CELTA – A Year Later

Are you wondering what CELTA can do for you? Are you wondering if it will really lay the groundwork for effectively teaching English? If you are already a teacher of English you may be wondering if it will actually change your classroom practice.

We caught up with some of our recent CELTA graduates and asked them how the skills they acquired on the course have influenced both their daily teaching practice as well as their overall thinking about teaching and learning. Their eloquent responses are testament to the effectiveness of the course.

Alex’s story

My name is Alex Pogliani and I’m a freelance English teacher, living and working in Milan. I currently work with IH Milan & San Donato, which is where I achieved my CELTA in November 2019. 

I had decided to invest in a CELTA as a way to be perceived as credible in this new professional world, but in truth it has turned out to be so much more. After the CELTA I felt I really wanted to continue growing with IH, so I immediatedly applied for a position. It worked! And I am very grateful it did, because it has proven to be a very satisfying and enriching experience.

CELTA – A Year Later

What a journey, 2020. My first year as a trainee teacher was expected to be stimulating; it turned out to be a roller-coaster. The pandemic experience fast-forwarded the development of online teaching skills and forced me to become quickly as independent as possible. I owe a lot of what I was able to achieve during this period to the bootcamp skills I developed during my CELTA: time (and stress!) management, lesson planning, team-work and a strong relentless desire to learn (and apply that learning). Yes, class management had to be thought through and learned all over, but I had a method to do so which helped me stay calm and focused.

CELTA trains you to think about the whys and the hows. It also pushes you to experiment in a guided way, learning from what works and what doesn’t, while keeping track of your progress (and failures). These are things that I have kept with me after the course and that still influence the way I teach. Never in my professional life have I been less afraid to make mistakes: as obvious I try to avoid them, but if they happen I let them inform my way of teaching. Little by little, it is helping a lot.

Stephen’s story

My name is Stephen Taylor and I’m an English teacher living in London. I’m currently working with Education First, teaching young learners from China, and also teaching private students online.

Having worked as an English teacher between 2018-19, I decided that before furthering my career I wanted to take the CELTA course to enhance my teaching methods and build confidence in my ability.

CELTA – A Year Later

My plan had been to take the course at IH Milan in early 2020. Little did I know though, that the entire world was about to change for us all!

A day before departing for Milan, my course was unfortunately cancelled due to the accelerating situation of the pandemic. Having then found myself stuck in lockdown back in the U.K., the opportunity arose to instead participate in the CELTA course online. Initially, I had some doubts. Part of my desire to take the course with IH Milan had been to experience life in the city, with the idea of looking for a job there after completing the course. However, as the last year especially has taught us, I figured it was important to adapt to different situations, so I decided to take up the offer and join the online course.

The training we received was fantastic, and far exceeded my expectations of what would be possible on an online platform. My tutors, Stephanie Holme and Andy Townsend, really helped ease any doubts within the first few days with their engaging sessions and the invaluable training they provided us. It was incredible how close everyone came to be as the course progressed, especially considering we had never actually met in person!

As well as expanding on my previous teaching skills, one major added benefit of our course turned out to be the online element, which is helping me every day in my new role as an online teacher. Having previously feared even the thought of trying to manage a virtual classroom, or build rapport with students through a screen, by the end of the course it felt as though I had been teaching this way for years (apart from the odd technical slip up, of course!)

The CELTA training developed my skills across every element of teaching, from time-management (both during lessons and when planning) to practical methods like giving feedback and reducing teacher talk time to give the students the maximum opportunity to learn and use their English. I am now constantly thinking about ways I can challenge myself and improve as a teacher, to get more out of my students and create an engaging atmosphere for them. I put that desire to continually progress all down to the nature of the CELTA training, which I take with me into each lesson.

Valentina’s story

My name is Valentina Mele, and I am a researcher and English Teacher currently living in Cork, Ireland.

I am an IRC Postdoctoral Fellow at University College Cork, where I am currently revising my first monograph and I am teaching Italian and English.

CELTA – A Year Later

I decided to take the CELTA while I was completing my doctoral degree, as I realised that I wanted to work on my teaching skills and become a better teacher. While I had some previous teaching experience, I feel that after taking the CELTA my entire way of teaching changed radically. Not only has the training helped me to develop a stronger teaching method and a more professional profile, but also it gave me the possibility to become an English Teacher at UCC Language Centre. I am now teaching English to university students, combining my experience with academia with my passion for language teaching.

I consider myself a rather organized person, but the CELTA has brought my soft skills to another level. Time and stress management, lesson planning, teamwork, flexibility and perseverance are all skills you quickly develop over the course of the training. What I think turned to be particularly useful for my every day teaching is having learned how to craft teaching material independently and to work around students’ needs. Also, with all classes currently running online, taking the CELTA via Zoom prepared me to what is, I believe, an important part of the future of language teaching.

CELTA pushes you to reflect on the process of teaching, and to consider every single aspect and part of it. I like to think that, as a teacher, my role is to be as perceptive as possible to find the best ways to involve all students in the process of learning.

Victoria’s story

My name is Victoria Piaggio, I divide my time between Milan, where I currently work, and Chiavari, a small town near Genoa, where my home is. I started working as a free-lance English teacher for a private school in Milan in October 2020, after achieving my CELTA at IH Milan & San Donato in June of same year. 

