The diary of a CELTA course conscript. Week One.

Following a term of dramatic cycling escapades, I was all ready to take things down a notch this holiday. But then I signed up for a course which most online reviewers affectionately refer to as ‘the most intensive four weeks of their life’.

They usually follow this with a list of other lesser-but-still-impressive feats they’ve accomplished, to emphasise the course’s intensity (getting a PHD, climbing Kilimanjaro, killing a griffin).  And then they throw in a jaunty mention of at least one fellow trainee who openly wept from the stress.

So far so good in the world of knowledge-sharing. ©decltype

Now, though I do plan to defeat my fair share of griffins at some point, the intensity peak of my life prior to CELTA was not so high. The most strenuous thing I’ve done is gone to Wales. Admittedly for a bit of gruelling Duke of Edinburgh hiking, but the misery I felt then was by no means anything like the stress-induced total anguish that the internet told me CELTA would be.

CELTA is a TEFL course. About two people reading this will be all over those acronyms, nodding away wisely. Hi guys, nice to have you.

For everyone else, I’m spending my holidays learning how to teach English as a foreign language. This is so that, when I go travelling after university to soak up the world a bit with my spongy mind, I’ll have a money-making side-line available everywhere I go. It’s not all bad being a native speaker of a dominant Western tongue.

So the first week down, and no doubt you’re wondering, am I utterly broken yet? No. The course is a bit of a bother, but only because it is very time consuming. I’m at the school 8.30 – 17.30 every day, with a mere couple of hours of stressful evening work here and there. But it’s not so intense that, for example, it could stop me from keeping up with Alan Sugar and his pesky potential acolytes on iplayer. No way. I make time for the essentials.

My only other major hurdle so far has been English. You know. My native language. The literature of which language I study for my degree. The language I edit for this newspaper. That’s the one.

If you’re scoffing derisively now, ask yourself one thing: did you know we had a past perfect continuous tense NOW DID YOU? Well now I do. And I know its form and its uses. (And if you’re wild, so can you.)

The little things native speakers never think about (sometimes affectionately dubbed ‘grammar’) hit me hard and fast this week and this looks set to only intensify as chirpy Marylin, my crazy tutor, looms ahead (in time this is; we’re thinking figuratively because really, Marylin’s far too sprightly to loom), clutching mountainous books full of phonemes.

But language trials aside, I’m really enjoying the course. The best bit has been the students, who we started teaching almost immediately. Day two of the course, and Marylin (and her trusty sidekick Gavin) decided we were ready to be assessed in action. Gavin had taught us some slinky teaching gestures, which include pairing students to work together with just a rhythmic flourish of the hands, a move which would look right at home in Willow where I thoroughly intend to implement it.

So, ready and loaded with some basic teaching methodology, they let me loose on the students: a charming group of eight Spanish speakers (and also Jonny who’s from the Czech Republic, but doesn’t let that stop him being one of the main jokers in the pack). I stumbled my way with enormous unstinting enthusiasm through the lesson, receiving encouraging smiles from my slightly bemused but highly entertained students, and I loved it.

Teaching is, so far, mint. Let’s hope this initial enthusiasm can outlast week two.

Read the following blogs in this series: week two, Top class magic; week three, A serious come-back montage; final entry, It's the final CELTA.

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