Learning English at University College Cork, Ireland

Life inside and outside the language classroom

There is a great sense of achievement in finishing the CELTA

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Daniel Mullins

 

Hey Daniel thanks for taking the time to do this. Now that the four-week intensive CELTA course is over how do you feel?

I feel great. There is a great sense of achievement in finishing the CELTA.

Good for you. You worked hard on the course. Can you tell me what were your reasons for doing the course?

Well, I was always very eager to do TEFL in a foreign country. After completing my degree I decided that I should do a TEFL training course. I spent a lot of time researching the different courses offered. The evidence was overwhelming that the CELTA course was the most attractive to recruiters, and the course that best equipped TEFL teachers with the skills needed to succeed in the classroom.

Can you tell us a little about the application process? What did you have to do?

Before the interview I took an hour long exam. Afterwards I had an interview with someone from the Language Centre. It was quite relaxed really. At the end of it I was offered a place on the course. I can remember that the heavy course workload was stressed a lot during the interview.

Yes! We do emphasise how stressful it is. What about before the course – were there things you had to do in preparation?

We were given a pre-course task designed to prepare us for the course. Also we were given a list of books that would be helpful pre-course reading. Reading one of the recommended grammar books will help you during the course.

Tell us about the first day? What was that like?

My over-riding memory of the first day is how quickly all the trainees gelled. I was quite nervous on that Monday morning, because I didn’t know what to expect from the next four weeks. That morning we played games which helped us learn each other names and to break the ice; these had a great effect. For a lot of the first day, the tutors explained the structure of the course to us. In the afternoon our class, of eleven, was divided into two teaching practice groups.

They say the course is really intensive. It is as relentless as they say or is it exaggerated?

Trust me, the course is very intensive. Trainees on the four week course are in class for forty hours each week. But that’s really only the start of it! I spent many more hours at night preparing documents needed for the following day. I put down 70 hours during each of the second and third weeks. That said, the giant workload that everyone was facing helped build great class comradery.

Yes, you guys were really supportive of each other. On the course you have to teach for a total of six hours? How does that work out?

The course is really built around those six hours teaching practice. During the course you teach every second day. For someone like me who had no teaching experience, these six hours were really useful. After teaching a class then you, your classmates, and your tutor discuss the strong and weak points of your class. Trainees take this advice forward to their next lesson. This close attention paid to how trainees are progressing is for me the best aspect of the CELTA.

And in these classes are the students ‘real’ students?

It’s surprising, but yes the students are very real. All students on our course were very friendly and eager to learn. They were from many different countries, such as Pakistan, Poland, Iran and Kosovo. They were very eager to practice English and tell us about their countries. I really enjoyed getting to know them.  

On average how long did it take you to prepare for a lesson?

About five hours. As the course progressed I was better able to fit in an hour of preparation here and there, for example while commuting. That made the process much more manageable.

Did the tutors give you a lot of help in the planning stage of your lessons?

Yes, they did. On day one they gave us examples of strong lesson plans, by previous trainees on the course. Throughout the course, these templates were very useful. In addition, early in the course we had input classes that covered lesson planning. On our course the trainees also shared lesson plans with each other by Gmail, which was very helpful.

So, in the morning you have teaching practice and then in the afternoon you have input sessions? Tell us a little about those.

Yes, from nine to eleven trainees teach. Then, from eleven-thirty to one the trainees that taught that morning discuss their class with their tutor and the other trainees in their teaching practice group. In the afternoon we had classes with our tutors, in which we covered a a huge range of topics. But these classes are unlike standard university classes that are very ‘teacher fronted.’ During our afternoon classes the trainees were very involved.

What is the hardest part of the course?

For me, it was the lack of sleep. I had quite a long commute which didn’t help. But I was surprised that I could function well on 3 hrs or so a sleep a night. The course is so intense that trainees can learn a lot about themselves in only four weeks. I guess that was one thing I learned.

Was there anything you found easy?

There wasn’t anything on the course that many of us found easy. That said once you’ve taught a grammar lesson, everything else on the course might seem easy!

Was there anything you had not expected at all; something that surprised you?

I was surprised how prominent technology was during the course. Our group used Gmail heavily to communicate during evenings and weekends. This was really helpful. Personally, I only bought my first smartphone a few days before the course; this was a stroke of luck! I can’t imagine how I would have been able to organise myself without an app called Wunderlist, as well as the Gmail app. Finally, I know it’s a cliché but I was surprised by how helpful and generous my fellow trainees were. There were many occasions when classmates had done a lot of work on something or thought up really creative ideas, and chose to share their work and ideas with the rest of us.

