The Four Mental Stages of Taking the CELTA Course
It all starts with a vision – you, riding a rustic bicycle through Paris, a crusty baguette in the basket. Walking to work in South America, a patched-up tar road buzzing with mini scooters, curving past isolated beaches and pockets of jungle. Or shopping in a crowded, Turkish bazaar, a red silk scarf draped casually over your shoulders.
When you think of yourself living overseas, you often imagine yourself in a variety of nonchalant day-to-day situations, made all the more romantic by your exotic surroundings. Most of us have had the same expat dream – landing a well-paid, short-schedule job in a far-off land, with plenty of free time to soak up your new city, new culture.
Visa restrictions and bureaucratic hassles aside, there’s really only one way to live and work in a foreign country, and that’s to get qualified, and get a job as an English teacher.
So you’ve decided to take the CELTA course…
It’s not a decision you’ve taken lightly; everything you’ve read, and everything you’ve been told, all point to one word: intense. The CELTA course is a full-on, four week TEFL machine, churning hopefuls through one end, and spitting them out the other as completely qualified, more than capable English teachers.
You kind of feel like you’ve been chucked in the deep end of a pool, with nothing but loads of information to keep you afloat. Day two and you’re already in the classroom, nervously running through a pre-prepared lesson plan with expectant students, while you CELTA tutor watches on.
You struggle through awkward ‘getting to know you’ sessions and begin to drill students in verb forms you’ve only just learnt. All the while, you’ve got to remember everything you’ve been told about ‘classroom management’, arranging desks into horse shoe and circular shapes.
Your week nights are filled with study and you’re running on a few hours of sleep per day. Naturally, you’re feeling way in over your head, and you start to wonder if the teaching abroad thing was nothing but a pipe dream.
At the end of the week, you head out for a beer with your classmates. Not all are native; some have travelled from foreign language-speaking countries, picked up English, and are now trying to master the art of teaching it.
Speaking with your co-trainees, you start to realise you’re not alone; everyone is experiencing the same overwhelming feeling, yet hoping for the same outcome.
The bizarre TEFL jargon has started to feel like a second skin – you begin throwing the terms ‘past participle’ and ‘gerund’ into casual conversations like it’s nobody’s business. The next hurdle, however, is to explain these concepts to your students, without drowning them in technicalities.
That’s where the lesson plan comes in; a tightly timed framework for that week’s classroom practice. You spend the weekend desperately searching Google for ideas, none of which seem to fulfil the criteria.
There’s reading, speaking, listening and writing – four vast areas you somehow have to amalgamate into one hour of learning.
You start to realise how lucky you are, already knowing how to speak the language. Learning English is horrid!
This lesson planning thing is starting to make sense – you’ve figured out that you need to write it so that someone else could teach it. Your awkward silences and fumbling for ideas in the classroom are now few and far between.
The post-lesson feedback, however, is still equal parts supportive and tough. Your tutor and peers are trying to highlight the positives, but are just as in-tune to a few of your cringe-worthy moments as you are.
While you’re confident with the coursework and the technicalities, feeling at home in the classroom is taking time. The students all stare at you, pens poised expectantly, assuming you’re the knowledge source of all that is the English language.
Meanwhile, you’ve got to somehow turn the focus around. You see yourself as less of a lecturer, and more of a guide – assisting the students in their own discovery of the language.
Although, with all the information you need to transmit, you’re starting to sound like a broken record. Not to self: learn to shut up.
Last assignments handed in, classroom hours complete – you’re ready and rearing to wrap things up and get out into the real teaching world.
In the classroom, you’ve come to the realisation that you are, indeed, a person – not perfection. You loosen up a bit, and begin to realise that it’s no big deal that you also make mistakes.
The month-long roller-coaster ride is drawing to a close, and you feel a little like you’ve been reborn. You’d heard people describe it as more of a course in “professional and personal development”, but never actually believed it – until now.
With the CELTA course done and dusted (along with a few celebratory champagnes), you’re out into the real world with the most-recognised certificate under your belt, hours of classroom experience, and the knowledge and skills to take you anywhere in the world.