"The Ultimate Guide to CELTA": Book Review
Last week, I was contacted by Amanda Momeni about receiving a book about the Certificate in English Language Teaching to Adults (CELTA) course. For those that are unaware, the CELTA is a recognisable four week full-time (as well as nine week part-time) course for those that wish to pursue a career in English language teaching, either in their home country or abroad. It is recognised as an intensive course and puts all trainees through their paces. When I took the CELTA course nearly ten years ago, the Director of the British Council in Seoul mentioned it was the equivalent of a boot camp for English language teachers and I agree to a point. It is incredibly tough.
Anyhow, I received “The Ultimate Guide to CELTA”, written by Amanda Momeni and Emma Jones, and I was naturally curious about how someone would attempt to encapsulate the course within 113 pages. It was first published in 2013, is available in paperback as well as in Kindle format and is a wonderful example of two English language teaching professionals, Amanda Momeni and Emma Jones, authoring and publishing their own work. The fantastic drawings are by Kate Hoffmann and are plentiful throughout the book. I was immediately curious about the Glossary (p.107-112) as there is an alphabetical list of acronyms written down which trainees are introduced to during the CELTA course. For example, if you wish to know what TTT means, flick through to page 112. Want to know what ICQ means, go to page 110 to find out. It is a useful index of acronyms for trainees undertaking the CELTA. Looking at the Contents, there are 19 chapters throughout the book – including Glossary. Each chapter follows a methodical and logical pattern with readers being guided through each area of the CELTA course. The chapters are as follows:
- Meet the Trainees
- Course Content
- Getting Accepted
- Preparing for the Course
- Trainee Diary Entries Day 1
- Organising Your Time
- Input Sessions
- Lesson Planning
- Teaching Practice
- Self Evaluation
- Peer Observation
- Written Assignments
- Observations of Experienced Teachers
- The Final Day
- Trainee Diary Entries Day 21
- Five Years Later
In the first chapter, ‘Meet the Trainees’, the reader is introduced to four fictitious characters named Harassed Henry (a gentleman who has been made redundant and has decided to undertake the course), Fastidious Felicity (a lady who has followed her husband on his career and is now deciding to do the CELTA), Chilled-out Charlie (a chap who happened by chance to do the CELTA course after a gap year before university) and Anxious Annie (a lady who has just graduated from university and is seeking employment yet appears worried about the exposure that she will face during the CELTA). All names include an imaginative adjective preceding their name and you can start to imagine the different type of people that CELTA trainers may encounter during the course.
Chapters two, ‘Course Content’, is quite short having a fictitious conversation between Harassed Henry and his wife, Pleasant Pat about the content of the CELTA, the criteria for passing as well as what the course includes. The fourth chapter, ‘Getting Accepted’, guides the reader through basic questions for potential CELTA candidates to consider, such as “Am I fully committed, and able to dedicate 100% of my time to a full-time course?” or “Have I got the PC skills to manage basic programmes, such as Word?”. It offers possible trainees the chance to reflect on whether the CELTA is suitable for them. Other parts of this chapter include the application procedure, the language awareness test and the interview. It offers invaluable advice for those that are considering the CELTA and areas to consider during the application process.
The fourth chapter, named ‘Preparing for the Course’, suggests ideas for the possible trainee to consider prior to commencing the CELTA course. There is a recommendation by the authors about what they suggest as a ‘sleep bank’ and filling up on your rest prior to the course. There is also a helpful checklist at the end of this short chapter for readers to consider. The following chapter focuses on Day 1 of the CELTA course and I can relate much of my own experience to this. All fictitious characters include a diary insert about their first day of the course and their own opinions. It is an interesting idea and allows readers to reflect on their own first day – had they also graduated from the CELTA. The following chapter, ‘Organising Your Time’, provides readers with some highlights of those well-known characters from the book – if you have completed the CELTA course, you will start to recognise particular traits with other trainees who were present during your course – as well as invaluable tips to consider when organising your personal time, such as ensuring that one is aware of deadlines for written assignments, not leaving anything to the last minute or keeping your CELTA portfolio up-to-date. It is a useful chapter and one that readers of the CELTA course will quickly start to realise when managing their own time.
Unfortunately, for me when I undertook the CELTA course in Seoul, I had an hour and a half commute to the Training Centre. This meant that I had to wake up at 5am, catch the first bus to the train station, catch a train to Seoul and then get a tube to the Centre. Then I had another commute back home where I prepared my lessons till the late hours of the evening. It was one thing that I would not recommend anyone to consider and if I were in a different position, I would recommend anyone to be closer to the Training Centre. I had very little time to waste and much of it was dedicated to the course, so much of what is mentioned in the book is very different to my own personal experiences but I can relate them to those that were on the course with me. There were individuals who were working incredibly hard during the course, and were juggling their own time throughout their four weeks. The weekend is also a time to unwind and relax, as well as catch up on that much needed ‘sleep bank’.
The additional chapters throughout the book are wonderfully written, guiding the reader every step of the way with advice on the actual teaching practice, the input sessions, writing the lesson plans or the written assignments of the CELTA course with delightful illustrations supplementing each chapter. The chapter before last, ‘Trainee Diary Entries Day 21’, is a well written conclusion for those that have completed the CELTA. I can relate well to this chapter as I remember finishing the course with all my other trainees and being invited out for something to eat and drink with them. It was a wonderful chance to relax after such an intense and tough course. The final chapter, named ‘Five Years Later’, looks at predictably at all CELTA trainee characters from the book and where they are now. Each character has moved on from the initial course, each carving out fictitious careers paths in the whole world of English language teaching. I recommend readers to leave the final chapter until they have read the entire book as it would spoil the benefits that this chapter has to offer. In fact, I would recommend those that are doing a CELTA course to leave this chapter until they have written their five year plan. Ideally, readers should leave this chapter all together after five years and reflect back at their five year plan from the CELTA course. I remember from my course that I wrote that I wanted to focus on teaching Military English, become more involved in Examining and teach more adult language learners having taught primarily to young learners. How things have turned out.
The book is aimed at potential trainees for the CELTA and offers some incredibly valuable tips to consider while undertaking the course. One aspect would make the chapters more accessible were if they had been numbered. Each chapter, although not a problem, seems to seemingly cross to the next chapter but perhaps it would make sense for readers to have some signposting when introduced to a new chapter. If you have completed the CELTA and would like to reminisce about it, I would recommend this book as it would offer the reader a chance to think back about what they had undertook and what was included. It was a very memorable event and reading back on all stages of the course, leaves me with fond memories. This book helped reflect on these. Finally, it is by no means a single book which helps the trainees throughout the course, they still need to do the hard work and there is all the other recommended reading for CELTA trainees to consider purchasing as well. This is a supplementary book which is solely focused on the CELTA course and I wish it had been around when I took the CELTA all those years ago. I’d recommend the book for those that are considering doing the course and would like to discover what is involved in the CELTA. It is also a light-hearted look at the course and supports graduates from the CELTA to reminisce.