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5 Secrets to Success on your CELTA Course

5 Secrets to Success on your CELTA Course

By | On 30 Jan, 2014

Congratulations! You’ve done your research and you’ve enrolled in the world’s most respected TEFL certification course, the Cambridge University CELTA. Which means you’re on a path to becoming a successful, enthusiastic English language teacher whose options vary from living abroad and traveling or staying close to home and working for local English language schools.

In essence, you’re bounding happily towards a new future and adventure on the horizon.

This might be your first career out of college, or it might be your tenth. Either way, you’re looking for a job that is fun, brings you into contact with people from all over the world and doesn’t keep you glued to a computer all day. Which means you’ve come to the right place.

But, first, you need to pass your CELTA course. And you need to gear yourself up to be both a student and a teacher– to learn and teach simultaneously. You’re not looking to just pass this course by the skin of your teeth – you want to blow your CELTA Trainers away and get yourself the best TEFL job ever.

Well, as an experienced Cambridge CELTA Trainer myself, I can say with all honesty that there are some tips to being a successful CELTA trainee. But sshh, because you probably won’t get your CELTA trainers to say all of these out loud….

1. This ain’t no college lecture course. It’s way more fun.

how to succeed on your celta course teaching houseNo matter what university you attended, I guarantee you’ve never experienced a course like the CELTA.

100% attendance is expected and required by Cambridge University, but once you see how much is covered in each session, you won’t want to miss a thing.

For half the day, you’re a teacher in the classroom, teaching your own lessons to real ESL students, and the other half of the day you’re a student in the classroom, learning about and trying out new and innovative teaching techniques.

Essentially, don’t expect to fall asleep in class and copy your friend’s notes afterwards. You will be actively learning for at least eight hours a day, five days a week, for four weeks straight (if you’re doing the full-time CELTA).

So, what’s the secret? Student engagement.

Active participation, as well as enjoyment, means you’ll remember so much more than if you were forced to sit through a lecture. So embrace this style of learning and take in as much as you can.

Our aim is that by end of the CELTA, you will be a full-fledged English teacher ready and able to handle your own classroom in any country across the world. Are you ready for that?

2. This could turn into a job, if you handle it well.

Many CELTA centers are attached to English language schools and/or have close connections to English language schools that are hiring. This is certainly true of Teaching House.

When you begin your CELTA course, you may think your trainer exists primarily to help you become a great teacher. That is certainly true. But your CELTA trainer is also wondering what kind of teacher you’ll turn out to be, and if they would want you around in their staff room.

So, what do you want your trainers to notice about you? Hopefully, not that you turn up late for class, you dress slovenly, you’re impolite or you’re resistant to feedback about your teaching. Because when the school director approaches your CELTA trainer and asks if there’s a trainee they would recommend for a teaching position, you don’t want them to pass you over.

My advice? Treat every day on the CELTA like a job interview because, well, you never know. If you show up on time, you participate in class enthusiastically, you’re open to feedback, your students love your lessons and your fellow trainees love working with you, then there will be nothing but good things to say about you and your work.

When a school director asks your CELTA Trainer, “Would you give them a job?” You want the answer to be, without hesitation, “Yes.”

3. This isn’t a competitive environment – in fact, it’s the opposite.

The more helpful and collaborative you are with your fellow trainees, the more you’ll get out of your CELTA course because your classmates will share their insights with you, too. Which equals greater success on the course for everyone involved.

Put yourself in the shoes of a school director – what kind of teachers would you want to fill your staff room with? As a school director myself, I can tell you I want a school full of positive, cheerful, hard-working teachers. I want to work with teachers who love students, love coming up with creative lesson ideas and love working with other teachers on developing great lessons.

So, think of the CELTA course as one, big training staff room. If you see yourself as a loner competing for a grade against all the other trainees in the room, and you’re keeping all those great lesson ideas to yourself because you’re afraid someone will steal them, then you’re missing out on opportunities for sharing and learning. And that will be reflected in how successful you are on the CELTA course.

