It’s a civilised start for the first day of my CELTA course – it begins at 11am. Plenty of time for a bit of a lie in and a leisurely stroll to Oxford House TEFL language school. It’s easy to find; a couple of minutes walk to the next left turn off Carrer de la Marina, then just a long schlep down Carrer de la Disputacio. All told, it takes about twenty minutes. I don’t think I’ll be bothering with the Metro for this journey at all.
I actually reach the school half an hour early, and while away the time reading Marvel’s 2005 Civil War storyline with the comic book reader on my iPad. The discovery that you can download and read comics electronically has been another liberation for me; I now own more comics electronically than I ever did physically. And they fit on a hard drive the size of a cigarette packet, along with hundreds of movies and thousands of albums. It’s easy to be a nomad with modern tech!
We get called in to the classroom promptly at 11am. Turns out there’s ten of us, most British, but one American, one Belgian, and one Spanish. Everyone is really friendly, which is fortunate. By the end of this first intense day, we’ll know each other really well. And this is the quietest day of the course.
No teaching as yet – today is mostly general introductions, to each other, to the school, and to the course. It’s a lot to take in, nonetheless. In four weeks, we’ll be learning how to plan lessons, manage classrooms, teach and write reports. It’s not quite straight in – on Tuesday, we’ll be observing 90 minutes of a qualified tutor teaching. But on Wednesday, the third day, we start teaching ourselves, and have to begin an assignment monitoring the progress of an individual leaner even as we learn ourselves.
It’s an intensive deluge of information all right. And that’s just how to find your way around the school, which is accomplished by a paired activity in which we join forces, wander the halls and fill in the spaces on maps. Then there’s information about CV writing, how to obtain an NIE card (social security card for EU but non-Spanish workers), and a very full looking schedule for the next four weeks.
But not as full as it first appears. About half of us will be teaching in the mornings, the other half in the afternoons. We’re paired (or threed) up with co teachers, who’ll be co ordinating lessons with us. My partner and I are lucky – we’re teaching afternoons, so don’t have to be at the school till 1pm. Working till after 6pm though, and any lie ins will probably be precluded by lesson planning, and working on the four assignments we have to write to pass the course.
We’re introduced to some of the types of exercises we’ll be using in lessons, by means of trying them out on each other. The first is an exercise in asking the others one by one various questions – what was the last movie they saw, what are their hobbies, what were they doing last Saturday, and so forth.
The side effect of this – as is surely intentional – is that we all get to know each other pretty quickly. I’m partnered with an ebullient Belgian called Lillo, who’s everything I’m not – sporty, fit, heterosexual… But we’re both extroverts, and quickly establish ourselves as being among the loudest in the class. We have fun comparing our lunches; he goes in search of fresh fruit at a local market, while I have a cappuccino and smoke cigarettes. Yin and yang indeed – we get on tremendously.
Then there’s Abigail, from New York City, who talks literature with me; Marc, a quiet smart guy from Barcelona who’s also studying environmental science; Kate, from Bournemouth, who’s spent the last four years working in Australia and New Zealand; Bonnie, a Londoner who made the decision to take the course a mere few days before it started; Freya, another Londoner and former wine buyer who’s an expert sommelier; Storm, an Italian lady who likes movies and has the coolest name; Sylvia, a music teacher and ukulele player; and Yanique, another Londoner who’s spent the last few years teaching in China.
A great bunch, all, and it feels like we’ve already bonded after only one day. There’s a welcome drinks session at the end of the day, nicely paid for by the school, and we settle on a name for our merry band. After an incident in the afternoon where a power cut plunged the classroom into blackness, we decide to call ourselves the Warriors of Darkness, and Marc promptly sets us up a WhatsApp group with that name. Tomorrow looks like an even busier day, but we’ve already set up a group meal in the evening to celebrate the Chinese New Year. Loving it so far, but the work will surely get harder…