Nadia Ghauri was one of the trainees on the online CELTA course I’ve just worked on. She’s one of two trainees who’s agreed to write about her experience (Yawen’s post appeared yesterday). I think you’ll agree that this post is useful for anybody doing the CELTA in the future, whether online or off! Thanks Nadia!
Make no mistake, doing the CELTA course ‘online’ did not make it any less ‘intense’! In fact, that will eternally remain one of the defining features of this course. Initially, when I was notified that the course would be moving online, I was a little hesitant. I was looking forward to meeting people ‘in real life’ and the physical classroom experience. I quickly came to realise, however, that it was becoming increasingly important to develop my skills in a virtual environment. No one can predict what the world will look like at the other end of the pandemic, including the world of EFL teaching. I realised it was important to be as open-minded as possible to adapting and learning about how I can do things from my own home. What’s more, the ‘virtual’ teaching skills and knowledge that I am now equipped with are, of course, transferrable to physical workspaces. The spectrum of lifelong communicative, organisational and planning skills will be useful for any career path that I pursue.
One of my biggest tips for doing the online CELTA is to keep organised and arrange your notes every evening. The CELTA trainee guide that is emailed before the course suggests 12 headings for notes. I naively thought this was a bit much…only to find myself adding ‘Assignments’ and subfolders too! Although I had a physical folder I did not use it much and just shoved in a few odd papers. Bookmarking also becomes your new best friend. Back your computer’s files onto a cloud or a memory stick as this avoids any scares when technology decides to mess with you. Having named folders from the get-go made it a lot easier to sift through my notes when doing assignments and uploading documents to the Cambridge ‘moodle’. It also means that when I start teaching and want to get hold of a useful resource, it will be easier to navigate through the abundant materials that the trainers generously shared with us.
Secondly, a huge tip is recognise that the virtual CELTA is both a personal and shared learning curve! You’re meant to be making mistakes from start to finish. I remember in week 3 when I switched to teaching the Upper Intermediate group I suddenly felt that the progress I had built up in the first two weeks had come crashing down. In fact, this was an integral part of my personal growth which also helped other trainees to learn about what sorts of things they should do or avoid. There’s also the notorious technical issues to which we have to adapt. I had my fair share of breakout room backfires but as a result I’m a lot more confident in using them and think they’re essential for group learning! The change in both students and TP tutor halfway through stretched me in new and different ways that further enriched my learning experience. It was also more reflective of real-life teaching because it’s inevitable that at some point you will teach different levels, have to work with new staff and adapt to different kinds of problems. Being exposed to different teaching methods and feedback styles widens our understanding of ourselves, each other and the demands of teaching. Spoiler alert – in week 4 there is no magical moment where everyone’s lessons culminate in perfection (though I did find all 5 of my fellow trainees’ final lessons marvellous). However, it was amazing to look back and see just how much progress we had made in less than a month! The CELTA course gives you the firm foundations for teaching English, but it for us to decide how we build upon these! Learning to teach is an experiential process that I don’t think ever ends. The trainers are there to help you and now I realise that sometimes when they pushed us, it was because they wanted to get the best out of us! I was so grateful for the time and support my trainers gave me, especially when I emailed them at some rather unholy hours!
My third tip is to take time out! When doing a virtual course there is an extra strain on us because we are sat in front of a screen hours on end. I found a number of great yoga videos on YouTube for stretching out afterwards. I also avoided screen-time as much as possible in my precious free time. CELTA also floods you with a lot of information day in day out. Our brains need time to process this, so try and get a decent night’s sleep! (Admittedly, I started having CELTA-themed dreams week 2 onwards!) On the weekends I would meet up with friends, go for a run or cycle just so that that I could have a bit of a breather physically and mentally. It’s also a great idea to have a WhatsApp group with fellow trainees. As we weren’t all physically in the same place, it was a lot harder to socialise compared to normal or know how others were finding the course. At the start in particular, I couldn’t tell if it was just me or not who was feeling quite overwhelmed with the workload. Reaching out to others and having a small chat with them beyond the training hours is a good way to build up a super support system and to boost morale!
One of the biggest things I have enjoyed is the opportunity to have met and worked with trainees and learners living across the globe be it Peru, Poland, Kyrgyzstan or Hong Kong! Meeting all sorts of wonderful people is definitely one of the biggest perks of doing the course. You may even be lucky enough to get 18 people across 3 different time zones singing happy birthday to you (at least we can blame bandwidth for it being a little off-key…!) Overall, the online CELTA has been an invaluable experience and I am excited to see where it takes me and my fellow trainees.
Nadia has recently finished her BA in languages. Fuelled by tea, she loves trying out new foods, meeting people and discovering new places, preferably all at the same time!
If you’re one of my other CELTA trainees reading this, let me know if you want to write too!