Now that I've finished my course I've got time to write a short review of my last month. So here goes:
I decided to embark on a career change last year and took a while consider my options. Teaching English is a fairly common choice for twenty-somethings with itchy feet, and after speaking to a few friends who had done it before, I decided that it beat the pants of flogging advertising space on bus shelters. You can teach English without a qualification, but a CELTA certificate boosts your employability and only takes one month to complete.
I chose St Giles because it seemed like a well respected internationally known network of colleges, and there was one around the corner from me! The course was more reasonable than some other colleges. A month long course costs around £1000 with all relevant materials provided. At St Giles, there are two dedicated tutors and twelve CELTA students each month. Mornings consist of input sessions (classroom management, teaching skills), and afternoons are made up of observation and teaching practice.
It is a pretty intensive course, especially if you have been stuck in an office for a few years and aren't used to learning. I was constantly thanking my lucky stars that I didn't have to commute because most evening and weekends were taken up with lesson planning and writing assignments.
There is so much to take in from the course; lesson staging, keeping your language simple, learning phonemes and grammar, the jargon, classroom management. At 26 I feel like I'm starting again from scratch. English language teaching is a vast and daunting profession to get into. As the course unfolded, you realise how much you don't know.
The teaching practice you do in the afternoons is great. You get thrown in at the deep end by teaching on your second day. St Giles advertise free lessons, to attract students who want to learn English. You get to teach a really diverse set of students ranging from students on a foreign study trip, foreign nationals working part time in the area, and immigrants who want to learn English to help them find a job. All students I taught really wanted to learn and were respectful to the bumbling trainee teachers.
The toughest thing about teaching practice, isn't standing up in front of people or being in charge, but the practicalities of the classroom. Messing around finding the right track on a CD, trying to correct your shabby handwriting on the board, where to sit / stand etc. Throughout the course I remember thinking that teaching was a little like boxing. If you are doing one thing right, you'll be dropping your guard or have your feet in the wrong place.
I think you have to have a fairly thick skin as a teacher, it's not for the faint hearted. The tutors on the course were really helpful, and you have o be able to learn from mistakes and take positive criticism. However, after teaching just a few lessons, you get a real sense of achievement and can see improvements in real life students with real life goals.
The surroundings at St Giles Highgate are amazing. This is another thing that made the course so enjoyable. Being able to have a coffee and a chat outside the grand old red-brick building in the massive tiered garden was great. Watching the ducks waddle down the path quacking away beats sitting in an office staring at your inbox. Maybe I'm looking through rose-tinted spectacles, but if I get to teach in a school like this one day, then it is mission complete.The college has got a decent cafeteria, staff resource rooms, computer rooms and around 20 classrooms. Maybe some of the facilities could do with updating, or a lick of paint, but that's the charm of the Highgate branch.
The other great thing about the course is simply the people that you meet. Not only have I made a great number of friends and future contacts, but the sheer variety of people is brilliant. I expected a course load of disgruntled out-of-work students, but instead met a number of different people:
Bar managers, retirees, theatre directors / actors, civil servants, carpenters, yachtmasters . . . and that's not to mention the different students you meet
I taught au pairs, ambassadors, engineers, plastic surgeons, waiters, store managers, electricians, ex pop stars and more. Teaching English in England allows you to meet the wide variety of expats and immigrants you never would normally meet. Here is a list of countries some of the students came from:
Lithuania, Namibia, Turkey, Iran, France, Spain, Chile, Poland, Romania, Eritrea, Brazil, Korea, Japan, China, Italy, Switzerland, Denmark, Germany and a few more that I can't remember.