Learning English at University College Cork, Ireland

Life inside and outside the language classroom

Category: CELTA Interviews

What is life like after a CELTA course?

What is life like after a CELTA course? What can a CELTA graduate do? Where do they go? What opportunities are available to them? What is the next step for a CELTA graduate in terms of career development?

I spoke to Chris Redmond, a CELTA graduate from 2012 to find out.

Chris Redmond - CELTA graduate

Chris Redmond – CELTA graduate

Hi Chris,

Thanks for taking the time to do this interview. First off, tell me when was it you did the CELTA here with us at UCC?

My pleasure! I did the CELTA at UCC from January-March 2012. Can’t believe it was so long ago!

What are your memories of that? Was it really as intensive as they say?

My memories of doing the CELTA are extremely positive. In fact, I would say, without doubt or hesitation, that my decision to do the CELTA was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. I made the decision to apply for it back in October 2011 and it was at a point where I was going through a lot of uncertainty in my life. I finished my MA in Film Studies in December 2010, but after graduating, I wasn’t sure what the next step was going to be. I explored the possibility of doing a PhD in Film Studies, but the CELTA option was always there, and I decided one Sunday in October 2011 to just go ahead and apply for it. I remember feeling a renewed sense of purpose and I couldn’t wait to begin.

       Because of my part-time job, I opted for the 10-week course, which is far less intensive than the 4-week option. Nevertheless, it was a demanding and very challenging 10 weeks, during which I learned an enormous amount about methodology, classroom management, lesson planning, materials design, and so on. A lot of material was covered during those 10 weeks but it was always exciting and I finished each day inspired to put our input sessions into practice. I would even go so far as to say that I have never learned so much in 10 weeks. To this day, I use the methodology learned during the course, and it provided me with the perfect foundation on which to launch my teaching career.

So, you got your CELTA back in 2012, what was your first intention?

My first intention was to begin teaching as soon as possible, and, within days of finishing the CELTA, I began working at ACET (Active Centre of English Training) in Cork City. However, I knew it was only going to be a temporary thing, and I actually wanted to work in Spain. In May 2012, I attended a TEFL workshop in Cordoba to see about finding a job there. Unfortunately, that didn’t bear fruit, so it was time to consider Option 2: South Korea.

Tell us about the process of securing a teaching position in South Korea.

Well, I first applied through a recruitment company that didn’t follow through on their initial response, but I then found a more reliable company called Gone2Korea. The application process was stressful at times, to be honest! I was applying to work for EPIK, the public school teaching program, and it took a long time to get all the documents together to post over to them. I think the whole process – from my initial Skype meeting with the recruiter through to being offered a contract – took about 3 months. They needed notarized copies of my degrees, a criminal background check, passport copy, university transcripts and various other things, including my CELTA cert. The final package I sent to them contained about 80 pages, as they wanted double copies of everything. So it was pretty drawn out. However, the elation I felt when I was finally accepted made it all worthwhile. And I haven’t looked back since.

Very often, when we get students coming to us to learn English from overseas, we can see that they struggle at the start with adapting to a new culture. What was it like for you as a teacher in a new country?

Surprisingly enough, I felt I adapted quite quickly. I don’t remember feeling any culture shock, even though I couldn’t speak the language. All EPIK teachers had to attend a 1-week orientation program before we started teaching, which will certainly go down as one of the best weeks of my life. I got off the plane and was suddenly in the middle of a large group of EPIK teachers who had also made this move, so there was definitely that sense of everyone being in it together. We had such a great time during that orientation week and I was one of about 300 teachers (I think) being placed in Daegu. The advantage of that was, by the time I got to Daegu, I already had a large network of people in that community. The staff in my school were very nice too, so no, I didn’t really experience any homesickness or culture shock.

Starting off in your new job, how much did your CELTA training help you?

It helped an awful lot. I remember we had to do a demo lesson during our orientation week and my observer asked me if I had taught EFL before. When I answered in the affirmative, he said, “It shows.” So that was a nice confidence boost at the beginning! In my high school classes, I used staple CELTA techniques, like asking concept-checking questions, reducing TTT (teacher-talking time), using effective body language, speaking slowly, etc. It was noticeable that those who hasn’t received CELTA training talked way too much during their teaching demos. Doing a CELTA equipped me with all kinds of classroom skills that I continue to use to this day.