What advice would you give someone preparing for the intensive 4-week CELTA course? Are there any books or websites you would suggest?

The best advice I have is to clear your schedule for four weeks. Especially during weeknights you can’t have demands on your time. If you can brush up on English grammar before the course than it will help, but most important is to clear your schedule for the four weeks!

And finally, now that the course is over what are your plans? How do you intend to use your CELTA qualification?

 

I have a job in Spain, so I’m looking forward to moving there in a few weeks!

Thanks Daniel. Enjoy your time in Spain. Keep in touch. 

If you are interested in doing a CELTA course with us here at the Language Centre, you can find all information here. 

I now have an internationally-recognised qualification

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Jeremy Meehan who recently completed a four-week CELTA course in UCC

Hey Jeremy, thanks for taking the time to do this. Now that the four-week intensive CELTA course is over how do you feel?

Delighted to have made it to the end successfully and now to have an internationally-recognised qualification and the means of earning a living, either here in Ireland, or in many other countries.

Can you tell me what were your reasons for doing the course?

My main reason was to acquire a skill and a level of certification to accompany it that would give me employment opportunities in this area. Having worked in two different positions for a total of 32 years I was looking for a change, but one that I could use as much or as little as I felt like after retirement age. I have always had a fascination with the English language, and I enjoy working with others, so this seemed like a good option.

Can you tell us a little about the application process? What did you have to do?

The application process was straightforward: there is a standard form, which requests the usual details, as well as your third-level degree qualifications (you must have a degree to do CELTA). It also explores your motivations for applying, any relevant experience you have in teaching or training, and asks for details of two referees.

Once you submit this, you are then invited to attend the centre, where you sit a one-hour written paper, followed by an interview that can last up to an hour. Both are reasonably general in nature and seem designed to explore whether you would be a suitable candidate for the course.

What about before the course – were there things you had to do in preparation?

UCC supplies a reading/reference list of publications that are widely used in the ESL area: teaching theory, English grammar, etc. Reading these from end to end is not compulsory, but at least dipping into them will give a flavour of the kinds of topics that are relevant to the course.

There is also a pre-course assignment. This takes the form of a fairly lengthy questionnaire covering all kinds of areas. It isn’t mandatory and it wasn’t collected at the course, but it is a very thought-provoking exercise and will get you thinking about many aspects of this kind of work and angles that you might not have been aware of previously.

Tell us about the first day? What was that like?

Like all first days there was a mixture of anticipation, apprehension, wanting to make a good impression and excitement at having got this far! It was interesting to meet the other trainees and see what a wide divergence of backgrounds they had. We also met our trainers, who gave us an overview of what the course would entail.

They say the course is really intensive. It is as relentless as they say or is it exaggerated?

It is no exaggeration. This course, worldwide, has a reputation for being an endurance test. It is hugely challenging on a number of fronts, as you will quickly discover following the induction day:

  • Sleep deprivation – during the week, having worked a full day in college, you will continue working until late in the evening, often rising again well before dawn to complete preparations for teaching practice or to work on assignments with deadlines approaching, before facing in to college and having to stand up and deliver the goods
  • The pressure of performing in front of near-strangers during Teaching Practice
  • The primal fear of being found wanting, as everything you do and say while in the Teaching Practice spotlight is analysed and written down, giving you a grade in many different and specific sub-skill categories
  • The added pressure of the follow-on feedback sessions where your performance is analysed by both your trainer and your peers and your lesson is assigned a grade
  • Further stress as the four vital assignments with their specific requirements are added to the schedule and you try to make sense of them

On the course you have to teach for a total of six hours? How does that work out?

You prepare and deliver a lesson every second day, initially 40-minute lessons and later on one-hour lessons.

Are the students ‘real’ students?

Yes, in the sense that none of them has English as a first language. They come from a wide variety of different countries and backgrounds; most will be living in Ireland, but some may just be here for a short stay and are availing of the opportunity to brush up on their English.

On average how long did it take you to prepare for a lesson?

Generally about seven or eight hours. However, this varies from person to person. The length of time is due to the necessity of preparing the materials and writing up the notes in a very specific format, going into some detail on several fronts.

