by Mary Catharine Breadner
Deciding to become an English Teacher was something that I had thought about and toyed with for many years. Working as a researcher in a busy corporate setting was rewarding and had many perks, but I longed for the opportunity to live abroad and work with children. I decided to finally take the leap in December of last year. It has been one of the best decisions I have made, and moving to Portugal has been the perfect place to land. I took my CELTA training in Lisbon, and within a week of completing I had several interviews, and landed my first job. I am currently working part-time teaching teens, adults, and business English, as well as a freelance teacher to small groups and individuals.
Needless to say, I am busy but I feel so happy with my decision to pursue this career
As many who have come before me have said, the CELTA training is intense but worth every hour. As someone who came into my teaching training with very little experience, my CELTA training was basically a springboard for me to navigate through this complex, competitive, and gratifying new career. I am obliged to acknowledge and appreciate the training, one-month post completion there was nothing that could have prepared me more effectively for teaching multiple levels in group and individual settings, at a school and privately. Juggling multiple timetables, lesson plans, and feedback for approximately 50 students a week. Needless to say, I am busy but I feel so happy with my decision to pursue this career.
In a recent issue of IH Journal Jamie King (2009) discusses the ‘boot camp’ approach of intensive courses, where he suggests that teacher trainers are tending “to train candidates to perform in the conditions of the course, rather than function in a more authentic teaching context” (King, 2009). I couldn’t agree more. In CELTA training, I would spend upwards of 6 hours preparing a 40-minute lesson. Fast forward 3 weeks, where I am expected to teach 18 hours a week, this would make absolutely no sense. What I can report from my own experience is that I have made the transition, and those 6 hours of prep during my CELTA training, guided me to a place that I feel I can make decisions about planning that given my pre-CELTA skills just weren’t possible.
I must also mention that I am an alumnus at a training center that offers monthly professional development seminars, and our trainee group continues to be connected sharing useful information and brainstorming. So, CELTA exposed me to a small portion of theory and practice, but more importantly it gave me an immediate support system which I now interact with on a regular basis.
CELTA training is intensive, but there is lots of time for self-reflection, and the training does help highlight areas of weakness.
Like many teachers, I struggle with timing and pacing, as well as eliciting as much student talk time as possible. Within my 5-week boot camp training, I did not make as much progress as I would have liked, but I did learn to self reflect. Within my first few weeks of teaching, I have had double the practical hours I had during CELTA, and I am happy to report that I continue to improve. The CELTA training is certainly not going to make you a fabulous teacher, but it will give you the skills needed to be self-critical and improve on your own.
Jamie King (2019), also discusses the overwhelming use of acronyms, concepts, methodology, etc. And again, I couldn’t agree more with his assessment. During my training, I was introduced to not only concepts from the ELT world, like TTT and Echoing. I had also been overwhelmed with CELTA lingo, such as CELTA 5, personal feedback forms, to name a few. It is a little overwhelming. However, exposure to the structure of the course, and all of the lingo are so important when you actually start working at a school, and with others who have also taken teacher training, you are all using the same language. And for those like me, who have never worked in a school, it is good to observe how things are managed and organized.
“The most important part of the CELTA for me was observation and self-reflection.
Aside from all the methodology, the practical teaching experience, and the tutor support and feedback. The most important part of the CELTA for me was observation and self-reflection. When I was first told about the amount of observation of other trainees, I questioned the importance. What could I possibly learn from other trainees making the same mistakes as I am making? It’s pretty incredible. I could actually see them making the mistakes, but I was also seeing how others managed similar situations very differently than myself. I learned so much from the other trainees, and that needs to be explicitly acknowledged.
Self-reflection is also something that often gets overlooked, but a few weeks away from my training course and the only observation resource I have is observing myself. This is the one thing that I am so grateful I learned how to do explicitly. A skill that I don’t think I would have given a second thought had my tutors not required us to practice each day.
If you approach your CELTA training as an opportunity to start something new than you have come to the right place.
Overall, yes CELTA is intense.
Yes, it is full of acronyms, and snippets of theory or methods here. But I wouldn’t have wanted it any other way. It has been one of the most productive skills-based training programs that I have ever taken, and it really prepared me for a new career. It is only a beginning, it is not the end of a journey. If you approach your CELTA training as an opportunity to start something new than you have come to the right place. However, if you want CELTA to be an end in itself, then you will surely be disappointed. And to my tutors, and others that teach CELTA, thank you for welcoming me to this new community.
Thanks for preparing me for an exciting and rewarding life as a teacher.
King, J. (2019). Training vs Educating; The dumbing down of teacher training. [online] IH World. Available at: https://ihworld.com/ih-journal/issues/issue-42/training-vs-educating-the-dumbing-down-of-teacher-training/ [Accessed 12 Mar. 2019].