I have used my CELTA to secure a job with the British Council, I am heading off to Venezuela in a week! Yay!

by ucclangcent



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

I feel very relieved and relaxed. I am also really glad, because the course has allowed me to get a very good job, which I wouldn’t have otherwise been eligible for.

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

I did the CELTA course so that I could continue teaching EFL and feel confident that I was doing it properly!

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

It was so long ago! I filled out an application form. I remember a pre interview task and then a really daunting interview, which actually turned out not to be so bad. I had read up on grammar in the days leading up to the interview so that I was able to complete the task and hold my own in the discussion with my interviewer.

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

I had to do a pre course task that took a lot of hours, luckily I had time to kill on the Trans Siberian! I brought a grammar book with me and completed the task in a few sittings. It involved a few sections and it was easy once it was broken up over a few days.

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

The first day was a mad information overload! There were 11 names to learn, ‘CELTA 5’ and other terms were being fed to us, it was very daunting. Then you realise that you will actually have to teach a class the next day and complete your first lesson plan. Scary.

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

Yes, it is relentless! Every time you finish something, something else crops up. As soon as you become a little more comfortable with the lesson plan format, a language analysis is thrown in on top of it. You have your assignments and your resubmissions, you need to really stay ahead of the submission dates!

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

The six hours of teaching is spread out over 8 classes. It is really hard to see past each lesson, whatever skill or grammar point you are covering in your next class is all you can think about. However, you do need to pay attention to other peoples’ feedback as well because you will be in the same position, teaching the same thing in a few days time. When a lesson is finished, it was really tempting to just relax for a night, but it was much more beneficial for me to start my next lesson plan immediately. 

Are the students ‘real’ students?

The students are real and incredible. They are really friendly, helpful, polite, charming. I loved my students. They are much more patient than a ‘normal’ class I found, but I was also used to needy children!

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

It took 5 hours at least to prepare for each lesson. That is why I always spread this over two nights and tried to get my photocopying etc done during the assisted lesson planning sessions.

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

For our first lesson, we received a lot of help, it was gradually reduced, but I always found my tutors open to questions and enquiries. Even at the end when it was unassisted lesson planning, you didn’t feel totally alone. Your peers also become like 11 other tutors.

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 are like lectures, but, they follow the CELTA method (a lot of the time). Some of the information you get is crucial to making it to the end of the course. Some of the material you know will be useful in the future. 

These sessions could be quite tiring but also very fun as they involve a lot of groupwork. It’s a really good time to get to know your fellow trainees and your tutors.

Are there assignments? Are these easy?

There are 4 assignments, 3 of which are fine. The second, language analysis can be tricky, but you get plenty of practice at doing them. 

Assignments 1 & 3 are both really interesting and can be a lot of help in your teaching practice.  Assignment 4 is focusing more on yourself (strengths and weaknesses), which is always a little more difficult. It can be hard to write a thousand words about yourself! It does help you to see more clearly what it is you are trying to achieve, though. 

What is the hardest part of the course?

The hardest part of the course was week 3, it was a week in which I had 3 teaching practises and there were two essays due for submission. It was hell. It was also the best feeling ever when it was over!

Was there anything you found easy?

No. It is all really challenging! 

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

I am not sure that I, or anyone else really appreciated how hard it would be. We were all warned in the interview, but I don’t think we took it seriously enough! ‘Hell’ was mentioned several times in my interview. It was hell. Looking back, however, it was really worth it, it makes the satisfaction all the better.

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

Tell your friends and family to leave you alone for the duration of the course. It sounds dramatic, but it has to be done!

Stay on top of your assignments, in the long run you will have more time to relax.

Before I started the course, I went to my local library and ordered all of the recommended reading. I would highly recommend this as demand for the books is high and they really help. 

The cambridge learner dictionary on line was a lifesaver for language analysis.

An A-Z of English Grammar & Usage (Geoffrey N. Leech, Benita Cruickshank, Roz Ivanič) was invaluable for tricky grammar points.

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

I have used my CELTA to secure a job with the British Council, I am heading off to Venezuela in a week! Yay!