Learning English at University College Cork, Ireland

Life inside and outside the language classroom

I am now teaching online to all levels and ages and I love my job

We met up with Sophie Deabreu who completed the fully-online CELTA in our University Language Centre with us in summer of 2020 to learn of her experience and what she has been doing since the CELTA course finished. 

Hi, my name is Sophie. I’m 25 years old. I was born in Kent in the UK but I have lived in Cork since the age of 6 or 7. I did my undergraduate degree with UCC (English and Archaeology) and I did my MA online with another University. I did the CELTA course from June – August 2020. I now teach English online and I love it. I also enjoy reading, writing, listening to music, and making poor quality pottery. 

Sophie Deabreu

Why CELTA? Why in a university?

I knew I wanted to do an English language teaching course, but I wasn’t sure which one. I initially did an online TEFL course and as helpful as that was, I didn’t feel it had actually helped me to learn the skill of teaching. So, I took to Google and found that a lot of language centres wanted a CELTA certificate (or equivalent) and I already knew that UCC did this (I tend to stalk the courses that UCC do in case one I want to do pops up). UCC being where I did my undergraduate degree, it made perfect sense for me to go back there to do this course too. 

How did you go about applying for the course?

I remember contacting UCC about it and sending in information about my academic history and/or experience. I did a task/test before the interview. I believe the task was to check that I had an understanding of what it was I was going to be teaching (i.e. the test was answering questions about the English language). The interview was about why I wanted to do the course, if I thought I could handle how intense the course is, and then a further discussion about the answers I wrote for the test. I seem to remember that the test was an hour long, as was the interview. 

Do you need to prepare for the course? Are you given tips on what to do?

Please prepare for the course. It will help with boosting your confidence when you’re teaching. When it comes to the language itself, I recommend getting yourself a couple of grammar books and even a book about teaching English as a foreign language (UCC will send you a list with good books to get) and highlight the areas in those books that you feel less confident about. Then study those things. Don’t overwhelm yourself with trying to memorise everything though, memorising things isn’t always helpful. Sit down with the language and be the student for a while. Even get yourself a students’ activity book and test yourself.

As for preparing for the structure of the course, familiarise yourself with that too so you know what’s coming and can feel prepared for it. Read the information about the course on the UCC website, but also have a look at videos on YouTube of people talking about their experience when they were doing the course. 

What was the first week  like?

Scary. Definitely scary. I felt overwhelmed. There is a lot of information thrown at you all in one go, but the beauty of it is that you’re not alone and if you are feeling that way then it is likely your fellow trainees feel that way too. Talk to them, share your worries with them, ask them to help you out with the things you are unsure about, help them out with the things they are unsure about. Support one another. We taught a class in the first week, but I seem to remember that it was only for 15 minutes per trainee (for that week only, after that it is 40 minute and 60 minute classes), but that was a really good way to get some of the nerves out of our systems.

Is it true that you are teaching real students from the very start of the course? 

Yes. It sounds scary but it’s for the best. This is what it’s going to be like once you’re qualified to do this as a living so you may as well get stuck in! If it were any other way it wouldn’t work as well because it wouldn’t be a true reflection of what teaching real students would be like. The students know you’re training, and they know you’re nervous, and ours were really understanding of that. I think most students would be.

How did it being fully online affect you?  How do you think it compares to a face-to-face course?

As with anything, there are pros and cons. I loved being in the “safety” of my own home, it made me feel less nervous about the teaching practice element of the course. I feel like it also gave me additional time to focus on getting the work done because there was no getting distracted by grabbing a coffee and chatting to my new found friends. On the flip side of that, there was no getting distracted by grabbing a coffee and chatting to my new found friends. I think doing that could have been helpful and would have generated even more discussion about the course. There are always ways around that though. We had Zoom calls together, a WhatsApp group, and we connected on our social media accounts. We bonded, and that bond thus far has been unbreakable. The course being online did present a few real problems to begin with though. Technology is unreliable and getting used to using a new platform was difficult, it would have been much more straightforward to split students into groups and share the teaching materials with them in person. It took a bit of time, but we all adapted. 

Teaching online must have been challenging. What was the experience like for you?

Like I said, the reliability of technology and getting used to a new platform posed a problem initially, but overall I loved learning and teaching online. Another difficulty to note is that it was sometimes harder to pick up on the students’ body language and facial expressions, or to gauge the ‘feeling’ of their level of understanding before going through the concept checking questions. 

CELTA is known to be a very intensive course; is it really?

Absolutely. It takes over your life a little bit but it’s important to remember that it’s because it’s a short course. When you have so much work to cover in a relatively short amount of time it’s always going to be intense. However, it is also very rewarding and by the end of the course it really feels like you’ve accomplished something, and that you faced something that was quite daunting… and succeeded!

Tell us a little about the teaching practice? How is it assessed?

We had eight teaching practice classes (TPs) four with students of one level and four with students of another level. The first three classes were 40 minutes long, the fourth was 60 minutes long. When you swap to the other level, the same pattern applies ( 3×40 mins, 1x60minutes). The grade you get is either ‘below standard’, ‘to standard’, or ‘above standard’. The tutor and your fellow trainees watch you teach, and your mark is given to you by your tutor and is based on your performance. There are a few things that you really need to remember during these classes. I’ll highlight some of them here: 

TTT – Teacher Talk Time: Don’t overdo the teacher talking time. Let students interact with one another as much as possible, they learn better this way. 

CCQs – Concept Checking Questions: You will be told all about these and how to prepare strong CCQs. Don’t forget them!

ICQs – Information Checking Questions: When you give students instructions about what they need to do, check that they understand those instructions. You will be shown how to do this as well. 

Example sentences – make sure any vocabulary is put into context. For example, if you are teaching someone the word ‘library’, give the definition and then use an example sentence. Context is so important.

