Budapest – Part 2 – The Celta course
The Celta course!
I had read that the course would be intensive and challenging, especially for a grammar muppet like me. I had done teaching and training before but for filmmaking, a subject I know a lot about. Even though I am a native English speaker, I knew it was going to be hard work. The course took place over 4 weeks from 31st August – 26th September 2015.
So there I was playing the “get to know you” games, wondering what I had let myself in for. Had I made the right choice to leave the UK? Was I going to be crap at teaching? More on that later…
The course was split into 2 groups, AM and PM, with 12 trainees in each. Luckily I was in the AM group so I finished at 5pm. As well as myself, there were only a few other native speakers; 1 from Australia, a brother and sister from Switzerland, via the USA and Italy, a guy from London via Turkey and an Irish guy. The remaining trainees were Hungarian and Romanian.
I was immediately impressed by everyone’s language abilities, most people seemed to speak 2 languages but some spoke 4 or 5! I think this is great and really puts us Brits to shame.
The 1st week of the course was ok because we were helped into things and guided through our teaching practice (TP) sessions. I was still nervous about getting up in front of a group of foreign students and my peers.
Each lesson was graded and then you received feedback from the tutor and classmates. It was really useful to know where I needed to improve, in the next lesson I could try to put that into practice.
Some of my group taught on the 2nd day but luckily I didn’t have to teach until the Wednesday, which gave me more time to adjust to being back in the classroom. My 1st 2 TP lessons went ok, not brilliant but they both passed. I was told to speak slower and to grade my language, no advanced words or idioms.
When I started the course I thought I might be able to keep up with my running and cook properly to maintain a healthy diet. Unfortunately, that went out of the window after a few days and I pretty much lived on biscuits, crisps, crackers and bananas. I’m a celiac so finding gluten free can be a challenge.
By the end of week 1 I was already knackered but we still had 3 weeks to go! The 1st weekend I managed to get in my 1st and only run of the course and then slept, walked a bit and drank rosé wine.
The course was designed so we did our TP first thing in the morning, followed by feedback and then classroom sessions in the afternoon. Week 2 was the start of 2 weeks of stress. We had our 1st couple of assignments, which had to be completed along side lesson planning. As the week went on I realised I was going to be looking forward to the 26th Sept. Lack of sleep was starting to take its toll and my crappy diet wasn’t helping matters either.
As the week went on, lesson planning became more manageable but we still had the pending doom of the assignment deadlines. I decided to do a situational presentation for one of my lessons, inventing a story about running and falling over. Although I did introduce the idea of slipping on a banana, the students look puzzled and rightly so. I had run under time so I needed to fill and opted to do some choral drilling, bringing out the banana once again! Damn that thing.
The end of week 2 saw some of us let our hair down at the Buda wine festival. We had earned a break and we were having one! I was about to be let loose in amongst all that lovely rosé!
The festival was at Buda castle and in addition to wine; it offered amazing views over the city lit up at night. A great way to finish off the week, before launching into the final 2 weeks.
The 3rd week of the course brought more stress and more assignments. We also switched groups to a different teaching level. For the 1st two weeks we were teaching pre-intermediate but now it would be upper-intermediate. The plus point is that I wouldn’t have to grade my language quite as much as the students would be able to understand more complex language. The negative point is that I would need to prepare myself even more and learn how to teach more complex grammar.
At this point on the course, most people were looking forward to the end; returning to their normal lives and getting back a little of the lost routine. We had some deadlines this week, I’d been working on assignments over the weekend and was glad to hand them in and put them behind me.
Unfortunately I came down with a cold this week and felt pretty crappy when doing my TP lesson. I was off my game and just passed the lesson. A combination of lack of sleep, bad diet and generally being run down. Fortunately my 2nd lesson of the week went much better and I was over my blip.
The weekend was spent doing the 4th and final assignment, a self reflection and plan for the future. It was fairly straight forward and helpful in analysing my stronger and weaker areas. It’s fairly subjective so it’s not designed to make you fail, more to get you to think about yourself.
The weekend came and went and we were now in the final stretch, light could be seen streaking from the end of the long tunnel. On Monday we handed in the final assignment and then all attention was on our last TP lesson.
In previous weeks we had had guidance and the tutor would talk through our ideas with us. However, for the final 2 lessons we were expected to work more on our own. This makes sense as we could be let loose on a real class of students soon enough and we wouldn’t have a tutor there to help.
I needed to do vocab and grammar lessons this week. Oh joy! We had more freedom to choose the content so I decided to do a vocab lesson on describing responsibilities using a film crew as an example. I could make it personal and link it to my own filmmaking experiences and it was a subject I knew a lot about, which made it more enjoyable.
My final lesson was grammar, I wasn’t too happy with the way it went and was very critical on my self reflection. The tutor thought I had done a good job so maybe my own expectations had risen at this point. I’m never going to be super comfortable with grammar as it’s just not a natural thing to learn for a native speaker. Although I do hope I can get to a level where I can confidently deliver a lesson and not beat myself up about it.
We had an amusing input lesson on one afternoon, it was a class on how to teach young learners. We had to queue up outside the classroom and then play language games and generally act like children. I excelled at this! 🙂
For the most part the final week seemed like ‘wind down week’. We were getting close to the end and other than our TP lessons it was just tying up loose ends. We had some final admin and things to sign on the Friday and had the obligatory group photo. Then we finished about 12noon and could finally relax.
So was I going to be crap at teaching? Well I improved each time I taught and feel more confident delivering a lesson that I did before I started the course. I think, with practice, I could be a good English teacher.
It was an intensive 4 weeks but I met some amazing people who I will stay in touch with and visit in the future. I had no regrets about taking redundancy from my job and making the decision to move to an unknown country. It’s was a great experience that I won’t forget in a hurry.