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Monday, August 18, 2008

Another CELTAesque weekend

Yesterday, being a Saturday, I went to uni.

The previous day we'd been given the option of either watching a teaching practice video on the Friday, or of going in on the Saturday morning and watching it then. Four of us chose the latter option, as we felt that it would be a good way of making sure we got started on with the pile of work that we had to do for the course over the weekend.

It was a good choice (although I did feel for one of my coursemates who was a little the worse for wear, having only got to bed at 4.30am that morning!); once we'd watched the video we were able to spend some time working on our lesson plans and getting a little feedback.

Following that, it was off to the Information Commons. The previous day had seen us finally granted our full PG student ID cards, which in addition to entitling us to some great discounts at cinemas, restaurants and at online stores such as Adobe.com (85% off Photoshop CS3 extended) and Apple (free 3 year warranty + 11% discount), also give us access to the uni's wireless network, allow remote access via VPN, and access to all library resources. It's a real blessing (one tends to take it for granted until all your privileges are removed upon graduation!).

Once inside the (very quiet) IC, we set to work re-writing our first assignments (language analysis), penning our second assignments (a piece of reflective writing) and planning next week's lessons. It was good. I enjoyed working with my new friends, just getting on with it. and checking facebook.

Today's been pretty relaxed. I've done a little lesson planning, but also had time to do my own stuff. It's been good.

I'd say that the first week was definitely the hardest. It's not that the pace has slackened off all that much, but rather, we have a better idea of what's expected of us now.

This afternoon I was thinking about what I like about the course, what would make me recommend it to others over say, a cheaper distance learning course. It's something I wondered about before signing up, and I would have liked to have had some guidance to help me make the choice. CELTA is not cheap - there's TEFL courses out there that cost a quarter of the fee that we've paid.

I think if there is one thing that really sets it apart it's the opportunities that we have to observe qualified teaches, and then teach ourselves. We learn the theory, we apply it when writing our lesson plans, and we can then try it out on real students. That's followed by evaluation, which allows us to reflect and adjust our technique appropriately for following sessions.

The theory and instruction are of course vitally important, but without real live students to try it all out on, well, how could we really judge our progress or get feedback on where more work is required? I'm thinking now of distance learning courses, which strike me as being far less useful. I liken them to taking a course of driving lessons without ever getting in a car.

Of course I might be way off the mark - I've never done a distance learning TEFL course. But I know there's a lot of them about, and they're not necessarily all that cheap.

The other thing is the quality of instruction we're receiving. Our tutors have decades of TEFL experience between them, and they all have to be licensed by Cambridge in order to teach the course. They frequently monitor one another - and in a few days we'll have a Cambridge examiner coming up to visit us to ensure that the course meets their requirements.

Tomorrow, we'll be embracing a whole new bunch of students. The course requires that we teach at least two levels of students - our group has been teaching upper-intermediate until now, but as of tomorrow we'll be with a group of students who are far less proficient.

...I guess that means even less of my stunning sense of humour in the class, shame!

Anyway, best be off to bed. There's a long 3rd week ahead of us!

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