We all hear words of doom warning us of the hardships that lie ahead when we’re thinking about doing a CELTA.When the online Skype interviewer said that all really he wanted to know was if I thought I had the mental stamina, the penny really started to drop. He emphasized how demanding it was going to be and that you couldn’t miss any time even if you were sick. There was another group doing there CELTA at the same time as mine who got the flu after the first week. Normally you would be at home in bed for the week but they were all in, battling through fever and the shakes. Needless to say we all avoided them whenever they were about. On the first weekend of week one I went for a walk in a state of shock wondering what had just happening to me, knowing that things were only going to get tougher.
If you’ve paid the fee and are taking the plunge here are some essential top tips for making your journey through CELTA as smooth as possible. Keep No8 in mind on your first day. Go first at all costs!
1: CHOOSE ACCOMMODATION NEAR TO THE TRAINING CENTRE
I live miles away from the training centre and had to take the subway across town using transferring between three lines. I was more than envious of people that had travelled from other countries to do the course and had rented out accommodation nearby.
2: YOU HAVE NO LIFE OTHER THAN CELTA FOR ONE MONTH
Get into the mindset before the course starts that you will be living and breathing CELTA for one month including three weekends. You will get up early, prepare for the day and go to the training centre. As soon as you get home you will start work and sometimes may be at it past midnight. You will work non-stop through the weekends.
This means that in order to facilitate this rigorous schedule you need to forget anything else such as going out and socializing. I managed to watch one movie in three weeks split into three parts. Going out even for one night means that you will have to play catch-up big time throughout the week, something that your classmates will not be doing.
3: FORGET WHAT YOU ALREADY KNOW ABOUT TEACHING
I’d already done my PGCE and had been teaching for years. This didn’t help me one iota in fact it had the reversed effect. Re-valuating everything you know and learning new techniques is harder than going in with the freshness of a clean slate. I also noticed that one of the instructors behaved differently to me that the other students often belittling me in front of the class on a daily basis until I complained. Go in like an open book and if you have been teaching for a while, have a chat to the instructors and tell them you are really up for taking on board their ideas and learning from their experience.
4: READ UP BEFORE HAND
I had a huge reading list sent to me. Actually you only need a couple of them. Most CELTA students will have one of the Swan books tucked away somewhere. No doubt one of your colleagues who has already done the course will have one they can lend or a file you can copy. Here are a couple of links to pdfs you can download and print off yourself.
How English Works (Swan): click here
Oxford Guide to English Grammar (Eastwood): Super useful
Also useful reading:
Practical English Usage (Swan)
The Practice of English Language Teaching (Harmer): Super useful
How to teach English (Harmer)
A Concise Grammar (Preston)
Teaching Tenses (Aitken)
5: EAT WELL, EAT REGULARLY
Ensure that you eat well and think about how you are going to do this before the course starts. I was lucky as my poor wife agreed to do the cooking for me for the whole month, bless! Eating well is not just about keeping up your energy levels but also essential in maintaining positive signals to yourself that you are in control. Stock up on your favourite comfort foods in large quantities.
6: PREPARE A GOOD WORK-SPACE FOR THE NEXT FEW WEEKS
When you’re at home your work-space will be where you’ll spend most of your time.
- Having your own printer and guillotine is massively useful. The last thing you need to be doing is queuing up at the photocopier in the office half an hour before you do your TP. If you know you have to use the photocopier then you have to go in early. The same applies to using the training centre’s guillotine.
- Keep a calendar in your work-space with your deadlines marked on it.
- Organise your notes into separate files.
- Make sure your computer is running smoothly.
7: BECOME FAMILIAR WITH CELTA LINGO BEFORE THE COURSE STARTS
- TP: Teaching Practice
- TTT: Teacher Talk Time
- STT: Student Talk Time
- CCQs: Concept Checking Questions
- ICQs: Information Checking Questions
These are used in nearly every sentence when you at the training centre. Understanding and using them correctly and effectively are intrinsic to the course. If you are already teaching start practicing using them before the course especially maintaining lots of STT and less TTT.
8: GO FIRST IN YOUR TPs
Definitely a five star tip!
If you’re lucky your instructor will ask your class who wants to go first in their TP. If they do then put your hand up immediately. Going first in your CELTA has some huge advantages.
You will have to teach eight classes all under the watchful eye of your instructor and also your classmates who also have to give you an assessment. Your class won’t be doing all of their classes in one day. Normally three or four people get to do their TPs every day so if you are last you will have to wait a few painful days until it’s your turn. Going first means that you get the whole thing out of the way and you can sit back and relax until it’s your next TP.
The positive knock on effects of going first in your TPs are huge. Having gotten your TP out of the way you can focus on other things like doing your assignments or your next TP.
On the last week doing your TP first means that you have actually finished your CELTA four days before anyone else. The relief is massive!
9: SHARE & HELP
The first thing I noticed on my CELTA was how helpful my classmates were. The pressure and demanding nature of the course actually pushes people together. On my first weekend I was scratching my head as to how to start my assignment so texted my classmate Jason from New Zealand who had already finished his. In a completely selfless act he mailed me his completed assignment so I could take a look at his approach. This is how it went down throughout our month together. At certain times we all needed help either with work or on an emotional level until we finally coaxed each other across the finish line. Make sure you grab the number and e-mail addresses of every course member on the first day. A lot of courses will facilitate this in some shape or form.
10: COMPLETE YOUR ASSIGNMENTS AHEAD OF THE DEADLINE
Being able to do this is aided heavily by going first in your TPs which therefore allows you to have valuable breathing space. If you finish your assignments early you can then take them in for your tutor to have a look at and give you some feedback. You can then give your work some polish before handing them in. Remember, you do not want your assignment coming back for you to rewrite or change. Its extra work you could definitely have done without!
11: DO A GOOD LESSON PLAN
At the end of my first week I was in some serious trouble. My TPs weren’t going well and my instructor told me flatly that I needed to get it right. Luckily I had the weekend ahead so rolling my sleeves up I went to it and crafted the best set of lesson plans I could do. Following the most stressful Monday morning of my life (I still remember it in detail) the instructor credited me on my improvement and gave copies of my lesson plan to the rest of the class. Talk about confidence boosting!
Feel free to download the same lesson plan and use it if you’re having trouble with yours. Lesson Plan 3 CELTA pdf