Published on January 16th, 201313
10 Tips for Surviving the CELTA
No kidding folks, the CELTA ain’t no tiptoe-through-the-tulips.
I SWORE I’d never in a million years resort to writing one of those ubiquitous (not to mention more often than not, annoyingly vacuous) “10 Tips…” posts, but… What can I say? Reducing the arguably daunting business of taking on the CELTA, down to a nice neat “10” tips just seems like the kindest, most compassionate thing I can do for the poor souls fool enough to pay good money to endure a month of near suicidal toil (just kidding). But still…
Suffice one of my dear TL “protégés” of a “certain age” (and quick to add, I served merely as but a bitty cheerleader in her own laudable self-gumption to likewise pull up roots and buy a one-way ticket to this here g-forsaken rice-paddy) has recently arrived in HCMC, and shortly will likewise embark on the H-E-double-hockeysticks of the CELTA that – even a full year later, still makes me wince.
That the CELTA (which – unlike the copious variant “TEFL” certificates floating willy-nilly ’round the web – is strictly controlled and diligently monitored and assessed by representatives from no less than Cambridge U., no matter where in the world you take the course) is tough, is not at all in question. Indeed, dire quotes from a myriad of reputable sources don’t beat-around-the-bush about it:
“Although just four weeks in length, your CELTA course may well feel like four years. When people say that you have to put your life on hold for a month, they’re not joking.
If you live alone, fresh, home-cooked food is likely to become a thing of the past. Your bed may seem like a figment of your imagination. Friends may think that you have fallen down a large hole.”
But here’s the thing – it’s not so much that the CELTA is all that achingly difficult/impossible. Indeed, quite doable content-wise (I mean after all, if THIS dodderin’ lass can successfully pass it, then surely most anybody can.) But rather, the brutality of it is primarily due to the sheer INTENSITY of what all is required of you in just 4 short weeks. You’ll have seemingly an IMPOSSIBLE amount to do in what will seem like an IMPOSSIBLY short number of hours. And furthermore, the torment will seem especially acute for those who’ve not seen the inside of a classroom in oh, say… more than a quarter of a CENTURY! (Uh, ask me how I know.)
Still. The CELTA is very doable, no matter the freshness of your academic experience. It’s just that… first and foremost, you need to be ORGANIZED (alas, a state of being that the TravelnLass isn’t exactly on a first-name-basis with.)
And thus, when my fellow “dump-everything-and-move-to-a-rice-paddy” chum asked if I had any tips for surviving the CELTA, I wrinkled my (disorganized) forehead, and pondered what few tips had (in retrospect) helped me survive those intense four weeks of blur. Indeed, what had saved me from pulling my hair out, and (at one point) seriously contemplating giving up and calling it quits with but a few TPs (Teaching Practicums) to go.
Thus here dear (poor, pathetic, starry-eyed, soon to be bitch-slapped) CELTA takers, are a handful of tips that helped me get through the CELTA course last November:
10 Tips for Surviving the CELTA
|1.||Whatever you do, let go of any delusion you may have to being “perfect”. For you shall soon know the humbleness of feeling utterly stupid and inadequate. Seriously, you will learn that the crunch of time far supplants any hope of doing all but the most half-assed (by a perfectionist’s standard) jobs. Ask me how I know.|
|2.||Indeed, learn to embrace, nay adopt as your personal MANTRA, the following simple trio of words: IT’S.GOOD.ENOUGH|
|3.||Choose a private, halfway comfy room near your CELTA center. For the lack of commute time, and the convenience will serve you extremely well on those late nights walking home exhausted – with an evening, nay perhaps an entire night-long-til-dawn hunker planning tomorrow’s Teach Practicum (likely whilst simultaneously polishing off a 5 page Written Assignment, AND redoing the last WA for resubmission.)|
|4.||Indeed, do become friendly with the concept of MOTN (Middle Of The Night) for it will pretty much become your constant ally for the next 4 weeks.|
|5.||While you needn’t lug/buy your own printer for the CELTA, suffice that you’ll most certainly want to print (most likely in the MOTN see 4. above) all manner of stuff for your teach practicums (like a bazillion Google images for flash cards, word-gap exercises, et al.) Thus in lieu of your own printer, a bitty flash drive and a working relationship with the copy shop down the street is highly recommended. Go ahead, march right on down there (BEFORE your course begins), and mime your desire for a print or two. A little test-run so they’ll not cower in terror when they later see you approach with frazzled hair and glazed eyeballs, clutching your flash drive in such a way as to suggest a lethal weapon.|
|6.||Know thy laptop – both your word-processing and your graphics programs, intimately. Furthermore, know how to send email attachments to yourself (of aforementioned bazillion Google pics, partial lesson plans, in-progress Written Assignments, etc. whittled at school), so you can blearily continue to tweak them long into the night back in your dreary room – where that sweet bed that you so seldom use beckons so tantalizingly yet… elusively|
|7.||Stock up on fast foods like fruit, yogurt, ramen, snacks for late night dinners (when, as you stumble home in the dark from school, even the street food vendors will have long closed up shop). Oh and, get yourself an electric tea kettle, for morning instant coffee and/or see ramen above.)|
|8.||Forget everything you THINK you know about teaching, for teaching English to folks who are catching but 2 out of every 20 words you’re blathering is faaaar different than teaching in your native land. Rather, save yourself some grief, and don’t ever ask “WHY?” of your CELTA tutors. Trust that they know TONS more than you about teaching EFL.|
|9.||Take deep breaths… often. Chocolate’s good too.|
|10.||When things look darkest (and trust, it WILL seem inky d.a.r.k. at times), when it seems utterly impossible to do all that you need to do by the next morn. Know this: THAT is precisely the time NOT to give up. You CAN do this. It WILL be over one day. You WILL graduate, and pocket that sweet, internationally recognized CELTA certificate. And then…|
The entire WORLD will be your very own EFL oyster!
(btw, I’ll bet when you read the “10 Tips for Surviving the CELTA” title of this post – YOU thought for sure I’d blather at least a paragraph or three about the dreaded “grammar”, yes? Nope. Trust that you needn’t know the nuances of gerunds ‘n modals to sail through the CELTA. That will come later dear grasshoppers, later.)