Ten tips for success on a CELTA teacher training course

The CELTA course is an amazing and challenging course for most trainees, with a very steep learning curve even for those who have taught before. It’s really important though to be ready to meet the many challenges and here are our top ten tips for success….

  1. Take care when completing your application! Remember, the center is going to look at the quality of your written English and your response to any language tasks they have set before they decide to invite you to interview. You are applying to be a teacher of English, so if you make mistakes in the application, are you going to be an effective English language teacher?
  2. Be well prepared for the interview. It is at this stage that the interviewer, who is a CELTA trainer, will make the final decision as to whether you are suitable for the course. They may well become your trainer and it certainly helps to make a good impression. Treat it like a job interview and research the course in advance, come with informed questions about the course content, the organisation of the programme and the grading system.
  3. Study the basics of English grammar and structures in advance. The CELTA is a teacher training course, not a grammar course, and while you will study some language structures in the input sessions, you will be expected to do your own research into the language structures that you are teaching and it helps time-wise to be one step ahead of the game.
  4. Be organised. You will be given a huge amount of information and paperwork from the first day of the course. Keep a copy of your timetable in a file along with all the handouts and notes from each input session. These sessions are designed to inform your teaching practice and your written assignments, so keep the notes and refer to them.
  5. Be a good time manager. On a full time course, you will probably be teaching two or three times a week as well as working on four written assignments. Make your own work schedule and stick to it. This will not only help you to meet your many deadlines, but will also allow you to take some much needed rest time guilt-free!
  6. Be a communicator. The CELTA course is a teacher training course and you will be expected to behave in a manner expected of teachers in the workplace. Work with your colleagues in a team, take part in discussion and feedback sessions, be contactable, let your trainers know when you have a problem, don’t isolate yourself or suffer in silence! Remember too, that your conduct will be noted in your final report, which is essentially a reference for your first teaching job.
  7. Be prepared for teaching. Even experienced teachers need to plan lessons and your planning is graded along with the lesson itself. Never assume that you will come up with ideas off the cuff while teaching; it doesn’t happen and your trainer won’t appreciate it. If your lesson is well-planned, you will ‘own’ it and you will come across much better to the students. The knock-on effect is a good response from them and a more enjoyable lesson for you.
  8. Take the feedback on board. We all feel bad when a lesson doesn’t go well, but take the good with the bad and build on it. Feedback is intended to be constructive and it is never personal, even if it feels that way after hours of hard slog preparing a lesson or writing an assignment.
  9. Get to know your students. They enjoy coming to the lessons and do so voluntarily, so find out something about them and build a rapport. Who knows, you may end up teaching them professionally one day or you may stay friends after the course.
  10. Finally, make sure the timing is right for you. A teacher training course involves complete commitment and you are firmly discouraged from missing sessions. Think twice if you have a demanding job or family life and if you have a medical condition of any kind, discuss it with the center before you commit to the course. In most cases you will be offered support but in order to be successful, you still have to meet all of the criteria for assessment and you have to be present to do that!

Cathy Xuereb – CELTA Trainer & DOS