Did the tutors give you a lot of help in the planning stage of your lessons?

The course is designed so that in the early stages, Weeks 1 and 2, you get very detailed assistance; this tails off and by Week 4 you are pretty much on your own, albeit with recourse to your trainer if you have specific queries. However, by then you should have acquired most of the necessary skills.

So, in the morning you have teaching practice and then in the afternoon you have input sessions? Tell us a little about those.

Input sessions cover a wide variety of the other areas you need to know, such as classroom management and closer analysis of some of the main areas you will be teaching such as the receptive skills of reading and listening and the productive ones of speaking and writing. They are enjoyable and thought-provoking sessions, with much interaction.

What is the hardest part of the course?

Apart from the mental and physical demands and the unremitting nature of the pressure, the whole class found that it was difficult to pin down the fundamentals of the CELTA methodology – what the bones of it are and then how and why lessons in various categories are put together in a certain way, to particular templates. Much mental energy went into trying to identify this global structure, and this seems to be a feature of the course worldwide rather than any local phenomenon. The general feeling was one of trying to assemble a large jigsaw when you are given new pieces every day, each one full of detail, but without first being given the full picture so that you can see how each piece relates to the whole. This sense of uncertainty persisted to the end of the course, and perhaps it is something that Cambridge might ponder with a view to providing a structured, detailed, printed resource to all of its centres.

Was there anything you found easy?

Easy perhaps isn’t the word, but it is great that everybody on the staff is very positive and supportive, and generally committed to their trainees being successful in their endeavours. People are always willing to give you their time or some extra advice or help, and the office staff are very friendly, helpful and understanding. This was the case also with fellow trainees: there was great bonding between all the class, with everyone helping one another along in many different ways. A stiff challenge always brings out people’s true mettle, and the sense of camaraderie and mutual support was wonderful.

Was there anything you had not expected at all; something that surprised you?

It was interesting to observe trained teachers in class, and see the wide variety of teaching styles.

What advice would you give someone preparing for the intensive 4-week CELTA course? Are there any books or websites you would suggest?

  • Take seriously the advice you are given with regard to clearing your diary completely for this time.
  • If you have family, explain to them that you need to make arrangements to be off the radar for a month!
  • Minimise the factors that will act as tipping points for stress during the course: in particular, if you have access to printing or photocopying facilities off-site, use them. When you are under severe pressure before a lesson in the morning, something beyond your control, such as the inevitable issues with photocopiers or the IT in the classrooms can be the final straw.
  • Similarly, as soon as the course begins, so does the blizzard of handouts under a plethora of different headings. Likewise, you will be taking copious notes to go with these. Come prepared and armed with a couple of folders or accordion files into which you can file the paper, labelled appropriately, as it falls; also an A4 pad or two.
  • At weekends, try and take at least one half-day’s complete break and do something that takes your mind off things – if possible something outdoors.
  • Make sure to eat properly in order to have the stamina required. A double espresso and two aspirin do not constitute breakfast!

In general, you need to be sanguine about what you are engaged in and try and keep a sense of perspective for the relatively short duration of the course. A philosophy of “Keep calm and carry on” will go a long way. You also need to be able to accept constructive criticism with a good grace, and be seen to act upon it: trainers are endeavouring to give you very particular skills that you need to master if you are to be someone who can enable learning, as opposed to just delivering teaching, and they need to be satisfied that you are taking their advice on board and trying to implement it. Lastly, as in all of life, a sense of humour will help you to get by!

With regard to books, websites, etc., the reading lists provided by the Department in UCC are a good initial source of reference works on both the theory and practice of the CELTA method. During the course, your trainers will often mention useful books or other references relevant to the specific topic under discussion. The internet is a great repository of all kinds of material, and a Google search will throw up dozens of websites with any number of resources – mostly free – under every conceivable heading. Also, your CELTA course fee entitles you to one year’s subscription to the Cambridge English Teacher website, which is the main hub for online tutorials, forums and many other helpful materials related to CELTA. You receive an activation code for this upon payment of fees.

And finally, now that the course is over what are your plans? How do you intend to use your CELTA qualification?

I was very lucky to be offered some contracts with a local college as soon as the course finished. This has enabled me to get stuck in to the world of ESL and begin to implement the training I received on the course. I hope also to take some private pupils in parallel to that, perhaps working from home, so as to build up experience, resources and contacts. It’s all good so far!