Chris with his students

Chris with his students

Were there things you think the CELTA course had not prepared you for?

A CELTA can obviously never really prepare you for the cultural differences that await you in the classroom. Sure, you can learn about, for example, how to make classes more student-centered, but in a culture like Korea, where students are much more used to the teacher doing all the talking, communicative approaches to language teaching are often at odds with the way they’ve been educated. In that sense, I feel that CELTA courses are designed with a European classroom in mind, where students tend to be more outgoing and chatty.

       I also feel that one of the biggest problems I’ve encountered is a lack of motivation from many of my students. It’s not hard to see why. Korean students are under relentless pressure to get a high score in their final exam, and a high English score is often the key to acceptance into a good university. There is almost no communication between the students in English class, and the preferred method of instruction remains grammar translation. If you take a look inside a Korean English classroom, you’ll see almost no evidence that it’s a language class. It may as well be a Maths or Science lesson. Students begin to resent English for all the pressure associated with it, and as a result, motivation is often low. I don’t think the CELTA really prepares you for this kind of thing.

      

Chris

Chris

Would you agree with the old adage: there’s no substitute for experience? Is this true about teaching?

Experience is invaluable, as it is in any profession, but you need to be equipped with knowledge of teaching practice. No matter how experienced you are, if you haven’t taken training courses in your profession, I think there will always be some holes in your practice. For example, I have a colleague who just recently took his CELTA, and even after 10 years of teaching he found that the CELTA opened his eyes to how language classes ought to be taught. Despite his experience, then, he still had much to gain from doing a formal training course like the CELTA.

In the years since the CELTA you have continued to study and develop professionally. Can you tell us what motivates you to do this?

Well, the biggest reason, I suppose, is that I really like teaching English and want to keep getting better at it. I decided during the CELTA, actually, that I wanted to make a career of it. I recall one of our tutors reassuring us at different times during the course that we didn’t need to go into any more depth on a particular language point because “this is not an MA in Applied Linguistics”. Well, I remember thinking, “I want to know more about this!”, so I began my MA in Applied Linguistics and TESOL in September 2014 after almost 2 years of trawling through courses to see which one was the most suitable. I went with Leicester in the end because of the flexibility they offered with their online option, as well as the wide range of modules available to students. I’ve also been presenting at national and international conferences inside and outside Korea, in order to continue growing and developing as a teacher.

Tell us about your classes?

I teach university students and elementary school students in the language center of our university. All freshmen must undergo a 3-week Intensive English program in this center. We run these programs throughout the year, and for each session we have 3 groups of students. I teach a presentation skills class, a TOEIC speaking class, and a Digital Storytelling class. Motivation can be a problem for these students because, if nothing else, they have to attend our course after their regular on-campus classes. I sympathize, to a certain extent. We also run a children’s program where we teach elementary students for twice a week for 2 hours. This is not my favourite part of my job, but it’s how the center makes its money, basically! Sometimes, I also teach non-credit classes for college staff who want to improve their speaking skills. Speaking is certainly the biggest weakness for Korean learners, as they almost never get the chance to develop these skills in school.

Chris with his students

Chris with his students

What do you feel your strengths and weaknesses in teaching are?

That’s a good question. In terms of strengths, I think I speak in a clear and comprehensible way. Even with low-level classes, I rarely have any trouble being understood. Adapting your speech according to the level you teach is more difficult than it may seem, but I think I’m quite good at it. I also feel I have become much better at organizing and managing communicative activities, and I always try to provide strong scaffolding for my students before they begin an activity.

       As for my weaknesses, I feel my knowledge of language testing could be improved, as any test I write is normally based on instinct rather than theoretical knowledge. I’m not sure if I test each student according to a class standard or individual standard. When grades are important, this is a potentially serious weakness that I need to rectify. I would also like to be a better motivator of weaker students. Some would argue that this goes beyond the teacher, but I think I could definitely improve in this area.