Lesson plans – before your teaching practices you will have to write out and submit lesson plans. Do them thoroughly. 

There is so much more to it than just this, but those are a few of things that have really stuck with me.

What else do you have to do in terms of assessment on the course?

There are units to complete each week. This involves reading and answering questions. Some of these questions are multiple choice, some require a longer answer, and some involve a group work.

There are four assignments you need to complete. You need to pass three of these assignments to pass the course. Start them as soon as you get them! 

You also need to observe professional teachers and fill out notes based on what they are doing (this will be part of one of your assignments as well) and you need to observe and give feedback to your fellow trainees. 

If it is as intensive as they say, how did you balance the course work and your personal life? What advice would you give someone who is thinking of committing to doing a CELTA course?

I didn’t balance it very well to begin with but I don’t recommend that. I did CELTA all day every day for the first few weeks and this is not only bad for your well-being but I think it also has a negative impact on the quality of your work and performance, so don’t make the same mistake I initially did. After a while I realised that what I was doing simply wasn’t sustainable. I sat down and made a more realistic (and less exhausting) plan. I had certain days that I did certain things every week. For example, if I needed my unit work to be done by Wednesday, and had a TP on a Friday, and an assignment to complete, my week would look like this: Monday – Lesson Plan and unit work, Tuesday – Lesson Plan, Wednesday – Lesson Plan and Assignment, Thursday – Lesson Plan in the morning, assignment in the evening, Friday – Observations and assignment, Saturday – Observations and assignment, Sunday – Unit Work, and then anything extra was fit in around that. Of course this plan wouldn’t work for everyone (especially if your TP is on a different day of the week) but following that strict schedule worked for me. Basically, planning and organising yourself is key.

What part of the course did you enjoy most?

The reports/reflections we had to write about our own lesson after our teaching practices. They were really good for structuring my thoughts on what I felt I was doing well in and what I knew I needed to work on. Of course, the very best thing was the people and friendships that I made, and the support network that was there. I also loved the students we taught, you form a real bond with them. It is important to mention that after the course, and now that I am teaching, the teaching itself is the most enjoyable part. 

What were the tutors like?

They are there to help and guide you. Their feedback is everything so you need to listen to it and use it moving forward for each TP, lesson plan, assignment, everything. Ask them as many questions as you can, get everything that you can out of the course. They want you to do well so remember that every step of the way.

What advice would you give to someone starting the CELTA?

Prepare beforehand, be organised during, and be delighted with yourself after. Do a full run through (or two, or three) in your own time of every TP so you can get the timing of the lesson right and familiarise yourself with the flow of the lesson. Reach out to your fellow trainees and form friendships. Be supportive and allow yourself to be supported. Care about your students. Look after your mental health by doing your best to balance the intensity of the course and your personal life. Enjoy yourself, and remember, if you love teaching, your students will probably love learning with you.

What have you been doing since you got your CELTA qualification?

I have been teaching! I am now teaching online to all levels and ages and I love my job. I also stay in contact with a lot of people from the course and we chat about teaching, we get advice and support from one another, and we talk about non-work related things too of course.

Is there any question I have not asked, but you would like to comment on?

It’s not so much a question, it’s more of an additional statement that I would like to add. Sometimes the thought of having a job that you love doing feels like a fantasy or a lie we tell ourselves to remain hopeful, but it’s not. If you believe that this path will make you happy then please go for it. Don’t let words like ‘intense’, ‘heavy work-load’, ‘overwhelming’, or ‘daunting’ hold you back. Instead remember other key words I have used like ‘rewarding’, ‘supportive’, ‘friendships’, and ‘delighted’. Go for it, you can do it!

You are so right. CELTA is intensive, but the positives greatly outweigh any downsides.

Thanks, so much for taking the time and sharing your experience, Sophie. We really look forward to seeing where the CELTA will bring you.

If you are interested in getting a qualification which will allow you to work anywhere in the world, a CELTA course might be for you. All details here.

You come out feeling prepared to give full classes online on your own, knowing that you are equipped with the tools to deliver professional and engaging lessons

Meet Ian Hurley who recently graduated from our fully-online CELTA teacher training course with a Pass A grade.

Here he tells us about his experience on the course and how he intends to use his qualification.

Ian Hurley, a Pass A CELTA graduate

Tell me a little about yourself

I have been a language teacher for around 10 years. I taught English in Japan as an assistant teacher and I taught Japanese in Ireland at 2nd and 3rd level. I have been considering becoming a full-time English teacher in the last few years since there seems to be more opportunities in a variety of countries and contexts.

Why CELTA? Why in a university?

I was advised by an experienced teacher that CELTA was considered to be one of the best qualifications for teaching English and that it is recognised all over the world. I wanted to do the course in a university to ensure that the highest standards would be upheld in terms of tutors and the provision of advice, materials, etc.

Why was behind your decision to do the course?

While I have a lot of classroom experience as a teacher, there were a lot of gaps in my explicit knowledge of English. As a native speaker, I felt that there were many things I could not explain in simple terms, even though I understood how to use them intuitively. I wanted to do the course to give me a solid foundation of theoretical knowledge and practical experience, so that I would feel more confident in my ability to conduct a class and be ready to give the students the clearest information possible. I also wanted to gain experience teaching online as I had never done it before and did not feel prepared to do full classes online.

How did it being fully online affect you?  How do you think it compares to a face-to-face course?

There were advantages and disadvantages to a full online course. The disadvantages were that it was more difficult to get to know my fellow trainees and tutors without the direct contact you get in a real classroom situation. Another disadvantage is that you can feel a little disconnected from the students and it can be hard to pick up on non-verbal cues such as body language, facial expressions, etc. In terms of teaching, there are times when something simple like arranging pairwork can be complicated and a little frustrating. Technical issues can also become a distraction during lessons. On the other hand, there were also advantages. The online format is growing hugely in popularity and it was extremely satisfying to be able to become proficient at it. It gave me a lot of confidence in my own ability to carry out full lessons from my home. Doing the course online was also very convenient and I would not have been able to commute had it not been online. In that way, I gained time to focus on the coursework and lesson preparation.

