Updated: Feb 9
I assume that if you're here reading this, you probably know about CELTA - but if not, Cambridge CELTA is a certified professional development course on teaching adults. You can read all about it on the Cambridge website. I had just recently completed the course, and would like to just share my thoughts and advice on it - while it's still fresh in my head.
CELTA is available in Japan. When I was searching, I came across several schools nation-wide. But two in Kansai - specifically, Kobe city. One center offered both online and in-person courses, while the other, was all in-person (unless special circumstances called for it otherwise). I went with the latter school. While it really wasn't much different from what the other school offered, I just went with my gut feeling.
Just to get it out there, I actually did complete this course IN-PERSON.
Yes, I know. COVID19 and all. It's dangerous, and I agree. I won't make excuses for myself, but I just want to say that my 4 other classmates, my 2 tutors and I have been extremely cautious (mask, sanitizer and temperature check). And we left this course, so far, safely. I will touch upon how it was like doing CELTA during COVID19 as well, but onto that later!
This is going to be a long blog post... so I will break my post into two. If you already know you want to take CELTA and have already signed up, you can skip this post and go to the one where I talk about the course itself!
Here I will talk about mostly my thoughts of CELTA and the application process.
Should You Take This Course?
For those of you without a Master's in Education - Short answer is, yes. Absolutely.
I'm not saying this because I'm trying to promote my school or anything (notice that I'm actually NOT mentioning which center I took it at), but I think all working ELT (English Language Teaching) professionals should consider this course. Whether you're eikaiwa, ALT or private tutor, I think you can all benefit from it.
Some people take it for their own professional development, but as for me, I really don't see myself staying in the ELT field for the rest of my life - but I still wanted to take it.
This is a bit of a doosy, honestly... but even though on paper I am considered a "native English speaker", I don't really consider myself as one. I don't know how to explain it... I spoke Chinese at home and with a lot of my friends, so I always struggled with balancing both. And I kind of never really got good at either? Haha... I sucked at English grammar, and I know that the students I was teaching was suffering due to my incompetence. So I wanted to do it for my students.
So if you feel remotely the same way as me, I know this course will still absolutely benefit you in some way.
I also put it off for some time because ALT salary isn't exactly meant for you to have luxuries like professional development, so I get that this isn't going to be easy for some of you to take even if you wanted to. But if you can scrap by, I would try to take this course ASAP. I sort of regret waiting this long to do it and wished I had done it much earlier.
Those with an MEd I think probably don't need this, but since professional development is hard to come by in Japan (especially in English and in-person), it might just be a good chance to maybe refresh your memory. And perhaps a good chance to connect with other serious teachers in the field.
Getting Admitted into CELTA
(Un)fortunately, one doesn't just sign up to get into a CELTA. There is actually an interview process. At least in the school I went to, anyway.
After submitting an application online, I received an email pretty promptly to set up the in-person meeting... or interview, I guess. I had to complete a set of grammar/phonology-related questions. Questions like "where is the word stress on xyz words" and "in this xyz writing, are the underlined phrases (xyz grammar) or (abc grammar)". Things like that. I was also asked to explain why I wanted to take the course as a writing task. It was to be sent to them before the interview so your interviewer can look at (what I assume) your strengths, weaknesses and see if the candidate has enough knowledge to be a successful CELTA candidate.
I think the last point is a big one. My interviewer, who actually became one of my two tutors on the CELTA course, was very forthcoming on this point. They want all their CELTA candidates to be successful, and there is no point in admitting a candidate who they know will not do well on the course. It's a waste of time for everyone, and a waste of money for the candidate.
If you're worried about the pre-interview tasks, I say - don't.
My grammar is pretty shite, and I still managed to pass the interview with flying colors. I think if you explained yourself well, and took the time to think about the questions presented to you - then I believe you will do well. Even if you don't get the questions correct.
During the interview, I believe I had to do another short grammar and spelling test(?) on the spot? I don't remember though... After that, your interviewer will go through the pre-interview tasks and the test you just took with you. Essentially, you will know if you will be able to proceed with the course by the end, and you will find out what are some problem areas you will need to work on before the course starts. This is all to help you learn better during CELTA, and be a much more successful candidate. You'll then be left with a pre-course task - which is very similar to your pre-interview tasks. You are encouraged to complete them, but they will not be graded towards you getting your CELTA certificate or not.
Thinking back, I think the pre-interview tasks are absolutely telling of whether you will succeed or not. The assignments you get on the courses very much mimics the type of questions from the pre-interview and pre-course tasks. It's almost like a preview into the course. So if you find the pre-tasks difficult and very time-consuming, you may want to reconsider and postpone it for another time.
There's really not all that much in terms of pre-course preparation. Your CELTA center/school will email you and tell you what your next steps are: the fees, course materials and the pre-task.
Each school has their own system of payment, so I would contact your school for any questions you have regarding this. However, my school offered those who had financial difficulty to have the option of a split payment. It's slightly more expensive than the lump sum, but I think it can be helpful for those who are living paycheck to paycheck.
With course material, it's mostly just textbooks.
A brotip if you don't want to purchase the book is that there are tons of websites that have PDF versions of these books. I personally bought it because I wasn't sure in the beginning if we needed them during the seminars, but you don't really. You don't even need to bring them to class. So unless your tutors say you need to bring a book to class, I would try to look for these PDF online versions!
Depending on how your CELTA centers are, you may need to take a device with you that has internet connection. Your cellphone would obviously suffice, but if you had an ipad or a computer that can connect to wifi or data, this might be beneficial to you during the course.
My school also asked us to purchase a binder with clear sleeves to put our papers into, but I rarely even used it. My school had their own binders for us to keep the papers that they needed for evaluation. I do have it to keep papers from my seminars, but that's it.
On the next post, I'll talk more about the course itself!