We had the opportunity to interview one of our CELTA graduates recently about the impact CELTA has had on her teaching journey. Susanne, a native German speaker, completed the CELTA after working as a full-time music teacher for nearly ten years. Now, Susanne works as an English as an Additional Language (EAL) teacher in an international school.
What prompted you to enrol in CELTA?
I had been working as a full-time music teacher for nearly ten years. Most of my experience was at a local secondary school. I wasn’t a qualified teacher when I first started. I was hired because of my experience as a performing artist and my work in arts administration. Even though my students were native speakers of English, I found that I needed some new skills to support the language my students used to express their thoughts or read and write in a critical manner. I heard about the CELTA through some friends and thought that it would give me a teaching qualification and enable me to better support my students. I ended up doing the CELTA and the Young Learner Extension (YLX) * in the same year.
During this time, I met my husband who worked in an international school. We were working on completely different school calendars which meant we could never have a holiday together! Ultimately, I decided to pursue a PGCEi at the University of Nottingham to qualify me to work as an EAL teacher in an international school.
What was your experience on the course like?
CELTA is definitely a boot camp. I would go to class and think 'Ok. I’m being broken here to be built up again.' It wasn’t an enjoyable experience at the time, but I learned a lot.
How does the CELTA compare to a PCGEi? *
The CELTA was one of the best professional development courses I’ve ever done. For the practicality of day-to-day classroom teaching, CELTA was much more useful than the PGCE. The best thing about CELTA is the reality check of the teaching profession. Every other day you have to teach. You are tired and trying to plan lessons for the next day. There is very little time to prepare. You get some hard core but useful feedback. You learn to shut up in class. The lesson that you talk a lot in is a bad lesson.
Why did you choose the British Council as your course provider?
Doing the CELTA at the British Council was great. The British Council is very transparent about what you can and cannot do with the qualification. The team of trainers are full-time, permanent staff so it’s a very well-oiled process. The course is organised and the feedback from trainers was presented in a very professional way.
Also, we got to observe the British Council teachers and they were amazing. I’ll never forget one of the lessons I watched. The teacher was getting students to practice the same thing in many different ways until they really internalised it. Recently I went to a course on neuroscience and learning. We talked about how you need to present information in a variety of different ways to really make it stick. I saw that in action with the teaching at the British Council. The teachers there are really good at their jobs.
What do you think landed you the EAL job in an international school?
I wasn’t hired because of the CELTA alone. It was the combination of having a CELTA and a PCGEi, ten years of experience as a teacher, and my own background as a non-native speaker of English that made them look at my application. However, to this day, the skills I learned during the CELTA course shape my teaching in a positive way.
Thank you, Susanne, for talking with us and sharing her journey! Wishing you all the best in your future teaching endeavours.
* The University of Cambridge has discontinued the YLX qualification.
** These qualifications are intended for different teaching contexts. A CELTA allows you to work in a language school. PGCEi gives you the qualification to work in primary and secondary school systems.