I am hoping to move abroad, initially to Europe and then to travel the world teaching English!

by ucclangcent


Emma O’ Dwyer

Emma O’ Dwyer, a recently qualified CELTA teacher tells us about her experience of the four-week intensive course she took at the University Language Centre in UCC.

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

Hi! Great relief is the main emotion being felt at the moment! It was a stressful four weeks but ultimately, so worth it in the end, I’m glad that I did it.

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

Since I want to travel and teach English at the same time, I needed to find a qualification that was well recognized world-wide. A friend of mine had completed CELTA last year and told me that it was the most widely recognized TEFL degree so I decided it would be the best thing for me.  

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

First of all I had to submit an application form, giving details about my education and previous teaching experience. This was followed by an interview with one of the tutors.

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

Yes – after the interview, a pre-course task is sent to you that includes questions about classroom management and grammar topics. It was useful to review tenses and other grammar points because I would have been quite rusty on these.

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

The first morning we spent playing ice-breakers, getting to know a little bit about each other. However, it was then quickly onto serious stuff, with a lot of information being thrown at us. There were many terms being used which I worried I would never remember, but don’t worry, after a few days the new terminology becomes part of your daily vocabulary!

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

Yes, the course is called “intensive” for a reason! There really is no let up with the work load. When you’re not planning lessons, you’re preparing assignments, organizing materials or just trying to catch up on sleep!

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

We were teaching every second day. We taught three 40 minute lessons and one 60 minute lesson to an Upper-Intermediate class and the same on our second week with a Pre-Intermediate class.

Are the students ‘real’ students?

Yes they are real students. Most of them were in Ireland to find a job or to improve their English in order to find employment in their own country.

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

 In the beginning the lessons took about 2-3 hours to prepare, but as the plan becomes more detailed they usually took me 4-5 hours.

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

The tutors were fantastic to give us help in the planning stage. Every day we would look at the lessons to be taught the next day and discuss how best to approach the lesson. This meant that even if we were not teaching the lesson we would have an idea in the future how to plan that type of lesson. It also gave us the opportunity to clarify different points of the plan with the tutor; what would work and what could be modified. This was especially helpful in relation to timing to know how long each stage of the lesson would take.

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

The afternoon sessions were helpful for us insofar as we got a better idea as to how to structure a lesson and also ideas to include in our lessons. We also discussed different teaching methods and the merits/flaws of same.

Are there assignments? Are these easy?

There are 4 assignments to be completed. 3 out of the 4 were very manageable. The second assignment on language and grammar was the most difficult and caused problems for most people. Don’t worry too much about them though, because the tutors were very helpful if you had any problems.

What is the hardest part of the course?

The hardest part of the course for me was the timetable. It really is a very long day, as you need to be in before 8:45 and during most of the breaks you are always doing something: photocopying, printing, finding materials etc. Then at night a lesson must be planned for the next day! The four weeks go very quickly though, so it is totally doable for this amount of time. It is well worth it in the end.

Was there anything you found easy?

The actual teaching practice was probably the easiest part, I really enjoyed it. I would have taught every day if it wasn’t for having to do a lengthy plan for each lesson!

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

It amazed me how supportive everyone is of one another. As you spend so much time with the other trainees, you all become close very quickly. Everyone was always so willing to give a hand if there was ever any need, and someone was always there to give words of advice if you were feeling stressed.

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

I would say to anyone beginning the course that yes, it is stressful and very intense but don’t panic too much, it isn’t necessary. You will get through it even if it seems like an insurmountable task at the beginning. Try to make the most of the evenings you don’t have to do a lesson plan – go for a jog, meet up with a friend, sleep!

Regarding books, Harmer and Swan are useful authors. Take a good look at the list that is sent to you by your tutor before the course and try to have a look at these before the course gets underway.

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

I am hoping to move abroad, initially to Europe and then to travel the world teaching English!

Best of luck, Emma. I am sure you will have a great time!