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.
British Council, Kraków, Poland
Obviously, I cannot speak as to comparisons with other programs, except for rumors and personal reports I have read on the Internet, or heard from my tutors and colleagues in the program with me. As for comparisons with other schools, I will say only one thing. The cost of the CELTA outside the borders of the native-English-speaking nations is considerably lower than it is within native-English nations. If you want to get this certificate at a decent price, the best way to do it is by attending a school in one of the target nations. Affordable programs exist across Eastern Europe and Asia, where most new English teachers seek employment. The cost of a program in these nations ranges from US$750 to US$1300. The same exact program and certificate runs US$2400 and up in North American CELTA schools. For this reason alone, I would strongly suggest that any potential native-speakers of English who intend to become CELTA applicants seek a school overseas, rather than at home.
The British Council in Kraków has excellent technology in comparison to much of the competition, and in comparison to many of the schools in which a fledgling teacher may be asked to teach. Compared to what one might expect in a school in North America, they may seem a little behind the times, but compared to where any teacher is likely to find work, they are very advanced. They have a computer lab, Interactive White Boards in every classroom, a plethora of computer resources, sound systems in each classroom, a couple of photocopying machines, and all the technology that most teachers will need to successfully complete the program with ease.
Teaching practice sessions are well organized at BC Kraków. They had us teaching two 45-minute lessons per week, which did not put an undue strain upon us for preparation, and was considerably easier to prepare than a typical 90-minute or 120-minute lesson, as one encounters when working in this field. This also allowed for a total of 8 teaching practice sessions during the program, instead of the mere 4 that would be available if the practice sessions were 90 minutes in length. This felt like a balanced way to arrange teaching practice, and allowed each student plenty of time and experience with lessons to show substantial improvement over the course of the program.
The tutors at BC Kraków are exemplary teachers. They have taught English to foreign learners for many years themselves, and have an intimate knowledge of all the ups and downs of the business. They are compassionate and kind people, and always willing to lend a hand to the new teachers under their care. I was tutored by Magda, Declan, and Basia during my stay at BC Kraków. Though they definitely have their own styles of teaching and coaching, all three have considerable skill at giving feedback and at delivering the input sessions. I never felt less than totally supported by these three. They know their job, how to communicate with new teachers, and how to create a positive learning environment. In addition, they also know a great deal about managing classrooms and the Polish students, and were never the least bit hesitant to communicate the best methods of each to all the prospective teachers.
At the beginning of the program, there were a few fellow teachers that I was unsure about. When I saw them teach their first lessons, I wondered if they could ever become successful at effectively teaching English to their students. By the end of the program, however, I had complete confidence that every one of us could successfully teach. This is a credit not only to my fellow teachers, but to Declan, Basia, and Magda. The three of them helped turn even the most awkward and unskilled among us into decent teachers of English as a foreign language.
For all the above reasons, I would strongly recommend BC Kraków as an excellent location for any prospective teacher to take the CELTA program. As I said, I don’t know what other programs or centers are like, but I do know a few things about education. I have a Bachelor of Arts and four professional certifications. I have also studied in numerous other programs where I never earned a title or certificate. I have spent a great deal of my life in various educational programs. I have seen good teachers and programs, and incredibly weak teachers and programs. The tutors and the program offered at BC Kraków are among the finest experiences in all my years of education, and I have no reservations about making a strong positive recommendation for their program.