Thanks so much for doing this Jeremy. It was really interesting to learn about your experience. I am sure it will help anyone doing a CELTA course, both the trainees and the tutors!

Best of luck in all you do!

If you are interested in doing a CELTA course at UCC, you can find all the information here. 

UCC Language Centre comes to the rescue

Originally posted on UCC International Students:

B-twins

The UCC Language Centre had a good news story this month as they welcomed twin sisters, Marina and Natália, from Brasil to study English in UCC after their English institute closed down. Marina and Natália are from a small town called Rio Claro about two hours north west of Sao Paulo. Marina has an undergraduate and postgraduate qualification in Business Administration and has worked in Human Resources in Brasil. Natália has a degree in Biology from UNESP and hopes to go on to postgraduate education, perhaps even start a PhD under the Science without Borders programme in UCC.

The twins came to study English in Dublin earlier this year and were in the unfortunate position of seeing their English institute close down. Marina and Natália were upset and worried about what would happen next.  The Language Centre in UCC reacted quickly to the news that many English schools throughout Ireland…

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There is a wonderful sense of achievement by the end of the course

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Becky Coleman

Becky Coleman recently completed a four-week intensive CELTA teacher training course.  She kindly agreed to do a little interview with me about her experience.

Hey Becky thanks for taking the time to do this. Now that the four-week intensive CELTA course is over how do you feel?

I feel wonderful! It’s great getting to sleep at a normal hour!

Can you tell me what were your reasons for doing the course?

I had spent the last year as a substitute teacher in Ireland. I wanted to work full time and I felt the CELTA course would increase my chances of getting full time work as a teacher. I also wanted to travel and I knew that doing the CELTA course would give me the freedom to travel.

Can you tell us a little about the application process? What did you have to do?

There was a face-to-face interview and an hour-long exam to test your basic understanding of English, grammar, vocabulary etc. You will be asked in the interview how much pressure and criticism can you handle and do you think you will be able for the intense nature of the course.

What about before the course – were there things you had to do in preparation?

You will have to do a pre-course task that helps you prepare for the theory the course will cover. The pre-course task is important and it will give you a good idea of how challenging this course will be.

Tell us about the first day? What was that like?

I was very overwhelmed on the first day. The tutors did some lovely ice- breaker games with us in the morning, which helped us to get to know each other. All of the other trainees were lovely which really helped! In the afternoon we went straight into lesson planning as we were teaching the very next day. This was VERY overwhelming!

They say the course is really intensive. It is as relentless as they say or is it exaggerated?

Intensive is putting it mildly. It’s beyond intense! I don’t think anyone will really understand how demanding and intense this course is until they do it themselves. You have to be 100% committed to this course. Your entire social life will have to be put aside for the month if you want to get through it. However people do get through it! There is fantastic support from the tutors and especially the fellow trainees, which really helps.

On the course you have to teach for a total of six hours? How does that work out?

You are divided into two groups of 6. You basically teach a 40 minute lesson every second day. You will also teach a 1 hour lesson in the first two weeks and another hour lesson in the last two weeks. Trainees will have the opportunity to teach both upper intermediate and lower intermediate lessons.

Are the students ‘real’ students?

Yes they are! They are from all over the world. There is a very supportive atmosphere within the lessons and the students are lovely. They are enthusiastic and they want to learn. It is very enjoyable teaching them.

On average how long did it take you to prepare for a lesson?

The dreaded lesson plans! It took me about 5 hours to do a lesson plan in the evenings. They have to be detailed if you are to be confident in your teaching. It’s important to know the subject before you step into a lesson to teach and that is why the lessons have to be so detailed. It was very intense and stressful.

Did the tutors give you a lot of help in the planning stage of your lessons?

The tutors are extremely helpful with the lesson plans. We were very much spoon fed during the first week, however as the weeks go on the tutors will expect the trainees to put their own thoughts and ideas into the lessons. By the last week you will be expected to plan and complete the lesson yourselves.

So, in the morning you have teaching practice and then in the afternoon you have input sessions? Tell us a little about those.

This is the part of the course where you really need to have thick skin! You will be given constructive feedback on how your lesson went. Both the tutor and your fellow trainees will discuss things you did well in the lesson and aspects of the lesson you need to improve for the next time you teach. Take these things on board. The important thing is that you demonstrate improvement throughout the course.

What is the hardest part of the course?

