What is discouraging after CELTA?

It is a spontaneous post and the list is obviously not complete, but here are some issues that drive me crazy.

  • I don’t have time to plan properly therefore I encounter various problems due to insufficient planning and feel awful exiting a classroom. Since CELTA it has been a couple of times when I was more or less happy with my lesson.
  • I spend all my free time planning and feel overwhelmed by work. My acquaintance has recently asked me what I do for entertainment, I said “Work or read Tweeter (that is about work as well)”. Frankly speaking, I love my job, I enjoy teaching, but sometimes it’s too much.
  • Tons of information including non-CELTA-way of teaching shatter my unstable foundation, unstable – due to the lack of proper experience. By ‘proper experience’ I mean lessons which I am satisfied with. That leads to the feeling of trying to build a house on wholes. I am trying to say that it would be brilliant if I could become confident in CELTA-way teaching first to be able to move on, but I can’t due to the reason listed above.
  • There occur situations which I wasn’t prepared for during the course. One of the most frequent situations with Russian students (don’t know about others but my colleagues and I face it) is that they stubbornly resist trying to infer meaning through picture/example/text/situation/explanation/whatever. For instance, I need to explain the word ‘a pot’. I show a picture and say ‘This is a pot’. Believe me, I found a good picture! And some students still claim to say what the Russian translation is. It’s like trying to break a wall using your head – painful and unproductive. Some of them even get angry and I know why – they feel insecure and afraid of looking stupid, they are used to different teaching approach (grammar-translation I mean). So what shall I do?
  • Small groups is another problem. I have a very limited range (if it can be called so) of interaction patterns when I have a group of 2 or 3 people. I am collecting ideas and tricks on how to vary interaction in such groups. It’s one more ‘entertainment’.

What were you anxious of frustrated about shortly after CELTA? Or maybe what are you disappointed with now?


23 thoughts on “What is discouraging after CELTA?

  1. I have never taken a CELTA, but I have had sporadic training – some formal and some less formal. One thing that I noticed is that the more I learn about teaching and about language acquisition, the less confident I am in the classroom. I question every choice I make and always wonder how I could have made a class go better. The more I learn, the less I know. But questions are useful and help me to grow.

    • Thanks for your comment, Anne! And there is another thing – the more I get to know the messier the thoughts in my head are and I can’t implement every great new idea I read about simply because I don’t have enough time or opportunity for that. In summer I don’t even have enough groups)

  2. Hi Kate. I think that the fact that you don’t always feel satisfied with your classes can only really be a good thing. I mean if you come out of every class feeling Wow that went great, then either you are the most amazing teacher in the world who has managed to crack what no one else has been able to do (I don’t think such person exists) or you are a teacher who has hit a plateau and feels like there is nothing else to learn.

    I would echo Anne’s comments above about the more you learn, the more you realize you don’t know. I remember when I first started teaching, after a while, I thought wow, I can do this no problem. But as I progress, I look back on those classes and think “did I really do that?”

    So, I think every time you come out of class thinking ‘that could have gone better’ you’re already a better teacher just for doing so.

    • Thanks for a very encouraging comment David!
      The most irritating thing is that I make mistakes in simple things like forgetting to give students time to read the questions and make sure they are clear before doing some perceptive tasks like listening.
      Maybe I should go to a classroom as a student myself to feel it from that side again.
      Does something about your teaching make you disappointed now? Or you’re calmed down and approach some problems cool-headed?

      • I still often make simple mistakes. Sometimes forgetting to do one stage of a lesson that’s really important for a later stage, and then only when getting to that later stage, do I realize that I made a mistake. But it is from these little mistakes that I find opportunities. Sometimes I’ll do something ‘wrong’ and find out that the lesson actually went much better than I thought. If every lesson always went to plan, I think it would actually be quite boring. So, I say when you make a mistake, treat it as an opportunity to learn and create learning. Perhaps you can ask the students how they felt about not having enough time to read the questions, so that next time, when you do give them enough time, they will see the importance of it and value the time, rather than just thinking it’s something they have to do.

