Tuesday, July 27, 2010

CELTA Nightmares and Wonders

Let me start off by saying that I feel incredibly pretentious beginning to write something so ostensibly self-centered and actually expecting people to read it. Part of me wonders why anyone would be interested to know and would take the time to read about what I'm doing and what I'm thinking. But I have embarked on what looks to be a pretty amazing journey and I suppose there are some people who want to hear about it. However, I have decided to keep this blog as much for myself as for anyone else. Years from now I look forward to rereading my own words to re-experience the things I have forgotten. So if I get lazy and seem to have disappeared from this cyber world, feel free to harass me by any means you have.

I am a week into my CELTA (Certificate in English Language Teaching to Adults) right now. Let me start off my saying that this course is widely known as “boot camp for teachers.” I did my research and knew exactly what I was getting myself into. Previous students have said that every day makes them want to jump out a window. They start off on day one by telling you “You start teaching tomorrow, so you better be ready!” I have had six days of class so far and have taught during three of them. We spend half the day learning from our trainers about methodologies for teaching grammar, vocabulary, pronunciation, reading, listening, speaking, and writing. Then we have an actual class with real English language learners who we (the teachers in training) get to teach and practice what we’re learning. The last part of the day, of course, is a feedback session with our trainers in which we get to hear what we did well and what we need to work on. It can be brutal and they do fail people if they don’t meet all the standards, but they are very encouraging and genuinely want us to become great teachers. Nonetheless, it is very intense and one person in my group dropped out after day two, and another one was missing on Friday.

Contrary to the idea that I think some people had before I left, this is by no means a month long vacation in New York. Class is Monday through Friday 9-5. I come home everyday (to my fabulous studio in West Harlem), have dinner, write lesson plans, and go to bed. I made one exception to this routine last Thursday to go out and meet some of the teachers who I will be in Spain with. There are quite a few of us in the New York area, so we thought it would be fun to get together and start getting to know each other over some drinks, and it definitely was. A new friend who completed the CELTA last year said that she couldn’t believe I was going out on a CELTA night, but I had prepared and most of my lesson planning for that night was done already. In fact, my lesson the next day was my best one yet. My trainer scored me at “above standard” for the stage of the course. Maybe I should go out every night before a lesson!

So yes, the course is living up to everything I had heard about it, but I am loving every minute of it. Our students are amazing and come from such diverse backgrounds, but they all have one thing in common: a strong desire to learn the English language. I have had a chance to speak with a few of them, and I don’t think any other field of teaching would provide such dedicated students. They are so excited to be learning English and truly appreciate what we as teachers are doing. Being told that I’m doing a great job means something completely different than being told the same by my trainers, because the students are the ones who I’m teaching for. It was extremely touching.