When I moved to Paris sixteen months ago, I had what I thought was a pretty good plan: 20 hours a week as a French student and 20 hours a week as an English teacher. After all, I had always been attracted to the idea of teaching, even though I had never pursued it as a career. “Why not try it now?” I thought. “This is the perfect time, and this is the perfect place to start.” I had been assured that teaching English was the “easiest field to get into here” and, as an overeducated former lawyer, I thought I had a pretty impressive résumé.
As it turns out, it wasn’t going to be that easy. The truth of the matter is that native English speakers are a dime a dozen in this city, and most good teaching positions require a certification that I don’t have. The disappointment of discovering that I wasn’t a ready-made English teacher plus the demands of my own French classes ended up putting my plan on the back burner … that is, until I recently looked at my bank account and decided that it was high time to turn the heat up again.
I started researching my options. What certification would I need? TEFL? CELTA? It was all Greek to me, so I sought out the counsel of a friend with lots of experience teaching English as a second language. He recommended CELTA. The “Certificate in English Language Teaching to Adults” (apparently a.k.a. “Certificate in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages”) is an initial teaching certification earned through a four-week course accredited by the University of Cambridge. It’s designed to take candidates with little or no teaching experience (that would be me) and prepare them to start teaching English upon graduation (that would be what I want to do). Needless to say, getting a novice ready to start teaching in just four weeks means the course is intensive. I was warned that I would live and breathe “English teaching” during those four weeks, and my family should be warned that I might become … well, more “difficult” … than usual. Oh, poor Michel. Poor, poor Michel.
Because the course needs to have students who are really engaged, admission is competitive. I couldn’t just pay tuition and enroll; I had to submit an application and be interviewed to see if I had the motivation and the “right stuff” to do this. I spent all of Tuesday evening completing an application full of grammar exercises and questions about my theory of teaching. The next day, I got a call scheduling an interview for Friday afternoon.
It was unlike any other interview I’d ever had. Sure, we talked about my professional background and why a former big-firm lawyer would suddenly want to start teaching English, but at least an hour of our time was spent walking through the grammar exercises in my application and role-playing my explanations:
- I practiced explaining the word “borrow” to a beginner-level English student …
- I demonstrated “Would you like a coffee?” without using any words at all …
- I used stick figure drawings on a timeline to teach the meaning of the sentence “When I got to the station, I realised I had left the tickets at home.”
By the time the interview was finished, I was a little intimidated but very excited. I really wanted this course … and I got it! The interviewer offered me a slot in the March 2012 course, so it’s now official: come March 5, I’ll be on my way to a new career!
So, yes, the title of this post is misleading. I don’t teach English yet, but I will be sooner than I had expected. Starting on Day 2 of the course, I’ll be spending my afternoons teaching English to a class of real, live non-native speakers as part of my training! I’m already nervous.
Now it’s off to shop for my own Christmas presents: Leech, Cruickshank & Ivanič’s An A-Z of English Grammar & Usage and Jeremy Harmer’s How to Teach English … and maybe a sketch pad so I can practice my stick figures.
Wish me luck. I’m going to need it!
© 2011 Samuel Michael Bell, all rights reserved