        I do think that being able to go back into a classroom as a student is a great learning tool. Whether that’s a language classroom or otherwise. I like to try to base a lot of my teaching on teachers that I have had – even if the teacher was not so good (imo) I can learn from them.

      • Btw, reflecting on my mistakes which don’t concern planning I have noticed that most of them are made due to two reasons. Firstly, I tend to hurry a lot making everything superficial and, secondly, I either overestimate students’ knowledge or assume that they might be bored stiff with discussing all the meaning form and pronunciation stuff. With both issues combined I make a mess and don’t reach my goals.
        Actually, by answering you I’ve drawn up action points I’m going to work on) or at least I might notice myself doing it, calm down and teach properly.
        Hope it’ll happen some day.
        I actually in great favour of this idea that a teacher learns teaching through whole life. Sometimes I just need to see some results. Maybe I expect results too soon)

  3. Oh I completely agree with David. After a year or so teaching I was very proud of my lessons. I thought I was doing a fantastic job. But now I know more, I look back at those days and think ‘did I do that?’, why did I think going through everything so fast was helpful to the students? Now, even though I’m pretty sure I’m a better teacher (I got a good score on my teaching practise for my diploma), I much more regularly walk out of class and think ‘well that was rubbish’. I think it’s because the more you know you should do, and/or feel you should do, the more you question your actions in the classroom, and the responses of,the students. However, while this can make you feel bad sometimes, it means you actually care what happens in class and what you do, and that’s a good thing. Over time you will establish routines and activities in the classroom that you are happy with and planning will get quicker and easier.

    As for the response of Russian students to your new methods, we have the same here in Ukraine. Very often the students don’t want to discover the grammar rules, or as you say, have the vocabulary elicited etc., they just want you to tell them, they write it down and ignore it for then after. I try a happy medium. I’ll make them discover the grammar in a way I feel will help them with their learning, and then I’ll explain it on the board. I also feel it’s helpful to explain to students why you are doing what you are doing. Explain that it’s better for their learning. That they will remember it better if they work it out for themselves. It doesn’t remove the resistance, but they stop questioning what you do so much.

    Good luck. It does get easier. Promise.

    • Your promise made me smile and feel better) it’s fantastic that being stuck in something you can always find support of like-minded and more experienced teachers worldwide. Love the Internet!
      I also try to strike a balance between eliciting and explaining in front of the board with such students. Fortunately more and more people become used to communicative approach and this makes me hope for the best. It’s so easy to give up and slide to just explaining, you know, cause sometimes you’re kind of fighting with students. I tell them from time to time why it’s necessary but they seem to regularly forget it).

  4. I know exactly how you feel. My first couple of years of post-CELTA teaching were never, ever good enough. I constantly felt like a failure and a fraud, and wrote about ‘not being able to crack the code’ on one teacher’s forum. I’m reminded of some of the responses I got back then by David’s comment – it’s a GOOD thing you’re dissatisfied and searching for more…it’s an indication of sincere desire to grow and develop, to take whatever next step is there to take. The hard part is working that out and the fact that nobody can tell you what it is as it’s always unique!

    In my case I did another training course. I did the SIT TESOL cert. People wondered: why?? You GOT your cert!

    Ah, yes, I’d say, but that’s not the point. I need a redux, I need to reflect, I need fuel for MORE. And the course gave me that, really ‘sealed’ what I’d learned on the CELTA (the SIT does much the same content wise, with more emphasis on reflection) because I could fuse the training with more experience.

    Nowadays there are places like iTDi where you can do similar things, online. It’s a brave new world. And I think there’s a growing recognition that initial training is a same part of professional skills development; that the learning/acquisition dichotomy in language applies to teaching competencies, and that follow ups and post-course units are key.

    I’m juuuust getting started in attempting to design something like this, intended for post-CELTA teachers maybe 1 year in…to ask ‘ok, where’s all THAT now?’.

    It WON’T be where we expected. At minimum, we need to be able to process and accept that in a positive way do that our training – and the perceived ‘gaps’ between it and ‘the realities’ – doesn’t become, retrospectively, a kind of failed project.

    Does that make sense?

