Golden rules for time management during a CELTA or CertTESOL course

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One aspect of initial training courses such as the CELTA and CertTESOL that makes them somewhat infamous is the sheer intensity of work involved. Whether you are studying full-time or part-time, the amount of work which goes into these courses is something that every trainee comments on when they graduate.

Considering that these qualifications are equivalent to an entire second year of a bachelor’s degree, and completed in as little as four weeks, this intensity is to be expected. However, few trainees realize what this means until they embark on the course for themselves.

Because of the workload, the juggling of input sessions, teaching practice, lesson planning and assignment work, time management is a key skill for success in these demanding courses.

This article will look at some golden rules for managing your time, to give you the head-space that you need to complete all aspects of the course to the highest of your ability, and ensuring a respectable grade for your efforts.

Why is time management so important?

The ability to juggle and complete different tasks to a high level is a part of any teaching position. Initial training courses aim to give you a realistic and valuable experience of what it means to be a teacher.

So it is natural that your time is split between the various responsibilities of the course and that high expectations are placed on you to gain one of these prestigious qualifications. 

In an average week of teaching, you will have to research, plan, prepare and deliver lessons to a high level of quality, perhaps to be in the classroom for 20 or 25 hours per week.

Besides, you will probably have to copy and create materials for your lessons, meet students (and maybe parents), carry out assessments, attend staff meetings, and so on… a teacher’s job is never done!

Developing the skill of multitasking across weeks of work is essential for an effective teacher, both in and out of the classroom.

On the training course itself, stress is a massive factor in trainee performance. Most of this pressure comes from the multiple deadlines which you have in the back of your mind 24/7 for the time you are developing as a teacher.

For most of you teachers, the most nerve-wracking aspect of these courses is teaching practice, so you really do not want the extra stress of thinking about assignment work and other duties when you are standing in front of the class getting ready to teach for the first time!

Following these time management rules will take the pressure off, allowing you the head-space to focus on the job at hand, and get everything done before the deadlines given.

1) Pay attention to assessment information

In all likelihood, your course will contain sessions explicitly devoted to the structure and weighting of assignments, the assessment criteria used to mark them, and the deadlines for their completion.

Use this information wisely, and as you get more information about the different tasks you have to complete, make a plan of action that runs across the weeks of the course, putting all of this work into the context of the timetable of the course.

Think about when you are timetabled to teach, and how this relates to other deadlines from the course. Plan your evenings (yes, you will have full evenings of typing and planning) according to what needs doing and when, and adjust this as more information about the course comes your way.

Create a personal calendar for the course and stick to it, and you will be able to meet deadlines before they arrive.

2) Don’t over plan!

The biggest time-eater for many trainees on initial training courses is lesson planning. In regular teaching, a golden rule never to be broken is ‘don’t spend more time planning than teaching’. If you are teaching twenty 45-minute lessons in a week, you simply don’t have time to double those hours because of preparation. 

You will receive a lot of information about different lesson structures, stages and ways of delivering tasks, but don’t feel you have to teach the perfect lesson in your teaching practice.

Try things out and plan for the maximum of student activity rather than focusing on every move you are going to make during a lesson – its not realistic to micromanage individual minutes when a student question can throw your timing off from the beginning of a class.

Plan flexible stages in case this happens, and highlight stages of lessons which could happen if time runs short, and you will avoid panic when things start going off track. (Lesson planning tips – click here!)

3) Do what you need to do as soon as possible – don’t procrastinate!

In week 1 of a 4-week course, it is tempting to think that you have time to catch up if you don’t attend to assignment work right away. This is wrong!

More tasks, lessons and assignments are coming your way, even if you don’t know about them at the beginning of the course, so hit assignment work as soon as you possibly can. Be proactive and get ahead wherever your timetable allows.

This means not only using your evenings and weekends (yes, weekends too!) wisely, but taking advantage of times during teaching days when you can work while others teach, or no specific sessions are timetabled.

If you have work to do with a student (for a ‘focus on the learner’ or ‘learner profile’ assignment), catch that student as soon as you can, before they change their plans or take a sick day and set you back by days as a result.

4) If you’re not sure, ask!

A lot of time is wasted for many course trainees when they mishear or misunderstand important course information. If you miss something in a session, ask your trainer to clarify.

In such a high-stakes environment, there are no stupid questions – a well-timed question can save you hours of writing and rewriting sections of assignments or lesson plans that you have noted down wrongly or misheard.

Also, talk to your fellow trainees and see how they are navigating their workload. They may have time management ideas and ways of doing things that can cut down your own workload and save you valuable hours as a result.

All in all, time management cannot be overstated on intensive courses like these, so take steps to get ahead of the game, and your grades and overall performance will show the benefits as a result.

This article was originally published in Dec-2019 and was last updated in Jul-2020.

Author: Tom Garside

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