What is the CELTA really like? (Week 3 and 4)

Week 3

The weekend between two and three has been surprisingly relaxed, despite having to redo my failed assignment, write up my second one and organise the next lesson. If you manage your time well, then you won’t get stressed. At the start of week 3 our tutor told us that this was the ‘notorious’ week-and if you’ve been reading any of the CELTA forums online, you’ll know this is the week to pick your favourite corner, because, yep-you’ll be crying in it.

Or so they say.

Despite CELTA scaremongering I actually found this week OK-definitely more work than the last week (one night I had 3-4 different things to write and plan!) but certainly not as bad as many people make out. Again, it’s all about time-management. The assessments have been piling up and whilst in week 1 I was able to read a book during break times (or even outside the course), meet friends for lunch and go out the nights before I wasn’t teaching this has become impossible since week 2. I also failed my second assignment and so have to rewrite a small part of it in 2 days time, as well as writing up my third (very hard!) assignment on a Receptive Skills Lesson (Reading/Listening lessons). 

To my surprise, my TP sessions have actually gotten better as I’m remembering to model and drill the target language chorally and individually. I’m also nominating students randomly for feedback and then getting them to check their answers in pairs (the trainers love this!) I’ve also made an effort to make the lessons more “student-centred”. The idea is that the students should be doing all the work, whilst the teacher is hovering in the corner monitoring and occasionally giving feedback.

For the past two weeks I’ve also noticed my bedtimes get noticeably earlier and today I’m actually struggling to stay awake (its 9.30pm!) Alas, I have an assessment due in tomorrow, so no rest for the wicked. Stay tuned- next week I’ll be planning my first hour-long lesson  😮

Week 4

Whilst the hardest week is technically over, I was anxious about the TPs of this week-as after all-it is week 4 and the bar is raised higher! My last lesson went well and I got some helpful feedback. I really feel that I’ve learnt a lot on this course and am able to autonomously prepare my own handouts and activities. The last lesson was also harder because it was a 60 minute, rather than 40 minute lesson so I had to pack more into it. I decided to do a reading lesson with a grammar focus on the future perfect tense.

The rest of the week was spent gaining our Preparation for Teaching in the Lifelong Learning Sector (PTLS) certificates which normally cost a couple of hundred pounds but has been integrated into our CELTA. It’s necessary for those who want to teach at UK colleges and it’s also part of the PGCE. This week was the most interesting as most of us had finished all of our TP’s and had sessions on the differences between EFL and ESOL learners and different types of English teaching: Business English, Aviation English, medical English-all of which fall under the bracket of English for Specific Purposes (ESP), although recently Business English has become a category in its own right. We also got an informative talk from two recruiters from SaxonCourt on how to land a job (CV, covering letter tips etc) and a small presentation on which regions to teach in. They also let us know about any job opportunities they had going but unfortunately their jobs in Italy were already filled 😦

Towards the end of my course I only knew of one person who had a job offer and I myself have been encouraged to go to my chosen destination and job hunt in person, as many in Italy prefer to meet before hiring. Obviously, this is more feasible for me, someone coming from the UK, than if you were to fly out to Brazil or Korea to check out the not-so-local competition.

The last component of the course was coursework which was tough as I ended up having to resubmit all assignments, but they were only around 1000 words and everyone was only asked to submit smaller chunks and you’re always given specific guidance on what needs to be edited. Failing coursework is definitely not something you should worry about or become disheartened by (although I was after coursework number four!), CELTA have exceptionally high standards and if you get anything less than approximately 95% it immediately has to be resubmitted. Most people on my course failed at least two assignments and some even ended up failing the same assignments twice which led to an overall fail for that piece of work. Anyway CELTA dictates that you’re allowed to fail at least one assignment after resubmitting out of the four so you’re home and dry even if you keep failing. 


22 thoughts on “What is the CELTA really like? (Week 3 and 4)

  1. Thanks for your description about the CELTA course. I’m planning to take the course in July, but I actually got quite worried about it. I’m already a qualified teacher from university and have few years of ESL teaching experience, but some of the horror stories I’ve read online kind of put me off. I’m happy that you had a much more positive time than some, and it’s given me a little bit more confidence to take the plunge.

    • Hey Ian, great to hear! I think the reason people find it very difficult is because they`ve been out of formal education for a few years before embarking on the course. Also Teaching Practice is quite difficult for newbies, but being a teacher yourself this should hopefully make it easier. The hardest thing was writing out a good, interactive lesson plan and then executing it well. If you need help during the course, don´t hesitate to comment.

