Diary of a London CELTA-girl

14-May-2007

Week One

MEC Commissioning Editor and recent CELTA graduate, Jenny Lovel, writes:

‘Day one of the CELTA course at International House is strangely reminiscent of my first day at school. Perhaps it’s the new stationery I’m carrying, complete with OHP markers in colours I’ll never need (pink) and an impractical notebook. There are ten of us CELTA students in the class – three men and seven women, who vary in age from 18 to 60. I had expected everyone to be a recent graduate, staving off their inevitable move into 9 to 5 drudgery with an exciting few years spent teaching abroad, but my fellow students’ motivations range as widely as their ages. Some are taking CELTA before starting a university course; some for a change of career; and others are relocating abroad. The first thing our tutor does is give us each a letter from a former CELTA student that contains some words of advice. Mine opens with “Dear CELTA student, I pity you, for you have just signed away four weeks of your life”. The future has looked brighter.

CELTA isn’t renowned for easing students in gradually, and on day two my “teaching practice” (TP) group and I are teaching a two hour unobserved lesson as a carousel. I have to teach the students vocabulary relating to family relationships. I decide to draw a simplified version of my family tree, with a liberal dollop of poetic licence. My brother suddenly has a wife and two children, conveniently a boy and a girl. Add in a couple of family snapshots for that personal touch and I feel quite satisfied with my handiwork. A lesson is born.

Before the carousel I feel so nervous I would happily do a three hour job interview rather than walk into the classroom. But the name game we’ve prepared is good fun and puts me at my ease. We divide the students into five groups, and I teach each group for twenty minutes. I run out of material in the first group after fifteen minutes and have to adlib about family resemblances while the students look at me sympathetically. In the next group the conversation turns to vocabulary such as “my step-mother’s fostered children” and “my sister-in-law is pregnant” making me wonder if I have bitten off more than I can chew. But the two hours go surprisingly quickly and I feel I have really got to know the students.

Over the next few days we have input sessions in the mornings, in which we are taught how to teach, and then in the afternoon we take it in turns to teach a 40 minute lesson. In week one we are not expected to do an assessed lesson plan, so preparing for the lessons largely involves queuing for the photocopier and pasting pictures to coloured cardboard. My first lessons go reasonably well, but my attempts to use gesture, mime and enthusiasm make my lessons strangely similar to a one-woman comedy routine. No matter – I’ve survived week one.’

Does this remind you of your first week of CELTA, or did you have a different experience? How different is the CELTA from the DELTA? Leave us a comment.

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