It was actually thanks to the 1st lockdown restrictions enforced in March 2020 that I finally decided to enroll on the course: I had in fact been thinking of doing it for some time, but never seemed to find the appropriate moment for it.

CELTA – A Year Later

Due to the pandemic, what initially was supposed to be a regular 4-week course in class, turned into a fully online 6-week commitment, which meant becoming Zoom-savvy almost overnight, whilst learning to juggle meaningful teaching content, effective classroom management and technology, as well as smiling, being friendly and building rapport with my students – just to mention a few of the millions of things that go through the mind of a CELTA trainee during a teaching practice session! 

It did indeed feel a lot like being thrown into the pool at the deep end, but it was definitely the best way to learn how to swim! I learnt teaching methodologies which gave me the necessary tools to structure my English lessons appropriately, and I also acquired classroom management skills which helped me gain insight into ways of dealing effectively with different kinds of classroom dynamics. 

When I started applying for teaching jobs, I was almost immediately contacted by various schools and within weeks of sending my first application, I was hired for a part-time teaching job at a school close to home. 

I have been teaching for a few months now and enjoying every minute of it. My tutors’ voices and precious advice still echoes in my mind everytime I am preparing or delivering a lesson. 

Most of all, CELTA introduced me to learner-centredness and taught me the importance of lifting course book content off the page and bringing it to life by turning it into meaningful interactive tasks for my students.

I have learnt that, paradoxically, a teacher can give students so much more, by talking less and that peer-teaching is crucial in active language acquisition. 

Having been exposed for most of my formal education to a teacher-centred approach, with the main focus of foreign language acquisition being grammar, vocabulary and, later in secondary school, literature – with hardly any practice of productive skills – CELTA has given me a completely new outlook on both teaching and learning. 

When I see my students joining my lessons with a smile on their faces and really enjoying the work we do together, I know I made the right decision in pursuing a teaching career. 

I look back on CELTA as the most intense and at the same time rewarding learning experience I have ever had and highly recommend the course to anybody looking to become a professional English teacher!

Valentina’s story

My name is Valentina Bussi and I live in Brescia, Lombardy. I am a freelance teacher of both English and Italian, currently working online.

I earned my CELTA in October 2020 and I can safely say it was one of the most challenging and rewarding experiences not only in my journey as a teacher but in my life as a whole.

I have been dealing with language learning and teaching for quite a long time and very seldomly have I encountered a course that is as formative and professionalizing as is CELTA.

Thanks to those breathtaking 4 weeks I now have a shiny new skillset in my arsenal that helps me go through the marvels and yet ever transformative times of language teaching.

Here are some of them:

CELTA – A Year Later

Planning – I used to be very bad at planning classes. In fact, I was so reluctant and unused to planning that I would avoid it as vigorously as a sloth does physical exercise. CELTA emphasizes planning a lot and my teaching experience has benefitted from it enormously. Not just in terms of procedure and a list of activities that should be accomplished in a certain amount of time but also as regards to having a crystal-clear lesson aim in mind and analyzing the target language. The course has given me a solid modus operandi which helps me avoid the unexpected and reach that substantial clarity (sanity) of mind so that I’m confident about the class I’m about to deliver. What struck me the most about my teaching experience after CELTA is that I can now relate to my students in a way that ultimately gives me a vivid sense of tranquility. In other words, it helps me to put myself in my student’s shoes: what might be difficult for them in particular? Pronunciation, form, their first language interference? What are the questions they might have? What’s the clearest and easiest way to clarify this? Visualizing and anticipating problems are the building blocks which will make you feel safer and trust yourself a lot more.

Customer care and class management – CELTA allowed me to cater for my current and potential students better. I always try to learn as much as I can about them: what’s their level? What’s their preferred learning style? What are their goals and aspirations? I use this information to plan my classes accordingly and most of all to adjust the material to my students and not the other way round. Good planning also translates in better management because I’m ready to deal with most of the students’ questions and doubts and I avoid getting off track better.

Last but not least, online teaching skills – I attended CELTA and taught students during the course entirely online. If I used to be a sloth at planning, let me assure you, my first encounter with Zoom was far from perfect. But against all odds and thanks to a hectic teaching practice schedule, I eventually became acquainted with its tools. Teaching online has been indispensable in 2020 and there’s every evidence that it will continue to be so. It was great to have the chance to acquire this skill too during the course.

CELTA is a certification for English teaching but it definitely has improved my performance as a teacher in general. Most importantly, it provides teachers with a solid methodology which

is sharpened every day through practice and rigorously followed by feedbacks from tutors and peers.

I have learned that teaching is more about a facilitation process rather than an assessment. As a facilitator, I put my students at the center and my role is to open a door, spark their interest and work as a support until they’re pretty much in control. At the end of the day there are 3 basic questions you need to ask yourself as a teacher: did the learners leave the lesson with a better understanding? Did they enjoy it? Did they participate?

CELTA is stressful and yet equally rewarding. You might very well feel like you’d better give up, if anything to preserve what’s left of your mental health, but that’s exactly when you choose to persevere instead and pass that threshold, that’s when you feel it, a strange feeling of empowerment and the awareness you just survived one of those quite rare experiences that is worth every penny. It’s even likely that you’ll ask yourself what took you so long to sign up for CELTA.

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