Two weeks have passed since my first day as a CELTA trainee at CELT Athens. Other than my personal reflections on my performance, I think it would be a good idea to share some of my views regarding the course:
(image from: http://entrance-exam.net/teachers-back-to-learning/)
Experience vs Inexperience
Teaching experience is not an admission requirement. The Cambridge English website describes CELTA as an entry qualification for new teachers. In my opinion, no matter how experienced one might be, if s/he has not received proper teacher training, attending a Cambridge CELTA course should be his/her immediate decision.
Being an experienced teacher myself, I must admit that I had various concerns before the beginning of the course. At some point, I even thought that the course would be very easy for me and that there was not much to learn. Needless to say, I guess, that during these past two weeks I have learned more things than during my last 8 years of teaching.
Contrary to my false preconceptions, experience could be a serious drawback. One needs to forget his/her “way of teaching” once and for all; and this is not an easy thing to do. S/he must take for granted that whatever practice s/he might have followed, in order to survive the CELTA, one must follow the tutors’ recommendations. After all, if one’s practice was fine, s/he wouldn’t have applied in the first place.
For the inexperienced teachers, on the other hand, the CELTA seems easier, at first, in the sense that they learn something for the first time (no objections, no preconceptions, no comparisons). However, they do have to overcome anxiety, lack of confidence, stage fright, uncertainty, and any other first-time-teacher feelings on day two, the latest.
Eventually, experience doesn’t make a difference. What matters is one’s motive and his/her willingness to learn and improve.
FT v PT Mode
One of the things one learns as a CELTA trainee is how to do a needs analysis. I think it would be a good idea if candidates did a needs analysis on themselves first, before deciding which mode to follow. Personally speaking, I wouldn’t do it on a PT basis. It is Monday, 1.08 am, week 3 is on its way, and I am still working on an assignments and my TPs; yet, this is the thing that makes me love it that much: its intensity.
However, there are others who cannot follow a FT mode. This doesn’t mean that they will receive less quality education. If one feels that a FT programme will not allow him/her to meet the course requirements, s/he should not try it. PT has its benefits, as well. For one thing, one has more time to reflect, study, and prepare for assignments, TPs, input sessions, etc.
Truth be told: When the British say “intensive”, they do mean it; be prepared to devote one month (24/7) to this cause. You may have hard days, you may struggle, you may cry, but it’s worth your time and energy; at the end of the day, you will feel stronger.
Individual vs Team Work
For me, this is the most important aspect and the key to make your life easier: your trainers and fellow trainees. These people:
a. are the ones with whom you will spend 9 hours per day sharing everything from attending classes to crying for no reason,
b. will say – to your face – everything that went wrong with your TP, (If they don’t, do not trust them) and
c. are the only ones who know what you are going through.
Respect and understand them.
2.00 am, Week 3 has already started!
If you are thinking of pursuing a career in teaching, or if you are a teacher that hasn’t received training, do sign up for a Cambridge CELTA course. There are many training centres around the world. This is an opportunity for all of us to step back, reflect, and become better professionals.
About the author
Angelos Bollas is a teacher and admissions consultant for a foreign language centre in Athens Greece. At the time of writing this post which we are reposting here with his kind permission from his blog Learning Lover, he was a trainee on our CELTA course. He is @angelos_bollas on Twitter