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Graduate Story: Richard Butler

CELTA courseRichard Butler is a corporate trainer with over 20 years of experience ranging from education to recruitment. Originally from Ireland, he moved to Barcelona in 2011 and has been teaching English for the last 9 years. He holds a MSc in Education from Trinity College, Dublin, Diploma in Life Coaching and is a qualified Practitioner of Neuro Linguistic Programming. He recently completed our Online (Blended) CELTA course in Barcelona.Learn more about this course and his plans for the future in this blog post.


What were you doing before you took the Online (Blended) CELTA course?

I work as an online project manager for a recruitment company, managing projects over 20 country websites. I had been teaching private classes and refining my techniques as I went along, but I felt now was the time to learn the tricks of the trade, and to help differentiate me from the hundreds of other English teachers out there I decided it was time get qualified. 

Why did you choose the CELTA qualification as opposed to other TEFL certifications?

As it happens to many of us when we decide to embark on a TEFL course, I started to look online at find out was out there. Having done extensive research I found that the best qualification was the Cambridge CELTA. It was internationally recognised and with the prestigious name of Cambridge behind it I knew that this was the course I wanted to do. I also read through the syllabus and liked how it was set out and the objectives that we had to achieve. 

Why did you choose Oxford TEFL as your course provider?

Working full-time as a project manager and trainer meant that I could not commit to a full-time one month CELTA course, because taking one month of paid leave was not an option. So, I started looking for a part-time or blended CELTA course.

While doing my research I found a number of course providers, however while others offered the blended course, the actual Teaching Practice and input sessions were during the week and in the morning, which didn’t suit my circumstances.  When I saw that Oxford TEFL offered the blended course and the Teaching Practice was on Saturdays, I jumped at the opportunity and sent an email for more information. 

The second reason was because I was impressed by the facilities. The school is in a great location (close to my current job – which meant if I needed anything I could pop down at lunch time).

I had originally met Fran a few years previously when I was inquiring about the CELTA in general. In fact, I remember I emailed her asking if I should apply for the Trinity DipTESOL course (a more advanced qualification in TEFL) because I had teaching experience. However, I decided that the CELTA was a better fit for my needs at the time and I may consider the Trinity DipTESOL in the future. She showed me around the modern and bright facility and fell in love with that outside garden – it was idyllic!  

One of the other reasons I took the course at Oxford TEFL was due to the fact that they offer all CELTA graduates a free teacher development course (worth €200).  This is great as once you have a few months experience you can then focus on an area you want to improve on/ specialise in/ learn more about.

In which ways do you think that being a native English speaker gave you an advantage/disadvantage during the course?

As a native speaker taking the course I think it was an eye opener and in fact sometimes it was a hindrance. I remember being really impressed by one of my colleagues the first day when our course director, Anna, asked – “What tense is this?” and she was able to say Future Perfect Continuous. 

As a native speaker we know what to say and how to say it, but ask us why we say it that way or to name the tense and we draw a blank. How many of us actually know what a present participle is?

CELTA course Barcelona
Richard with his fellow CELTA trainees

What was the online phase like?

Anyone who has looked at doing the CELTA knows that it is a lot of work, so surely if you have 16 weeks online and only have to go in every Saturday, it’s easy, right? Wrong!

The online platform itself is pretty good, with lessons in different areas of the course, with continuous assessment. The first week is easy enough, but suddenly you get three modules to complete and prepare your Teaching Practice lessons. Then you have those weeks where you have three modules to do, Teaching Practice lessons to prepare and you also need to start one of your four assignments! There are also forum tasks that have to be done in-between all of the above. While you can get it all done, you can’t afford to take it easy for too long and then try to catch up – you really do need to put the work in.

What was the face to face phase on Saturdays like?

Where things really get interesting is when you start the face to face sessions, preparing for and actually doing Teaching Practice. You meet the students you will teach, you begin to plan lessons and start working on assignments.

In the first 4 – 5 weeks of the course (your first 4 Teaching Practice sessions) there is a lot of guidance on how to plan your lesson plan and the tutor is very supportive with their feedback. 

In the last 4 Teaching Practice sessions you are given a lot more freedom and the guidance is minimal – after all you’re nearly a CELTA English Teacher.  However, the feedback at this point of the course becomes even more crucial as you have to show you have learnt from your feedback, and are adapting and growing as a teacher.

Online TEFL course
Richard with his fellow CELTA trainees

Who were your fellow trainees, tutors and students?

I think what also really made the course was my colleagues, who all came from different walks of life. We all had a common goal – to help each other grow and become better.  On my course I had two Russian girls, one Catalan girl and an American guy.  In previous lives they had been office workers, Human Resource consultants, stock brokers and interior designers! 

On the other hand – the tutors were experts in their fields. Both my Teaching Practice tutors had vast experience of teaching and training on CELTA courses, and what I liked was that one was a native and the other was a non-native tutor so this led to many great insights.

What type of support does Oxford TEFL offer when helping you find work?

Oxford TEFL provides a careers service, advice on preparing your CV and applying for jobs. However, it is not something I availed of as I didn’t need it.

Where do you see yourself in 5 years?

Having done the course, my main aim is not to be situated in any particular country but to travel, have the ability to be a true digital nomad, continue to offer classes online and to grow that aspect of my teaching. I know I will still be teaching English and training and perhaps writing books. I also know that my main aim for doing this course was to hone my skills, allow me to be location independent and to start providing more English classes online. The dream is to have freedom to work when and where I want – and that dream will come true.

What advice would you give to a someone thinking about taking a CELTA course? 

To conclude, if you’re thinking of doing the CELTA course, whether face-to-face or blended, go in humble and with an open mind. Sure you might have taught English before or been a teacher, but park that outside the classroom. Now, you’re going to learn how to teach it properly 🙂

Also make sure you are consistent with your study.  There’s a lot to take in, there’s always something to be doing – reading, researching, writing assignments or lesson plans and more. CELTA is just the beginning of the rewarding journey which is English teaching!

If you are thinking about teaching abroad and you would like to give yourself the best possible start, why not consider the Cambridge CELTA course in Barcelona or Prague? Next course February 3rd in Barcelona or February 10th 2020 in Prague.

Unable to commit to a 4-week intensive CELTA course? Our Online (Blended) CELTA course in Barcelona could be for you. Next course: September 12th 2020.

Get in touch to find out more or apply here (4 week course) or here (blended course) to start your adventure.

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