My CELTA experience started with quite a lot of research: what is CELTA and what is associated with it? Is it the qualification that I am looking for? Where would (and should) I do the certificate? How long does it take, and how much does it cost?
More to that, I already had a TEFL certificate and nearly two years of teaching English as a foreign/second language experience, so weighing up the pros and cons of CELTA was really important for my typical type-A personality.
Where you want to do your CELTA is also important; if you don’t do it in your home country or city, then finding a place to stay should be a priority as well as the cost implications of that. I was lucky. I could do the CELTA qualification in either Cape Town or Johannesburg in South Africa, and Johannesburg is where I call home.
The Start of the CELTA Journey
While my journey did start with lots and lots of research, thinking, and then more consideration, the first real step towards actualisation was setting up a meeting with someone who could tell me more about CELTA; her personal experiences, answering the question of “Is it really as hard as everyone says (or writes) it is?” And what are the next steps?
The next step was filling in an application form, which included typical job application questions, like who you are, your educational background as well as any work experience.
Furthermore, it also has a Language Analysis Task that consists of several questions and sub-questions and is normally between 4-6 pages long. It is also interesting to note that the application form’s Language Analysis Task will differ in terms of length, questions asked, and even to some extent the difficulty of the questions depending on where you do the CELTA. I don’t know the exact reason(s) for the differences, except to think that they don’t want people to plagiarise, and these days it is way too easy to get help on the Internet. If you do make use of Google or ask for advice on those forums, just be careful regarding who you trust.
The Language Analysis Task does take some time to fill in, depending on how “perfect” you want your answers to be. My application for some reason had to be hand written, too, so I first wrote out everything in pencil, and then filled out a second copy in pen.
Even if you do have previous teaching experience or you did well in English in school won’t mean that the questions will be easy to answer. It really tests your understanding of the English language, the nitty and gritty grammar, spelling, and other rules. My task very much also focused on how you would teach several concepts, from the past tense and vocabulary, to students and how you would correct a student in class who made a mistake.
After submitting your application together with the Language Analysis Task, you might get called in for an interview if you do well (or if they think you have the potential to do well). The interview is like a job interview in many ways, except that it has both written and face-to-face components. I had to complete a further Language Analysis Task – no Internet, no book, or anything else to help this time.
I also had to write a two-page essay on why I would be a good teacher. This is mostly to test how good your English is and to give the interviewer a further sense of who you are.
After the written part was the normal face-to-face interview, where you recap your education, work history, why you want to teach English, and even more specifically, why you want to do the CELTA and not a TEFL, TESOL or other qualification. If you pass the interview, which should be a piece of cake after the written “tests”, then you get to actually start the programme, which might be a few days or a few weeks away.
The Actual Start
The first day of CELTA is pretty chilled; it is mostly introductions. You have to observe one or two CELTA-ideal lessons being taught by the instructor/s, and then they lay out what to expect from Day 2 and the workload that lies in front of you.
For us, we were also treated to a class were we the students and had to learn some basics of a foreign language (Czech). The purpose of this exercise is for you to feel how your students will feel in the class, maybe understanding nothing of what you are saying and trying to teach them in English or picking up a word here and there, but remaining in the dark still.
And yes, it is true – the workload is a lot and you can count on not getting a lot of sleep during the next four weeks at all. I still remember very clearly that my instructor said that if you go to bed before 2 a.m., then you aren’t working hard enough.
The Rest of the Journey
The next four weeks will test you in every possible way: emotionally, physically, and intellectually. Half of your days will consist of input lessons that cover topics from how to teach grammar and vocabulary and using aids in the classroom to managing students in the classroom and how to get started in your (new) career. The rest will be spent preparing for your next class, observing your peers teach and attending the feedback sessions where you should learn from your peers’ mistakes and remember what they did well (so you can use it in a future class), and also how you can improve when you teach your next lesson.
When you get home, you might have to review the work from the day, finish (or start) preparing for your next class, and work on the written assignments of which there are four (one is due each week of the course). And don’t think these are easy assignments, either! You need to set time aside to work and focus on these and ask your instructors if something is not clear.
CELTA is one of the most rewarding journeys you can go on, and I would recommend it to anyone who wants to teach English as a foreign language.
About the Author
Denine 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.She has an MA in Politics, with a dissertation written on post-conflict peacebuilding, a BA Journalism degree, a TEFL, and a CELTA certificate, plus a few certificates in various other short courses.
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