My CELTA Journey – Ana Maria Voichita

One important lesson that I learnt at the dawn of my career and that I would like to share with any aspiring educators out there is that knowing how to teach is a completely different kettle of fish from knowing what to teach. There are many people out there who feel like English is right up their alley, yet who break out in a cold sweat at the mere thought of being in front of a classroom. At the same time, there is a considerable number of individuals who already activate in the teaching department, but who have difficulty in maintaining good control over their classroom or who feel like what they have to say stirs little interest among young learners. 

This is because passing forward what you have learnt requires a completely different set of skills compared to the abilities that have helped you gain the knowledge in the first place. Think of it as a separate branch of science or as two distinct school subjects. Now, the good news is that learning how to teach takes less time than the intricacies you have been sweating over for the past decade. Of course, it is something that you will need to master and perfect over the course of your whole career, but the foundations can be gained in about one month – also known as the duration of a CELTA course.

Although one month may sound like a manageable amount of time, one thing you should know before signing up for this course is that during this interval your top priority will be learning how to teach – and learning how to teach only. The harsh truth is that you’ll have to temporarily part with your social life and focus only on becoming better at what is expected of you. The good part, however, is that at the end of these four weeks you will feel so satisfied and proud of yourself, so endowed with knowledge and packed experience that you will perceive CELTA as the only thing you could have helped you get where you are now.

My experience with this course is overwhelmingly positive – and has been so from the very beginning. When I decided to sign up for the course, I remember having been asked to tackle some English language challenges and talk about why I wanted to become a teacher. If you pass this stage, you will be asked to attend a short interview with an experienced CELTA tutor. In my case, I took the interview with Georgiana, a very light-hearted and easy-going person with a very logical and methodical way of thinking. I felt very secure and comfortable in her presence as nowadays this kind of professionalism and confidence in one’s abilities is a very rare sight. As people like her are the masterminds of the course, the entire experience is equally imbued with the same blend of discipline and expertise reflected by her personality.

If you are one of the lucky twelve to be accepted on the course, what ensues will be four weeks of difficult – yet very rewarding work. You will be divided into two groups – each group teaching a handful of intermediate-level adult students. They are usually cooperative and well-intentioned individuals and are the last thing you should worry about. Each group will benefit from the guidance of a tutor for two weeks – and then you’ll switch both students and tutors. Day one and day fifteen are perhaps the most valuable of all because during the first part of the day you will get the chance to watch your tutor deliver a typical English lesson. My first reaction seeing my tutors in front of the classroom was something akin to having my mind blown and thinking that never in my life would I be able to deliver a lesson with so much logic and self-discipline. The key here is to take as many notes as possible because they will help you mirror the same skills when it is your turn to teach. During the second part of the day, the two groups attend input sessions – where the ins and outs of teaching are broken down into pieces and every component of a lesson is carefully dissected and examined.

Starting day two, you and your group members will take turns delivering a 45-minute lesson on various topics and based on different types of methodology. At some point, you might even have to prepare a joint-lesson with one of your colleagues, which is why it is very important to maintain a good relationship with your group and support one another. They are the closest friends you will have on the duration of the course. During one week, you will typically deliver two lessons but bear in mind that for each lesson you will have to write an LP (Lesson Plan), an LA (Language Analysis), devise, create and prepare your own materials, time yourself, rehearse at home and then possibly scratch everything and start again. It is a very time-consuming process and if you want to do it right, you’ll have to be extremely organized and be prepared to sleep as little as a few hours per night. 

When it is your turn to teach, your tutors will minutely interpret your lesson and write down everything – I mean everything – that you have done right or wrong. They will break down your lesson and – depending on the quality of your performance – will provide feedback on what there is to improve and congratulate you where you showed good understanding of their advice. After that, you will receive your new task and the cycle repeats itself. As the course progresses, your tutors’ expectations and the standards by which you are evaluated will also increase, so your work will also need to be tenfold.

I personally loved the “criticism” behind my lessons because it was the only thing that helped me become a better version of who I was during my previous lesson. Your tutors will make sure to deliver this feedback in an objective and supportive way, but it is also your duty not to take it personally and maintain an open-mind. Everything that takes place during the CELTA course – the teaching sessions in the morning, the feedback that you get afterwards and the input sessions in the evenings is done to your benefit. It is a joint effort directed at you. Everybody will try their best to help you improve your technique and you will feel extremely supported and encouraged. If you put in as much work as the people who created this course, I promise you will have a valuable experience.

The CELTA experience is something you can benefit from regardless of your age or where you find yourself in life and I highly recommend it to anybody willing to learn about teaching or improve their technique. I personally felt rewarded and much more confident in my own abilities after taking this course. Moreover, I was prepared to enter a classroom and look my students in the eye without feeling nervous or insecure. For this reason, I am forever grateful to everybody who contributed to this state of mind and I cannot recommend this course enough.