Teaching online must have been challenging. What was the experience like for you?

Overall, I found it to be a positive experience. As mentioned, there are difficulties such as technical problems and a sense of distance from the students, but these can be overcome if you really try to learn about using technology to good effect. In terms of bridging the gap between yourself and the students, it is still possible to create very good rapport online. I found that I used more personalisation than usual in order to try to connect with the students. I think this worked very well since they responded by opening up and this led to a very pleasant classroom environment, even in an online format. I do miss the ability to read students’ reactions or facial expressions as I would in a classroom, but it doesn’t have to be a major issue if you focus on the positive aspects of online teaching and do your best to master the technical challenges involved.

How did you go about applying for the course?

I emailed the UCC Language Centre and received instructions on how to apply. I filled out an application form and then I did a pre-course interview to determine my suitability for the course.

CELTA is known to be a very intensive course; is it really?

YES! It is definitely an intensive course. While I had heard this beforehand and I was expecting a large workload, I was still taken by surprise by how much work I was faced with. At the beginning of the course, it can feel very overwhelming because all of the information is presented to you at once. With such a massive amount of information, you simply don’t know where to begin or how you are going to manage. I dealt with this by making a very detailed weekly plan and systematically listing every task I needed to complete each week. I then put these tasks into daily lists, such as reading specific chapters of books, doing online modules, lesson plans, etc. I think making a detailed 10-week plan at the very beginning of the course greatly helped me manage the workload. It was still quite stressful at times, and the course tends to take over your life in some ways, but it was completely worth it. I feel as if I learned a huge amount about teaching in that short 10-week period.

Is it as simple as just sending in an application form?

As far as I recall, I emailed the language centre and then filled in the application form. I was then asked to do a short interview.

Do you need to prepare for the course? Are you given tips on what to do?

The Language Centre provides you with a reading list and useful websites etc. There is also a pre-course task which you need to complete.

As a practical suggestion, I would suggest clearing your calendar of any unnecessary meetings or events for the period of the course. You will need all the time you can get and having a minimum of distractions will help. I suggest putting together a 10-week plan template so that you are ready to drop in the tasks as you encounter them. I would recommend becoming familiar with using Zoom, Google docs, PowerPoint, using image editing software like MS Paint, MS Word, etc. 

What was the first week  like?

The first week was very intense but also exciting. Getting the schedule and seeing exactly what was going to be happening was daunting, but I was glad to be starting. The first weeks are probably the hardest because you feel under-prepared and overwhelmed. You might wonder if you are even able to get through it, but I think everyone feels like that when they start. The most important thing is to focus on the information given by the tutors, to do the course modules, to really put everything into planning the lessons, and to try to develop good relationships with your fellow trainees.

Is it true that you are teaching real students from the very start of the course? 

Yes, you begin teaching from Week 1 (or possibly even earlier). While this might be daunting, it can also be a lot of fun meeting the students. Doing the classes is a key part of learning how to improve your teaching. The self-evaluations and feedback from tutors/trainees is invaluable in developing your skills. So while it might seem too early, it is actually one of the best things you can do.

Tell us a little about the teaching practice? How is it assessed?

The teaching practice is assessed on the strengths (and weaknesses) of both the lesson plan and the lesson execution. Both of these are key ingredients in making a successful lesson. The lesson plan needs to be thorough, logical and it must conform to the CELTA format and use the correct terminology. The lesson execution must live up to a certain standard according to CELTA criteria. Reading all the criteria beforehand is important so that you know and understand exactly you should be doing. I found the Assisted Lesson Planning sessions with tutors to be vital in preparing me for the earlier lessons. The feedback afterwards was also extremely helpful. You should take detailed notes in all tutor sessions so that your teaching practice can improve.

What else do you have to do in terms of assessment on the course?

There are online course modules (around 30 modules), four written assignments (1000 words each approximately), video demonstration classes to observe, and general participation in feedback sessions and Assisted Lesson Planning sessions.

If it is as intensive as they say, how did you balance the course work and your personal life? What advice would you give someone who is thinking of committing to doing a CELTA course?

I was lucky in that I was able to reschedule most of my professional or personal commitments. This gave me the maximum time possible to focus on the course. While that isn’t possible for everyone, I would recommend making as much time for study as possible. The course is very demanding, and the more commitments you have outside the course, the harder you will find it. It would be a good idea to use some annual leave if you have any, or to rely on family and friends to help with other commitments.

What part of the course did you enjoy most?

I really enjoyed the teaching. As a teacher, the most satisfying thing is to get to know your students and watch as they learn and make progress week by week. The more confident they become, the more they talk and the more enjoyable the lessons become. I also enjoyed developing my skills as a teacher. The amount of detail in the modules gives you a real sense that you are developing a solid foundation of theoretical knowledge which helps when you go to plan a lesson or carry out a lesson.

What were the tutors like?

Extremely helpful. They were an invaluable resource on the course. The depth of their knowledge and their willingness to provide honest feedback was critical. What I found especially helpful was that they don’t sugar-coat things. They give a realistic appraisal of what you are doing well and what you need to work on. This is so important because it lets you see how you are progressing in some areas but also allows you to understand what areas need improvement. They were very friendly and always there to offer advice and insights.

What advice would you give to someone starting the CELTA?

Clear your schedule. Make a detailed plan. Start reading. Take notes on everything you think is important and review those notes weekly. Practice using software and programs used in online teaching. Understand that you will probably feel overwhelmed at times, but that is normal. Get to know your fellow trainees and rely on each other. Be yourself with the students.

What have you been doing since you got your CELTA qualification?

I took some time off to relax after the course and now I am looking for a full-time job as an English teacher.