What are your long-term plans? Coming back to Ireland, maybe?

As much as my family would like that to happen, I don’t think it is on the horizon for me! In fact, this February I will be moving to China to teach English for Academic Purposes at International College Beijing, a college jointly set up by China Agricultural University and the University of Colorado at Denver. In the long-term, I hope to settle in Hong Kong or Singapore, but I am pretty flexible, really. My girlfriend is a college English teacher in China, but like me, she is open to settling somewhere else. So we’ll see what the future brings! I will probably do the PhD at some point if I start doing more research.
We are coming to the end of a CELTA course at the moment. What advice would you give to our trainees as they set out on their TEFL careers?

I would say that if you want to make a career out of this, always be prepared to reflect on your teaching practice. One way of doing this is to make a teaching diary or development folder in Google Docs or somewhere like that. Ask yourself at the end of the lesson what went well and what didn’t, and then try to figure out why. Don’t just pack up and go home. Take a few mins to update your teaching diary before heading to the pub! 😉

       Doing an advanced degree in TESOL would be a huge help, too, and you don’t even have to leave your job for that nowadays, as there are so many online MA TESOL programs you can do with reputable universities, like Leicester, Nottingham or Birmingham. You could also do the Delta as a follow-up to your CELTA.

       I would also encourage you to join a teaching group in your community. In Korea we have a really vibrant association of English teachers called KOTESOL, and they are always having conferences where teachers get together to present the results of their research or conduct workshops. If nothing else, you’ll immediately feel more connected to the English teaching community and your social life will improve dramatically! I think having a network of friends and colleagues is very important when you’re living and teaching in a foreign country, so get involved in any way you can. There are also numerous Facebook groups you could join, the best of which, in my opinion, is Teacher Voices. Put your heart into teaching and it’ll be a very rewarding job.

Thanks so much for taking the time to do this with us, Chris. Would like to wish you all the best as you continue in your teaching career. 

If you would like to know more about our teacher training courses, all information is available here. 

One of the most rewarding months of my life

Emilio Bonome Ares has just completed the four-week CELTA intensive course at UCC. I caught up with him to find out his experience.

Emilio Bonome Ares

Emilio Bonome Ares

You’ve just completed the four-week intensive CELTA course. How do you feel?

As everything in life, it’s not black or white; I feel relieved but I miss it at the same time. It’s been one of the most rewarding months of my life. The CELTA course really is an immersion, you even dream about lesson plans and teaching practices during your sleep. But don’t get me wrong, it’s not a suffocating, stressful thing, at least for me it was quite enjoyable. The atmosphere and the support among the CELTA trainees couldn’t be better, we had a good time together.

Why did you decide to do the course?

I have studied English grammar for years so I wanted to move from theory to practice. I enjoy teaching and it’s always good to have a practical training with tutors’ feedback so you can explore different approaches to teaching and have someone with experience telling you what you are doing well and what you need to work on. Knowing a language doesn’t mean knowing how to teach it, so I thought that this course was the right way to test myself as a teacher and my English skills. I feel reassured now and I can say that I am ready to teach English!

What was the hardest part?

The course lives up to its name; it really is intensive. Everything is reasonable and manageable, but you really need to commit and to manage your time effectively. The stress can get to you when you have to submit a lesson plan or an assignment. The beginning is the hardest part because you get too much information all of a sudden and all the terminology used is new to you. However, everything comes with practice and there’s no pressure for perfection. After a few lessons, you’ll start using all the terms adequately, it’s impossible not to get used to them when they are everywhere! Your tutors and peers are the best source.

What part did you enjoy most?

The atmosphere with my fellow trainees was excellent! The afternoon sessions are not only very helpful but also enjoyable. As I said before, CELTA is very rewarding, so I have enjoyed it as a whole, I feel much more confident now about my teaching; I have learnt a lot and I feel really happy for having done it. As for the breaks, the benches outside the ORB will become your new best friends (if the weather allows it). Make the most of the break with your peers; to work at its best, give your brain a rest!

What were the tutors like?

