The 5 things I wish someone had told me about the CELTA before I took it

If you are an English teacher, you have certainly heard about the CELTA. CELTA stands for Certificate in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages, and it is one of the most accepted and respected TEFL courses in the world. Teachers love to talk about it because… well, it is pretty awesome indeed.

It’s a 120-hour training course that involves input sessions, lesson preparation, lesson observation, a lot of feedback and written assignments. You are encouraged to read and write a lot more than you are used to, and pushed to be the best teacher you can be. It’s the training we should all get before being thrown into a classroom – but no school has time for all that.

So I’ve put together 5 things I wish I had known before I took the CELTA and that I believe would have helped me make better – and earlier – use of the course. They might be obvious for some, but not for everyone. I hope it helps you when you make the decision of taking it, too.

 

1. The CELTA is a course/certificate on communicative teaching.

And what do I mean by that? I mean that, if you have been teaching for 10 years, but not at a communicative school, your experience is worth nothing. Zero. That can be great if you are prepared for/aware of this fact, but it can also be frustrating if you are looking for a certificate and expecting your experience to help you pass with flying colors and no sweat.

I have heard colleagues complaining about tutors being harsh on them and/or too demanding, and I think it feels so because not everybody goes to a CELTA course aware of that. It is a certificate on teaching, yes, but although no particular methodology is specified in the brochure, you’ll be taught to teach according to the principles of CLT. If you are not familiarized with that yet, grab a copy of Scrivener’s Learning Teaching and get a head start.

 

2. The CELTA is a course designed for teachers who have no experience… but that does not mean it will be easy.

The official website says – and teacher trainers always reiterate – that the CELTA course is for novice teachers. However, the ones who actually take it will agree with me: it is not a walk in the park.

When I took the CELTA I had already been working as a teacher for 6 years. And not once in all these years had I gone through any real training apart from some suggested articles and a few observed lessons. My practice was mainly intuitive. Which I know can be a good thing, but it only meant a huge amount of work and readings for the course. So keep that in mind: you don’t need any previous experience to take the course. However, once you choose to do so, be prepared to dedicate a significant amount of time to study while you are taking it. I mean, SIGNIFICANT.

 

3. Think about HOW you learn before choosing intensive or part-time mode

I am a slow-paced learner, and many times I felt the intensive CELTA was too rushed for me. I like to read slowly. To make summaries. To re-read. To read from different angles. It takes me quite some time to understand and absorb certain concepts. The intensive mode does not leave room for that. You have an input session and the next morning you are teaching and being expected to excel at the concepts from that input session. I had to pull many all-nighters to catch up, and the exhaustion that came from those only made me more anxious.

Had I known it was going to be like that, I’d have waited one more semester and taken the part-time mode. Most people don’t find it difficult to deal with this kind of pressure, but I do. Also, when you take the part-time CELTA, you can put the input sessions into practice with your own groups during the week, and only be observed a week later, after seeing the results of that on your own. I would have felt safer and more confident. Consider that before applying.

 

4. The CELTA course expects you to know how to write – and I mean ACADEMIC writing.

I have seen people mentioning that not all Celtees can write, academically speaking. The course description makes it clear that to complete the course you are expected to hand in 4 written assignments, but since it is a course for novice teachers and that requires mainly language knowledge (C1-level at least), it might be safe to state that not everyone is used to academic writing.

The place where I took the CELTA taught teachers with no experience how to do it, but I know not every place does that. It is not part of the course. And it is perfectly possible to learn throughout the course. Were I to offer my two cents, however, I’d tell you to read a bit about academic writing, how to quote authors and so on. Or it can be one more thing for you to worry about once you start. If you fail on more than one assignment, it’s over.

 

5. If you can afford it, do it. Don’t keep putting it off.

We work hard for our money, so spending it on things that just aren’t worth it is a total waste. And the CELTA fees, though not exorbitant, can become quite costly when converted to your own currency. Once I started, though, I saw it was money well spent.

It took me a long time to save enough money to take it. I had already invested in many other certificates – the CPE, the TKT modules, some short courses -, but I kept thinking the CELTA was too much. Too expensive, too difficult for me, too time-consuming, and that I wasn’t ready yet. I kept on saving money, thinking maybe one day I’d do it. When I decided, it was possible for me to afford it. But I wish I had taken it sooner. So if you can afford it, do not wait to do it.

All in all, the CELTA course was an eye-opener. Really. Considering that not everyone starts at a company that offers good-quality training, the CELTA can be the light at the end of the tunnel. My classes were never the same. My students felt the huge difference before and after I took it. So think about these tips before you take it – but take it.

 

Gabriela Fróes

Gabriela has been teaching for the past 13 years. She holds a BA in English, an MA in English Literature, a CPE and a CELTA. She is also a EN-BrPT translator. She currently lives in São José dos Campos, SP. You can contact her at gabrielafroes.elt@gmail.com.

5 Comments
  • Carolina Akool
    Posted at 12:25h, 13 dezembro Responder

    One of the best articles about CELTA. Straight to the point. Congrats!

    • Gabriela Fróes
      Gabriela Fróes
      Posted at 00:53h, 14 dezembro Responder

      Thanks, Carol! I hope this helps other people : )

  • Mariane Silva
    Posted at 14:37h, 13 dezembro Responder

    Congratulation. Great tips. Do you know if there is a Celta preparation course in Curitiba?

    • Gabriela Fróes
      Gabriela Fróes
      Posted at 00:56h, 14 dezembro Responder

      Mariane, I took a quick look and found that right now we only have CELTA courses in AMAZONAS, BAHIA, BRASILIA, MINAS GERAIS, PARÁ, PARAÍBA, PERNAMBUCO, RIO DE JANEIRO and SÃO PAULO. You don’t need a preparation course for the CELTA!

  • Claudia Neves dos Reis
    Posted at 15:32h, 13 dezembro Responder

    Hi Gabriela

    We worked together a long time ago. I think you made a lot of relevant points. But I would like to add a few more if you don’t mind.

    1) Celta was initially created for Native speakers.

    2) In Brazil, Celta is really expensive. If you go to Argentina – you will pay half the fee paid here.

    3) The 20 page long kind of lesson plan is a killer.

    4) The Celta trainers definitely don’t sugar coat it when they’ see something in your teaching in disagreement with their principles. And I take issue with that. People who don’t have a thick skin just break down and cry. If we’re encouraged to be understanding and respect our students, why not extend the courtesy to teachers in training. They’re learners too.

    5) The Celta certificate is not recognized by Ministério da Educação as a Pós-Graduacao Lato-Sensu. It is known and required by a few English Schools and it’s great if you’re planning to work abroad. It’s better for us non-native speakers. It’s an

    6) The Celta is a good start for novice teachers as well as experienced teachers., but I hope Cambridge is more updated with what is going on in this Post-Methodology world.

    Congratulations!

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