This post was written by Laura Greenwood, Cambridge CELTA Trainer, Denver.
The CELTA training course is an intensive, month-long program. While you are in contact with trainers and ESL learners over the course of twenty days, you will also be working over the weekends of the course on lesson plans, catching up on reading, writing papers (and rewrites), and also catching up on sleep. So plan for a month of CELTA, CELTA, CELTA, and tell friends and family this so that you set expectations.
Most candidates I interview tell me they know what intensive means, but few really understand the scope and pace of the course until they are in the midst of it. Educationally it will probably be the toughest four weeks of your life; at least this is what most candidates say.
Here are some tips for preparing for the CELTA as well as getting through the course:
1. Make sure your schedule is free and unencumbered for a month. We have a 100% attendance policy. CELTA is clear that attendance is important, “Candidates are expected to attend the whole course. Candidates should be advised that CELTA is a course-based award and that absence/non-participation may jeopardize their chances of successfully meeting the assessment criteria” (Administration Handbook V11, 2011, p. 12).
2. Do not add to your stress by attempting to do the CELTA program while working part-time, soon after a surgery, or soon after any emotional upheaval, etc. This is a serious, advanced level course packed into four weeks that requires dedication and concentration.
3. Make sure you are technologically smart; you will most certainly need to be computer smart. While you can handwrite lesson plans and papers, this simply eats up too much time, and time management is a key component of this course. You will need to bring a laptop and flash drive to the course. In addition, make sure that your word processing application is compatible with Microsoft Word.
4. Read through all of the documents that your trainers send to you before the course starts. You will use or have to be familiar with these documents for the duration of the course. Do the Pre-Course Task. This document from Cambridge ESOL will be a barometer of your English understanding and usage. It will pinpoint areas you need to brush up on for teaching English.
5. Try and get the course textbooks well before the course starts so that you can look through them and become familiar with their layout and general content. Admissions will provide a list of required and recommended books once you are accepted to the CELTA.
6. Be proactive and contact the BridgeTEFL Job Advisor Team (firstname.lastname@example.org) about the geographical area(s) where you want to teach. While BridgeTEFL cannot guarantee you a job, we do have resources and advice for teaching locations around the world.
7. As I said previously, time management is a key component of the course and so is organization. You will have to spend time each evening writing lesson plans and papers, and reading. Set a schedule for yourself, be disciplined, and come to class prepared.
• Lesson plans are due at 9:30 A.M. on the day you teach. Showing up without a completed lesson plan will distract you and cause worry throughout the day. It is next to impossible to write and deliver a ‘To Standard/Above Standard’ lesson plan that you try to write over lunch.
• You will receive many handouts and worksheets during the course that you will use for lesson planning. Your trainers will also reference these materials and ask you to get them out for review. You must organize this information so that you can locate it at a moment’s notice.
• Keep your handouts and worksheets in a tidy and organized notebook. It is recommended that you purchase a 3-5” binder and tab dividers to organize this material.
• In addition, the CELTA course requires that you maintain an accurate and up-to-date portfolio of graded lesson plans, observations, and written assignments. This portfolio is kept onsite for the duration of the course and then for a six-month period afterwards.
8. Focus on the process and incremental learning of the course, not the goal of a specific grade. The CELTA course is designed to build EFL teaching knowledge, lesson planning skills, classroom management skills, and confidence in the classroom. There are a number of things you can do to aid these characteristics of a good teacher.
• Be reflective about what worked and did not work in your classroom and how to make effective changes in your next lesson plan.
• Learn from successful lessons as well as those that were not as successful.
• Learn from what you see professional teachers and peers do in the classroom.
• Get to know your students and their learning needs. Make your lesson plan focus on your students, not you.
9. This course is a partnership in learning. Your trainers will expect you to keep an open line of communication with them and be respectful. Because the course is intense and stressful, emotions can skyrocket out of control. Do not let concerns or stress build up; talk things out.
10. We ask that you be respectful of one another; be cooperative and collaborative in all areas of the course; and be prompt for all course components, including input sessions, guided lesson planning, and teaching practice.