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Interview with Online CELTA graduate: Sarah Lewis

Why did you decide to get a CELTA qualification?

My career has been in teaching and teacher training, predominantly music lessons and pilates certification courses. The arrival of Covid-19 caused the music lessons to move online, and the pilates courses to cease. I used to travel a lot which also came to an abrupt end. I decided to take the CELTA course because it will allow me to continue my love of teaching and interacting with people from around the world, albeit in an online environment. The rapid increase in online job prospects also makes it an attractive option. I wanted a qualification that would be recognised internationally and which would provide a solid foundation for a new career direction. The CELTA offered both.

What attracted you to the 100% Online CELTA course with Oxford TEFL?

With having a little more time on my hands due to lockdown, it seemed like the perfect opportunity. I am moving back to Barcelona next year so I wanted to study with a company in the area. Having researched and compared different CELTA formats and companies offering it, I chose Oxford TEFL. I was impressed by the additional things they offer such as their post-CELTA teacher development courses and the lifetime careers service. They were really helpful and quick in responding to my emails for further information as well.

What was the application process like?

The application process was thorough. There were some questions to answer pre-interview. The half-hour interview was then scheduled, where I learned the nature of the course, what would be required for successful completion and what to expect generally regarding the pace and intensity of it.

What was your day to day life like during the course?

It was certainly consumed with CELTA study! There were morning and afternoon start times offered and I chose the morning one on central European time. This meant a 3.30am daily start time for me in New York. Getting up and being functional at that hour turned out to be relatively easy when compared with the course load. There really was little time for anything else, as I was either planning for my next teaching practice, working on one of the four assignments, or just trying to absorb the extensive information given in the input sessions. On average I would estimate that on top of the daily 6 hours of class time, I spent approximately another 5 hours studying a day. As all of us trainees were in the same boat, the support and camaraderie between us played a big part in my successful completion of the course.

What was the teaching practice like?

I had been teaching music lessons via Zoom for three months so I was somewhat used to that platform. However, managing a group of 6-12 learners and making breakout rooms, etc, took some practice getting used to. I love interacting with people and seeing learners excited by their own improvement, so I really enjoyed practice teaching. I found the planning of it was very extensive and time consuming due to the fact I had to thoroughly research topics which I previously did not have much knowledge on, in order to be able to teach it. The feedback, support and knowledge from the tutors were priceless and really helped me become more proficient. After teaching eight lessons, chances are you’ve made a bunch of mistakes, in a constructive environment, that you’ve learnt from. That makes me feel more prepared and gives me more confidence in entering the workplace.

What were the other people on the course like?

There were thirteen of us from many different countries, including Spain, England, France, Saudi Arabia, Scotland, Italy and Russia. It was great to have a diverse group from which to share experiences and learn with. The ages ranged from early twenties to around sixty years old. Approximately two thirds had some experience with teaching in varying degrees.

What were your tutors like?

It was great having three tutors on the course and they were all experienced and extremely supportive. They delivered the input material well and gave many examples of real life applications and other helpful teaching anecdotes. They were always available to answer questions and help in any way they could, via email and Whatsapp. As a trainee, it was very beneficial to witness the range of approaches and teaching styles.

What was the most challenging aspect of the course for you?

I found Language Analysis particularly challenging. Coming up with potential problems and solutions for meaning, form and pronunciation was all totally new for me. I had constant practice and feedback doing it which was great and helped me improve. However, the meaning of ‘learning to walk before you can run’ was rather applicable to myself here!

What has been the most rewarding aspect on the course for you?

Because the course was so intense, I really enjoyed the camaraderie between the trainees and being able to help and support each other. At times it felt like we could have been in a classroom version, episode of Survivor. I felt a huge sense of achievement just being able to manage the workload, and passing was the icing on the cake.

Which one thing do you wish you had known before the course started?

I wish I had known how truly intense and time consuming it would be. As my knowledge of English grammar was weak, I found lesson planning took a very long time as I had to research a large amount of info in order to feel competent teaching it. Due to this, I found myself putting in an extra 4-5 hrs after class to keep up with everything. Had I had a better foundation of the English language, this would certainly have taken some of the pressure off.

What’s your best piece of advice for someone thinking about taking the 100% Online CELTA course?

It would be helpful to spend a couple of weeks before your course really familiarising yourself with grammar, Google drive and Zoom. The more proficient you are at these, the more time you will have available to spend on areas which are new to you. As long as you are prepared and have the time to take on the challenge of the online CELTA, I would thoroughly recommend doing it. The sense of accomplishment is huge. The hand-ons, learning by doing, nature of the course, really makes you feel prepared to take a teaching position after it’s completion.

What are your plans now?

Whilst applying for online teaching jobs, I will continue to develop my skills by doing the Business English and the Young Learners certificates. In order to gain some initial experience and make good use of what I have learnt so far, I have decided to volunteer a couple of hours a week teaching ESL to help immigrants study for the US citizenship test. Once I relocate back to Europe next year and hopefully Covid-19 is contained enough to resume in-person lessons, I would like to return to face to face teaching.

Who would you recommend the 100% Online CELTA course to?

I would recommend the 100% Online CELTA to anyone passionate about teaching and who has a strong desire to learn/ improve their craft. It would be advantageous to have the ability to manage a sustained, intense workload and to be fairly self-motivated. 

Don’t miss this chance to gain your CELTA qualification 100% online. Complete the application form here and take the first step to becoming a certified CELTA teacher intensively over 4-weeks or 14-weeks.

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