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A Day in the Life of a CELTA Trainee ; October 4, 2014

Dear friends,

Now that I'm finished with the CELTA, I finally have some time to write a blog update! They weren't kidding when they told me it would be "intensive." Here's a little bit about what my life has looked like for the last four weeks!

The CELTA (Certificate in English Language Teaching to Adults) course follows the same syllabus worldwide. It was developed by the University of Cambridge and is very standards-based, so it's widely recognized as one of the best qualifications for TEFL teachers. Now my portfolio will be sent to Cambridge to be reviewed and to ensure I met the standards. So as you can see it is kind of a high-pressure course. You have to do well and show improvement over the 4 weeks, or you won't get the certificate! (I got the certificate, just don't know what "grade" I got yet.)

So in my CELTA, there were 10 trainees. There were four Australian men, one British man, one Canadian woman, one Colombian woman, and me and two men from the U.S. Both of our course tutors were British women. At first I was surprised that I was one of only 3 Americans, but I loved being part of such an international and multicultural group!

Something I didn't expect was that the coursebooks and most of our materials were teaching British English. Logically, I should have expected that—it is a Cambridge course after all! But boy, did we have some laughs over the differences between American, British, and Australian English. In Australia you brush the floor (not sweep), and you wear your thongs and sunnies to the beach (and eat Vegemite like I eat Nutella). In England you wear trousers, not pants (but let's hope you wear pants too). You don't "have" things, you "have got" things. But you "have" everything else (a nap, a shower, a rest, a coffee, a laugh...). Oh, and in America you actually say the "r" sound at the middle or end of a word (because nobody else does!) (I guess in Canada you "twist someone's rubber arm" too.) (And in Colombia, you laugh because that American just sounds ridiculous trying to say the r's in this tongue twister: "rápido ruedan los carros cargados de azúcar al ferrocarril.") (There. I covered everyone!)

So here in Bogotá, the course is at a language institute called International House. The foundation of the course came from teaching two classes of Colombian adult students who signed up for cheap English classes for 4 weeks. My 9 colleagues and I were divided into two groups of 5 for the whole course. My group started by teaching the Upper Intermediate class for two weeks, then we switched with the other group to teach the Elementary class for two weeks. Each of us taught 4 lessons at each level, for a total of 8 lessons. In our lessons we were expected to continually improve over the course. We also had 4 assignments: a case-study on one student, a grammar assignment, creating a reading lesson, and reflections for further development after the course.

So here's what a typical day looked like for me. I woke up at 7:00, got ready for the day, and walked three blocks to IH (so glad I live so close). Class didn't start till 10:00, but I got there early because I usually had assignments or lessons to work on. I worked in the computer room, or helped my colleagues get ready for their lessons. If I taught that day, I would be frantically printing out handouts, materials, and lesson plans to be ready for when the students arrived at 10:00! Then I would teach my lesson, along with one or two of my colleagues (depending on how long our lessons were). The English class lasted for two hours, so the students left at 12:00. Then us CELTA-trainees had a short break and came back for feedback at 12:15 or so. Our tutor gave us feedback on our lessons, talking with our group about what we did well and what we could have done better. Then we had our lunch break from 1:15-2:15. My colleagues and I ended up going to the same menu-of-the-day restaurant for all 4 weeks because it was cheap, and good, healthy Colombian food! Then we would go back to IH for two Input Sessions, one from 2:15 to 3:30, and then 3:45 to 5:00. In these sessions our two tutors took turns teaching us all kinds of things about teaching techniques, lesson frameworks, grammar, basically everything you can think of about teaching English. Then, from 5:15-6:00 (and sometimes later) we had Assisted Lesson Planning, when the tutors helped whoever taught the next day with their lessons. So after that I would go home, eat something small for dinner, and then get to work on my assignments or lessons for the rest of the week. A couple of nights before I taught or before an assignment was due, I was up till 2 or 3!

As you can see, it is a life-consuming course! Even on the 3 weekends, I had to work on lesson plans and assignments, besides do laundry, go grocery shopping, clean my bathroom and all that fun stuff. Luckily, at least once a weekend I got to go hang out with the friends I've made in Bogotá. The couple I connected with through Iris have introduced me to some great Colombian friends. Last Saturday, I got to go to a Christian conference called Passion and Compassion, about living with passion for God and compassion for other people. So I had a little time to hang out with friends, but most of the time I was busy.

I'm relieved that the CELTA is over, but I am also very satisfied. I learned so much in these last 4 weeks! Of course I learned about lesson planning, language skills, teaching methodology, etc. But I was stretched in more ways than I expected. I learned how to evaluate my own teaching, respond to feedback and criticism, give feedback to my colleagues on their teaching, and give detailed assistance to others for their lessons. I feel like I grew as a person, professionally, and I feel fully prepared for a real job as an English teacher. This was also such a great time of relationship building. My CELTA-mates and I got along well and became friends. I also got to know a few of the Colombian students. It was a joy to teach them.

That sums up my CELTA experience! My next step is to apply for teaching jobs and see what opens up. I'm going to stay in Bogotá for now. I can't wait to actually start teaching and put everything I've learned into practice!

~ Sarah

10:26 PM  |  

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Comments (1)

Anonymous Anonymous wrote:

This sounds like a challenging and rewarding course that will hopefully launch the first years of a fulfilling career in this and similar fields. Thanks for the great description. I hope you will continue with updates about your job search and life in Bogotá! ~~ William Franklin

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