So, what is the CELTA like?

Updated: May 7, 2021

“So, what is the CELTA like?”

I guess many CELTA holders have already been asked this, for a variety of reasons. Coworkers who are looking to get a teaching certificate may be wondering if it is worth the investment (which is, of course, substantial, both in terms of time and money). Bosses and potential employers may wish to know how you reacted to the experience and/or be pondering if it is something they should have their employees go through. People who are starting their teaching careers or thinking about starting it may be looking for a course to learn more about it. But even though this is a recurring question, it is not one I feel like I have a definite answer for – mainly because it depends on what kind of information people are expecting you to give them.


So, what is the CELTA like?

Well, it is an intense experience. You usually have the choice between taking it for a semester, once a week, or every day for an entire month. I chose the latter, and even though it was the month I worked the hardest in my entire life, I regret nothing.


For teachers who have already been through pre-service training, the whole situation is remarkably familiar. It’s a like a pre-service training – cranked up to eleven. For four weeks, I had practice classes every morning and input sessions every afternoon. I went home and worked on lesson plans and written assignments until ten or eleven. I ate and drank ELT for an entire month. I barely remember the World Cup matches that happened that month, and I am a big football fan! But this is not what the CELTA is like – this is what the CELTA routine looks like.


So, what is the CELTA like?

The CELTA is this weird mix of course and ongoing test. Everything is being evaluated, like a job interview, but everyone is rooting for everyone to succeed, including the tutors. There are no trick questions, no traps. I am not saying people will not be competitive – most of the participants are good students, and it shows –, but there it is counterproductive. For starters, CELTA is not so much about where you end up (i.e., how much you know by the end of the process) as it is about your progress. The level of challenge is personalized; of course, there are the minimum requisites you need to check, but if your tutors feel you can deliver more, you will be expected to deliver more. No comfort zone for you, my friend. Looking back, this is what I identify as one of the main reasons this was the best course I have ever taken: I was in that goldilocks zone of challenge, not too hard I couldn’t do it, not too easy I could coast through it.


And yes, I did say this is the best course I have ever taken. I am no stranger to courses, as I imagine is true for most of my fellow teachers, especially in ELT. I spent four years studying Linguistics, and although many classes were really interesting and many papers made me happy I wrote them, during CELTA I felt a greater sense of accomplishment. I am currently specializing in English Language, but nothing is as interesting as discussing different methods and approaches and applying them in my following teaching practice.


The fact it is the best course I have ever taken does not mean it is perfect, of course. There are things it could include that would have made the experience richer for me. For instance, although I enjoy teaching adults, I enjoy teaching teenagers more. Apart from a brief session that encompassed teens and kids, not much was dedicated to this age range, certainly no teaching practice. I know there are now two separate courses for teens and kids, but, in my opinion, there is room for incorporating more about the differences in students’ profiles in the course. Another aspect that was only touched upon was technology in the classroom – and even if a teacher wasn’t teaching online at that time, by now it is hard to find one who hasn’t at least tried it out.


When people ask about the course, however, the question underneath is usually simpler. They do not want to know what the course is like from a generic point of view. What they usually want to know is, Is this course right for me?


As with many things in life, the answer is: It depends. It depends on a lot of factors, really, but most of all I think it depends on the people. The people you learn from, the people you learn with, and the people you teach for, of course, but also the people who allow you to focus by taking up some of your household responsibilities, or the people who allow you to take a break from your other professional commitments. I know I wouldn’t have been able to take the CELTA if I didn’t have a partner who could take care of the house for a full month while I spent most of my waking hours working on lesson plans and assignments.


The people who are there with you in input sessions and teaching practices can also change everything. Although I have tried, in these few paragraphs, summarize a month-long experience and identify the strengths and weaknesses objectively, in the end this is all anecdotal evidence. This is an attempt to say what CELTA is like, but it can more accurately be described as what CELTA was like for me. And if it was this amazing experience, then most of the credit goes to my two tutors and my fellow candidates. I can’t guarantee that every CELTA will be an amazing experience. But I can guarantee you will not have as much fun as I had!


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