CELTA – my experience

frustrated womanI knew well before hand it would be insane. I’d read blogs of grown women weeping in pure frustration the second week – for our class it was also true. It’s hard to describe the mental intensity and tenacity that’s required.  I almost walked out early…

What saved me was switching from the non-stop 4 week ‘intensive’ class to the weekend only ‘extensive’ class for working candidates (mostly teachers in our class).  See my earlier blog post.

CELTA (created and assessed by Cambridge University) involves teaching “only” 8 assessed classes – but the bar rapidly goes up and candidates are expected to substantially improve with each assessed “TP” (Teaching Practice).

TP8 LP RicardoOne constant theme is less TTT (Teacher Talking Time).  In this concept, the days of a teacher lecturing students are over.  The teacher is expected to elicit through activities, visuals, use of the whiteboard, etc, everything necessary to accomplish the ‘main aim’ and ‘sub-aims’ of that particular lesson – easier said than done!  The intent is for the students to do all the talking, and especially among themselves.

Ultimately, I started scripting my lessons (no more extemporaneous teaching/talking) – just stick to my script like a Hollywood movie.

Here’s my ‘official’ TP8 lesson plan (a pdf file about 20 pages long) submitted to my tutor – who assesses and follows along for the 1 hour class (before real English language learning students).  I loved the teaching part – but what drove me crazy was thinking about and filling out the first 4 sections for every TP.

If you look (Section 2), you’ll see I gave as one of my personal goals that I’d practice my lesson plan at least 4 times – I must’ve done it at least half a dozen times up in our Casa’s conference room.

For this last TP I could choose anything to teach so my main aim was to teach imperatives – under the guise of practicing giving and asking directions.  My students were all beginner English learners so everything had to be very basic communication and practice.

TP8 LP DonThere are 2 basic ‘productive’ (output) skills – writing and speaking. My primary productive skill work would be speaking, but I also had a prep (‘scaffold’ exercise) writing activity.

But did I use my ‘official’ lesson plan during class?  No!  Here’s the real lesson plan I used (pdf color file).

So, what did I learn from my last TP?  First, in checking for comprehension of my marker sentences, my learners didn’t understand the words ‘command’ and  ‘must’ so I had to go off script to clarify – not good! We are pushed to ‘grade our language’ to the level of our learners and I blew it on that score – I should have known better, but that’s what the training’s all about – to learn from our mistakes.

But the lesson went great (IMHO) and it was hard to stop the students during my last role play activity when my 60 minutes was up because they were really into it.

Finally, what was my tutor’s final assessment of my performance?  Check it out!  Actually, this first page is a summary because he makes comments, suggestions, etc, all through the lesson plan as it progresses.

Ricardo final assessmentBut I went from being close to walking to finishing strong!  And so did Leslie!

Now we get to continue our “next steps” in life – learning Spanish!

 

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One year progress …

CELTA graduation - rooftop - smallOne year later ….

Our journey of our ‘next steps’ for this stage of our lives has been over three stages for the past year:

June – December 2013: We leased up our house and our office for several years. Three huge garage sales later and many trips to the Salvation Army, we loaded the most essential and sentimental stuff into a 16 foot container that’s being stored in Ventura.

December – March 2014: We said goodbye to our friends in Ventura and had the wonderful opportunity to stay with my brother, Toby and his wife, Judy in their spacious home north of Sacramento in the foothills of the Sierras.

March 1, 2014: Our daughter, Michelle married a wonderful Christian man, Jim, whom we love, in the San Francisco area. We also had a great visit with our son, Marc who flew in from Honolulu for the wedding.

March 2, 2014: Don and I flew out of SFO on the red eye for Mexico City to attend a CELTA course put on by Cambridge University, learning how to teach English as a second language. We’ve been staying in a Quaker/Friends guest house/hostel called Casa de los Amigos.

We’ve had a fabulous time here meeting many people from all over the world and hearing their stories and hopefully touching a few lives as well. The Casa is involved with helping people who have come here with their immigration needs as refugees. We’ve made good friends with a young man from Cameroon and a couple and her cousin from Iran. Others we’ve met who’ve come through the Casa for a few days or a week are from the States, Canada, France, England, Australia, Germany, Nigeria, and the country of Georgia. Our lives have been enriched.

June 14, 2014: Don and I successfully completed our CELTA course!! Yay!! It’s been excellent but brutal. To have completed the CELTA course is something to be proud of. Our tutors were master teachers. We’ve learned so much. We’ve said we’d love to (tongue in cheek) take the course again for the excellent teaching and apply what we’ve learned.

This week has been good to catch up on naps and other stuff and get my batteries recharged.

We plan to take some short trips to towns we’ve heard a lot about: Puebla – two hours south of here and Queretaro and Guanajuato – two hours north of here.

Our next big step will be learning Spanish in an intensive setting (thanks for Rosetta Stone Michelle and Jim!) and we’re looking into several options that are available.

We’ll keep you posted …

 

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