Want to teach English abroad? Doing a 4-week intensive CELTA (Certificate Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages) course is a bit of a whirlwind – often a life changing whirlwind but a whirlwind nonetheless. I remember it well. Facebook came into its own for me as fellow participants and I messaged back and fore with wobbly pleas for reassurance or advice at 4am. I needed food placed in front of me like a big baby before I remembered to eat. The weekend “off” was not a weekend off at all, but a blur of assignments and reading or studying for an exam. There are ways these days to make it a lot less stressful…
With people becoming more location independent or just making a late-in-the-day “I’m out of here” career change, the CELTA is becoming a popular path to a new life. There are still young graduates complete with backpacks eager for adventure, the traditional CELTA-clientele, but now it’s a much more diverse group. You are likely to have a class age range from 20 – 70, with people from all backgrounds. The one thing they all have in common is a desire to get this well-recognised teaching qualification to set them up on their new journey.
Since taking the plunge to teach English 6 years ago, it’s been a bit mad, in a good mad way. As part of my job, I’ve travelled to Japan, Serbia, Italy and Austria to name just a few. I’ve learnt about the world and people and cultures along the way. Some students and places have made a deep impression. As a family we’ve also been able to set off for a while in a campervan and be location independent.
I can live in rural France (la France Profonde or deep France it’s called, I think because there are more cows than people and there are fungi that only grow here in the clean air) with my family and sheep and hens and work. I’ve had the chance to exercise my mind. And I’ve turned out to be a hard-core geek when it comes to grammar, with a lump of people power it’s-our-language-you-prescriptive-grammarians thrown in. I didn’t really appreciate how much value I placed on language.
But the whole whirlwind experience of getting a CELTA needn’t be such a whirlwind, so I have found out in retrospect. They are few and far between, but there exists a more relaxed way to do a CELTA. It doesn’t stretch out over 10 or 12 weeks or a year like part-time CELTAs. It takes 5 weeks. That extra week would have made all the difference.
These are “slow CELTAs”. There’s a lot to be said about taking things down a notch.
One woman who puts her all into the language teaching profession and in particular teacher training is Jane Ryder from ESOL Strasbourg. She has devised a “slow CELTA” just like this in Brittany, France. That’s in between promoting the profession as vice- president of TESOL France.
I asked Jane to explain a bit about “slow CELTAs”.
Hi Jane, what gave you the idea to run the first “slow CELTA” in France?
I’d been talking with colleagues who are also CELTA tutors and it just came up as an idea that maybe it was time to break the mould.
Is it easier to pass a 5-week CELTA?
Gosh yes! The fact that you’ll be less tired and in better shape mentally and physically in the kind of environment we’ve created in Brittany inevitably makes a big difference.
And why choose Brittany?
I think it’s France’s big secret. Visitors know all about the ‘Midi’, but they don’t know about this vast territory in the west of France which is just heaven on earth if you ask me.
You’re an old hand at running CELTAs at your school in Strasbourg. Do you think you will attract a different kind of applicant to Brittany?
Yes, I think we’ll attract those people for whom CELTA is an enormous decision and who want to make sure they succeed and so who will go for this slightly longer course. I think inevitably we’ll attract the career changers, those coming out of a busy professional life and who will appreciate the wonderful countryside for their studies.
When did you become involved in teacher training and why is it so important to you?
I started specialising in Teacher Training in 2007 when I made it the subject of my MA dissertation research for Leicester University. I decided to go in this direction because, after years of teaching, and working with teachers, in France, I know the difference that professional development and training can make to your self-esteem and your chances of success out there. France is a difficult place to work in because the mainstream educational establishment is deeply conservative, resistant to change and very top-down. So, we have to stand up for ourselves as English language professionals if we want to be heard. You need to feel good about yourself and moving forward all the time, and training can do that for you.
Does it take a special type of person to become a good CELTA tutor? They must have to deal with quite a few stressed trainees?
I personally think the most essential quality is to be supportive at all times of our trainees. We have to be emotionally very balanced ourselves and able to be impartial and understanding when people fall apart. That’s why it helps if the trainees themselves can be in an environment where they are less tired because we all know how tiredness leads to stress.
And finally, do you have any tips for anyone thinking about moving into English language teaching?
Go for it! If you think you’ll enjoy teaching, do a course like this which is very practical to find out if you’re really suited to the profession, and then choose a working environment to start out in which suits your character and your own needs. Good CELTA centres help their candidates do just this; well, we certainly do at least.
If you are interested, there are places still available on ESOL Strasbourg’s 5-week CELTA in Brest, Brittany from 31 August 2015 to 2 October 15. Jane can be contacted either by email if you’d like to some more information at firstname.lastname@example.org or click on www.esolbrittany.com
Disclosure and addendum, Oct 2015: I am now involved in promoting ESOL Strasbourg and Brittany, but the high esteem in which I hold this training facility from personal experience of the training still stands. Also, I am happy to report that the first “slow” CELTA which has just finished was a huge success: 100% pass rate and a BIG thumbs up from the candidates about the extra time to get through the work.
There are 3 slow CELTA courses next year, the first one starting on 2 May 2016.