Don’t kid yourself, dear readers. Doing a course as an adult, be it to enhance your career, or to change your career, or even if your career is fine but you really like plants so why not?, may be one of the most stressful things you can do. In my humble opinion, anyway. No longer are you that carefree student who enjoyed day drinking before a seminar (rum and coke), or who accidentally went out the night before an assignment was due (it seemed like a good idea at the time), or who spent more time shopping than studying (that sweet sweet student discount). Look back upon your reckless, debauched, recreational days with a bittersweet nostalgia, my friends, because those days are OVER.
Cue the beginning of September 2016. A 27 year old, 2nd year EFL teacher, with a fear of small children but a desire to teach them, and teach them well, walks into her first session for the IHCYLT (IH Certificate in Teaching Young Learners and Teenagers, fyi). Five other teachers, all of different ages, teaching experiences and motivations, sit waiting with anticipation for the course to kick off. Would it be as intense as we’ve heard?
“CELTA condensed into two weeks”, someone said.
“I was told the tutors push you to the limits”, one chimed in.
“Say goodbye to free time”, another fretted.
“I’m going to need another cigarette”, I thought.
And kick off it did. Fast forward to Friday of the first week. Ten sessions, four portfolio tasks, one assignment, more than I can count observation tasks and two feedback sessions trying to answer that most frustrating, aggravating and painful of questions: Why? Why don’t you think it worked well? (I don’t know). Why did you choose this activity in the Remember Stage? (I don’t KNOW). Why do you think the students were unresponsive? (I DON’T KNOW THEYPROBABLYHATEME). I’d already had several weepy moments (at home, I’m still British) one meltdown (no hot water, mosquito bite on my face, exhaustion, plus screwing up a teaching practice, made for a very unhappy me). Friday evening, sat at home with papers unhelpfully askew, laptop glaringly open and mind clearly unfocused, and all I could think about was this: Should I Quit? I’ve only been teaching for a year. What if I need more time? Perhaps I’m not even cut out for this teaching malark. I clearly know nothing about it, so what’s the point?
I’m pretty sure I wasn’t the only one thinking these undermining, persistent thoughts. They were infectious, pernicious and UTTERLY WRONG. Sure, I had no idea what I was doing with 10 year olds. They were, and still are, a bit of a mystery to me. Absolutely I’m shit scared about going into this academic year knowing I’m going to be teaching little people for considerably more than three hours. Without a doubt I had a lot to learn and do on this course and a very short time in which to learn and do it. But isn’t that the frustrating beauty of doing a course as a realistic, mostly sensible adult who knows what they want and what they need to do to get it, and not a starry eyed youth doing a degree in Eng Lit simply because they like books?
Cut to Sunday, the course has finished, and yet I (and most of my peers) are still sat in front of our computers, writing up our final assignments and tasks, hating our lives, wishing we were doing literally ANYTHING else (but mainly drinking) in a place far away from screens and notes and piles of paper (the pub). It didn’t register at the time, not properly at least, but we had all made it. We got through the course. Two weeks of being constantly pushed, questioned, observed, challenged, baited, exhausted, sober, and we MADE IT. There were tears, rants and raves, meltdowns, and even some anxiety induced stammering, but through it all the tears were shared, rants and raves reciprocal, meltdowns were mended, and the stammer…well, that’s another story, but it’s gone for now (yay!).
In a way, doing the IHCYLT for two weeks has meant more to me than doing three years at university. The CELTA put me on the right career path and the IHCYLT made me seriously question that career. But had I not questioned it, I wouldn’t have come up with the response: “Fuck you, brain, I’m a damn good teacher, I work hard and I deserve to give this my best.” Not the most eloquent of replies, but it did the job.
So, for all you out there considering doing the IHCYLT: do it. Simple as. You’ll learn more in two weeks than you imagined. Not just from the sessions, but also from your peers, and yourself (CRINGE). And how to survive it? Do yourself a massive favour and resign yourself to the fact that you will have no room for fun, socializing, or anything related to having a good time. Don’t leave all your tasks and observations to do at the weekend, because you’ll hate yourself with a passion. Don’t do what I did and write observations by hand, only to then have to type them up: use a computer and love that computer with all you have. Stock up on food: you’ll barely have time to eat, let alone shop. Most importantly, don’t think you’re alone. You’re not. And last but not least, if in doubt, ask yourself WHY??? Why are you doing the course? Why are you questioning yourself? Why has all the rum gone? You will come to love and hate that question, but use it right and it will get you through.
Best of luck, and see you on the other side.