We are gearing up to welcome our first class of CELTA students to LSI/IH Portsmouth on Monday 11th October and this got us thinking about our own staff’s experiences of being CELTA students at the beginning of their teaching careers.
Read on to hear about our teacher Lewis Tatt and his experience in his own words:
My CELTA experience
It was 2010 and I had just had an interview for a prestigious scholarship to study in Japan. My acceptance letter arrived with the morning post and, much to my surprise, turned out not to be an acceptance letter at all. It was a big fat rejection.
I tossed the letter into the bin, along with my plans of studying abroad. Luckily I had a backup plan; if I couldn’t get paid to study in a foreign country, I could at least get paid to teach English in a foreign country.
One very short TEFL course and a 13 hour fight later, I found myself in a 4th tier vocational college in rural China with very little salary and even less knowledge of how to actually teach English. I was not in any way prepared to teach the class of students sat before me.
This didn’t really bother me as I was more interested in learning Mandarin than doing a good job of teaching English, but after a couple of years I felt guilty that I was letting my students down with poor teaching and letting myself down with non-existent career prospects. After looking around and weighing up my options, I made the decision to take the CELTA. This was one of the best decisions of my life.
The tutors didn’t assume any prior knowledge of teaching or languages but for me it helped that I already had a couple of years teaching experience under my belt. I was able to see that everything I learned from the tutors was immediately useful for the classroom and every day I was excited to get back in front of the students and try out new techniques and ideas from the morning input sessions. And even if it all fell to pieces in the classroom, the support and feedback from the tutors and other trainees was incredible.
That was probably the best thing about the CELTA. It’s not about trying to teach a perfect class, it’s about improvement, trying out new ideas and reflecting on how it went. There were no criticisms, just encouragement and suggestions about how to do things better. This was all done in a small, close-knit group of trainees who, by the end of the course, all felt like old friends. In such a short time we had been through so much.
As an internationally recognised qualification, the CELTA opened doors for me. I was getting job offers in France, Italy, Brazil, Dubai and Japan. But I settled on going to Shanghai. After all, I had just spent two years of my life getting to grips with the Chinese language and I wanted to be somewhere I could use it. That, and the pay in Shanghai wasn’t too bad either.
My only regret is that I didn’t do the CELTA sooner. I could have taught English where I wanted to, and done a much better job of it. I wasted time fumbling my way through a course book, not really knowing what to do and resorting to the same boring old gap fill and vocabulary match up activities. The CELTA would have equipped me with the tools needed to not only teach English well, but enjoy it more.
If you’re thinking of taking the CELTA course, my advice is this: go in with an open mind and don’t be afraid to try things out. If you already have some teaching experience it can actually be more difficult because you will probably have some ingrained habits or beliefs about teaching. If that’s you, be willing to at least challenge, if not change, what you’ve done before. That’s the way to get the most out of this fantastic course.
If you are considering teaching English as a foreign language either in your home country or abroad, check out our CELTA course here at LSI/IH Portsmouth. To hear more about the course, then watch this clip of Lewis Richards our Director of Studies and CELTA trainer speak to Peter Watkins, co-author of The CELTA Course: Trainee Book.