The Light at the End of the Tunnel

© Sura Nualpradid

Hey … remember me?

Yeah, it has been a while. I know that I told you I’d try to post something every now and then while slogging through my CELTA training course, but it really hasn’t been an option, guys. I promise.

Here’s a picture of what my average day has been like for the last three weeks:

I wake up around 5 a.m., practicing the day’s lesson plan in my head and obsessing over the gaps that I couldn’t recall during my anxiety-ridden dreams, I try to go back to sleep, and I succeed in dozing until around 7:15 a.m. (or 6:45 a.m. on days when I have teaching practice). Then it’s up and at ’em … I arrive at school some time between 8:15 a.m. and 8:45 a.m., where I print out lesson plans, exercises and materials, or written assignments.

Our instructional sessions start at 9:15 a.m. That’s where we learn about every conceivable facet of teaching methodology (and a bit of English grammar to boot). Then it’s “teaching practice consolidation” from about 12:30 p.m. until about 1:00 p.m., when we review our lesson plans with the other trainees who will be teaching during the same 2-hour class in the afternoon. (Since we have 40-minute lessons each on the days when we teach, there are always two other trainees with whom we have to coordinate our lessons to ensure that the afternoon is a cohesive and productive experience for the students.) Then comes lunch, but I don’t really eat much, because I’m usually spending that hour or so revising my lesson plan, making last-minute changes to the materials, and nervously anticipating my lesson. Then it’s show time—a two-hour lesson for a class of anywhere from four to ten EFL students!

Even on days when I’m not teaching, it’s not vacation time. (We each teach 2 or 3 days a week depending on the schedule.) During the other trainees’ lessons, we observe and evaluate them to give constructive feedback on their teaching. That happens after the lesson is finished, when trainees also get feedback from one of our CELTA “tutors” (the professional teachers who teach us, mentor us, and evaluate our lessons). After discussing the following day’s plan with each other, we all then head home to eat a 15-minute dinner and spend the next four … six … even eight hours planning the next lesson or working on a written assignment. Lately, I’ve managed to close shop around midnight or 1 a.m., but I admit that I have had to work until 2 or 3 a.m. a few times, only to get up four hours later and start the process all over again.

Needless to say, I’ve lived for the weekends. They aren’t exactly vacations, either. If there’s not a written assignment or a resubmission of one due on Monday, there’s a lesson to be planned. Then there are the weekends when these two events coincide—those are the really tough weekends to manage.

In any case, it’s now the Tuesday night of the fourth and final week of training, and I have no more written assignments to do and just one more 40-minute observed lesson to plan for Thursday. I can finally see the light at the end of the tunnel.

This has been the most physically and psychologically exhausting experience I’ve ever endured—and that counts bar review! The constant fatigue has often been compounded by anxiety, frustration, and self-doubt, but it’s also been tempered from time to time with relief, satisfaction, and real joy at having connected with our students. No matter where I go from here, I’ll be carrying a wealth of practical knowledge about the classroom with me. My next employer will be lucky to have me!

Of course, it’s not over until the fat lady sings … or rather, until the chubby American teaches … so keep your fingers crossed for me Thursday afternoon. I’m really hoping to toast a CELTA certification Friday afternoon!

© 2012 Samuel Michael Bell, all rights reserved

4 thoughts on “The Light at the End of the Tunnel

  1. As I mentioned on your last post, I am doing the 13 week version of this in Ireland, which my 15 classmates and I find difficult enough. We had the option of the 4 week course and, for various reasons, didn’t end up doing it and we are all so glad! As you say, the worst is over (we have 4 weeks left so the worst for us is still to come;-). I hope it helps to know there are others out here who know (almost) how you feel! I have no doubt that next week you will have a CELTA certificate. Bon courage!

  2. OHHHHH! I so feel your pain!!! You said it all and more. I wish you tremendous zeal, energy and fortitude as you slide in for the “home run”……..You’re amazing!

  3. Horrible sounding experience, Michael. And that it was worse than your last experience (I read your post on that one, too) is….I don’t know what. It’s almost as if France is trying to discourage immigration, but instead of being up front about it, they’re being passive-aggressive all over the place. Thanks for your blog, btw, I enjoy reading it. BTW, did you get CELTA certified? I remember reading you were close but I don’t recall a post wherein you actually got it. Thanks.


    1. As exhausting as the CELTA course was, it was a good thing. I learned so much about how to teach others and I wouldn’t trade that experience for anything. The good news is that I did actually get my certification, so I am officially a Cambridge-certified instructor of English to speakers of other languages now. As for the immigration process, you are absolutely right … it is like the system is designed to discourage immigration, at least in my département. It is the département with the highest immigrant population in France, so perhaps it is “fait exprès” as they say here, “on purpose.”

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