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What’s harder, PGCE or CELTA?

Discussion in 'Trainee and student teachers' started by CocoaChannel, Jul 9, 2020.

  1. CocoaChannel

    CocoaChannel New commenter

    It’s a tongue in cheek thread.

    The CELTA, Certificate in English Language Teaching to Adults, is a four-week course with a fair bit of observed teaching practice. It’s only any good to get you in the door of a language school, but it is recognised worldwide. I did it years ago. It was a lot of work, but I enjoyed it and it was only four weeks. I’d done a fairly tough degree so had some remnants of study skills and got through the CELTA fairly easily. Some course mates, however, struggled with the workload, and their personas changed over the weeks as they became increasingly stressed.

    I’m about to start a PGCE/SCITT, and I’m under no illusions about the workload. I just wondered if anyone else here had done the CELTA and a PGCE and had any thoughts about the workload of each?
  2. blueskydreaming

    blueskydreaming Lead commenter

    Yes, I did the CELTA, and then the PGCE about 6 years later.

    I don't see much to compare between them - you're planning, teaching and writing essays on both, but the lessons and essays are on different levels entirely, and so are the students - these factors have a massive impact on workload.

    The PGCE focuses on so many different things, all at once, and most of it will be brand new information - this means the course is both mentally exhausting, and physically draining: pedagogy, the curriculum, school procedures, government standards and strategies... You have to learn how to manage behaviour, personalise learning, differentiate, use assessment in different ways, understand and apply mark schemes, manage data, help students make progress within a lesson as well as over time, build a rapport with students and colleagues... Your first school will want you to teach in the same way they do, then your second school will have different ideas... Essays are both academic and reflective, and one will probably be a project... You'll have to go to briefings, meetings, training sessions, parents' evenings... You'll have to mark homework and assessments for up to 34 kids in each class... You have to demonstrate your own progress, and the progress of the students, in order to get QTS; this means gathering evidence throughout the course.

    I was easily working 60 hours a week on the PGCE, 6 days a week, every week of term. Then catching up with marking or uni work during school holidays. It's neverending. The tiredness builds up, and you can't escape it.

    I enjoyed my CELTA, but mostly hated my PGCE (well, from Jan to May I hated it).

    But your own experience will depend on whether you're primary or secondary, the schools, your mentors, your training provider...

    Just a point, but the CELTA can also be a stepping stone for people who want to tutor EAL/EAP at universities in the UK and worldwide, so it's not 'only good' for people who want to work in language schools.
    CocoaChannel likes this.
  3. CocoaChannel

    CocoaChannel New commenter

    Thanks. I can see the additional work that wouldn’t be part of a CELTA.

    My PGCE/SCITT is in a secondary science subject.

    I probably undersold the CELTA in my original post. As you say, it’s a stepping stone. Also, I’m sure like me you saw people without a CELTA or similar trying to teach. It could be painful to watch.

    I taught English a while ago, and whilst I taught a lot of young learners (which the CELTA doesn’t cover), I never really mentioned it in my application and don’t intend to do so much. Do you think the prior teaching helped in any way?
  4. blueskydreaming

    blueskydreaming Lead commenter

    When I applied for the PGCE no one was impressed by my prior experience, put it that way! I'd taught EFL for more than 4 years at that point, off and on. I'd say that EFL teaching is generally done in such a different environment, as you said yourself most people work in language schools, usually overseas, so really there's not much relevance to teaching in a UK secondary school. Having said that, I was used to standing in front of a class full of young people (I'd taught everything from kindergarten to adult), and I was used to planning lessons that had a range of activities, and I think these two aspects of my prior experience were useful - some peers, for example, having never planned a lesson before, needed to spend hours and hours on just one lesson. But then I, in turn, struggled with behaviour management, where others did not, because they had kids of their own. So, swings and roundabouts.

    My best advice to you is:
    1. Concentrate on understanding the curriculum - have a look at the GCSE exams, and A-levels, and try to understand what knowledge and skills young people need, and how you can help them develop that knowledge during their time at secondary. Think about your own knowledge gaps, and how to fill them. Other skills, such as lesson planning and behaviour management, will come over time, and will be aided by your understanding of the curriculum.
    2. Remember that people who work at your placement schools are not your friends, so try not to say anything about the school they might think is negative (I speak from experience - my mentor was offended when I said the behavior I'd witnessed was appalling).
    3. Do whatever you can to get through it. I'd be in bed by 8:30 every night, reading a book.

    Also, any struggles you have, do share on here - people on these forums can be lovely and supportive, and sometimes you just need someone to say something nice to you.

    Good luck!

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