I found the lack of sleep and the input sessions very hard. I was very nervous and anxious listening to the feedback my tutor and peers gave, but overall they are all very supportive and everyone is there to help one another. The feedback is to help you improve. For the entire 4 weeks I was only getting about 3-4 hours sleep a night, I had never experienced such sleep deprivation in my life!

Was there anything you found easy?

To be honest, I found every aspect of this course demanding. But it really is worth it in the end and I felt very proud of myself for getting through it. There is a wonderful sense of achievement by the end of the course.

Was there anything you had not expected at all; something that surprised you?

I did not expect to have such wonderful support from the other trainees. Everyone really unites together and helps each other get through the course. I could not have done the CELTA without the support and encouragement from my fellow trainees. I have definitely made life long friends from doing this course.

What advice would you give someone preparing for the intensive 4-week CELTA course? Are there any books or websites you would suggest?

It is definitely worth doing. However, you will need to be able to commit all of your time to this course. You will get very little sleep, you will be stressed, you will cry, you will have great days and bad days, but if this is something you really want, you will get through it! This course will definitely open many doors full of opportunities but you have to be prepared to work very hard.

I ordered some of the books that are suggested in the recommended reading list.

And finally, now that the course is over what are your plans? How do you intend to use your CELTA qualification?

I have accepted a job in Spain! I’m moving there in a few weeks and I am very excited about this opportunity!

Good for you, Becky! I am sure you will have a great experience and your students will enjoy your classes a lot. Suerte!

Click here if you would like to learn more about  the CELTA teacher training course.

What is life like for a Japanese student learning English at UCC?

Kumiko, from Japan who was here studying English with us in April, May and June

Hi Kumiko, Thanks for taking the time to do this interview with me. I really appreciate it.

Brendan: First of all, can you tell us a little about yourself? Where are you from? What are you studying?

Kumiko: I’m from Nagasaki, japan and study in Tokyo. My major is Hindi and I’m studying especially about India.

Brendan: Why did you choose to come to take an English language course at UCC Language Centre? How did you hear about our Language Centre?

Kumiko: the support centre in my university suggested me UCC, because I prefer nature to city, and I wanted to study in a place where there are less Japanese. And Ireland is located near Spain(I mean, in Europe), where I’d stayed before going to Cork.

Brendan: Before coming to Ireland, what did you know about our country?

Kumiko: I didn’t know anything special, I just searched how the weather in Ireland was.

Brendan: When you arrived what was the biggest surprise for you?

Kumiko: –kindness and cheerfulness of Cork citizens (I had some fear of rational distinction in Europe). And the weather.

Brendan: Did you stay with an Irish family or in student accommodation?

Kumiko: With an Irish family.

Brendan: Is Cork a safe place for Japanese students?

Kumiko: yes!! Safer (and calmer) than Tokyo, can feel relaxed like in Nagasaki.

Brendan: Are Cork people friendly?

Kumiko: definitely yes.

Brendan: What were your classes and teachers like?

Kumiko: the classes were sometimes a bit hard to keep up for me since it was advanced one, but I’m satisfied with them. Teachers gave a lot of opportunities us to speak and ask any questions.

Brendan: What was the daily routine for you?

Kumiko: 6:00 wake up around—have tea—7:00 breakfast –8:30 leave home by car—13:00 class ends—lunch with my friends—library/city centre/or do something—18:00 dinner at home—have a chat with host mother/do homework/take a shower/watch TV –22:30 sleep     **(wed) extra programme, (thu) Zumba class in mardyk

Brendan: Where did your classmates come from?

Kumiko: Saudi arabia, Kazakhstan, korea, china, brasil, Basque, Kuwait, japan

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Kumiko and her friends

Brendan: Did you make friends with your classmates?

Kumiko: I feel proud of having such admirable friends.

Brendan: Do you feel more confident in using English now?

Kumiko: I think so.

Brendan: While you were in Ireland, did you get to visit different parts of Ireland?

Kumiko: yes.

Brendan: What was the best place for you?

Kumiko: cliffs of moher and fitzgerald park

Brendan: If one of your Japanese friends was coming to UCC Language Centre, what advice would you give them?

Kumiko: bring an umbrella, visit cliffs of moher, have fun

Brendan: What did you miss about Japan when you were in Cork?

Kumiko: I didn’t miss in fact but if I say something, Japanese rice, grilled fish and natto.

