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Leo and another tutor prepare to welcome students back to school
13 Apr 2021

Doing a CELTA: What, Why and Where?

It’s come to the time of year where many of our tutors are thinking about what happens next. Chatteris’ own Leo Sharp talks us through a qualification he gained to support his development as an ESL teacher.

What is a CELTA?

A CELTA (Certificate in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages) formerly known as Certificate in English Language Teaching to Adults, is a qualification provided by Cambridge English, which is part of the University of Cambridge. Cambridge English states that CELTA is the most widely recognised English teaching qualification in the world and that three out of four English language teaching jobs require a CELTA qualification. 

Leo and another tutor prepare to welcome students back to school
Leo and another Chatteris Tutor prepare to welcome students back to school after the summer holidays | Image by Leo Sharp

Personally, I don’t think it’s as high as that and it is definitely possible to have a career teaching English without a CELTA. However, there certainly are plenty of good English language teaching jobs that do look very favourably on candidates that have this qualification (Hong Kong’s EDB NET Scheme being one). So, while it’s not a necessity, a CELTA can open more doors and is a qualification you should consider getting if you would like to teach English as a career. 

How can I do a CELTA course?

There are over 300 approved centres all round the world where you can complete the CELTA. Due to the current situation with COVID-19, Cambridge English is now permitting students to take the course online, so it is possible to now pass the course from the comfort of your own home. 

Normally there are several ways to undertake CELTA. At present, it seems only online options are available, but these are broken down into part time or full time. Both options include 120 hours of class time and six hours of teaching practice. In my case, the six hours of teaching practice was split into eight forty-five-minute classes. On top of this there will be plenty of lesson planning to do in the evenings and four assignments. 

How much does a CELTA cost?

The cost is a factor that puts some people off from doing a CELTA as whichever centre you go with the price will be higher than a lot of other TEFL courses. Getting a CELTA will always be more expensive but for your money you’re getting guaranteed quality thanks to rigorous teaching standards enforced by the University of Cambridge. 

Doing a CELTA will vary in price between 16,000 and 21,500 HKD depending on the country and the centre offering the course. 

Is it hard to pass a CELTA?

When you apply for the CELTA you will need to have an interview with your chosen assessment centre. They will evaluate whether the course is appropriate for you and they will warn you that it is an intensive course with a high workload. This isn’t designed to put you off but rather make you aware that you will be working hard for the duration of the course and may not have time for other activities. They are generally very good at assessing whether people will pass the course or not; if you pass the interview you have a high chance of passing the course. As an example, the group I was in was made up of thirty people and only one person failed. 

Remember that a lot of people who do the CELTA have no teaching experience. In my opinion if you choose to do one after gaining experience in the classroom as a Chatteris Tutor this will help, especially when it comes to being familiar with teaching students. 

My experience on the course 

I chose to do my CELTA with International House in Chiang Mai in Thailand. This centre offered a package which included on-site accommodation and three meals a day. This allowed me to concentrate on studying without worrying about getting to and from school each day or what I’m going to eat. 

I found the workload quite high. Lessons would start around 11am with four hours of lessons before lunch and then two after, followed by a break and then teaching practice in the evening until 8pm (either teaching a class or observing others do so). I was in a class with around twelve other CELTA candidates most of whom (but not all) had previous teaching experience. We learnt various teaching techniques and the teachers would use a variety of interactive methods to teach us so the lessons were always quite fun and interesting, and we could use those same techniques when we had our teaching practice. Throughout the four weeks the support we got from the tutors got less and less as we became more confident and knowledgeable. For our first two lessons we were given a lot of help with planning and ideas, but by the time our last two lessons came around we were able to do everything on our own. 

Here is a breakdown of an average day on the course:

11:00 – 13:00First Lesson
13:00 – 14:00Lunch
14:00 – 16:00 Second Lesson
16:00 – 18:00Third Lesson
18:00 – 19:30Lesson Practice or Observations
19:30 – 20:00Dinner
20:00 – 00:00Lesson Planning

In addition to spending my evenings doing work for the course, I worked throughout my weekends. Some people on my course worked more hours and some less. Up to that point I had zero teaching experience. If you are already familiar with creating lesson plans and preparing materials then you should be able to plan lessons a lot more quickly than I was able to. 

This is where experience as a Chatteris Tutor could come in handy. Being observed, getting feedback and planning lessons are key parts of the CELTA and are things we do at Chatteris regularly as part of our day-to-day responsibilities and ongoing professional development. Furthermore, this year’s Chatteris Tutors are all trained and experienced in online teaching, giving them skills that would be invaluable if choosing to do a CELTA whilst it’s being offered online.

Having said that, the assignments involved in a CELTA are always going to be quite tough and time-consuming even for more experienced teachers.  

Would I recommend doing a CELTA?

Absolutely, even though it was stressful at times I really enjoyed it and have good memories from the course. I learnt a lot and having that practical experience really helped when I first started teaching. I still use a lot of the techniques I learnt from the course in my lessons to this day.

Looking to professionally develop as an ESL teacher like Leo? Apply now to be a Chatteris Tutor.

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