During the teaching practices, the tutor’s presence can feel a bit intimidating at the beginning because they are assessing everything you do, but you soon realise that they are actually very friendly and approachable. They are there to guide and support. The feedback that the tutors provided was really constructive, they highlighted both the positives and the negatives and were very sensitive in doing so. Their attitude was very positive and supportive. They were understanding about the pressure we were going through and highly encouraging.

What was the teaching practice like?

Teaching in front of a class of 12 people can sound quite challenging for those who have no previous experience but CELTA provides you guidance and the perfect atmosphere to start your teaching career. The learners know that you are being trained and they understand your situation; they don’t expect you to have all the answers. In our case, most of the students were very friendly and participative, they really enjoy the classes and they will make you enjoy them too.

What about assignments?

The assignments aren’t very demanding as long as you make your background reading on time. We were given all the deadlines and instructions from day 1. Read through them and make sure you ask any questions you have to your tutor, then you’ll be ready. There’s not much secondary reading involved. The background reading necessary for the assignments focuses on the basics of English language Teaching and will be helpful for every aspect of the course. The books are written in a very approachable prose; they are easy to understand even if you are not used to all the teaching terminology.

What advice would you give to someone starting the CELTA?

Be organised and self-confident. You need to prioritise CELTA; after all, it’s only a month and it’ll be definitely worth it.

What’s next?

Currently, I am a teacher of Spanish as a Foreign Language at UCC, so in September I’ll be back to teaching. I can’t wait to try out everything I learnt during this month. CELTA is not just about English Language Teaching, but also about teaching in general. The course has helped me improve my classroom management skills and to plan my lessons better, so I will be applying that to Spanish soon enough.

I plan to go back to Spain in the future, so I am sure that CELTA will be passport to finding a job back home as an English teacher.

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

Non-natives, don’t be afraid. As a Spaniard, I didn’t feel fully confident at the beginning. You will think “who am I to teach a language that it’s not mine?” Honestly, if you have enough level of English to be accepted in the course, half the work is done! Seriously, we have been in English classes for years so, in a way, we know what an English teacher should do. We have already studied uncountable rules and tenses, nothing will be completely new. Believe me, non-native speakers are at an advantage.

Thanks Emilio. It was a pleasure to have you on the course and we are so happy you did so well. You give some great advice to people thinking of doing a CELTA course with us. Enjoy your summer.

Brendan

For all information on our upcoming CELTA courses, visit our website. Our next course begins in September 2015. Applications are now being taken.

The CELTA really is your passport to the world

Claire O’ Dwyer, from Tipperary completed the ten-week extensive CELTA course from January to March 2015. She was an absolute pleasure to have on the course and we wish her all the best in her TEFL career.

Claire O' Dwyer

Claire O’ Dwyer

You’ve just completed the ten-week CELTA course. How do you feel?

It’s such a great feeling – a huge achievement! It’s been one of the most challenging and rewarding things I’ve ever done. It’s weird getting to bed at a reasonable hour and actually having time to myself!

Why did you decide to do the course?

I wanted to try something new. I’ve always wanted to be a teacher and I’ve always wanted to travel… this is a win-win. After some research, the CELTA was an obvious choice when it comes to EFL courses – it’s what all the employers are looking for.

What was the hardest part?

Late (or sleepless) nights and early mornings; trying to balance work and college was close to impossible. I’m still not quite sure how I managed!

On weeks four and eight we had our usual teaching practice to prepare for, along with two assignment deadlines… stressful to say the least. My advice – don’t leave the assignments until the week they are due, start them as soon as you can – seriously!

What were the tutors like?

We couldn’t have done it without them – they were fantastic! Brendan and Cathy are two of the most helpful and supportive people you will ever meet. Listen to them, ask them anything – you’ll learn so much!

What was the teaching practice like?

Each teaching practice takes a LOT of planning and preparation! We were all nervous at the beginning, and being observed and assessed is a little intimidating at first but, once you’re organised, you’ll really love it! The students are fantastic!

 

What advice would you give to someone starting the ten-week course?

Make sure you haven’t got too many other commitments; it’s not really a two day-a-week course – you’ll spend the rest of your week buried under lesson plans and assignments! If you need to work, work part-time. Set up email, Facebook and Dropbox groups and SHARE EVERYTHING. We couldn’t have done it without one another. Our FB group is now called ‘CELTA Survivors’ and we talk all the time – we’ve made friends for life.