      • Thank you Settit. I think you are probably correct with your evaluation. I have just had my CELTA phone interview before I wrote this. I think the interview went very well, the interviewer seemed to be open-minded and was able to answer all of my doubts and concerns and explained how they would be able to help me with my professional development – which is the main reason why I have wanted to take the course. I have been teaching for a number of years, but I really feel like I’ve hit a brick wall with my teaching. I have actually been pretty successful with it, but I can’t help but feel that I could be doing a lot more for my students, giving them a bit more value for money. I think the best way I can do this, is to improve my own teaching, and open my mind to new ideas and techniques. So I have been offered a place on the course and I will start on 1st July. I’m feeling pretty nervous about it, but I actually can’t wait to get stuck in and see what I can get out of it. It’s another adventure, and I love learning about new things. I guess I can say it’s my hobby!

        So what are you doing now? Did you get a teaching job after your CELTA? Did you move abroad to teach? And if yes, how is that going?

        Thanks again.

      • After CELTA I got a job in an Italian school but quit very shortly after, due to a number of reasons, mainly to do with the poor support given to me by my school. This is all fodder for another blog post, but the long and short of it was that after only a one month course and no previous teaching experience, the school expected me to plan and execute daily lessons, without even a textbook and only a vague general theme. They weren´t bothered about teacher support and threw me in at the deep end and the CELTA stresses that even after qualification the majority of CELTA grads will need support and development training. It took me 2 hours to plan a 2 hour lesson and this on top of a Herculean commute (2 hours each way) and a few more reasons, I decided to quit and volunteer abroad for 10 weeks and then travel.

        I have however, applied for another job as a teaching assistant with the British Council, commencing from September, as a way of gaining some experience and building up to an international teaching job. I´ve been accepted but waiting to be placed into a school, hopefully in Rome. Do you know where you want to teach after the CELTA? I´ll be doing another blog post on regions at some point, but found it very difficult job hunting in Italy.

  2. Hi Settit. Thank you so much for your wonderful blog. Yours is the first really positive blog I have read. Like you and Ian above we have all read such horror stories about the CELTA courses. I have read some blogs where the student actually feels picked on by the lecturer and warned “if you speak up too much or appear to know what you are talking about the lecturers will attempt to fail you.”

    Like you did Settit I am completing a uni degree (except I am a mature age student (45 years young!!)) and this has been a great way of learning how to study and manage my time. As almost every blog on the subject mentions this as the biggest issue and you have confirmed this for me too, I feel that like you I will not have too much trouble in this regard.

    You’ve helped me get excited again about the course and I feel more confident now that I won’t fail which with the money involved in doing the course is my biggest concern.

    It would be great to hear from you where you are teaching and how rewarding (or not) it is for you.


    • Hi Steve, thanks for the comments! Part of the reason I decided to start up a blog on CELTA was due to the negativity surrounding it, I was petrified my money would be wasted if I failed! I found it to be enjoyable and challenging, as I´m sure you´ll find it too. When is your course starting? Its quite hard to fail the CELTA. I suspect one or two people on my course may have, but this is only because they refused to listen to the instructor´s advice and were stubborn about their methods. Our instructors even said to us, if you´re failing, you will definitely know about it and we will help you!

      Immediately after CELTA, I got a teaching job with an Italian English school, but quit soon after. I´ve just written about it in a comment below and will write a blog post on it, but I got unlucky with a school who didn´t really believe in teacher support and wanted me to ´wing it´without a textbook and so I floundered! Volunteered and travelled instead and will be starting a teaching assistant job (dipping a toe in!) in Italy in September. I did really enjoy teaching the class and can´t wait for the new job. Its with the British Council, so I know I´l have plenty of support and be prepared!

  3. Greetings, my name is Martin. I’m currently doing the CELTA course in Kobe, Japan. It’s longer, weekend course. This initial week after I started, I have felt really stressed, because there was a lot of information thrown at me. I do the first teaching-practice lesson this weekend, and I still don’t know fully what is expected of me. We haven’t gone over lesson plans as of yet, but for this first lesson, I wrote a rough outline of a lesson. I presume that will be acceptable.

    Also, I have been stressing and reading the first 3 chapters of the textbook “Learning Teaching.” I’m just intimidated by all of this material that was thrown at me the first day. Can you give any advice on how to handle the material thrown at me? The rubric for the written assignments didn’t seem that clear at first, but now that I’ve stopped stressing and reread it multiple times, it makes more sense.

    I guess the most daunting aspect is how you don’t know whether you pass of not for up to 6-8 weeks after the course is finished, due to them sending the materials off from Japan, yet they say I should have a pretty good idea as to whether or not I passed. I’m just rambling here, I guess. Good read, and I needed it.

    • Hey Martin, good to hear from you. Everyone finds the CELTA stressful at times and I felt like I was being pelted with material and handouts, but I’ll throw in my two cents.

