I have a feeling this post has been long in the coming, but here goes…..
Some months ago I wrote a long rant about the CELTA – well not about the CELTA per se, but about the inadequacies, both linguistically and creatively, that displayed themselves in SOME of the CELTA trained teachers I have employed; particularly with regard to teaching adults. I was roundly lambasted, but it didn’t change my mind.
I then reported, in my IATEFL reflection, some of the things that both new and somewhat more seasoned CELTA teachers had said regarding their CELTA experience. All who spoke about it, to a man and woman, said it was a gruelling, bruising, punishing experience that occasioned a lot of weeping, self-esteem bashing, many many sleepless nights and long bouts of agonising self-reflection. Now this in itself may be A Good Thing; I can’t rightly say. But when one considers what one goes through all that for, it must give one pause.
I did my initiation into ESL in South Africa and although I did not have to survive the rigours of a CELTA, I certainly paid my dues. On coming to the UK, I was advised – and I shall be grateful evermore – that my experience had put me beyond the remit of the CELTA and that I should do a DELTA – which I did. (But more of that at another time).
So, having done the unpardonable and dissed the CELTA unreservedly and in public, and then having heard some people’s reflections on their CELTA experiences, I have taken it upon myself to ask CELTA survivors exactly what it is that makes it such an ordeal. And here are some of the things I have learnt:
– lesson-preparation. “I did 12 hours of preparation to teach two modals.” Why? And did anyone tell her that she would not get any recompense for those 12 hours “in the real world”?
– lesson delivery. “I’m not sure what kind of learning experience my class had, but I had to stick to my timing or lose marks.” I am not even going to comment, except to marvel at how much pressure the trainee must be under to deliver a wickedly fabulous lesson AND stick to some arbitrary time schedule AND capitalise on learning opportunites as they present themselves…… and to ponder how long after the CELTA this state of affairs persists?
– volume of work. Far too much to read, absorb and apply in the time frame given. Some people I quizzed didn’t do the reading (“left it until later”, apparently), others were up until 2 in the morning trying to get it all done.
– essay -writing. Many of the people I asked about this are University graduates and they all found the essay writing a trial. Given that most University courses require the presentation, lots and often, of academically sound, well-researched, thought-provoking and intelligent essays, what is it that makes the CELTA essays so much more unmanageable? Some comments were – “I was told my essays were too detailed”, “I was told my essays were too academic”, “I’m not being specific enough”, “My essays needed to be expanded more.” What means all this, teacher?
– and last but not least, so many CELTA survivors feel insecure about their grammar. Is this because they “leave the reading until later” – when they have time away from essay-writing and lesson planning? I haven’t managed to nail down why it is that so many CELTA trained teachers feel shaky on grammar ground. Any suggestions?