What would you have liked to have known before the course that you discovered as the course progressed?

Personally, I would have liked to have had a little more detail about the assessments, in terms of how each aspect of the assessments contributed to an overall grade. I also learned that your access to the Cambridge website’s online modules expires after the course, so it is very important to take detailed notes while going through the course. These are minor details in what was overall an extremely positive learning experience which gave me confidence as a teacher in any format, whether online or in classrooms.

Is there any question I have not asked, but you would like to comment on?

I can’t recommend the CELTA course enough. It’s a tough 10 weeks but it’s over in a flash and you come out feeling prepared to give full classes online on your own, knowing that you are equipped with the tools to deliver professional and engaging lessons to your students. 

Thanks so much, Ian.

If you are interested in getting a qualification which will allow you to work anywhere in the world, a CELTA course might be for you. All details here.

Spending Christmas in Colombia would have been emotionally draining as I have wanted to see friends and family for a long time

Hi! My name is David O’ Donoghue.

UCC CELTA graduate David O’ Donoghue with his girlfriend Catalina

I completed my CELTA teacher training course in UCC Language Centre back in 2018.

Since then I moved and I have been living with my Colombian partner, Catalina, in Bogota, Colombia since December 2019 where my CELTA qualification has helped me. I have been teaching history and humanities in an IB international bilingual secondary school. I teach virtually three days of the week and live in the classroom on the other two days. I also teach ESL virtually through an agency. I enjoy teaching the Colombian kids as they are generally very kind and respectful. 

Honestly, I do really miss my group of friends from Mitchelstown and Ireland in general. I find the sense of humour and outlook on life is miles apart in Colombian and Irish culture, but fortunately I can say that I have found some social outlets in Colombia and I play 5-a-side soccer and poker with some of my colleagues from the school. One advantage about Colombia is that you can book a weekend away in a “finca” very easily and for very cheap. 

In Colombia, the lockdown has been lifted since the end of August and as such most businesses/services are operating as they normally would with some precautions, e.g. mask wearing, in place.

My school provides annual return flights for teachers and their partners to our country of origin as part of the contractual package and as such, I was due to travel home in July but this wasn’t possible during the lockdown etc. Therefore, I postponed my flight until Christmas and hence here I am back in Mitchelstown.

To get home, I was required to take a Covid test and download a couple of smartphone apps where I had to provide my details etc. As flights are less frequent in the current climate, I had to book a flight to Amsterdam and spend two nights there before flying to Dublin (as a Cork option was not available). I couldn’t wait to get out of Amsterdam to be honest as I was on my own and it was sort of eerie being there during a very strict lockdown and the city was not the buzzing tourist hotspot for which it is renowned. Apart from going out for fresh air and a bit of take-away food, I mostly stayed in my hotel room. 

I arrived at Dublin airport yesterday where I was greeted by my father and we went home. I think spending Christmas in Colombia would have been emotionally draining as I have wanted to see friends etc for a long time as well as to have this opportunity to reflect on long-term plans etc. However, it does seem to have the makings of a very different sort of Christmas, without the pub scene etc. Nevertheless, I have been in contact with my friends and we have talked about meeting up etc. It has been nice to see my immediate family again.

I will be flying back to Colombia on the 9th January after another night in Amsterdam.

UCC’s Language Centre’s next CELTA course starts on January 26th.

Sadly I will be unable to return home to Ireland for Christmas

Hi, my name is Nicole Irwin.

Nicole Irwin won’t be home for Christmas this year; instead she will be spending it in Milan.

I am currently living in Milan and since doing my CELTA teacher training course online with UCC’s Language Centre this summer I have been working as an English teacher for one of the schools here in Milan. This school caters more to adults and therefore operates on a different schedule – offering classes late in the evening and on weekends, and even offering classes online.

I have been lucky enough to be able to work from home and continue to grow my teaching experience despite the situation with Covid. I wish things could be different with Christmas just around the corner as sadly I will be unable to return home to Ireland for Christmas.

Due to this ever-changing situation I have not been able to see my family in many months, but I am lucky enough to constantly keep in contact with them and be occupied with my new job which was only possible through doing the CELTA course I did in the summer.

Although the situation for this upcoming season is not ideal, I am rather looking forward to spending Christmas in such a beautiful and exciting country. 

To learn more about our University Language Centre’s CELTA courses click here.

We will spend a few days in a yoga retreat rather than embrace the oddity of a roast turkey dinner in the 30 degree heat in Vietnam

Hello, my name is Ian.

I’m from Cork, but I’ve been living in Ho Chi Minh City since finishing the CELTA course in UCC’s Language Centre in July 2017. I’m currently studying a PGCEi online through University of Nottingham.

Remaining stoic this festive season in Vietnam. Ian is standing in the checkered shirt at the back.


Why Vietnam? Well, it was always Vietnam. Even before deciding to do the CELTA, Vietnam was in the back pocket waiting to be pulled out like a shiny Premier League sticker! I can’t pinpoint why, but it has always intrigued me and coupled with the fact that in recent years it’s become a great place to cut your teeth as a teacher, it was the obvious choice for me!

Rice paddies in the northern province of Sapa

I’ve had a few jobs over the past few years, some teaching and some other jobs too! One of the great things about being in a market in which teaching jobs are abundant is that you can also try something completely different. If it doesn’t work out, no worries, there will be a teaching job to pick up at the drop of a hat. Coming from Ireland, where jobs are a bit scarcer, it can take a little while to adjust to that. A lot of people out here save money teaching and then open a small café or restaurant – there’s little red tape and relatively few start up costs.

Right now, I’m working in a small, private primary school as a maths teacher and I also teach ESL at the school’s language centre. I run the school’s chess club and coach a bit of soccer as well. It’s a lovely place to work – stressful at times like anything else, but even when I’m in the thick of it I have a smile on my face!

