CELTA Confidential

Picture it: Washington, DC 2016. DC summers swelter, and the sidewalks shimmer with the heat. The air is close, and there is no wind to break it. The almost daily thunderstorm that we get isn’t enough to cool anything down, rather it causes the humidity to set, a fog that rolls in making the trees glisten with moisture. Luckily, unlike the rest of the world, the US loves her airconditioning so it isn’t too bad. The difference in temperature between in and out you do feel, as the two are quite extreme. That was the environment in which I began a foray into my own personal hell. At least, that’s what I thought at the time.

If you have ever learned a language, you know how hard that is. I grew up speaking both Greek and English at home and don’t remember the actual learning of them. I did go to Greek school and so remember some learning but it didn’t feel challenging. The same with learning French, though that was more formal and less osmotic. I actually had to learn rules rather than just absorbing the language as a child does. Learning Dutch as a 42-year-old, THAT’s a challenge. Actually, that’s almost impossible, but the CELTA was still harder.

When you speak and use a language implicitly, you just know when something in the language is used incorrectly by a non-native speaker. You know that it needs fixing and CAN fix it, but explaining how to another person who doesn’t speak the language is extremely difficult. Explaining why it’s wrong, and then explaining the correct way to use the language is hard. Studying for the CELTA, brought that impossibility home like nothing else. Learning a bit of Dutch comes close, but my CELTA was still a hell of a lot harder.

The CELTA is a month-long intensive course of the equivalent of 120 hours class time. That means that for 19 work days, we were in class for eight hours a day. In addition, there was a ton of homework. Four papers about ELT including a pre-course task that was 40 pages long ( and nearly soured me on the whole course),  the differing needs of learners from different parts of the world,  your observations from the classroom and your plans for teaching in the future. The nine hours of teaching actual students was the most difficult for me. I mean, I’m a writer. I HATE being the focus of attention. And standing up in front of people is my nightmare, public speaking is paralyzing. What was I thinking? For that month-long period, I was waking up at 4 am every morning to keep up with the avalanche of work that was the CELTA. It turned out that would stand me in good stead for what was to come. Wondering how? Don’t worry, that’s up next.

Well, that’s all she wrote for this Inkreadable Installment. Stay tuned, as always, there is more to come,

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