What’s next?

A new adventure! I’ve Skype interviews next week for summer teaching jobs in both Spain and the UK (fingers crossed!) After that… who knows? The CELTA really is your passport to the world…

That’s great, Claire. We are sure you will do very well. Keep in touch.

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.

 

It is a great feeling, a combination of both a personal and a professional success

Núria Massot, a Catalan native, recently completed with flying colours a four-week intensive CELTA teacher training course. Here she talks to me about her experience.

nmassot

Núria Massot

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

I feel so relieved and proud of having successfully achieved the CELTA. It is a great feeling, a combination of both a personal and a professional success. I do not only have the certificate, but also everything I learned during these 4 weeks is fantastic, overwhelming.

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

I was looking for new job opportunities in teaching and one of them was to teach English as a foreign language in Spain. After some research on different training courses and after asking for advice to some English teachers, I realized this certification was the best for me and it would open up new doors, especially in Spain.

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

The process was very straightforward. First, I had to complete a 1-hour long test on my knowledge of the English language and then I had an interview with one of the tutors. In the interview, the tutor gave me a clear idea of how demanding the course was and how to get ready for it.

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

Yes, there was a pre-task, which I had to do before the course, and I also read a couple of the recommended books. I also registered to Cambridge English Teacher where I took an online course, as once you register for the CELTA you get a free online course. It’s worth doing it!

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

I knew I was about to start a big project and I was nervous. We started with some ice-breakers, which were great to get to know each other and to produce confidence, and then the tutors told us about the administration and planning for the course. After the lunch break (on the 1st day we could still fully enjoy our breaks), we were divided into 2 groups and started with our first input class about planning, as the next day at 9am we were already teaching! This was quite impressive.

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

It is incredibly intensive. The tutors advise you it is going to be very demanding but I could not imagine that level of intensity. In those 4 weeks I could just focus on the CELTA, nothing else. My mail and my phone were just for my CELTA colleagues. FB? For those 4 weeks, FB meant nothing else than Feedback!

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

You have to teach 3 hours with each level (pre-intermediate and upper-intermediate). In two weeks you have to teach 3 x 40-minute lessons and a 1-hour lesson with one level. In the following 2 weeks, you teach the same amount of hours with the other level.

Are the students ‘real’ students?

Yes, they are real! The students are very cooperative and give you a lot confidence, so from the very first class it is easy to create a good atmosphere. The students have very different profiles and nationalities, and they are all very supportive, willing to learn English and to enjoy your classes.

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

It could take me about 5 hours. Lesson planning is really demanding, as everything has to be very accurate. You have to make sure you set up the appropriate steps for the lesson, you define both your teaching and personal goals, you implement the suggestions from your previous lessons, prepare your Whiteboard… A good lesson plan is fundamental for your lesson to succeed, so it’s worth preparing it well.

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

Yes, they did. The tutors are really supportive. In the first days, they helped us a lot in the planning stage, both before and after the lessons. As the course went on, the teachers continued to guide us but we were supposed to be more independent at each lesson. In the last 1-hour class, we were totally independent, although the tutors were available in case we had some questions.

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

We start at 9am with the teaching practice until 11am. Then, after a short break, we are back to class to provide feedback to the trainees that were previously teaching and to plan for the following day.

In the afternoon, we have input sessions. Although they mainly cover aspects of theory, they are all very practical. Every input session was helpful for different aspects of our classes: planning, language analysis, teacher roles, classroom management, etc.

What is the hardest part of the course?

For me, the hardest part of the course came after the first week, when I had a couple of assignments to submit, I was starting to plan my lessons more independently and I also had to plan my 1-hour lesson. Moreover, I was also getting very tired and lacking hours of sleep. However, once you get through it, you are already half way, nearly there. The important thing is to keep visualizing the end of the course, when you will get your certificate and when you will also become an English teacher.

Was there anything you found easy?