      Lesson plans have to be really detailed. Even if your lesson is executed fantastically, if its not in the plan (and detailed sufficiently) then you may get marked down. We use to have an objective at the beginning, e.g., “ensure students know X structure by the end of the lesson” and all activities then would have to tailor to this objective. Your lesson can focus on, reading, writing, speaking, listening exercises…so you should focus. I prefer speaking lessons as I find the students are usually more engaged and the lessons can be more dynamic, also listening to a tape recorder can be pretty dull (but obviously its got to be done sometimes!). Remember at the end to do something called “freer practice” which allows the students to practice the structures you have taught them. Remember to double check with your tutors about this, my tutors drilled into me the above information, but yours may have different opinions.

      I think I’ll get back to the roots of the blog and publish a post on this next week!

      Good luck with the lesson!

  4. Hi. I failed a 3-month (i.e. part-time) CELTA course in Brisbane in 2008, and was very pissed off.
    I concede that I might have found it a lot easier if I had done the course 8 years before, when I had heavy classroom experience (though not in ESL).

    Before and after doing the CELTA course, I completed courses for a graduate certificate in engineering at UQ. I found the courses very difficult – one assignment came back with red ink all over it, but I got a mark of 10/10.

    The CELTA information says that you will be very busy. But this makes little sense to me. Doing it part time, we only have 9 observed lessons over a 3 month period. This is only a small fraction of a normal teaching load.

    I still have no confidence in the way the CELTA course was assessed. I took down my CELTA rants from youtube a year or two ago, but now I am putting up bigger and better rants. Stay tuned.

  5. It’s 2 years now and I hope that you are in Rome and doing as the Romans do. Thank you for your helpful practical description of the 4 weeks. I will be taking the course next September. I can say that I am ready to take the pressure.

  6. Hi Settit,
    Thanks so much for this positive account of your CELTA – it is indeed reassuring after having waded through a fairly extensive amount of scaremongering about it!
    I got a fairly good degree and slogged my socks off for it, so I’m hoping that the CELTA won’t have me in the library for three meals a day like my degree did, at least!
    Could I ask how much preparation you did in advance? I am off to do mine in June at the Berlin School of English in April and have been set a big PDF pack by a guy called Jeff Mohamed, which is 18 mini grammar units. I also have lots of books to read and am hoping my German/Spanish/Italian degree might actually help me with the grammar stuff too – although I definitely need to swot up on English grammar!
    Any preparation tips would be gratefully received 🙂 x

    • Hey BerLingo, thanks for the comment! I did no preparation for the CELTA, though there are some books that you can find on Amazon. Make sure to know your grammar; I didn’t and failed an assigment because of it. Failing assignments is normal though and you’re given the chance to resubmit with corrections and guidance. Lastly, make sure you halve the speed at which you talk to the class during teaching hours-this was always my downfall! In bocca al lupo 😉

      • Thanks so much for this, super helpful! I’ve watched some YouTube videos of CELTA practice lessons to get an idea of the speed of speech and have taken out far too many books so I guess i just need to get reading!

    • Regarding grammar BerLingo… My advice to you is to get a copy of “Grammar In Use” by Raymond Murphy (the blue covered one), and learn the first 40 or so units. This should give you enough grammar knowledge to comfortably pass your CELTA.

  7. Hi Settit, so pleased I found your blog, it’s given me a better idea of what to expect. I’m from the UK but living in South Africa. I retired at 58 and went to uni full time, graduating just last year. My wife has landed a job in Thailand as principal of an international school, starting August this year. I’m booking onto the CELTA course in September, so busy now relearning as much grammar as I can take in 🙂 My main worry is not so much the course as getting work after due to my age, but I’ll give it my best shot! Also, what depth of grammar do I go to?

    Best wishes


    • Hey Daniel, I’m glad my blog helped 🙂
      I left the course with a very sketchy knowledge of grammar, so you can still pass without knowing it perfectly. It can help a lot with the last assignment and teaching in general. About age, I wouldn’t worry at all, your age has nothing to do with your teaching abilities and might even be preferable as you would be seen as less of a flight risk, as an 18 year old on their gap year. Good luck!

  8. Hi,
    Being a non native speaker ,neither a teacher nor a graduate in English, I am very skeptical about my chances of getting a “PASS” in CELTA.
    However as per the website of British Couincil in India , I think that I am eligible…
    What I couldn’t find out is if they have a selection criteria and if interested candidates are deined admission to the course if they are not considered “Good Enough” for the course.
    It is very expensive in India and I wouldn’t want to flush my money down the drain…
    Could you please tell me what you feel about this?


    • Hi CS,

      The highest grade in my CELTA class was achieved by a non-native speaker, who had a far better grasp on grammar than anyone else in the class. Before being admitted into the course you are made to sit a (fairly easy) grammar test and interviewed to see if you are capable of taking the course. Obviously though, there are no guarantees that everyone will pass and two people from my class failed. However, the two that failed often refused to listen to the teachers’ comments and did exactly the opposite of what the course tutors advised them to do.

      Good luck with the course,


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