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

by ucclangcent

Barry Griffin

“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.