The following is my review of my experiences at British Council in Kraków, Poland. I attended the CELTA program there in November and December of 2011. I’ll break things down into a few separate posts for easy reading, and so potential students of the CELTA can get a taste of this school, the tutors, and the experience in Kraków.
The CELTA (Certificate in English Language Teaching to Adults) Program
Before choosing a program to learn about teaching English, I investigated the plethora of options available to people interested in this career path. I discovered that many of the schools in Ukraine, where I intended to teach, accepted only the CELTA certificate as an educational background. This made my choice easy, but I cannot express how pleased I was with the program.
The CELTA is a very intensive program. As mentioned earlier, it only lasts for a month. Some programs are 5 weeks, and some are longer, but the one I took part in was only 4 weeks. They cram about 3 or 5 months of education into this 4 weeks, however, so those interested in the program should expect time for little else while engaging in the CELTA. We had only a few days off during the program, and a few half-days off. This means that a student of the CELTA has little time for anything but studying, preparing lessons, and actually attending the program.
This was no drawback for me, as I have attended other trainings in the past which had a similar pace. I do issue it as a caution, however, to those who expect an easily-paced and socially-friendly program. You won’t find it in an accelerated program like the CELTA. Even the longer programs, which take place over 2 or 3 months, would still be quite intense, and require a considerable commitment on the part of any student.
CELTA education is divided into several sub-sets of experience for the student. Input sessions are given, which will be a familiar style of learning for most students. These are like interactive lecture/discussions where students receive teaching from their tutors at warp speed. A different topic is covered on each input session, and in a four-week program, there are typically 2 of these per day, lasting 90 minutes to 2 hours each. Another sizable portion of each day is dedicated to teaching practice. This may be done in different ways, depending on the center offering the program, but it usually accounts for about half the in-center hours of the total program. Another sizable portion of each day is spent preparing future lessons, most of which occurs outside the center, or in the center’s computer lab.
The reading required for the program is considerable, and consisted of three books in the program I attended. It is best for the CELTA student to complete all of this reading in advance of the course, as there will be little time to complete it during the course. Different schools may require different reading lists, but the core will consist of books about the finer details of English grammar, how to teach English, and how to teach English grammar.
One advantage of the CELTA program over many competitors is the standardized nature of the training. That may sound odd, considering the way different schools may teach from different books, or the way different schools may organize the schedule of teaching practice, however, each CELTA program is routinely reviewed by evaluators from the Cambridge system (University of Cambridge oversees the program, and its administration at all schools). This is one of many reasons that employers actively seek CELTA graduates. They know what they will be getting: a teacher who received a standardized training approved by a major international university.
The program provides an exemplary background for teachers of English as a foreign language, and covers all the topics that any fledgling teacher will require to hit the ground running in a new career. It may be difficult, fast-paced, and intense, but it is also dynamic, interactive, and state-of-the-art. Students receive a top-notch primer on not only how to educate their students, but how to handle the business of managing a classroom, as well as planning their time to effectively teach each lesson.