Ah yes, the first day teaching. I was lucky and got the advanced class as my first class although grades-wise, I would have done better to start with beginner and then ended with advanced when they expected more. Not like I had a choice.
We were expected to follow the typical commercial adult ESL series and plan lessons based on the book. There was a lot of photocopying involved and I rewrote quite a few of the pages to make them more visually appealing (my tutors liked that part of my lessons). The lessons started out short…about 20 minutes or so and eventually went up to 1 hour at a time by the end of the course. I was used to teaching 1.5 hours during my teaching practicum in university, but this was far more stressful and a whole lot more prep work than what I did for my TEFL cert in college. It didn’t help that it was during the deadly heatwave in Europe in 2003 where air conditioning is what they read about in books. On my course of twelve “candidates”, one fled after the first two days, supposedly after some scandalous remarks about her dress and accent, and two failed (one was a chemistry professor). The two people who passed were a Hungarian woman with a heavy accent and a jaded attitude and the other was a thumb-sucking 20-year-old who was still in school. Not quite sure what that says, but .
I was smart enough to go a week ahead of time to do the tourist thing and then stick around for another two weeks after I finished to do more touring around Europe to unwind. I think the stress would have done me in if I had gone straight from working here to doing the program after stepping off the plane. Having my bag stolen had a major effect on my lessons, in addition to staying with a family who turned out to have some serious race issues (and finding this out shortly before my bag was stolen). My scores went downhill after my second week when all this happened.
At any rate, it was a good experience overall and even after having spent years studying L2 acquisition from a linguistics standpoint in university, I learned a bit from my experience in London…such as don’t put your backpack down unless it’s chained to your ankle and just because a family has the same last name as you doesn’t mean they see you as anything more than a criminal deserving of police brutality because of the color of your skin…oh, and a little bit about planning lessons effectively so that there’s lots of practical time.
Seriously, though, I still use a lot of the planning and classroom management practices I learned and have applied it to teaching my language arts students. I still talk to one of the candidates, a Russian girl, with whom I became good friends. It certainly helped me get through my experience and we spent a lot of time reflecting on our time doing the CELTA.
And as for courses, unless you have an express reason for going to the UK to do your CELTA, such as aspirations to teach ESL in Europe, I would steer clear of the country. I thank the person who stole my bag with my Lonely Planet London inside. It was a sign from God that I would never have want to use it again.