The trainee who is open to sharing, helping and accepting suggestions is a joy for trainees and trainers to work with, and that has an impact on their course success.

4. Openness to feedback and changing how you approach teaching is the key to success.

Modern language classrooms look nothing like the kinds of classroom you may be accustomed to learning in, or even ones you may have experience teaching in. And, therefore, one of the keys to succeeding on the CELTA course is being open to change – change in your technique, your teaching style, and the way you think about teaching – which takes a lot of open-mindedness towards the feedback CELTA trainers will be giving you.

If you arrive to the course believing teachers should always stand and students should always sit, then your trainer may get you to sit down when you teach, just to shake things up. Go with the flow and give everything a try because that’s how you discover what works best for you and your students.

The less fixed you are in your ideas and the more open you are to change and trying out what your CELTA trainer suggests, the more success you will have on the course and in your future as a teacher. After all, in your professional life beyond the CELTA, you’ll be asked to change how you approach teaching often according to your student population, the school you work for, and the focus of the course you’re teaching.

But the key to success in all these situations is the same: adaptability.

5. Yes, there are grades, but they aren’t the most important thing.

how to succeed on your celtaWhen you complete your CELTA course, you will be awarded one of four possible grades: Fail (hopefully not), Pass (about 70% of successful candidates), Pass B (about 25% of successful candidates), or Pass A (about 5% of successful candidates).

The grading system is based on criteria provided by Cambridge University in the UK and is not at all similar to the grading system you may be used to if you were schooled in the United States — you know, the oh-you-tried-your-best-so-we’ll-give-you-an-A kind of grading system.

Truthfully, trainees who are overly fixated on grades are not usually as successful as the trainees who focus on meeting their students needs, helping out their fellow trainees and using their trainers’ feedback to improve their lessons.

And though you will always know right away if you’ve passed or failed an assignment or lesson, you won’t always know how this fits into Cambridge criteria or how this equates to a Pass, Pass B or Pass A, until you see your end-of-course report.

So, my advice is to relax and focus on the big picture. And try your best to do the following:

a) Observe your trainers carefully and learn as much from them as you can.

b) Observe your fellow trainees and think about what you like and don’t like about their teaching.

c) Observe your students and try to understand how they learn best.

d) Come to class prepared for your lessons and assignments.

Doing your best may not guarantee that you get a Pass A on your CELTA course, but it will guarantee that you become the best teacher you can be.

And that’s what we CELTA Trainers aim to do: give you the tools you need to get out there, live your dream and make a positive impact.

Tasha Hacker

Tasha Hacker

Tasha is a CELTA Trainer with 15 years’ experience teaching ESL in Russia, England, Qatar, Spain and the U.S. After co-founding Teaching House, Tasha is now retired and blogs about her travels at TurfToSurf.com.
Tasha Hacker

Comments

  1. Great advice and Thank you!

  2. No problem, Steven!

  3. Susan Bell

    This is a great description of my CELTA experience. I’m now teaching ESL at a community college in New York, and the person who hired me said that my CELTA training was an important factor in getting the job. The CELTA course is rigorous, but the disciplines I learned have helped tremendously. I still use the procedure pages for lesson planning! I thoroughly enjoy English language teaching. My students are interesting, motivated learners. I recommend CELTA to anyone seeking a career in this growing field of education.

    • Hi Susan! Thanks so much for commenting. I’m so glad to hear that not only you value your CELTA experience, but that it was a major plus for your employer to hire a CELTA grad, too. Being in NYC I imagine you have an amazingly multi-lingual group, which must be so fun to teach. Enjoy it!

  4. Claire Kevill

    This is a terrific article. I wish I had read it before I did the CELTA.

    • Thanks, Claire. Maybe you can share it with your friends who are thinking of doing the CELTA and help them get a leg up!

