The CELTA pushed me right out of my comfort zone and forced me to use my brain in a way that I hadn’t for years. I loved it, every minute of it, even that terrifying first teaching practice. This was the thing I was meant to do! Of course the real training began the moment I stepped into a real classroom with real students (rather than fifteen baffled Poles smiling politely as I drew wonky clines, silently reminding themselves there’s no such thing as a free lunch). When I think back on my first few years of teaching there are so many incidents that make me cringe: finishing my very first lesson 30 minutes early and playing an excruciating game of ‘back to the board’ with absolute beginners; freezing in front of an IELTS class when I couldn’t remember what an auxiliary verb was; asking a Congolese refugee if she was going home for the holidays. I actually did that.
Although the job has been my true education as a teacher, what the CELTA did give me was a basic toolkit to plan and deliver a class. I’m still grateful for those tools (and the ones that came later in my CertEd) but, as Scott said in his post:
‘It took me years to outgrow the 4-week course.’
I’m not sure I’ve fully outgrown my CELTA and perhaps I never will. In my own teaching, there have been times when my classroom practice was a hundred miles away from the course methodology and it was liberating, joyous – as Kathy F commented on Scott’s post, I was teaching ‘as me rather than who I’m ‘supposed to be’’ – and yet tough, because at the back of my mind, the CELTA gremlin never stopped whispering: No no no, not like that. But now that I’m training / mentoring in-service teachers who seem not to have been given a toolkit at all, I find myself falling back on CELTA wisdom. A speaking class looks like this. Don’t forget to concept check. Always have a game up your sleeve in case you finish early. (Have more games up your sleeve than ‘back to the board’.)
It’s a thin line between love and hate. I’m ready to shake off my gremlin, but I wish my mentees had had the benefit of the course; it’s that adage of having to know the rules before you break them. Offering piecemeal CELTA-style workshops to teachers here in Borneo who in many cases have been chalking and talking for over 20 years might (I hope, I hope) be vaguely beneficial, but far less so than insisting all pre-service ELTers take the course. The structureless lessons, the meaningless activities, the overwhelmed teachers and bored, frustrated children I’ve seen time and again in the last 14 months: could they have been avoided with a CELTA-type toolkit?