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CELTA in NY: Week 1

July 11, 2009

In preparation for my move to China, I’ve decided to get my CELTA certification.  CELTA stands for Certificate in English Language Teaching to Adults, but we like to say that the C in CELTA stands for Cambridge.  One of the main reasons a CELTA is considered “the best” among English teaching certifications is because its monitored by the University of Cambridge.  There’s actually quite a lot of English teaching certificates out there that you can just get online, or don’t have anything practice or observation involved.

I’m doing my CELTA through Teaching House in New York, and one week in, here are my thoughts on the good and bad parts of the course (I’m sure they’ll change by week 2!):

The good:

  • The staff is really nice (most of them!)
  • It is good to just sit in a class and think about teaching English, watch English classes, and get some ideas for lessons.
  • I’m getting a good refresher on grammar, pronounciation (like a phenome chart), and the nitty-gritty of teaching (like learning styles).

The bad:

  • It’s extremely adult-centered, and a lot of it is just useless/overkill if you plan to teach kids.  Why isn’t there a CELTC?
  • There’s a lot of subtle differences between the CELTA method and the JET team-teaching method.  Not only are you not going to get any respect for your AET skills, you’ll have days where you feel like they’re not just criticizing your current practice teaching, but everything you’ve done in your time in JET.
  • There’s a lot of differences between teachers.  At Teaching House, we have 18 students, divided between three “tutors”.  They each have a class at different levels, and our 6 person “pod” rotates through all three.  My current teacher is extremely strict that we must never call on a student directly, just on their pairs or groups.  It was quite jarring to meet our next tutor, who said we MUST call on students individually.  It makes you wonder how much is made up, and how much is the CELTA standard.
  • The time management is not very strict, so your lunches get cut in half and you are sitting on the edge of your seat wanting to talk about your lesson tomorrow while spending and hour talking about your lesson in 4 days.  It adds to this weird boot camp mentality that makes everything seem life and death, when in reality, assignments are less than 1000 words and you have a week to complete them (this is on top of multiple lesson planning, but it’s a lot more prioritizing, than brutal overall amounts of work).
  • St. John’s University (where Teaching House is located) only has one copier and one printing card machine.  The prnting card machine is especially stupid, because there are tons of computers and printer, but you have to pay for printouts and the machine is in the library which is closed until 9am, when the class starts.  So if you run out of printing money before class starts, you’re screwed.

Those are my observations of the CELTA course so far.  Keep checking for future updates!

One week in, I wouldn’t advise it for JET alums.  As a teacher in Japan, I taught about 3-6 hours of lessons a week for two years.  In contrast, the students in my class have between zero to 6 months of teaching experience.  I wouldn’t have thought that would make a difference, but its really brutal.  I think it’s far easier to learn for scratch than to relearn what’s really become a habit.  If you bring any personal experience into the training lessons, they will break you in two, like a little child.

For now, I don’t know if it’s worth it.  Most of the schools I’m applying to in China are happy with my teaching experience and if anything, they only ask for one of those fake certificates.  I’ll keep you updated!

One Comment leave one →
  1. Kathleen permalink
    September 14, 2009 11:26 am

    Hello, Rose!

    I just found the Teaching House and would be very interested to hear any follow up you may have on your experience there. I am a complete newbie with respect to all of this with no teaching experience, but pretty sure I want the CELTA designation since it’s monitored/administered by the University of Cambridge. What else can you tell us about your experience beyond Week 1? Very curious!

    By the way, what does the acronym “JET” stand for?

    Thank you! Hope it’s going well…or better!



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