A small pagoda near the peak of Fansipan, the highest mountain in the Indochinese Peninsula.


Just like everyone else in the world, my year has been a strange one too! Vietnam is coping exceptionally well with containing the spread of the coronavirus, however. We had a few weeks of a lockdown earlier in the year, but we’ve been living life relatively well for most part. It does mean that I’m staying put for Christmas, though – my first one away from home. Myself and my girlfriend have decided to travel to the central highlands and spend a few days in a yoga retreat rather than embrace the oddity of a roast turkey dinner in the 30 degree heat. There’s a bit of a nip in the air at the higher altitude so I suppose we’ll get a little taste of home that way.

A view from the peak of Fansipan: The bronze Buddha statue sits at 21.5m tall, 3000m above sea level, and overlooks the plantations below.

Merry Christmas to everyone reading and all back home; have a few Cadbury’s Roses and a cup of Barry’s tea for me!

You can learn more about our CELTA teacher training courses here. The next one starts on January 26th.

It was always my plan to go home for Christmas, but it’s not all bad.

Unable to come home for Christmas, UCC CELTA graduate Aoife Lynch tells us what Christmas will be like in Japan this yuletide.

Hi, my name’s Aoife.

I’m from Cork, Ireland and I’m currently based in Tokyo, Japan teaching English. I moved to Japan in March 2019 not long after completing my CELTA in UCC’s Language Centre.

Aoife at the Big Buddha of Kamakura

Since then, I’ve been working for a private English school and I teach kids, teenagers, and adults. I teach many types of classes such as group, private, business English, and exam classes. The maximum number of students I can have in a class is six which is great since things can’t get too hectic especially with the kids.

Senso-ji temple in Asakusa 

I haven’t gone back to Ireland for a visit since I moved here. It was always my plan to go home this Christmas but as December drew closer and a third wave of the virus approached, I began to accept that my plan wasn’t going to happen. The thought of not seeing my friends and family this year was definitely upsetting at first, but in reality, travelling long distance during the COVID era with the risk of not being allowed back into Japan afterwards would be too much of a gamble.

Gotokuji Temple – which is quite close to where Aoife lives

However, it’s not all bad. I consider myself lucky to call a country as beautiful as Japan my home and staying here during the holidays gives me the opportunity to visit all the wonderful places it has to offer. So instead of an Irish Christmas dinner this year, I will be doing a round tour of some beautiful places in Japan. First, one of the many islands of sunny Okinawa, then back to the winter climate in central Japan eating okonomiyaki (a Japanese style pancake) in Osaka, and then cycling around Lake Biwa, the largest lake in Japan. Finally, I’ll head north to Niigata to spend some time skiing.

Yomiuriland – a winter wonderland theme park

A once in a lifetime experience – CELTA online

Yuhi Fujioka took our fully-online CELTA course this summer from his home in Japan. Here he tells of his experience.

Yuhi Fujioka

You  completed the fully-online 7-week intensive CELTA course? Tell us about that.

I would call it a once in a lifetime experience. Everything I went through (the lessons, teachers, fellow trainees, and students) influenced me so much in this amazing journey. It was surely a strenuous course, although the sweat and hard work were all worth it.

What was the first day like?

It was nerve-racking indeed as I was the only non-native English speaker within my group. Although I felt much better when everyone was very welcoming and supportive despite that. It made me have more confidence to be able to do my best.

CELTA is known to be a very intensive course; is it really?

It definitely is and the journey was way more challenging than I expected. Not to mention the time difference between Ireland and Japan, the writing assignments and preparation of lesson materials were severe and took a lot of time to accomplish.

If it is as intensive as they say, how did you balance the course work and your personal life? What advice would you give someone who is thinking of committing to doing a CELTA course?

As I own my company, I really had to make sure to handle both every single day. I’m the type of person who enjoys the challenge of accomplishing tasks and reaching goals instantaneously, so I worked and studied long nights, at times not even having the chance to sleep at all. If I were to advise someone planning to take the CELTA course, I would have to say be ready for everything. You have to be able to sacrifice time in general.

You were in Japan when you did the course and you were working full-time; how did you manage all of that?

Managing my own company and being part of the CELTA course was an arduous experience. As I mentioned previously, the time difference was tremendously a huge thing for me, as I had to stay awake from 10 pm to about 2 am or 3 am. It surely affected my body clock for 2 months. As I had to prioritize both my business and the course itself, I had to make sacrifices with time, energy, eating as well as sleep, though I of course enjoyed this experience. It helped me become a stronger person and grow more as an individual.

Thank you so much, Yuhi, for sharing this with us. We wish you all the best in your future endeavours and hope to welcome you here on campus in the future.

If you are interested in getting a qualification which will allow you to work anywhere in the world, a CELTA course might be for you. All details here.

Read more CELTA graduate interviews here.

 

CELTA is an experience that is like no other, and rewards like no other

In Janaury of this year we started what we thought would be a regular 10 -week CELTA course with 12 trainees on campus in our University. Covid-19 and a national lockdown interrupted this course and we had to shift to online to complete the course. CELTA is a demanding enough course without throwing into the mix a global pandemic. Philip Ryan was one of the trainees on this course. Read about his experience.

Philip Ryan

You completed the 10-week intensive CELTA course, but in reality it was much longer. Tell us about that.

 The 10-week intensive CELTA course was probably the longest 10-week course in the history of all CELTA courses run in UCC!  From the day the course commenced, Covid-19 had already been in the news for some time, and it was really only a matter of time before we had cases in Ireland.

As Covid-19 was spreading through Europe, Brendan Ó Sé, the course tutor at the time, discussed the possibility of UCC closing down over Covid-19.  I think it was very admirable that not only did Brendan raise the topic, it was a conversation that needed to be addressed.  Critically, he also made it clear that no matter what happened, that we would each get our certificate, maybe not to schedule, but again, to be aware of the strange times we found ourselves in.

