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Interview with online CELTA graduate: Jeanette Clifford

Jeanette is from England and she is sixty years old. Before joining our 100% Online CELTA course she had gained the PGCE and worked in the further education sector. Find out in this blog post more about her experience on our CELTA course.

Why did you decide to take get a CELTA qualification?
I’d been thinking about taking a CELTA course for along time. Then, the amazing opportunity of taking the 100% online CELTA course opened up and I grabbed it. The new availability of this online model in these strange times was just the spur to action I needed.

What attracted you to the 100% Online CELTA course with Oxford TEFL?
I looked at other providers, but Oxford TEFL stood out, and not just for its fantastic record on review sites. From the beginning it was responsive, honest, and straightforward. My early impressions have been proved correct: I absolutely believe that Oxford TEFL is an organization with high values. 

What was the application process like?
The application process was comprehensive and confirmed that Oxford TEFL genuinely wanted to make sure this was the right option for each individual. There was a pre-interview task, which I will admit I found challenging, and then an interview that was simultaneously probing and encouraging. The interviewer, Tim, gave a taste of the supportive approach that was to come on the course itself when he talked though my test answers and helped me to see how they could be improved, asked more general questions about my background and motivations, and clarified the structure of the course. As a result, I started the course with a good knowledge of what I was letting myself in for, but also the confidence that if I worked hard then I could succeed. 

What was your day to day life like during the course?
Our days were spent in the same team of four trainees throughout, which was helpful. As we became comfortable with each other, we were able to give and receive candid criticism and advice, in the knowledge that we were each willing the others to do well.

This course is demanding in many ways – and certainly in the hours that must be devoted to it each day and at weekends. During British Summer Time in England, the online day starts at 9.00, so I’d tend to be at my desk by 8, either making last minute preparations before teaching or reviewing an assignment before uploading it to meet the 10 o’ clock deadline.

The mornings are spent either teaching or observing other people in the team, followed by reflection and debrief, before going on to plan for the next session. In the middle of the day there is time for a quick bite to eat and then it’s an afternoon of excellent input sessions from the tutors on a range of topics covering teaching and learning skills, grammar knowledge, classroom management and motivation and professional standards.

But even then, the day’s not over: planning, preparing resources and writing assignments and other material for the portfolio can take long into the night.

But it felt good – and working with tutors and fellow trainees made it fun.

What was the teaching practice like?
Trainees are required to teach eight sessions to groups of about twelve adult students, mainly though not exclusively Spanish and Catalan speakers based in Barcelona. Each trainee teaches at two levels – for me, it was intermediate and upper intermediate. One of the pleasures of the course was the generosity of the students we were teaching: I felt as though they were willing us to get it right, and they often had kind words and good advice.

The first teaching session is a half an hour warmup; for sessions 2 – 6, the topic and materials are provided; then for sessions 7 and 8 there is free rein (although with lots of helpful advice).

Trainees create a detailed lesson plan and resources which are reviewed and critiqued by the tutor before the session begins. The lesson is delivered and then discussed in small groups, followed up by a written reflection in which the trainee answers the killer question: effectively, “what would you do better next time?” It’s a rigorous process, and sometimes a bit painful, but it works.  Sometimes lessons go well, and that feels brilliant: there can be the odd disaster, in my case problems with my internet link, but it’s all good learning – and there’s always help to hand.  

What were your tutors like?
There was a great mix of trainees from all sorts of interesting backgrounds, but what we had in common was a real commitment to the course. I don’t think anyone missed a single session and everyone spoke up in discussion and generously shared their views. Most people had experience of teaching, which helped, and all worked hard all the way through. It was wonderful to see a team ethos forming quickly, with the constraints of meeting solely on-line soon forgotten. The tutors were fantastic too. Brilliant teachers themselves, they had high expectations of us and helped us to meet those expectations, with targeted advice, patience, and good humour.

What was the most challenging aspect of the course for you?
The first challenge for me were getting to grips with the technology, which I did firstly with lots of practice and secondly by acquiring a second screen so I could see all the students in the group at the same time when teaching. This was £100 well spent. The second challenge for this native English speaker was my weak foundation in English grammar, but the input sessions from the tutors really helped – and didn’t someone say the best way to learn something is to teach it?

What has been the most rewarding aspect on the course for you?
It’s an ambition fulfilled to have taken this course. I feel as though I’ve achieved something worthwhile, enjoyable and which opens doors for the future.

Which one thing do you wish you had known before the course started?
I began the course about three days after signing up, so I wasn’t very prepared. It might have been a good idea to delay by a week or so to brush up on grammar, but then again, I survived, and as the timing was right for me, and the trainees I was with just lovely, I don’t really have any regrets.

What’s your best piece of advice for something thinking about taking the 100% Online CELTA course?
Just do it. I’d be surprised if you regretted it – and I promise you’ll feel great once it’s done.  Just don’t plan to do much else while you are studying! And I really, really, really recommend Oxford TEFL.

What are your plans now?
I’m retired and thought this was time for adventure: I had hopes of using my CELTA when travelling. That’s on hold for the moment – but surely not forever! As the lockdown eases in England, I’m going to look at ways to use my new skills in the voluntary sector.

Who would you recommend this course to?
I have already recommended this course to a friend working in the justice system in the UK. It would be good for lots of people: for example, those seeking a path into on-line teaching, practising teachers who want to boost their skills and CVs with a gold standard qualification, and people who want to play a part in the post-Covid future by skilling up to share this beautiful lingua franca with more and more people.

If you have been thinking about gaining a recognised TEFL certification, you could consider our 4-week 100% Online CELTA course or our 13-week 100% online CELTA course. This qualification is respected by employers worldwide. In fact around 75% of TEFL employers request this qualification. Enrol for your CELTA course here or get in touch for more information.

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