The CELTA is an intensive course, and that's true. To survive the CELTA course you need to be well-prepared. You will need to read extensively about the course and learn from the experience of people who have done it before. CELTA is a standardized course and the trainees all over the world usually go through the same experience. I am sharing here five tips on how to survive the course and get the most out of it.
Do some background reading before you start the course because once you are 'in' you will not have much time to do that. You will be concentrating more on the practical side of the course. You don't need a lot of theory to do the course. Actually, I had colleagues on the course who had little knowledge of things like learning styles, learning theories, types of tests, English tenses, etc. Yet, they did pick up a lot of these on the way. However, If you have that knowledge ready with you from the beginning, it would help a lot. During the lesson planning and the feedback sessions, you will need to state your points of view on classroom issues and use the proper terminology to do that. Moreover, the use of ELT terminology is one of the pass criteria for the written assignments of the course. In fact, some colleagues had to resubmit their work because they couldn't meet that. A good knowledge of grammar is also important for the course. You should have a clear understanding of things like the difference between the Simple Past, the Past Perfect and the Present Perfect.
There are input sessions on every day of the CELTA course. By the end of the month, you will end up having lots of documents and you really need to keep things organized. It's important that you have a folder with different named sections. You will be referring to those documents when planning your lessons or when doing the written assignments. Do the same for files on your computer, and don't forget to backup your documents on an external hard drive or on online services like Google drive or Dropbox.
You might some time during the course want to do "fancy" things or impress the students and the people observing your lessons. This is more likely to happen after a lesson that didn't go well, so you want to make up for a missed occasion. This is exactly what happened with me. My second and third lessons were all "Above Standard" and I wanted to make my fourth lesson even better. So, I spent all the weekend preparing and ended up having too much to cover in 60 minutes. The lesson didn't go well and things were a rush at the end. I had a "To Standard" for that lesson and I wanted to make up for that on my fifth lesson! I spent another two days preparing but I got really tired that I ended up doing my worst lesson on the course. I got a "To Standard" for that too, but I learnt a lesson from it. I should never bite off more than I can chew. It's not about how many activities you do in a lesson, but how well you do what have planned and what the students really get from it.
If you are like me and have been doing some teaching before the CELTA, you will be usually having more confidence during your lessons than the other trainees who have never taught before. However, you will need to stay focused on your personal aims for the course. Remember that you are there to learn what you can't do, not to show what you can do. With some confidence on your side, You might be tempted to try some "unorthodox" techniques and activities. Lessons on the CELTA course are supposed to follow a certain pattern and meet a number of predefined standards. Your tutors will point out, after each lesson you teach, things that you need to focus more on and you really need to take that into consideration when planning for the next lessons. If you want to try new things, I suggest that you do that after the course, when you are flying solo.
It's really important that you maintain a healthy diet and sleep for enough time throughtout the course. Staying up late at night, usually planning lessons, will only have bad effects on you performance the next day, especially if you are not one of those "night owls". It's usually on the second week of the course that trainees suffer from lack of sleep as they will have to write more detailed lesson plans and do lots of language analysis. You also need to eat regularly and avoid any food that might make you sick on the course. If you miss a teaching practice on the course, you might not have a chance to redo that!