Brendan: What do you miss about Cork, now that you are back in Japan?

Kumiko: my friends.

Brendan: What about the cost of the course? Was it reasonable?

Kumiko: it was affordable as students from Tokyo University of Foreign Studies get 20% discount of prices.

Brendan: I hope you will come back to Cork. Will you?

Kumiko: if I could have a chanceJJ

Brendan: Thank you, Kumiko.

 

Where can I find information about Cork?

Here are some useful links for students who are coming to our Summer School this year. If you have any other useful links, post them in the comments below.

 

And the winner is…

Congratulations to Anne-Sophie Sandor who is this year’s winner of our Photography Competition

Anne-Sophie Sandor’s photograph of the beautiful sunset in Connemara, in the west of Ireland, caught the attention of all the judges. It combines the beauty of the Irish landscape and the concept of progression and moving forward in life. Technically, the photograph is very composed and the control of light and subject is well-controlled. Judges agreed that the image symbolised a sense of discovery and travel which are two elements of our Summer School. We like to think that when you come to Cork to improve your English that it is also a time for you to discover new friends, new ideas and new things about yourself.

We congratulate Anne-Sophie on capturing this beautiful scene and being this year’s winner. Well done, Sophie! Later today, we will post a selection of the best of the other images which were entered. Again, we would like to thank everyone who entered this year’s competition. The standard was really high. Unfortunately, there can only be one winner, but congratulations to all for entering. We look forward to you coming to Cork this summer and creating new memories and images of your time here in Ireland with us.

Anne-Sophie S - Connemara 3

And in 2nd Place – Adventure in Ireland

We know that when you choose to come to Cork to improve your English it is not the classes or the homework or English grammar that gets you excited. No, it is the opportunity to discover Cork and Ireland, the opportunity to make new friends and explore the wonderful countryside. Cork is Ireland’s greatest county. It has the best beaches, mountains, lakes, forests and caves all within a short distance of the city. When students come to our University Language Centre for the Summer School they can experience the best that Ireland has to offer when we go on our excursions and day trips.

The photograph we chose in second place captures the spirit of adventure and exploration that you can experience when you come to learn English in Cork. In this photograph, Luca Gentile combines that adventurous feeling with the natural beauty of Ireland. We just hope that the photographer he took the photo of, did not fall into the lake!

Congratulations Luca! You have won second place. 

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Photography Competition

In this year’s competition we had entries from all over the world. The standard was really high and it was a difficult time for the judges to arrive at a decision. We would like to thank all those who entered the competition.

Last summer in Ireland was one of the most beautiful we have had for years with glorious sunshine for weeks. Being a small island we are surrounded by water and that means lots of beaches. In Ireland, we have some of the very best beaches in the world. This photograph from Valentina Casadei was taken in Kerry, not too far from Cork. It has beautiful colour and shows the natural beauty of Irish beaches. Congratulations, Valentina, you have won our third prize.

So, when you are coming to Cork, don’t forget to bring your swimming costume!

Valentina Casadei

Valentina Casadei

“I feel I really accomplished something.” Barry Griffin talks about his CELTA experience

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Barry Griffin and some of his students in Abu Dhabi Police College

“I feel I really accomplished something. The journey was rough, but the rewards were worth it.

Barry Griffin from Kerry took the four-week intensive CELTA course in July and August in 2013. You can read about Barry’s experience on the course and how it has helped him since in this interview Barry kindly did with me. Thanks for taking the time to do this interview Barry.

First of all, can you give us a little background about yourself and your work as a TEFL teacher?

I moved to Qatar in 2011. There I taught multi-cultural class groups, young learners and young adults EFL and ESP in reading, writing and listening. From there I moved to Abu Dhabi to teach English as a second language and also to teach Business English specializing in E.S.P. in a secondary school. I then got a position with the Higher Colleges of Technology where I’m currently teaching. I have gained experience, teaching beginners to IELTS. I’m also teaching in the Police College where I prepare and deliver EFL classes in reading, writing, listening and speaking.

What led you to take the CELTA course?

I wanted an international qualification in teaching, and having a CELTA provides me with a great employment opportunity. I obtained a position in the Higher Colleges of Technology in Abu Dhabi. I also needed to sharpen my teaching practice and gain extensive knowledge in the range of practical skills needed for teaching English. Another reason for doing the course is that I would eventually like to move back to Ireland and CELTA provides me with that employment opportunity to teach at home. The fact that it is an internationally recognized course will open many doors for me. It will prove beneficial in the future. While employment was the real reason for doing the course, it will also provide me with an opportunity to travel and experience new cultures.

