CELTA — The Good, the Bad, the Beautiful

JJ Wong
JJ Wong
Aug 5, 2018 · 5 min read

Taking the CELTA (Certificate in English Language Teaching to Adults) is one of the best investments you can make if you are interested in pursuing a career as an English language teacher.

Provided by the University of Cambridge English Learning Assessment, CELTA is a holistic, comprehensive teaching program that is viewed as the gold standard worldwide. While there are a gazillion acronyms in the English-teaching universe, for simplicity sake, the CELTA is a form of TESL / TEFL certification.*

Make no mistake, CELTA is intense and demanding. No matter what prior teaching experience you may have, the CELTA will challenge you to grow and develop.

The Good

CELTA focuses on transforming theory into practice. The program has an incredible hands-on approach where everything you learn is then applied to actual students. You get to experiment with new teaching techniques and lesson frameworks. It’s a thrill to learn something in the morning and see it improve the quality of your lesson that same afternoon.

The variety of frameworks provided by CELTA is another blessing. Like a Swiss-army knife, you will learn specific frameworks geared toward achieving particular lesson aims and objectives. The frameworks are designed with purposeful staging and you will experience their effectiveness during your teaching practices.

Personalization and responsive student feedback are both major focuses of CELTA. Keeping in line with ongoing research in pedagogy, CELTA teaches you to make every opportunity of learning as personalized, relevant and authentic to the learner as possible. In practice, this means designing tasks and lessons that address student needs (such as a desire to communicate via social media) in a way which keeps students continually engaged throughout the lesson (pair-work, equal feedback, purposeful tests etc.).

The Bad

The reviews aren’t kidding, it’s a tough program. You have to prepare yourself for the workload. Clear your calendar. You need to stay organized and be ready to study hard the entire month. There will be a seemingly never-ending onslaught of teaching practices and assignments to complete.

Have no fear. Know that many people have done it and you will get through it too. Make sure to eat well, stay hydrated and get some exercise. You’ll be surprised by how beneficial healthy habits can be! Also, please try and have some fun if you have the chance. Go for walks or have dinner with your fellow CELTA trainees. You'll learn a lot from the experiences and motivations of your classmates. The downtime will help you study better, recharge your batteries and prevent burnout.

Learning how to deal with the stress of a heavy workload will prove invaluable again and again. Be kind to yourself. You will constantly be tested by your own ego. You may crave perfection. You may feel you already know it all because you’ve been teaching for the last four thousand years. You may not agree with all the feedback on your teaching practices…

That’s okay.

Try not to see the course as winners vs. losers. We’re all collaborators, not competitors. I found that the trainees who found the CELTA most difficult were the ones who compared themselves with others and saw the course as a zero-sum game. Thinking this way makes the course needlessly frustrating.

We are all a team and we are all trying our best to learn and improve. Who knows what kind of struggles someone is going through outside of the classroom? Be kind to yourself and your fellow trainees — it really does go a long way.

In the real world, perfection is poison. Good is good enough.

The Beautiful

K.I.S.S. — Keep it simple, silly!

I overthink a lot.

The answer to your problem is almost always: “simplify and let go”. We can’t predict the future. We can’t control how our students will react. We can only try our best to prepare and adapt.

When you feel overwhelmed, try to complete the next smallest, positive step. Can’t start the new lesson plan because you feel like a failure with no more creative juice? Just write your name on the document. Fill in the date. Good job, you’re on your way. Even if nothing seems to be working, persevere and keep trying. You’re going to make it.

Your class always differs from your plan, but the planning allows you to prepare for all possibilities. The plan isn’t a map, but a compass. While a map is not the territory, a compass will always help you find your way. The art of planning teaches you to remain dynamic and fluid in the face of change and uncertainty. Master that art, and you will learn to handle anything that is thrown your way.

The most beautiful thing about CELTA is finding a tribe of like-minded people who value personal and professional development. Your CELTA classmates likely come from different places and all walks of life — Hooray! You’ll learn about different worldviews, perspectives on teaching and varying teaching styles.

You will come out the other side forever changed.

Somehow or another, you and your fellow CELTA trainees chose to suffer together. Four weeks later, you will become a group of teachers bonded by the fire of nine TPs, four assignments and way too many coffees.

You will have the tools to tackle any teaching environment. You will have a trusted band of brothers and sisters who will journey alongside you as you take on your teaching career.

The CELTA is challenging but worth it. I wholeheartedly recommend the program to anybody with a serious interest in teaching English.

Enjoy every moment. It will all be over too soon.

*TESL and TEFL are general terms. There is no such thing as the “TESL” or “TEFL” certificate. Rather, there are many organizations globally that provide their own forms of TESL and TEFL certification.

TESL — Teaching English as a Second Language refers to teaching English in a country where English is an official language.

TEFL — Teaching English as a Foreign Language refers to teaching English in a country where English is not an official language.

Collectively, you could say TESL and TEFL are both under the umbrella term TESOL — Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages.

The actual techniques of teaching in both cases are the same or incredibly similar.

***Disclaimer: these are my personal thoughts and opinions on the CELTA program. I do not work for or represent the CELTA in any way.***

Learning Languages

Ideas, tips, and resources to help you learn languages better.

Medium is an open platform where 170 million readers come to find insightful and dynamic thinking. Here, expert and undiscovered voices alike dive into the heart of any topic and bring new ideas to the surface. Learn more

Follow the writers, publications, and topics that matter to you, and you’ll see them on your homepage and in your inbox. Explore

If you have a story to tell, knowledge to share, or a perspective to offer — welcome home. It’s easy and free to post your thinking on any topic. Write on Medium

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store