So you’ve made the decision to take a CELTA course. Well done. Not only have you considerably increased your chances of finding a teaching job anywhere in the world, but you’ll feel prepared and ready to take on your teaching role when you get there. You may already have some teaching experience, or maybe this will be the first time you step into a classroom as a teacher. Either way, it’s important to be prepared for the course. Here are some tips to help you not only complete but enjoy the course.
How to prepare for your CELTA course
Do the pre-course tasks.
The pre-course tasks are designed to get you thinking about different aspects of teaching including the motivation of learners, grammar and pronunciation, ways of eliciting meaning and what makes a good teacher. Complete these tasks, all of them! This will lead you to the next tip….
Refresh your grammer/gramar/grammar
You’re not expected to know all the English grammar inside out before you start, or even when you finish the course, but you are expected to know where to find out about grammar, i.e. how to analyse language in detail by finding the information in reliable, published materials. A fundamental knowledge before you start the course will stand you in good stead. The pre-course tasks include some questions about grammar and you will probably need books to help you answer them insufficient. I recommend reading A Concise Grammar for English Language Teachers, Tony Penston because it gives a really clear definition of the form and meaning of the language and suggestions of how to teach it.
Give yourself a head start with tips on methodology
The course will include lots of input on how to teach, but give yourself a head start by reading some of Jeremy Harmer’s How to Teach English. It’s full of tips relevant to the CELTA course and beyond, about classroom management, how to correct students, dealing with parts of speech etc.
Book, Books, Books
You will have, or will shortly be, given a reading list. Do not rush out and buy all the books on the list. Purchase isn’t knowledge! Your school will have a good selection of these books, if not all of them, but not enough for one book each. It’s a good idea to have some of these books for your sole use. You can, of course, buy them, but first, ask around to see if anyone you know has done the course and can lend you some books. Can you borrow them from a local library? Pre-order them and join the library before the course. Are they available second hand online? If so, make sure they haven’t been written in if they contain photocopiable material for the students. The books you buy will be useful in your future teaching career and remember you can’t scribble in the ones you borrow.
Tips for a full-time CELTA course:
1. Clear your schedule – no social life for 3 weekends only!
The course is intense. Think about the meaning of that word. We’re not exaggerating. Try to book the course for a time when you don’t have anything you have to do. No weddings to attend or important birthday parties you can’t miss. If you have a part-time job, try to avoid working during the course. You’ll be working full days at school. I mean FULL days. You’ll be at school from 9-5 and will then need to work 3-4 hours in the evening, at least. You’ll also have to do work at the weekend. If you organise yourself you will find that you might have some time to socialise. Clear your timetable and if you find you have time, see if a friend wants to pop out last minute.
2. Organise a quiet space to work away from school
Find a quiet area with a desk and chair where you can work in the evenings. You might be at home or you may be in rented accommodation or staying with friends. If so, let them know that you won’t be able to socialise much. If you’re at home with the kids, can someone look after them for a couple of hours each evening? Prepare your area. Do you like listening to music when you work? If so, organise your sound system or even make a playlist. You can probably print at school, but if you want to print at home make sure your printer is stocked with paper and toner have paper, toner. You may arrive at school to find 18 people using one photocopier. Plan when you’re going to print.
3. Try to be healthy and relaxed
The course can be quite stressful. As well as digesting information from input, preparing and delivering your lessons, completing observation tasks and filling in self-evaluation forms, you will have assignments to do. These will need to be researched. You may not pass your assignment the first time and need to resubmit it. Work can pile up and you can start to feel like your drowning. Be organised. Do work as it comes at you, don’t leave it until later. Tutors are there to help. Ask them questions, say if you don’t understand, don’t wait until you get home where your tutor can’t help.
Think about what helps you relax. Is it listening to music, watching an episode of your favourite series (don’t fall down the rabbit hole and watch the entire season though)! Maybe it’s taking a walk. Think about what you could do for 20-30 mins per evening or in the morning to help you relax, away from the CELTA world. Be practical and think about how you will achieve this.
Sleep! You need sleep to function. A well-rested brain will produce better work.
Eat well. Your brain needs good food as much as your body. If you’re feeling super organised you could even make some food to freeze, that way you can eat well without worrying about going to the supermarket or eating fast food. Otherwise think of quick, nutritious meals you can rustle up. Fresh gnocchi and fresh sauce with a side salad or green veg takes about 5 minutes to prepare!
Tips for the online CELTA course
Don’t forget…forget what?
You may be working a full or part time job as well as doing the CELTA course. Doing the online course gives you more time to digest the information you receive, but allows gaps between when you implement your knowledge, gaps filled with work, family, social life etc. Try to do a little every day to keep up your progress. Read a chapter from Harmer, or review your notes. This is especially important before you plan a lesson or write an assignment to ensure you include relevant information from your modules.
Think about practicalities – getting from A to B, so I can teach A-Z.
Plan how you are going to travel to school for your teaching and give yourself plenty of time prepare your materials once you arrive. Try to give yourself a 5-10 minute break before you start teaching. Walk around the block, make a cup of tea. Eat something to keep your energy levels up and your brain focussed. You will be at school until late in the evening. At least have a banana or an energy snack.
You are not alone
You might feel isolated. Get in touch with your fellow trainees. Meet up with them for a coffee if they’re nearby or start a Whatsapp group where you can ask and answer each other’s questions. Reassurance is a marvellous cure for worries. Tutors are there to help. Ask questions, there are no irrelevant or silly questions. Ask for help sooner rather than later.
Whether you’re doing the full-time course or the online course it’s important to enjoy the journey. The course can be very rewarding and you will see your progress at every step. Your tutors are very experienced and are there to support and guide you. Your fellow trainees are there to help you too. You are not alone. The CELTA certificate is your ticket to teach English to the rest of the world. It’s a wonderful qualification. It’s also a stepping stone for the DELTA course, a more in-depth qualification, which you may want to do after a couple of years of teaching English with the CELTA.
So, good luck and enjoy the ride. Remember your CELTA centre is only a phone call away if you have any more questions before the course starts.