Then, just before my final teaching practice, scheduled for March 13th, the country went into full lockdown. Realistically, everyone knew there was going to be some sort of action taken to try and thwart the spread of Covid-19, but for the full lockdown to be that swift, was astonishing!

Thankfully, the information that was needed for the progression of the course was swift, via email, Microsoft Teams, Zoom and WhatsApp.

 The switch to teaching online must have been challenging. What was the experience like for you?

 The switch to teaching online was incredibly challenging, as it was unscheduled in the course itinerary, but ironically, it was also something that I was aiming to do, albeit at my own pace!

The actual teaching online was a real an eye opener.  Although I had practiced using Zoom with my fellow trainees, online teaching and classroom teaching are really two different fields.  They both require different preparation for class, and they both can have their own potential unique difficulties.

For instance, losing power in the classroom is one obstacle, but to lose the power on your own computer while teaching online is quite another!  Nevertheless, everyone who taught a class online really appreciated the experience.

CELTA is known to be a very intensive course; is it really?

The CELTA course is very, very intensive.  You are literally burning the candle at both ends, and in the middle!  It is really the case of no matter how intensive you think it is going to be, it will be way more intensive than you could imagine.

What was behind your decision to do the course?

I think the main decision for doing the CELTA course is that you can travel with it, stay local with it, or even be your own boss!

How did you go about applying for the course?

Since I was already a graduate of UCC, I was very aware of UCC offering the course on the campus. With that, I started to look at the course information online, then I started asking people that I knew, who did the course, for more information.

Is it as simple as just sending in an application form?

Filling out the application form is one step, then there is the interview process.  When I arrived for my interview, I was given a questionnaire on dealing with grammar.  Once I completed the questionnaire, I was then interviewed by the tutor of the course.   It was formal, but friendly.

Do you need to prepare for the course? Are you given tips on what to do?

To prepare for the course, start organising before you start, have your folders ready, clear pocket sheets, etc.  Read all literature that will be sent via a link in an email.

Once the course starts, keep your notes in order, organise each and every handout you get. There will be a lot!

What was the first day like?

After an icebreaker, to get to know your fellow trainees, information was coming thick and fast.  By the end of the day, not only was I spinning from all the information dispensed, I had to produce a lesson plan as I was scheduled to teach for the next CELTA class at 9 a.m.

Is it true that you are teaching real students from the very start of the course?

That is very true! Depending on the schedule, you could be teaching the very next day of the CELTA course.  In my case, after the first day, I was scheduled to teach at 9 a.m on the second day of the CELTA course.  The remaining trainee tutors, who were not scheduled to teach on same day that I taught on, were tutoring on the third day of CELTA.

Tell us a little about the teaching practice? How is it assessed?

Each, and every time you teach, you are being monitored and graded by your tutor.  You are being assessed on the actual text of the lesson plan you have submitted the day beforehand to the tutor.  You are being assessed on how you teach, how you present the material, how you conduct yourself, how you interact with the class, right down to the minutes you have stated in your lesson plan aims for the full class.

After each teaching practice, you will get feedback from your fellow trainees, and tutor.  Feedback is crucial in the pursuit of the CELTA cert, as it helps you to improve every class you are scheduled to teach next, and to prevent a poor grade.

Although I have had teaching practice prior to the course, I still found it very stressful to tutor.  Thankfully, I had a bottle of water on the table, which I continued to replenish for each of the remaining teaching practices!

What else do you have to do in terms of assessment on the course?

Along with being assessed on your teaching practice, you will have to submit four assignments.  The assignments, although “short,” are somewhat painstaking at times, and will need to include evidence from reliable sources that can be found in the resource centre, or online.  Deadlines for the assignments are given early in the course, so it is best to start them early as possible.

Fortunately, if one, or all the assignments are not to standard, you can resubmit.  A resubmission will come with detailed information, where an improvement, or points, need to be made clearer.  Naturally, if you need to resubmit, you are given another deadline.

Is it as intensive as they say, how did you balance the course work and your personal life? What advice would you give someone who is thinking of committing to doing a CELTA course?

It is very intensive, and more! In balancing my course work and personal life, course work took over everything.  It really is the last thing at night on your mind, and the first thing on your mind in the morning.

The advice I would give to someone taking up the course, is be prepared to see less of your family and friends.

What part of the course did you enjoy most?

It is really difficult to say which part of the course I enjoyed the most, as it constantly it changed.  There were days when you had a great teaching practice, to listening to a fascinating topic being discussed.  Nevertheless, one particular part of a course I remember warmly, was tutoring a student who was very shy and timid in class.

As the weeks passed, you could see the student grow in confidence to the point where they were ready to take a risk giving an answer on question that was posed to the class.  To see the student change from the first class to the last class before my eyes was fantastic!   That, to me, is what being a CELTA teacher is about!

What were the tutors like?

The tutors were extremely professional, approachable, but very dedicated to the criterion stipulated by CELTA.  With each monitoring of your class, by your tutor, your stress levels will reach a new level from the class before, as your tutor expects you to implement improvements from your last teaching practice feedback.

While the pressure is certainly on, the tutors know this, but don’t feel you can’t ask for their opinion on an idea you have for the next class you will teach.  They are really helpful, and always ready to point you in the right direction of your ideas.

Doing your CELTA course in a university environment is a great advantage and looks very good on your CV also. Tell us a little about that.

The university has a charming ambience, which is always there no matter what the weather is like!  It is especially great to know that during your lunchbreak, you can get a breath of fresh air while taking a short stroll across the campus to get a bite to eat.

Furthermore, doing a CELTA course in UCC has numerous advantages.  Along with meeting up with likeminded individuals doing the same course, everything you need to assist you in your CELTA studies is located in the nearby resource room.

All of which is managed by the excellent, and extremely helpful staff.  Of course, having UCC on your CV is not a bad thing to have!