  5. Katy

    I did my CELTA at Teaching House in 2008. I really loved the practical things I learned and had great fun as well as making some good friends. I came out with a grade B, which I’m sure helped me secure my first teaching job. I have never regretted doing the CELTA.

    • Thanks so much for commenting, Katy! It’s great to hear from you! Where are you teaching now?

  6. Padma Chandrasekhar

    I have just completed my CELTA and happened to read this article now!! No regrets….it speaks very much about my own experience!! There was so much to unlearn for me since I have had a considerable experience of teaching!….I’m sharing this great write up with my friends who are thinking of doing the course shortly!

  7. I am planning to pass the Celta in two years time. And this article helped me to get an overall idea what Celta training looks like, and now I am no longer afraid of taking this course but rather excited. Duh, Ill definitely try myself there.

  8. Iam not succeeded to find serious information about how can I make preparation studies for CELTA.

    • Hi Siddig,
      There is no preparation needed for the CELTA. The course itself teaches you from the very basics everything you need to know. It is not an exam — it is an intensive course. By the end of it, you will be fully prepared and certified as a TEFL/TESOL instructor.
      I hope that helps.

  9. Judy Allard

    HI Tasha & everybody…..

    Tasha, thanks so much for this!

    Since I moved to the Netherlands (from South Africa)in 2010, I realised that there was a demand for native English speakers at schools and educational facilities. I got a job at a school managing the study centre (I currently work here)& doing other admin work, so I just accepted that and forgot about teaching English! Every now and again I would think about teaching & just put it off! My Mum was very instrumental in making this dream come true because I Always wanted to be an English teacher as a little girl. I will be starting my CELTA in Amsterdam on 28-09-15 until 15-12-15. I opted for the part-time course. Well, I have received my pre-course assignment a week ago and am busy with it! I love your motivational message….I feel so “fired-up” after reading through your blog and intend giving off 100% and achieving an excellent pass. Thank God I found this blog before the 28th Sept!!!!
    I will definitely be printing all your tips and ideas.

    Thanks once again Tasha

    Kind regards,
    Judy Allard

  10. Kashif Abbas

    No doubt it is a wonderful article and being English language teacher, I found it very informative and encouraging for those who recently joined teaching profession.

    Bravo!

    “Tasha”

  11. odimba Bernadette chidimma

    This truely is an eye-opener. infact, I feel more anxious on getting such an opportunity. I have been searching for this kind of training in my country to no avail. though, i succeeded in appling two months ago in Abu Dhabi, but still hoping to be invited.
    Thanks.

  12. Abrahim M

    Hi I want to know celta courses and I asking you please send more information about celta. Thanks

  13. Hanan Bamarei

    Thank you, Tasha. I love your motivational message. Now, I’m doing my part-time CELTA in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. I will definitely read all your tips and ideas.

  14. Nicole Koh

    Thank you for the useful tips.

  15. Nicole Koh

    Thank you for the useful tips. I have just applied for CELTA and the tips will come in handy should I be accepted.

  16. Patricia

    Couldn’t agree more with what you have said!
    I’ve just finished my CELTA and I got a PASS B!I haven’t read your article before, but it is exactly like that. Cooperation and good relationship with your peers is essential. I had the best group ever, and I have learnt a lot from them.
    My advice is to enjoy every day of it because it is a challenging but enriching experience!

  17. Nino

    I am planning to do CELTA in September. I have read everything word by word. I am extremely thankful to you for such excellent tips. I will bear them in mind. Wish me luck 🙂

  18. Mia

    Hi Tasha,
    You mention in one of your replies above that no preparation is needed for CELTA and that the course itself teaches you from the very basics everything you need to know.

    I have very recently been accepted into a four week CELTA intensive in Perth Australia (wahoo!) and been sent some pre-course reading material (about grammar and tenses), a load of pre-course tasks to complete, as well as advice from the teaching coordinator that I need to read and prepare as much as I can so that I will be prepared for the course. I am a native english speaker and my initial CELTA interview and application tasks were completed well, so all this prep work she advised was NOT because she felt my command of english was particularly poor.

