CELTA for the over 50s

We were delighted to receive this blog from 52-year-old Caroline, who recently completed her CELTA course at Manchester Academy of English.  Caroline highlights the value of the CELTA course for people of any age, demonstrating that it is possible to juggle the course around everyday life.  Thank you for sharing, Caroline!  

There are lots of excellent blogs about doing the CELTA course – how to prepare, what to read and ‘top tips’ for success.  However, with such a high percentage of CELTA trainees being relatively recent graduates – I thought it might be useful to offer the perspective of the older CELTA ‘trainee’.

In August this year my husband (56) mooted the idea of doing a CELTA – for professional reasons.  I (52) decided to join him, ‘just for the experience’, taking a short sabbatical from my business.  With only two weeks’ notice, a hasty Amazon search for the course texts and a two-day binge on the pre-course task booklet – we began.  ‘How hard could it be?’ we thought.  I smile as I type this now.  Clearly age does nothing to diminish our capacity for naivety.

So what did we learn?

Lots of stuff, about ourselves as well as ELT – but here are some of the headlines.

1. Enjoy your CELTA colleagues.

The age gap in our group spanned some 36 years and it was brilliant.  Yes, really.  These guys might be quicker on their toes around the text books, having only recently graduated – but CELTA is a great leveler.  It isn’t all about the theory.  CELTA is about teaching and teaching is a face-to-face, human activity.  Everyone stumbles, everyone stresses and eventually we all have successes.  It’s much easier to share those highs and lows with the other trainees than it is to try to go it alone, and actually it’s a whole lot more fun.

2. Listen hard.

People say that CELTA is very intensive and it is.  However, I think a better description would be ‘concentrated’.  It’s as if someone has taken a sixth month ‘standard lecture / work placement ’ type of course and rammed it into a bottle labeled four weeks.  The resulting ‘liquid’ is extremely concentrated and so if you take your eye off the ball for an hour in a CELTA course – it’s like missing a few days in a ‘normal’ course.  So, take good notes, organize them and stay focused.

3. Roll with the ‘punches’.

CELTA is a steep learning curve, but if you knew it all before you started, what would be the point?  Expect to make a few mistakes – but make sure you learn from them.  Nobody expects perfection.  This is a ‘pre-service’ course.  Keep your chin up and keep going.

4. Soak up good practice.

In a life lived long ago I was a primary teacher.  Not once in a four-year degree course did I see any of my tutors teach pupils in a classroom.  On CELTA you will see tutors ‘do their thing’.  Enjoy it.  Learn from it.  They’re excellent, experienced practitioners who make the job look easy (believe me – it’s not!).  Ask the questions you need to ask and seek their advice, they are more than happy to help.

5. Pace yourself.

Four weeks is actually quite a long time.  Make sure you eat, sleep and relax when you can.  We have teenage children, a dog, a cat, infirm parents and a business – we just juggled.

6. Stop and Think.

If you see CELTA as just a four-week ‘endurance course’ or a passport to travel – I think maybe you miss the point.  Take a look at the faces of your students – be clear what mastering English means to them.  For the ‘free students’ we worked with, who travelled and queued and worked without a break offering total concentration – learning English is about improving life chances and often overcoming adversity.  Think about that….

Mercifully, at the end of the four hard but hugely interesting and rewarding weeks we were notified that we had passed the course.  Huge relief.  The late nights, the beers, chocolate bars and the vitamin pills had done their work.

How great to be able to tell our circle of middle-aged friends that we have completed our CELTA classes.

How deeply worrying that so many of them think we now have a certificate in Latin American dancing…

At Manchester Academy of English we offer a range of CELTA options, including part-time, full-time and online courses.  For more information contact us here and a member of the team will be happy to help.

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