I would not say anything was easy. Maybe I found easier to explain some aspects of grammar and to give tips on how to prepare for the listening or reading tasks, as I had already experienced it as a foreign English student myself. However, the limited amount of time and the huge pressure we were under made every aspect of the course very demanding.

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

Although in the interview I was already told about the good friends I would make, the comradeship really surprised me. I would highlight the strong relationship within the group and the great cooperation and support to each other at all times. This was also really important for us to succeed, one of the key elements, I would say.

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

One of my suggestions is to do the pre-task work and to read a couple of the recommended books (one on grammar and one on methodology). It is not necessary to read them in detail, but it would really help you to get to know the terminology and to have an overview of the topics covered. You will need to refer to them in your assignments, so it is better to prepare for that in advance, as you won’t have much time to read them during the CELTA.

It would also be very useful to review grammar before starting the course. When you register for the CELTA, you are given a free online course on English grammar through Cambridge English Teacher.

Being organized and keeping all your notes and files in order is also essential.

And most of all, tell your friends and family you are not going to be available for 1 month and it might also be very helpful to have some meals ready in your freezer (no time to cook either).

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

My plans are to continue teaching Catalan at UCC and to try to complement it with a part-time job teaching English in Cork. I am also planning to go back to Catalonia in the near future. Having the CELTA would definitely help me to find a job there as well as to keep improving my teaching in general.

Thanks so much for taking the time to do this little interview, Núria!

The input from my fellow student teachers really surprised me

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Mark O’ Mahony

Mark O’ Mahony, a recent CELTA graduate, talks about his experience on the four-week CELTA teacher training course.

Hey Mark thanks for taking the time to do this. 

Now that the four-week intensive CELTA course is over how do you feel?

Qualified, confident and armed to teach English.

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

To be awarded a CELTA qualification ( at UCC a five star university.) I will live in Thailand sometime and want a hobby and to contribute to society there. I wanted to learn HOW TO TEACH also as I will be teaching at Welcome English in Cork City. I also did the course to reintroduce myself to the 9 to 5 environment, deadlines, learning etc..  

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

I filled an application form, did an tough interview and paid the fee.

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

YES. There was a pre course task, which you MUST do to get full value value from the course. I did do it but did not understand / learn / revise my knowledge fully. This put me under a lot of unnecessary pressure early in the course. 

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

Fantastic. Straight into the course with the tutors. Straight into building relationships with your fellow students.  It also highlighted that I was disorganized (notebook, pens, drinks, dealing with household tasks etc etc).  They say the course is really intensive.

It is as relentless as they say or is it exaggerated?

YES. Relentless for sure, no exaggeration at all. It gives you strength. You grow. You learn.

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

There are two classes of REAL students at 2 different levels. You teach one class for the 1st two weeks then the other class for the last fortnight. So the 6 hours (360 minutes) works out as 2 x (40 + 40 + 40 + 60) minute lessons that you teach. That is a total of 8 lessons you teach. 8 lesson plans, 8 feedback sessions, 8 preparation sessions.

Are the students ‘real’ students?

100%. I still bump into and chat to at least 5 of them regularly around town. 

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

4 – 7 hours , but I did struggle a bit in the middle.  Tips : Get your own printer. Do not get a new laptop the day before the course.

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

YES. You get lots of help.

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

The input session were intense. A perfect mix of theory and practice. I really got a lot out of these sessions ( maybe because I seemed to be fully awake in the afternoons 🙂 ) . 

What is the hardest part of the course?

Dealing with your life outside the course. You, ideally, must put you non CELTA existence on hold. My father took my wife and kids on holidays for the last 2 weeks for me.

Was there anything you found easy?

NO. If you find anything easy on this course you are missing out. From 8:45 on the 1st day you have the opportunity to get value for your money, you will if you are dedicated and prepared. You are being assessed from the 1st second you walk into the building by the tutors.

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

The input from my fellow student teachers really surprised me. Way above my expectations. We bonded, learned from each other, got to know each other, had some far out discussions and many many belly laughs.

Yes, you were really a great bunch of trainees. 

What advice would you give someone preparing for the intensive 4-week CELTA course?

