As Albert Einstein once said: “The only source of knowledge is experience”, and I cannot help wondering how right he was. I don’t think that his idea deals only with one field of knowledge or sphere of business, it’s just the opposite – his idea is amazingly overwhelming and highly applicable to almost every walk of life.
I cannot say that I am a total newbie in English language teaching sphere, but neither am I a guru of methodology. Five years of studying at the Linguistic University gave me, as I now understand, just a vague image of what teaching is. While being a student I worked as a tutor, which I liked immensely, so I was looking forward to where it all might bring me. It is a sad fact, however, that to be a teacher is not so prestigious nowadays. For most people, when they think of a teacher, what comes immediately to mind is an old school, dull classrooms and boring lessons, where students are mostly unambitious and indifferent to everything around them.
But it is all lies! Big and gruesome lies! Because where there is the will, there is the way: the way to the profession you want and to the image you create about it.
My three years as a University instructor brought me pleasure, honor, satisfaction, a bit of disappointment, but all in all it was undoubtedly useful and valuable. Five years of working for a language school where I taught general and business English to adults gave me the feeling of self-awareness, the idea about the lesson structure, logical bridges between the stages of the lesson, and I started to think that my lessons were quite good… but nothing more than just good. It was like a well-organized mechanism which worked some years ago and carries on working on its daily basis. On reflection, this was probably the feeling of professional stagnation.
But I had a very strong will, even a dream: I wanted to become an advanced EFL instructor, to steer clear from merely following the same scheme day by day, to stop using coursebooks as the only possible way of teaching. So one day I filled in an application form for CELTA.
Taking the Plunge
Before that decision I had heard a lot of talks like “you are paying just for the paper” or “after CELTA everyone follows one and the same pattern and loses his/her individuality”. I kept away from these misconceptions as I believed the way you acquire and apply the knowledge you get depends only on you.
With my heart open I state: that was the best practical teaching experience I have ever had. The scope of questions discussed and possible solutions which were suggested varied greatly and all together made me feel much more confident in the way I conduct my lessons today. It is hard to measure the importance of the course without mentioning the immense work the tutors do there: they teach, they guide and consult at every stage of your development.
During the course I faced different students: those who are really ‘on fire’ in the lesson, eager to absorb your every word, and the “don’t wants” as I call them – no desire to write, to speak, to cooperate, etc. But in any difficult situation I learnt and practised how to deal with it and tried to become a much better teacher, psychologist and person. The assignments given during the course helped me to concentrate on the essence of what had been taught and gave a chance to look back and to reflect on some points that needed improvement.
Inside the CELTA world I upgraded my knowledge of methodology, grammar, vocabulary, and worked on my teacher talking time. I clearly saw how important it is for a teacher to be more of an observer during a lesson, rather than to star on the stage all the time. CELTA teaches team-building and personal relation management: not only do your colleagues depend on you, but you also have to connect your lesson with the previous and the following ones. Moreover, I started to look critically at the contents of coursebooks, which earlier seemed to be the Bible. With every passing day, with every input session and peer observation I learned how to create, mainly to CREATE lessons from just an idea in my head, using a great scope of information, visual and audio resources and, of course, imagination.
To cut it short, it is impossible to express how much CELTA changed my mind, my viewpoint and my understanding of teaching in general. It has not altered my individual style at all, but upgraded the way I use it in enabling people to speak English and be happy because of their achievements and gradual progress. Though hundreds of books and great manuals can be read, thousands of internet sites looked through, they give just a hint, theoretical preliminaries to what can be presented in real conditions; they open the door a little bit, but do not fill you with the air of high-quality teaching which can be experienced and mastered only through practice.
So, I believe that one day each EFL teacher will download and fill in the application form for CELTA to enter this marvelous world of truly dedicated professionals.
- Working with new teachers: the things they say
- Developing Teachers Column – Moving into Management, by Sandy Millin
- CELTA Gone Techy, by Kateryna Protsenko
- Surviving your first year as an ESL teacher: what the CELTA doesn’t prepare you for as a newly qualified teacher by Lewis Waitt
- Discord or syphphony: tips for orchestrating your lesson by Jonathan Lewsey