The first time you hear acronyms like CELTA, TESOL, TEFL, or TESL may be when you do research to teach English on your own or perhaps a foreign country. Or maybe TEFL and TESL are more familiar terms because one may be a requirement your future employer stipulates. Another possibility might even be that you get a job at a company and, upon starting, you receive training on teaching English as a second or foreign language. At the end of the year in some schools, after passing teaching observations and your assignments, you may even earn a TEFL or TESL certificate.
You may then even realise after that first year of teaching English that you fell in love with it, and want to learn more about how to teach English effectively (not that a TEFL isn’t adequate in that regards). However, there are various companies around the world that will only look at your CV or résumé if you have a CELTA qualification.
Why is that?
Because there are many types of TESOL certifications out there, ranging from just an online course, that is sometimes accredited by an official body like College of Teachers, to a combination of an online course and some teaching practice (some of which may need to be observed). If you have a CELTA qualification, on the other hand, then your future employer can be assured that the certification process has adhered to standards, and a CELTA is accredited by and affiliated with Cambridge University. Furthermore, the scope of the course covers particular requirements, such as input sessions on classroom management, lesson planning, four written assignments, and at least six hours of teaching practice with observation evaluations. As such, CELTA is often seen as a prestigious certification and thus preferred by employers.
When to Do a CELTA
I still remember a very interesting conversation with some of my classmates while I did my CELTA. There were at least two of us with previous TEFL experience, while the rest were all newbies. The conversation centred on whether it is better to do a CELTA as a new-comer to teaching English as a foreign language, or whether it is better to gain some teaching experience first.
My answer at that stage was that I was glad that I had two years of teaching experience first and a TEFL certificate before I did my CELTA. The reasons for my answer are varied.
- While the two demo lessons that we had to observe before starting our teaching practice for the two levels (upper-intermediate and elementary) gave a good idea of teaching in general and the ideal way to teach, having taught before (and even doing some tutoring at university) gave me some extra confidence. This was comforting given that I am quite shy and the thought of any form of speaking in front of a group is just about the worse thing I can imagine. My previous experience with teaching a class at least made teaching that first observed class (and the rest to follow) a little less stressful for me because I knew I had done it before (and been observed before, too).
- I had basic knowledge of lesson planning, teaching students of differing levels within a class, and classroom management. This meant I only had to practice these elements and continue to improve on each, but they were not new concepts as such.
- By having taught before my knowledge of grammar and other English language elements were up to par and I didn’t need to study up on the language before lesson planning and teaching.
- While being observed and evaluated will never be my favourite thing in the world and will always be something that I dread, I had a deeper understanding that it is meant to assist you and help you to become a better teacher than being a newbie, where teaching observations and evaluations seem super intimidating (and while newbies might know that observations are meant to be well-intended, the intimidating nature of it and nerves that accompany teaching almost override that fact).
Looking back, my answer isn’t quite so black and white. While I am still glad that I did my CELTA after gaining some teaching experience, I believe that I would have been an even better teacher for those two years if I had done a CELTA before. I also would have understood certain elements of teaching better and that would have enabled me to teach more effectively. Regardless of whether you decide to do your CELTA before or after you have gained some teaching experience, one fact that remains consistent is that CELTA is known as being an extremely intensive course on teaching English as a foreign language over a four-week period if you choose to do it full time.
It is recommended to not have any other responsibilities during that period because CELTA will test your limits – physically, emotionally, and mentally. No person will just breeze through the course. Physically it is long hours; you have to be present from about eight a.m. to four or five p.m., and the workload doesn’t end there. Thereafter, it is working on assignments and lesson planning until the early hours of the morning, only to wake up again early (and even earlier if you want to not sit in traffic and have that stress, too). The course is also tiring mentally; there are so many elements to teaching that you are expected to absorb and put to practice with not a lot of time between the two. And emotionally, it is draining; all the stress (and this is even worse if you are a perfectionist and hard on yourself), the long hours, and no time for anything else other than CELTA, CELTA, and more CELTA for those four weeks.
Lastly, you do need to decide whether you want to do a TEFL/TESL course or a CELTA and also look at which one would be better for your career. However, I will never regret having done and receiving a CELTA qualification. Not only did I learn a lot more about teaching, I also learnt a lot about myself during those four weeks.
If you want to take the CELTA but want to know the class options, check this out: CELTA Course Options – Pros and Cons
About the Author
Denine Walters is currently a freelance writer, editor/proofreader and ESL teacher. Previously, she taught online English lessons to students from all around the world and, before that, she lived and taught English to young learners in Taiwan. In her free time, she likes to read, do scrapbooking and grammar quizzes, and travel. For her educational background, she has an MA in Politics, with a dissertation written on post-conflict peacebuilding, a BA Journalism degree, a TEFL and CELTA certificate, and also a few certificates in various other short courses.
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