We have been warned that the CELTA course is intensive. We have been supplied with pre-course information about timetables and requirements. We have researched it's ‘a level 5 qualification equivalent to the beginning of the second year on a university first degree course’ based on the Cambridge franchise and compressed into 20 days. Yet we didn't believe it all until the very first days... I personally planned a lot of appointments for evenings; one coursemate from abroad wanted to learn Polish in the meantime; another one chose couchsurfing as the free of charge accommodation and had to move every couple of days.
But there was no meantime. There was no spare time. In fact there was too little time for maintenance of vital functions like sleeping or eating. Some of us slept 2-4 hours per night. Some of us lived mostly on coffee and cigarettes. Agreed: it is NOT possible to imagine the CELTA course until it becomes your reality! But what a satisfaction you get when it’s over! And... somehow right after the last day you start missing it... That’s why I decided to press on a slow release button in my memory and write down these:
CELTA survival know-how tips from a May-June 2013 participant:
· Choose the right place – I don't know how many British Council institutions around the world are located like the one in Cracow, Poland. It’s situated in the Main Market Square, facing Adam Mickiewicz's monument, in the middle of Royal Way from Matejki Square to Wawel Castle, literally in the heart of Old Town. The building itself is magnificent, historical and antique with spectacular wooden ceiling and opera-style chandelier. As a Pole I was proud to present the best of Cracow to foreign colleagues (sometimes probably to bore them with bits of history and architecture;) every day just while stepping out from the shadow of BC gate to the sunny square full of life and music.
· Choose the right time – we were this lucky group which had one additional free day on 30th of May as it was the Corpus Christi holiday. It gave us some extra time to catch ‘a breath of life’ and overcome the workload shock at the pretty beginning...
· Prepare for challenging weather – due to worldwide climate change it's not foreseeable anymore. We had two weeks of very ‘English’ weather with cold showers or niggling drizzle all days and nights. Then tropical sun started shining and burning so that all non-residents experienced the full amplitude between 5 and 35 degrees Celcius.
· If you are a teacher in service – prepare for elimination of your worst habits and ‘throwing some of your sacred cows out of the window’. To me it was one of the most valuable teaching experiences: interiorizing that freer practice (fluency) is just as important as restricted practice (accuracy); that echoing is no good at all and that IWB is soooooooo useful!
· If you are a native speaker – you may feel pressure that you should know your mother tongue better... prepare to hear from your Tutor statements like this: ‘sometimes you think you know something but in fact you don't know. Don't use your brains – use a dictionary instead’;)
· Decide in advance if you want to sacrifice some of your healthy lifestyle for fun and socializing. I stayed in a place with no Internet access thus I managed to sleep 6-8 hours per night, completing all my coursework in British Council's computer room. But I missed a lot of night chats, f.ex. when at 4 am one of the trainees posted a question ‘where is word stress in this sentence?’ and received four totally different answers… I also almost regretted my non-smoking when during last week it occured to me how much relieve a quick ‘group cigarette ritual’ can give...
· Cooperate, not compete – I got the impression of a very unique group which every single member enriched so much! I felt the support and inspiration at all times: lessons, sessions, inputs, lunch breaks, evenings, mornings... On the last day we all managed to have farewell dinner together; then we all met in a night club again – even people leaving on Saturday morning! It was a special night of summer solstice, at which we gained our post-course catharsis by relieving all stress and pressure... I'll remember forever the moment when T. chested, mapped out and did demo of pole dancing or, after we drilled, backchained and practiced club's name (quite difficult to pronounce for non-Polish), A. asked me if the two ‘apostrophes’ indicated word stress. The answer was: ‘Yeah, and this line below shows intonation pattern!’
· Trust your Tutors – all of Cracow Celta Trainers are simultaneously charming while requiring the highest quality – and that’s what I call teaching mastership. I entirely admire their ability to follow every single lesson minute by minute while taking accurate notes and not only skimming but also reading the lesson plan for detailed comprehension... That's not only multitasking, that's extreme long and divided attention span! ‘Verba docent, exempla trahunt’ – I experienced plenty of good examples in this theory-practice-reflection CELTA cycle thanks to them.
Wake me at midnight and I’ll tell you with no hesitation what PPP TTT TBL or ‘thru-text’ mean. I feel I got it all: self-awareness, firmness and flexibility. Now I know: no pain = no gain; no suffering = no satisfaction! CELTA was worth it!