De James Newnham

14 mars 2017 - 18:56

Des élèves celta avec leur professeur

Twelve student teachers sat nervously eying each other in the foyer of the British Council waiting to start four weeks of intense and incredibly fulfilling training. We were about to embark on a life-changing experience. It sounds dramatic. It was.

Getting on the course

We had gone through a rigorous application process earlier in the year including an intense interview with tutors who, unbeknown to us, were to become our course tutors/therapists/surrogate parents/inspiration over the next month. I was one of these twelve eager beavers hoping to acquire the illustrious title of CELTA Graduate by the end of the month. 

The CELTA course is an intense, emotional and, ultimately, extremely rewarding experience. It involves a combination of theoretical learning and invaluable practical teaching experience. Assessment is based on passing four written assignments and six hours’ worth of teaching practice.

A new challenge

Fine-tuning the arts of time-management and prioritizing tasks became vital to getting through the course intact without becoming too overwhelmed. For this (very) mature student it was quite a shock to my system to get my academic juices flowing again more than two decades after graduating from university.

My fellow budding teachers and I were a mix of existing teachers wanting a teaching qualification focusing on adults, career-changers like myself and people wanting to gain another qualification in order to work as a teacher alongside their existing career. We were all seeking a new challenge in life. 

A typical day

Each day consisted of a morning Teaching Practice (TP) session followed by an afternoon of theory based input sessions. During the afternoons one of two tutors led these sessions and we were actively encouraged to participate in discussions, role-plays, brainstorming and the rest of the learning process.

I found the afternoon sessions quite daunting. How were we going to absorb all these great teaching theories in just four weeks and put them into practice? To be honest, we weren’t going to. This was just the beginning of our journey of discovery and path to becoming competent teachers. 

However, the intensity of the theory seminars was nothing compared to the morning TP sessions. These were, without a doubt, the most rewarding and energising parts of the entire course. We were divided into two TP groups and assigned a class of adult students (each group a different level) to “tag teach” for two weeks and then we swapped groups. Our students were genuine people wanting to learn English who were offered free classes on the proviso that they didn’t mind being taught by trainee teachers.

What about teaching practice?

We were thrown into Teaching Practice on the second day. Each of us had to plan a twenty minute “ice-breaker” lesson for the first class, using theory learned from the morning session. I was terrified. Sixteen expectant faces gazed up at me waiting for…something. The twenty minutes flew by and, by the end, relieved that I had got through my first class unscathed, I felt rather proud. It was a start. Each TP session slowly grew in length, up to a maximum of one hour, and tutor expectations also rose as the weeks went by. 

An integral part of the TP process was the feedback session after class. This was conducted by one of the tutors who had, along with our colleagues, observed our classes. It was an invaluable opportunity to discuss both positive aspects of our teaching, what needed to be worked on and any concerns we had. We analysed each other’s teaching methods and had the opportunity to discuss lesson planning for the following session. The most beneficial part of these sessions was the support and opportunities to discuss any aspect of our teaching that day and how we could continue to grow and improve as the course continued. 

CELTA may not be for everyone. Each day ended with the knowledge that we had hours of study and lesson planning lying in wait for the evening. It was regularly exhausting, challenging and frustrating. But, moreover, it was fun, fascinating and fabulously rewarding.  For those seeking a new career, additional certification or personal development CELTA presents a challenging and (whisper it quietly) highly enjoyable four weeks.

Biography of the author

James Newnham

I am a native Londoner and graduate in Latin American Studies and lover of everything Spanish, Latin American and now, French! I moved to Paris in to accompany my husband due to a job relocation. I'm now working for British Council as a part-time teacher.  I am becoming accustomed to the Gallic way of life and have a burning desire to discover the whereabouts of the best tarte au citron in the city.