How would you describe the four-week intensive course? Is it as demanding as people say?

Yes, it is demanding but you always have the support of your tutors and fellow trainees to get you through it. It involves a lot of preparation, on course reading and research, assignments, lesson preparation and record keeping. It can be exhausting and challenging, but at the same time interesting and invigorating. It is extremely intense and demands your full concentration. Your teaching is constantly assessed which can be daunting, but it is definitely worthwhile. There are small group feedback sessions after the lesson with written feedback given by your tutor. Your tutor will help you reflect on the positives and negatives of your lesson, so that you are aware of what to focus on in order to improve. I found it to be a very pleasant learning environment. The students I taught were adults and they fully engaged in the lessons. It was very easy to build rapport with them as they were very keen to learn English. Looking back I must admit I’m relieved to have completed the course. I feel I really accomplished something. The journey was rough, but the rewards were worth it.

What advice would you give someone thinking of taking four-week intensive CELTA?

Do your pre-course task. Do not ignore it. To be honest, I only briefly read through it and this put me on the back foot straight away and I was playing catch up from the start. One of my grammar classes suffered as a result of this. Look at the suggested reading material from the tutors, internet sites and the language centre links on the home page. This is very important.

Listen to teacher feedback from your tutor in order to make sure you’re making progression. You will have regular one to one meetings with them, so make sure you ask any questions on areas you are having problems with. In order to get a good grade you will need to implement your new knowledge. This is an important part of the course. Set up a dropbox account with your fellow trainees so that you can upload and share lesson plans and ideas. This will prove to be beneficial and I would strongly recommend it.

In the interview with my tutor, I was told to put my personal life aside for 4 weeks in order to concentrate fully on the course. Believe me, it is true! The course is extremely intense. I would encourage you to stay on top of assignments, use your weekends wisely and try to get as much sleep as possible. Be sure to plan your lessons well and have an idea of what you’re going to do in your lessons before tackling the plan. I would also print off or photocopy any material you need for your lesson the previous day. Use YouTube clips, pictures for vocabulary, magazine articles etc in your lessons. Varying your lessons and adapting to the needs of your students can be beneficial.

I hope I’m not painting a daunting picture of the course. It is definitely worth your time and effort. It will open many doors to you in the future. It did for me so it can for you.

How has the course benefitted you since doing it?

CELTA has benefitted me in many ways. Most importantly, it has boosted my confidence, and has given me a positive attitude towards teaching. It has given me a great hands-on, practical experience that I use in my classes now. The course has helped me in achieving my aims and taught me how to structure my classes in a lively and interesting manner. In particular, it helped me get away from a teacher-centered approach and more towards a student-centered approach. It has taught me different methods of conveying the same message through the use of songs, magazines and physical tactile games as opposed to using IT all the time. The pace of my lessons has improved. It has helped me plan my lessons realistically and given me different strategies to implement them. CELTA has helped me to monitor my students more effectively, helped me in establishing a better rapport, decentralize and to vary my presentation in the classroom. It taught me how to adapt to the needs of students and keep classes simple in order to get my point across. Going into the classroom with little delivery as opposed to a lot thus avoiding work overload.

What are your future plans in EFL? Have you thought about doing the DELTA?

I’m considering doing an MA in linguistics or perhaps a DELTA. The CELTA has opened up many doors for me. I have a taste for the TEFL world now as I believe there are a lot of job opportunities available in this area. I’m very passionate about teaching, seeing my students progress is wonderful, so furthering my studies and gaining a more in depth knowledge of teaching is my goal. I want to stay current now that I am teaching English as a full time job.

Another future plan of mine, is that I would like to specialize in English for Business (ESP) paying particular attention to Marketing or Entrepreneurship. I have a degree and an MA in Business. I believe this is an area that is going to expand in the future.

Barry, thanks again for doing this. I am sure your experience will inspire others to do a CELTA course and with the valuable tips you provided that they will be well-prepared for its demands. Best of luck with everything, Barry. Thanks again.

Our four-week summer intensive CELTA courses run from 16th June (deadline for applications – May 1) – 11th July and 14th July – 8th August (deadline for applications – June 1) All details available here.

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