1.  Do and UNDERSTAND the pre task assignment. Complete the sections you understand and put them away. That will leave the grammar section. Do it until you understand and know it, YOUR STUDENTS WILL KNOW THEIR GRAMMAR.

2. Get sorted with pens, notebooks , folders etc.

3. Get anything you have to sort in your life done BEFORE the course starts.

4. Get stocked up with candy, coffee, red meat and fresh veg for the late night sessions.

Are there any books or websites you would suggest?

Read HARMER . Avoid all SWAN books.

I only use 3 websites : 

http://www.cambridgeenglish.org/

http://www.britishcouncil.org/

http://dictionary.cambridge.org/dictionary/learner-english/

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

 Teach locally in Cork City,  teach in Thailand in the future, do the CELTA-YL next year in Thailand.

Thanks Mark. It was great having you on the course. Keep in touch.  Enjoy your teaching. 

If you are interested in our CELTA courses, you can find all information here. 

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. 

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.

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

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.

The staff are excellent, they are supportive, helpful and will encourage you every step of the way

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Adrian Dunlea

Adrian Dunlea, a recently qualified CELTA teacher tells us about his experience of the four-week intensive course she took at the University Language Centre in UCC.

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

Great! I miss it. The camaraderie between the students and tutors was great.

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

I had procrastinated for some time, I shouldn’t have. I wanted a qualification that would be recognized internationally and open doors for me in the world of English language teaching. I did an interview the following week and secured a part time job so my economic reasons were well founded. I really wanted to work in this field and felt the CELTA would be the best start.

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

It is quite straight forward but the assessment will test your presumptions of what you know about English for example word stress. There is also an interview following the assessment.

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

Yes, you should complete the pre-course tasks as it will help you enormously and hit the ground running when you start the course.

Some previous teaching experience will also help you.

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

The first day is an introduction but the intensity of the course quickly ratchets up, especially by the end of the second week which is probably a turning point for you.

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

Definitely, I had observed the previous class photos they posted after completing this same form.  I could tell they were suffering from sleep deprivation. It can be exhausting but be confident about your ability and work closely with the tutors.

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

There are eight lessons, divided between two tutors and two separate ability classes. This is the hardest part of the course; it will require the greatest amount of time. You will be marked on your ability to deliver the lessons according to Cambridge established best practise. It is however ultimately the most rewarding part of the course.

Are the students ‘real’ students?

Yes definitely and they have names too. Encourage your students and leave them talk more and make your lessons student centered.

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

It may take between 6- 7 hours but you need to focus on your lesson being student focused, don’t try to stage the lesson with you talking a lot, give the students tasks and try to learn from any mistakes you made in previous lessons. You will become more skilled at designing lessons yourself at the end of the course. It is all about progression.

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

You need to work with them and don’t ignore their suggestions. In the end you will be basically on your own, they will do their best help you and listen to them. They are very constructive and will go out of their way to help you.

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 a constructive feature of the course. Your course tutor will have feedback for your lesson in written form highlighting areas you have taught well as well as areas to improve on. It is a good idea to take notes of your colleagues and observe their lessons this will help you realize what you should and shouldn’t do and you will be able to tell what makes a good lesson.

Are there assignments? Are these easy?

There are four in total and the second is composed of two parts. I found the final two easier. You will be caught for time for the first two, you will need to make good use of the resource room (CELTA library) and it can be common to find you have to resubmit one of the assignments. If you have to resubmit, do work closely with your tutor who will give you guidance. Implement their suggestions.

What is the hardest part of the course?

The lesson planning can be a real challenge, especially when you have to submit detailed language analysis sheets.

Was there anything you found easy?

You need to discover what you do well and build on it. It may take some time to find your feet.

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

The lack of sleep! It is similar to an emotional / educational treadmill – you cannot control the speed.

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

Yes you must do the pre-course task and try to read some of the suggested reading material. The course isn’t about grammar or the way you were taught in secondary school so you have to change your mindset. There are a lot of good internet sites out there and you should follow the Language Centre links on their homepage. The staff are excellent, they are supportive, helpful and will encourage you every step of the way. They want you to do well.

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

 I am looking forward to teaching some of my classes.

Thanks Adrian.