What advice would you give to someone starting the CELTA?

The main advice I would give to someone starting the CELTA is get to know your trainee tutors.  They will make your time doing the CELTA a lot easier.  Do not be afraid to ask them for tips with an assignment, or lesson plan, I did, and I am really grateful for the tips that I received.

Definitely know how your computer works, as you will be using it a lot, PowerPoint, designing handouts etc.  If you don’t have a computer, borrow one, get one, as you will be spending a lot of time on the computer once class is over.

What have you been doing since you got your CELTA qualification?

Since I have gotten my CELTA qualification, I have registered on a number of teaching online sites, updated my LinkedIn profile, and brushed up on grammar notes.  In the future I would like to teach in class in Germany for the summer months, as I have a vested interest in the German language.

Is there any question I have not asked, but you would like to comment on?

Read Padlet, it is akin to an online noticeboard operated by your tutors, from start to finish.  It will be immensely helpful when drawing up a lesson plan.  It is also regularly updated throughout the course with other useful information.

Upon finishing a lesson plan, for a teaching practice, follow the times designated on the lesson plan to the second.  If a “live” teaching practice runs over, or under time, it shows straight away that something went wrong, which will definitely be relayed to you in your feedback. To prevent this, practice the night beforehand with a clock/stopwatch, then practice, practice and practice some more!

Lastly, if you are still reading this, I wish you all the very best in your CELTA journey.  It is an experience that is like no other, and rewards like no other.

CELTA was a really positive experience for me

Molly Twomey graduated in August, 2020, from our first-ever, fully-online CELTA course. Find out what the course was like and her teaching experience since the course ended.

If this gets you thinking about the opportunities a CELTA course can offer, check out our webpage for all details about our CELTA courses.

Week 11 of our fully-online CELTA course

When you said it in the interview, I did not believe you.

It is so common to hear this from trainees as they discover what CELTA is really like, but usually the comment is in relation to the relentless nature of ongoing demands of the course, but this time it wasn’t. This time it was a trainee talking about the fact that a wonderful collaborative bond does in fact emerge among CELTA trainees as the course evolves.

You were all so lovely. I could not have done it without you! 

At the outset of the course, I was worried how the shift to online, with tutors and trainees hived off remotely, would impact on the building of relationships. Would they bond? Would we bond? Would they be there for each other when things got tough? Would the tech be an obstacle? And you know, as with so many other aspects of course, I discovered that no, it wasn’t. The trainees’ dynamic was not dissimilar to that of a campus-based cohort. They adapted. They built bonds. They got each other through. Sure they are missing out on the opportunity to head off together as a group from campus to the nearest pub for a few well-deserved end-of-course drinks, but to use a Covid cliche staying apart has brought them together.

And with that, my final blog is all about the trainees. and their experience. Before I pass you over to read about this fully-online CELTA from a trainee’s perspective, I just want to thank them. For us, this was a new endeavour. We were learning as we were doing, but we all got there. Also a very big thanks to my colleague, Sally. It took us eight months to complete two courses, but we did it!

I posted questions and prompts for the trainees to answer.

  • The thing about having to teach online classes is….

perspective. One of the things I dreaded the most was the fact that it would be online. “What if my internet fails in the middle of teaching?” “I’m not the best at technology”, “how on earth will I actually teach online, how does that work?”. The answer to all of those things is, it does. Tech fails, you have to learn to use a new platform, but teaching online does work. It’s all about how you adapt to a new teaching/learning environment and by the end of the course you will go from wanting to throw your laptop out the window to feeling like you are ready to teach anyone on the globe because you have a device that allows you to do so and have developed the tech skills to do so effectively.

________

You are much more restricted physically. The screen can feel like a long narrow tunnel and the students feel far away. Everything takes longer to set up and run. It’s easy to lose your place in a plan, so clear (even colour-coded) steps that condense the plan is crucial to keep track. There’s even more prep needed to have everything on a google doc so you can copy and paste activities or instructions. Things will stop working and you may even end the meeting prematurely. You will survive, it takes practice and slowly it gets easier.

  • The tech is great for….

Connecting people from all over the world. We had students from across the globe such as Argentina, Brazil, Columbia, Kenya. It’s also great for those who feel more comfortable learning in their own home. I believe it should be an option for all to learn online. Though we all know there are so many benefits to learning in a ‘real’ classroom, the main goal is for students to learn, so it is important that online learning is an option for people.

________

It is surreal to know that one student is cold in the Colombian winter, while another is drinking tea in Argentina as you teach. In some ways the tech makes it more intimate, between teachers and students (it feels like you are having a one to one conversation often) and between trainees who text at 2am to ask a technical question but they are really grateful when they get a reply! I’m not sure it would have been so intimate in a real world course, though the testimonials from previous suggest this.

  • Using tech in a language classroom does not…

mean that people are at a disadvantage. It takes a bit of getting used to, both for the teachers and the students (and the tutors!) but the quality of what can be learnt is just as good as what can be learnt in a classroom, it’s just a different way of going about it.

  • What I know now, that I wish I had known about CELTA at the start of the course?

I knew this course would be intense, and I had fair warning about that, but I thought to myself ‘hey, I’ve done an MA, it can’t be much more intense than that’… well, I was very wrong. It is far more intense than that. I should have guessed because it is done over such a short period of time in comparison. What I will say though, is don’t let the warnings about how intense it is turn you off doing the course, because how rewarding it feels to complete it far outweighs the intensity of doing it.

________

Online learning is a different beast, and no matter how proficient you are in a lot of things – tech, presentation skills, rapport, language skills – you have to relearn it all to do CELTA well. It takes a lot of brainpower to keep your focus on a few areas at the same time. Work smart not hard, and keep a separate file for notes from each part of the course. Grammar is your friend as it is unchanging as the North Star and can guide you. The present perfect tense will haunt your dreams for weeks, but you will come to see it as an old friend. 

