So you decided to commit and become an ESL teacher. The next best thing is to apply for the CELTA course and get that teaching certificate.
I can’t lie. I was thinking of taking CELTA for over a year, always finding excuses and thinking that maybe it isn’t as necessary as everyone says. During the quarantine, I was sitting at home telling myself that it is “only two weeks more” when I got an e-mail from CLIC Seville who I had asked a year prior about CELTA. As I had nothing better to do I decided to commit – 100% online CELTA here I come!
I quickly assessed the chances of failing the course and I thought to myself that it is highly unlikely, I should get at least a pass. Pass B? Yeah, probably not. I didn’t even consider getting a pass A. The course started and finished almost immediately. It was the most intense five weeks of my life. On our last day, we had our online celebratory drink, I closed my laptop and decided that I won’t think about my grade – it’s done.
I found myself having a lot of free time on my hands, I was playing with my phone when I got an e-mail from CLIC: “Hope you’re having a good weekend. Attached is your provisional CELTA result.” My heart was in my throat, I opened it and…PASS A! Towards the end of the course I knew that I was doing quite well, but only 5% of CELTA candidates get a Pass A (Cambridge English: Grade Statistics, 2019). It seemed impossible.
Four or five months later I could finally see it in person. That’s when it truly hit me how important this course was and how much I would have regretted if I “only” got a Pass. Many private academies in Spain require a CELTA certificate, minimum a Pass A or Pass B. Scroll down to see 8 ways in which I got a CELTA Pass A.
1. Devote yourself fully
It was quite easy for me as I did it during quarantine when I had nothing better to do. If you sign up for an intensive course, say goodbye to your family and friends. They will see you in 4-5 weeks. It is a truly intense experience with very little free time. My day started at 10 o’clock with teaching practice, followed by an input session, followed by a reflection/constructive criticism time, ending with a final input session. At 6 o’clock you finish your classes, but you still need to work on your lesson plans and assignments. Of course, take breaks and go for walks to relax, but in general, accept that you won’t have much free time.
2. Share your ideas
Prior to your teaching practice, you will get some planning time and meetings with your tutor. Your first class will be the easiest to plan, as you will get a scaffold of your lesson with objectives and some task ideas. As the course progresses, you will be getting less and less help, until you will have to decide what you want to teach on your own. During your meeting with the tutor, discuss your own ideas and come up with your own tasks. This will add to your teaching independence that may result in a higher grade.
Before you blindly follow your tutor’s ideas, maybe think of some other activities or some other ways to start or finish the class. Your ideas don’t have to be used but the internet is saturated with interesting and engaging lesson plans that may be inspiring. Of course, don’t copy-paste them, but you can use some of them as a lead-in or an oral practice. The same goes for doing your assignments. If you fail one of your assignments, you are not eligible for pass A. Get inspired and DON’T PLAGIARISE! So really google it and support everything you do with reputable ESL teaching books (your tutors will let you know what books to use). If you feel a bit shaky about some of the parts of English, watch some YouTube videos so you understand what you’re teaching! You want to sound and look confident in front of your students.
4. Reflect on your teaching
After each teaching session, you will complete a form reflecting on your class. You will also hear other candidates and tutors discussing your lesson – in front of you! Don’t worry, the other candidates are usually very nice and focus only on good things. I decided to be very truthful and if I made a mistake, or there were some parts that didn’t work out as I’d expected, I was being honest about it. This shows your awareness and lets everyone know that you are able to adapt if necessary. Another thing – it’s okay to experiment. You can include things that you think will work in class and it’s also okay if the experiment fails! Your tutors want to see your creativity and originality. If you are able to defend your experiments, you have nothing to worry about.
5. Take criticism
Once you talk to your teammates and your tutors, try to accept their criticism and really think about it. There are times that you may disagree, but try including your tutor’s comments in your lesson plans. I did that and I promise you, you will not regret it! If you try doing something for the first time and it doesn’t work out, it’s really fine! Rome wasn’t built in a day! Practice makes perfect and everyone knows that. Your tutor just wants to see you being open to the idea of trying new things and getting outside of your comfort zone.
6. Learn from other teachers
The good thing about teaching practice is that you aren’t the only teacher there! You will get to see other incredible teachers with different teaching methods and behaviour. I must say that I found it so refreshing. I’m so used to my style that I almost forget that we are all different. One of my teammates taught me how to teach while being fully relaxed and true to himself, another taught me how to take risks while teaching, another one taught me how to prepare engaging worksheets and presentations. You should take some ideas from them and maybe implement the ones that you like the most.
It is quite important to be active during those long input hours. I admit I was starting my days full of energy and my will to live was disappearing as the day went by. Nevertheless, I always tried to participate and share my ideas even when I felt like I couldn’t look at my laptop any longer. Input sessions are another great opportunity to learn from your colleagues. I can’t stress how much I learnt from some of the more experienced candidates.
8. Have some prior teaching experience
This one is almost unrealistic for some of the candidates, but there was a huge difference between teachers with experience and people doing it for the first time. First of all, if you have some experience you know how to explain, give instructions, you also understand English grammar rules, you know some of the most common questions and you may have some ideas for tasks. New teachers are overwhelmed by being in the centre of attention. You have to carry the whole class while being watched and judged by many people at the same time. So if you are aiming for that Pass A, give yourself some time before and become a confident speaker at least. For clarification, I did CELTA with 1.5 years of teaching experience. Of course, you may be also one of the gifted ones who are naturally confident and deal well in new situations, in that case…don’t wait!
These are some of my main points that in my opinion helped me get a Pass A. Comment below what other tips you would give to ESL teachers thinking about taking CELTA! And if you are planning on taking CELTA good luck and I hope you found my post at least a little bit useful.