Hindsight is a wonderful thing, so we spoke to some recent CELTA graduates who came up with a list of things they wish someone had said to them before they started their CELTA courses…
1. Do your pre-course task
This one might seem obvious, but it really is worth devoting some proper time to completing the pre-course task your centre sends you. It’s not a test, it’s designed to get you used to some of the things you’ll be expected to do on the course and it’ll help you start to work on upping your awareness of language and methodology. You’ll be encouraged to use resource books to help you complete the tasks and this is definitely worth doing – they’ll come to be close friends of yours in the near future, so you might as well get acquainted now!
2. Try to observe some classes
If you’ve never taught before, it can be really helpful to get an idea of what a typical language learning classroom looks and feels like. The atmosphere is often very different to the school and university classrooms we’re all used to, so asking your centre if you can go in to see a class or two in action is always worth it. If this isn’t practical, there are also lots of demo lessons on YouTube that you can check out to help you get a better idea of what to expect.
3. Get some experience working with groups
This absolutely doesn’t have to be teaching experience, but having some idea of what it’s like to work with a group of people can give you a real confidence boost going into the course. Whether this is voluntary work, a reading group, looking after some younger cousins or working collaboratively on a work presentation, getting used to working in teams and being in front of a group can make your first lesson seem just that little bit less daunting.
4. Clear your schedule
Listen when your interviewer tells you the course is going to be intensive. They’re not joking about 100% commitment. If anything, they’re underestimating it. CELTA is a unique experience and you need to embrace it entirely, no distractions. If you accept in advance that you’re devoting a month of your life to eating, sleeping, breathing and living CELTA then you’ll find it a lot easier to just throw yourself into the course and, as a result, get the most from it. If you’re going abroad to do the course and want some time to see the sights and explore, tag a couple of extra days on to the start or end of your trip so that you have time to relax and enjoy yourself.
5. Get some sleep
CELTA is exhausting, so going into it feeling rested and ready is really helpful. Even just making sure that you have a free weekend before the course to relax and get yourself into the right mindset can make a really big difference and mean you’ll be ready to hit the ground running on day 1. Particularly think about this if you’re heading to a different country to do your CELTA – whether it’s allowing a little bit of time to be jet lagged, or a day or so just to orient yourself and get to know where the supermarkets are, try to go into your CELTA course feeling as refreshed and relaxed as possible.
6. Swot up on your language awareness
CELTA isn’t a language course, so don’t make the mistake of thinking you’re going to learn all of English grammar while you’re there! Sure you’ll do some language focussed input sessions, and you’ll learn a lot through teaching and watching your colleagues teach, but knowing your adjectives from your adverbs and your perfect from your continuous before you start will help you to have a stronger foundation going into the course. Cast your eye through the reading list your centre sends you, and if possible, invest in a good quality grammar book to get you started – something with exercises for you to complete is usually a good way to focus your preparation.
7. Keep a notebook of teaching ideas
Not only will you see various demo lessons and observe your colleagues on the course teaching, but your tutors will also deliver input sessions in the way they’re encouraging you to teach. All these opportunities combined become a veritable mine of teaching ideas and taking a few moments every day to record the activities you see and experience will help you to build up a bank of resources that your future self will be forever indebted to you for.
8. Read your feedback
Now, much like the pre-course task, this may seem obvious. But by the time you’ve had your verbal feedback with your group, attended a couple of input sessions and then started to think about planning your next lesson while also writing an assignment, reading your written feedback from your tutor can seem pretty low-priority. This feedback is very tailored to you and your own development though, and is written in a forward-thinking way to help you with your next lesson, so it really is worth making the time to sit down and read it properly before you throw yourself into your next bit of planning.
9. CELTA is going to give you new opportunities and ideas
You might go into the CELTA course with a very clear idea in your mind of what’s happening next - a June CELTA to get you ready for those September teaching jobs in Italy, or a part time CELTA while you earn that last bit of money so that by the time you leave for your 6-month trip round South East Asia, you’ll have a qualification that lets you travel and earn money. There’s nothing wrong with either of those things, and they’re great options for some people. But remember that CELTA is going to open new doors for you and introduce you to opportunities you perhaps never even knew existed. So keep an open mind (and open ears!) to what’s out there… you never know where CELTA might lead you.
10. Enjoy it
CELTA is a once in a lifetime experience – you’ll meet incredible people and learn more than you could have imagined, not just about teaching and learning, but also about yourself. Yes, some days will be difficult and there’ll be times where everything just feels too much, but you’ll also have some amazing highs on the course and have the chance to do something genuinely life-changing… embrace it!