  • The best thing about using Zoom as a platform is….

The breakout rooms. These are so important in the class. It means we can still decentralise and allow for student-led feedback and peer correction. That is the tool that I think makes Zoom such a strong platform for teaching online.

________

It’s like a flying machine, it’s amazing to have such a tool, to show videos, listen to audio, write on a board, share visuals, changing the screen every two – three minutes. With practice this feels like a miracle! 

________

The best thing about Zoom is you can try to imagine you’re teaching on your own without the constant pressure of being assessed, because observers turn off their mics and cameras.

  • The worst thing about using Zoom as a platform is….

It can be difficult for time management, but I think that is the case for getting used to any online platform. I found the most difficult thing with teaching online is factoring in how long it would take to set up breakout rooms, copy and paste instructions, get everyone on the same google doc (getting the links to work) etc, into the lesson plan.

________

Everything takes so long to do and you can’t plan for it, one hiccup and you’re a few minutes behind, two hiccups and you are close to panic!! It takes WAY more practice than you think, and even if it’s boring, it has to be done, because the lesson plan will not make up lack of practice.

  • The Cambridge Moodle is…

Stressful. I found it incredibly difficult to use and though you become more familiar with it over time it isn’t the most straight-forward site. There is a lot of clicking on links to get from A to B, a lot of opening pages and closing pages to get to where you need to be and a save button for every section that needs to be recorded as part of your portfolio. The units themselves (the content) were good, but there were some issues with them being recorded as complete even when you know you finished them in full and this was a major point of stress for a lot of us. (S)

________

Is unfortunately the one aspect of the course that really tests your grit to get through them. I wish there was a better way to say that. But moodle is only one part of a large and immersive experience.  

  • CELTA is stressful and the best way to deal with that stress is…

Lean on your peers! I cannot stress that enough. They understand what you are going through, they’re going through the same thing. Open up to them about your stress, ask them for help, and that could be anything from asking about assignments or lesson plans to just ranting and raving about how intense the course is. Lean on your tutors too, they are also there to support you.

________

Reach out for help. My fellow trainees were simply incredible, every one of them offered as much help as needed, and never gave a whimper of complaint. Talk it out, moan and complain, even when doing the modules, text other trainees and give out like mad! It’s a really close and supportive environment, use your trainees and be there for them.

  • My fellow trainees were…

Amazing. I simply don’t have the words to describe them (ironic, since I’m learning to be a language teacher) but they were all supportive and kind and funny and some of the loveliest people I have ever met.

________

Some of the best people I’ve met in my life. This is crucial: when you read testimonials praising the other trainees, they are completely true and honest. CELTA brings out the best in trainee humanity.

  • Tell us a story about your TP students…

Two different groups, all such lovely people. On our last day together they offered us feedback and advice and it brought me to tears. One said to us ‘whatever you do, just don’t give up, if this is your dream then keep doing it’, another said, (and I’m paraphrasing) ‘what we have here [gesturing to everyone in the group] is something really special. People from all over the world, learning together’ and another said ‘you all have different teaching styles, but you are all good teachers’. You will bond with your TP students, you will care about them an awful lot, and that is nothing short of incredible. The more you care, the better you will do.

________

A pre-intermediate student, on the last day, who was always struggling to put his sentences together, told us, in a speech that could have made Churchill blush, that we were good teachers, that he saw it, adn that we should follow our dream to be language teachers, with patience and passion. It touched everyone. He could have almost added “we will teach them on the beaches, we will teach in the air”. It was a moment that I’ll keep close. 

  • Now that I have a CELTA qualification I am going to…

Start applying for jobs. I will teach online for a while, something that I’m not concerned about doing because I have had practice at teaching online, and then I will teach in the city once the language centres start opening again. After that, I will most definitely travel. All the while I will make sure that I am doing everything humanly possible to become a better teacher. I will go to webinars, seminars, anything and everything that I can do to keep improving. It is so important to me to be a good teacher because if I’m not, I’ve said it before, I wouldn’t teach. It wouldn’t be fair to the students.

________

I’m going to think about volunteering for a while, and then plan for somewhere in Europe before I look for a more exotic destination with that experience under my belt. 

  • You didn’t ask me this, but…

Just that it is important to remember to enjoy yourself. Enjoy the teaching, enjoy helping people to learn. It is important to enjoy life because that kind of energy is infectious. Bring your love of teaching to the classroom because you never know, that might transfer as a love of learning for the students. 

Thank you to everyone who organised the course, well done for getting it up and running online, it was a major success in my opinion! (S)

________

This course never ends. Until it does. And you’re through. With new friends, a new skillset, and a perspective on other people who want something you have had (Present perfect!) since you said your first word, something you can help them get, and that is priceless.

  • Why should we not worry about the future?

Everyone worries about the future, myself probably more so than many, but that’s okay. When it comes to teaching I say, just give it everything you’ve got and remember that there are people who will want you to succeed so lean on those people. 

________

I watched Jojo Rabbit recently and at the end of the film the director placed a line from the German poet Rilke: Let everything happen to you / Beauty and Terror / Just keep going / No feeling is final. It just felt like a philosophy we could all live by as we face the future and it came at the right time for me to lift it for myself.

Online CELTA Summer 2020

So that is it. 11 weeks of a fully-online CELTA completed. My colleagues will finish their course next week, and in October we will run another CELTA online over ten weeks. What is it they say about CELTA? Oh, ya. It’s relentless.

Read about Week 10 here |  Read about Week 9 here  |  Read about Week 7 here. |  Read about Week 6 here. | Read about Week 5 here.| Read about Week 4 here.| Read about Week 3 here. | Read about Week 2 here. | Read about Day 2 here. | Read about Day 1 here.

You can find more information on our CELTA courses here.

UCC Language Centre