If you were paying attention, dear readers, you’ll remember that on February 9th I posted a list of goals I was working towards this year. At the very top of that list I mentioned my desire to “successfully complete the CELTA course”. Four months later (to the day) I’m posting once again to let you know that I’ve done just that. Behold:
As much as I’d like to say “I’m awesome” and just leave it at that, the truth is that CELTA really was a great learning experience for me. I’ve even told several people that I value my time in the CELTA program more than I valued the last year of my masters education. With this in mind, I’d now like to compile a short list of lessons I’ve learned over the past two and a half months. I’m not promising it will be groundbreaking philosophy or anything, just some helpful things I picked up along the way. And here they are…
6 Things I Learned from CELTA
(1) True Spontaneity Requires Preparation
All my life I’ve seen myself as something of a free spirit, the kind of person who refuses to be tied down by convention and who likes to head out for the horizon at a moment’s notice. I did move to Korea just three weeks after finding out about it, after all. And once, a long long time ago, I quit my job at Red Lobster so I could go to the fair with some friends. “I’m living for the moment,” I would always say. Can’t wait for tomorrow. I might not have that long. So when the idea to register for CELTA first occurred to me I assumed I would do the fashionable thing, which is to spend a month in Thailand and take the course there. But for the first time in my life I actually paused to consider what I was about to do:
“If I take the CELTA course in Thailand I’ll have to leave my job. And when the course is over I’ll probably have to go home for a while until I find something else. So I’ll be living at home with no job and very little money. I won’t even know for sure when (or if) I’ll be employed again. Hmmm…this plan doesn’t seem very workable.”
So, with a bit of research I discovered that a part-time CELTA course was available in Seoul. Took the class, never missed a day of work, and now I’m looking forward to my summer vacation in Japan, which I’ve already paid for. See? If I’d decided to “live for the moment” back in February I’d probably be sleeping on my parents’ couch right now.
(2) You Value Things More When You Pay for Them Yourself
This is 1950s parent logic, but alas it’s true. I paid for CELTA with my own hard-earned cash (first class I’ve ever taken without a loan of some kind) and as a result I really made sure I was getting the most out of it. “Pay attention,” I reminded myself, “you’re paying for this.”
(3) Productivity Feels Better Than Procrastination
My mom will probably have another heart attack when she hears (reads?) me saying this, but one thing I really liked about CELTA is how insanely busy it kept me. Between work and the CELTA course there was simply no time for my usual procrastination. Papers needed to be checked. Classes needed to be planned. Lesson plans needed to be prepared. Materials needed to be printed. It was strictly go go go, and it got me into the habit of always doing something. Laundry needs to be hung up? Hang it up now. Report cards are due next week? Do them now, don’t wait until the night before. You sleep much better at night when you feel you really deserve it.
(4) Stay Vigilant. Failure Can Come Even in the Midst of Success
Towards the halfway mark I started getting a lot of positive feedback about my classroom performance at CELTA. The students really seemed to enjoy my lessons and the instructors were all in agreement that I was making great progress. I really felt like I had it under control. Maybe that’s why I didn’t plan properly for one of my written assignments. I ended up turning it in late and ultimately failing. This probably ruined any chance I might have had of passing with a Pass B. Nobody’s fault but mine. But what an important lesson: it’s great when you’re doing a good job, but it’s more important to keep doing a good job.
(5) Recognize Your Limitations – I know you’ve all seen those cheesy feel-good motivator posters that tell you to “Know your limitations, then defy them“
but that’s just more nonsense dreamed up by the “money can’t buy happiness” crowd. The truth is, we all have limitations. At some point you will get tired. Even when you’re hard at work on something, the moment will come when you start checking the clock and feeling burned out. It’s important to accept these things and make your plans accordingly. If you know 2 a.m. is the latest you can stay up and still be coherent, don’t make plans to stay up and work until 6 a.m. Doing your best work requires you to know when and how you do your best.
(6) Be Prepared for Sudden Stops
Some of you may be wondering why I’m posting about this on June 9th when I actually finished CELTA on June 1st. Good question. I actually sat down to write this post last Saturday, but I just couldn’t find the words for it. And ever since then I’ve been kind of in a daze. For the past few months CELTA has been a major focus of my life – the thing everything else was built around – and then last Saturday it was over. Suddenly I just don’t know what to do with myself. It feels like a break-up, like I need to reorganize my entire life. (Maybe some of you who’ve finished law school or gotten divorced or something can relate?) Don’t get me wrong, I have lots of things to do (my work contract isn’t over until next March), but right now I feel like I’m still coming down from a prolonged period of work and stress. What’s the lesson here? Be prepared for that moment when a major undertaking comes to an end. Either have something else in the works or just know that you won’t feel a sense of victory right away.
If enough people respond to this I’ll continue this list in another post (“5 More Things I Learned from CELTA”), but this is what I’ve got for now. Thanks for reading, and thank you especially to all the people who shared the CELTA experience with me.
As so often, I’ll leave the final word to Mr. Vince Lombardi -