    Does this mean the way CELTA courses are conducted can vary, depending on the school and country?
    I am trying to prepare for the course and am concerned that I won’t be ready for it!

    • Hi Mia,
      Congratulations on being accepted onto the CELTA! Yes each center has slightly different pre-course tasks to complete to better help you prepare. The important thing to remember is that the course is for pre-service teachers with little or no teaching experience. The course is intensive, and nothing can quite prepare you for it, but as long as you work hard and are able to respond to feedback you won’t have any trouble. Good luck!

  19. Behzad

    I’m starting my CELTA course in less than two weeks! This article simply made me feel more motivated as well as more confident about the courses I’m going to take. Thank you for all the tips, Tasha, and thank you Teaching House Team of Trainers!

  20. Ebrahim

    Hi Tasha.

    Thank you very much for your powerful advice. I want to do the CELTA course. Can you please give me some general tips on how I should approach the the pre-course task that need to be submitted before the course.

    For acceptance to the course.

    Thank you.

    Kind regards

    Ebrahim

    • Hello Ebrahim,
      The pre-interview task is generally an open book task, meaning you can research online to check your understanding. Remember that the quality of English used is important so proof-ready carefully. Also note that you are not expected to have fully formed teaching ideas and methodology before the course, nor is it expected that you are a grammar or linguistics expert. The CELTA is for pre-service teachers with little to no experience and the interview is pitched accordingly. Good luck!

  21. Soumia

    Hello there,

    Thank you so much for these pieces of advice, you really made my day.

    In fact, I’m starting my CELTA course on the 21st of this month, I am excited & at the same time concerned about failing. I am aware that I have to take this big step toward my goal but my fear holds me back, which is depressive !!

    Thank you for all tthese tips, I’ll definitely keep them in my mind.

    • Good luck Soumia! It’s normal to feel nervous at this stage, but as long as you’ve cleared your schedule and you’re able to devote your time and attention to the course you’ll be fine.

  22. Petra

    Thank you Tasha for this exciting article!
    I’m very excited about taking my CELTA course. But I have some trouble finding a good page where I can compare different locations for taking the course. I’m almost certain I will go for Asia. I would like to take the part-time course in a beautiful and calm environment. As I’m exploring the countries and the options do you have some advice on which pages to check out? Or do you have some places you would recommend me?

    • Hi Petra,
      Cambridge English provide a list of all CELTA centers on their website which could be a good place to start. ILA in Vietnam is a high quality provider we recommend, IH Bangkok also run good courses. Really all CELTA centers are moderated and inspected every course by Cambridge, so you do get the same high quality training no matter where you do the course.

  23. mukul rana

    Indeed , it was a very informative and eye-opening article about dos and don’ts on the CELTA course .

    I am sure that the insights shared by you would be quite helpful for anybody who chooses to take up this course .

    To tell you the truth , I have been considering it for the past one year however i am quite paranoid as i have been told that it is going to be pretty exhausting both physically and mentally .

    Though i have been teaching English for the past ten years , i wonder whether i would be able to pull it off or not .

    Another thing that i have been struggling with is to choose between British Council , Delhi and International London House , London for doing my CELTA course .

    I will appreciate if you could help me out with the same !

    Cheers !

    • Hi Mukul,
      The CELTA actually has quite a high success rate, over 95% generally because there are strict screening procedures in place to ensure only people who have a strong chance of success are accepted onto the course. I think with 10 years experience you have nothing to be overly concerned about. In any case you’ll find out more at the application stage if the course is right for you. The Celta is very similar no matter where you take it; some companies like Teaching House provide more career support during and after the course, however, because the course is administered and moderated by Cambridge University, generally the academic standard is very high at all centers. Good luck!

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