4: Can teach, will travel

I have successfully completed more than half of the CELTA course now, and for the first time I am beginning to see light at the end of the tunnel! Having been cocooned in a shell of grammar and phonetics, it is nice to start thinking about what could happen post CELTA course.

This is the best thing about taking the CELTA. Yes, it’s extremely intense, yes at times it feels overwhelming; but four and a half weeks is a relatively short period in which to apply yourself. Then, you can browse TEFL websites and (to some extent) actually choose a job that suits you, working hours that suit, and even a country and culture that suits you! This is of course a very simplistic way of looking at it. To move to a completely new country and new culture with only four and a half weeks' working experience must be extremely difficult and testing. It will also be a fantastic experience.

My friend advised me that this, the penultimate week of the CELTA course, would be the most intense and this proved correct! This week I had to plan and deliver two one-hour lessons as well as to complete both assignment 3 and assignment 4. Doesn’t sound too bad; does it?...

Monday – Today I changed levels. I had to teach elementary instead of the upper-intermediate group I had been used to. This was a huge shock! After setting the context for the lesson I continued to give instructions on what to do for the first task. As soon as I finished talking, the room went completely silent. No one moved or spoke, I looked up to see 16 blank faces staring back at me, I could have heard a pin drop. I think I even saw some tumble weed blow past. My instructions were of course suited to students with an upper-intermediate level of English, but for elementary students they were far too complex. Another lesson learned; make sure your language is graded and appropriate!

Tuesday – Assignment 3 (assessing individual learners) had to be handed in this morning. I really enjoyed learning how to assess an individual although to complete the assignment took many laborious hours. This is of course a skill that will most likely be needed for an EFL teacher and so is well worth the time and effort.

Wednesday – Today was a half day to accommodate for extra work and the need to plan Thursday’s lesson. In the morning we discussed how to reduce Teacher talk time and increase and maximise student talk time during lessons. This is one of the main differences between EFL teaching and teaching native speakers - EFL students cannot receive lectures, they must be actively involved from start to finish.

Thursday – We had a grammar workshop this morning which was really helpful; especially for me as this is one of my perceived weaknesses. In the afternoon I taught my second elementary lesson (a functional lesson on "complaining" which was a huge improvement. More students turned up than I expected so re-arranging the room for a role-play proved quite difficult! The task took as long to set up as to execute! Never mind, its all part of the learning curve!

Friday – Assignment 4 (planning a lesson) was handed in today. We also had an hour and a half session on, yes, you guessed it, how to plan a lesson! This would have been very helpful before assignment 4 was set rather than after the deadline for handing it in! As I wasn’t teaching I also had a chance to watch one of my peer's lessons. This was very helpful to pick up tips and to notice any mistakes! Today seemed a little more relaxed and we even had time for a quick TEFL trainee beverage (or two) after class!

I feel that although I have two lessons to plan and deliver next week, with the 4 assignments out of the way, the bulk of the work has been done. I think that this week I have made real progress. I am not as nervous in front of the class and I really enjoy the teaching. Although the course is only a few weeks long, I am confident that I am well enough equipped to be able to teach an EFL class. This is what you need to start with; your effectiveness and proficiency will (hopefully) improve thereafter with experience.

I am now looking for an eight month (ish) teaching post in Thailand to follow the CELTA. If anyone has any advice on this, please e-mail me!


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