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CELTA Week 3: Why so serious?

August 7, 2009

Note from Rose: I wrote this during my third week and even though it has a crazed/bitter tone to it, I thought it might be informative.  Keep in mind that I wrote this in extreme stress, so take it all with a grain of salt.

If there were ever a nervous breakdown week, three is it.  The stress even seems to be getting to the tutors, which is awesome, because it’s not like the very fate of whether we pass or not rests solely in their hands, or anything.

I thought I should write a little bit about the very structure of the course, since there seems very little written about the nuts and bolts of CELTA online.

As I mentioned before, there are three tutors, and 6 students per each tutor.  For us, every morning we teach a class of foreigners willing to pay very little money to be experimented on by us.  I think we teach a total of 9 classes: two 20 minute classes (including the first week!), five 40 minute classes, and two 60 minute classes.  For most of week two and three, you alternate days: three people go Monday, the other on Tuesday and so on and so forth.

In the afternoon, we have classes in methodology, taught CELTA-style.  That means that there’s no homework, no lectures, no textbooks, no exams.  There’s a lot of “eliciting” and pairwork.  Now, I love unorthodox learning methods as much as the next guy, but when you’re cramming the amount of knowledge needed for CELTA, some textbooks and rote memorization would be really nice.  Or to put it another way, by week three, when a tutor asks about something that was casually mentioned in week one, you’d just about like to throw a desk out a window.

We also have four assignments, though the last one is pretty fluffy.  You have a chance to resubmit each paper once, and at the beginning of week 3, I had two resubmits to do.  You’re only allowed to completely fail one assignment, so it was really stressful for me.

The killer for me was the second one, which is where you have to fill out these grammar and vocabulary analysis forms.  You’re supposed to fill one or both of the forms for every class anyway, so I think this assignment is designed to get us to be masters at this analysis.

The problem I had was basically that I didn’t understand that the “form” part of the forms had to do strictly with technical problems in the structure of a sentence, like people using has/had instead of was/were, using the past participle instead of the infinitive+ing, or making contractions where you’re not supposed to.  Now, the confusing part was that if students made a mistake in form, they might also get the wrong meaning, as in one example where students might mistake the past continuous is actually the present continuous, and therefore they might not know when the event happened.

Confused?  I was too.  Fortunately I got a pass on the first assignment and a pass on my first try with my third assignment, so it seems that at this point, unless I terribly injure a student in one of my last lessons, I’m pretty much home free.  In fact, week four seems like an afterthought to week three.

But more on that in my week four post!

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