of the key elements, I would say.
What advice would you give someone preparing for the intensive 4-week CELTA course? Are there any books or websites you would suggest?
One of my suggestions is to do the pre-task work and to read a couple of the recommended books (one on grammar and one on methodology). It is not necessary to read them in detail, but it would really help you to get to know the terminology and to have an overview of the topics covered. You will need to refer to them in your assignments, so it is better to prepare for that in advance, as you won’t have much time to read them during the CELTA.
It would also be very useful to review grammar before starting the course. When you register for the CELTA, you are given a free online course on English grammar through Cambridge English Teacher.
Being organized and keeping all your notes and files in order is also essential.
And most of all, tell your friends and family you are not going to be available for 1 month and it might also be very helpful to have some meals ready in your freezer (no time to cook either).
And finally, now that the course is over what are your plans? How do you intend to use your CELTA qualification?
My plans are to continue teaching Catalan at UCC and to try to complement it with a part-time job teaching English in Cork. I am also planning to go back to Catalonia in the near future. Having the CELTA would definitely help me to find a job there as well as to keep improving my teaching in general.
Thanks so much for taking the time to do this little interview, Núria!