    • Thank you a lot Matthew for such a great answer.
      I have never thought of another initial course that might be a really good idea just to make some basic actions more automatic cause I’m not really that lost in the information to devise a decent lesson for my let’s say level. I mean having enough time I believe I can produce something I won’t feel ashamed of, something like what I did during TPs at CELTA.
      We were told there that we wouldn’t have enough time for decent planning in ‘real life’. I thought then, OK, I still know the basis, but now I realize that it’s hard to keep the basis from running through my fingers. Cause I still need time to think it all through.
      I have never thought about learning/acquisition in teaching. I should give this idea some thought but it looks really reasonable) why haven’t it occurred to me before?
      I believe something like regular reflective practice might help post-CELTA teachers to keep up. I wish I had started right after CELTA.

      • Something else to bear in mind is that your CELTA tps are more isolated than teaching a normal class. You can choose what to teach based in their needs. The lesson stands alone and the students are not working towards an exam so nothing needs reviewing. The students are getting a free course, so they are usually motivated and keen so classroom management becomes less of an issue.

        In the real teaching world, we have content from the book to cover which often doesn’t fit nicely into a lesson. We have to review content with students regularly. Both of these mean lessons can seem bitty. The students have been at work or school all day and are tired and sometimes grumpy. They are paying for the course so expect something from it, sometimes more than a teacher can deliver. Some want it given to them, without doing work themselves. Attendance can be sporadic so when you are doing something that follows on from a previous topic, it doesn’t work.

        All of this means that real lessons rarely go like our tp. It isn’t just the time we don’t have to prepare, but a myriad of other factors.

      • I see what you mean! I wish I had some real life training) Btw during the CELTA we once observed an experienced teacher and I remember myself sitting there and thinking why this girl was still working there cause the lesson, I thought basing my judgement on the course, was real rubbish.
        Maybe watching great teachers at work might help as well. I mean I’d like to know what they do in their classroom, how they prepare, what teaching habits they have etc.
        I hope I’ll find the ground soon and see some order in all the teaching mess in my head)

        Thanks for your interest and support!

    • I completely understand Matthew’s comment about feeling like a ‘fraud’. I used to regularly find myself thinking, I can’t believe I’m doing this. Even today, when I do a new course that I’ve never tried before, I get a similar feeling.

  5. Don’t worry you have the best ESL certificate in the world. We are looking for CELTA teachers here in Malaysia. You need to have a degree also though just for visa purposes. Plus you need to be in Malaysia for a face to face interview. as we require a demo lesson also. If you know anyone let me know.

  6. Oh, Kate, I have faced with this problem, too. It seems to me that many our students ( I mean, from post soviet countries) just don`t understand that the direct method can be more efficient for them and bring more progress in their learning. They are used to the classical grammar-translation method and when it`s not used in the classroom, they feel like I am doing something wrong in teaching))) So, I`ve decided to interplace some features from different methods as it all depends on the type of learners and the topic of the lesson.They like this option))

    • Hi Irina,

      sorry for the late answer – I somehow happened to miss your message. Thank you for your comment. That’s just what I feel. Actually, I often come across some articles which claim that CELTA-way isn’t the best in other situations except when you’re teaching a multilingual class. Moreover, I tend to agree with some of the issues. Sometimes it’s easier and less time-consuming just to translate a word and go further. But still there are so many benefits in eliminating mother tongue at lessons. I feel like I’m sinking in all this ocean of information on what is best in teaching, you know. Hope to reap some benefit from it.


  7. I did CELTA two years ago, and still think that it was the best month for me as a teacher. I learnt a lot from this course. Our trainers are wonderful teachers and people:)
    After this course I was teaching in Russia and using the techniques and knowledge I got from CELTA. First, it was hard when I used CCQs and ICQs. Sometimes my students had a facial expression as if I was so stupid, that’s why I was asking those questions. After a while, my students got used to these checking questions. Now they sometimes even copy my questions or instructions. When I tell them “work by yourself”, and then one student starts talking to another one, their partner says something like: ” work by yourself, no partners” 🙂

    • Thank you for reply, Anastasia! I wholeheartedly believe that the majority of students is able to adapt and accept new learning techniques and learn how to use them better. Or maybe even tailor it for what is convenient for them.

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