Jill Drower has been Director of CELTA courses at Hammersmith
College for fourteen years and regularly assesses CELTA courses
around the world.
Here are her ten tips to help you make your intensive CELTA course
an enjoyable and successful experience.
• Fill up your deep-freeze with easy-cook meals.
If you don’t have a deep-freeze, then buy lots of tinned
food, boil-in-the-bag rice and long-life milk. You need your time
for lesson planning.
• Spend time in advance of the course going through the
pre-course task given to you by your course provider.
The more time you spend in advance of the course really getting
to grips with what lies ahead, the more pressure will be taken
off your shoulders during the course itself. If you know your
grammar is weak, then pay particular attention to terminology,
so that you are familiar with terms like ‘modal auxiliary’,
‘article’ and ‘adverb’. Make time if at
all possible to read a book on methodology such as Jim Scrivener’s
Learning Teaching, or do the Cactus TEFL Pre- CELTA Grammar Awareness
• Do not neglect your health or your sleep
Don’t forget to eat fruit, keep up with vitamins, and make
sure that you get regular fresh air and exercise. Make sure you
get enough sleep – an extra hour’s preparation first
thing in the morning is much more productive than hours spent
late at night.
• Kiss goodbye to your social life for the duration and
advise your friends and family accordingly
Full time CELTA courses do not sit comfortably with important
family occasions, ‘benders’, or weekends in the country.
If your best friend is not prepared to re-arrange their wedding
to fit around your CELTA, and you can’t alter your course
dates, then say no to that special day.
• Try not to get hooked on how you are performing. Instead,
focus on your students’ performance.
This is particularly important if you get nervous in front of
a group of people, but it also helps to develop you as more of
a facilitator than a ‘look-at-me’ style of teacher.
• Try not to take negative criticism personally.
It’s easy to say, ‘leave your ego at the door’,
but criticism can sting, especially if you have spent hours preparing
your lesson or if you thought it went well. Just try to set your
own feelings to one side and put into practice the guidance you
are given. If you don’t understand the guidance, don’t
be afraid to ask for further explanation.
• Do not get disheartened if you see the words ‘not
to standard’ or ‘resubmit’ written on your work.
Many trainees have low points along the way. Your progress on
the course is not going to be at a smooth upwards gradient. Many
trainees who successfully pass the course have hit real lows part
• Do not spend hours the night before perfecting pictures.
These can be done a few minutes before the lesson. Spend time
instead considering the aims and procedure of the lesson by asking
yourself with regard to any particular stage of your lesson: ‘Do
the students have to do this in order to achieve the lesson aims?’
‘What exactly is the purpose of this stage/Why are the students
doing it?’ and, ‘What should the students do next
in order to achieve the lesson aims?’
• Communicate with others - both trainers and trainees.
Don’t expect to like everyone you come into contact with
on course, but do take the trouble to get on with them, and accommodate
personal differences of approach. How your teaching practice group
works together is one of the most important factors in having
a successful, rewarding and less stressful course.
• Do not make up your mind in advance about which input
sessions are of interest to you. You don’t know what skills
or information you may need sometime in the future.
You may have made up your mind that you will definitely never
teach basic literacy or children or business English, but two
or three years down the line, you may be very pleasantly surprised
by the new and very different career opportunities that present
themselves to you.
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