Interview with Online CELTA graduate: Sophia

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Online CELTA course

Sophia Hendrickson is thirty-one years old. She is originally from the UK and I’m now based in Kigali, the capital of Rwanda. She has been there for about two years where she runs her own business, Pineapple English, teaching ESL and offering other English language consultancy services. In this blog post, she reflects on her experience on our 100% Online CELTA course.

Why did you decide to get a CELTA qualification? 

I’d done a TEFL qualification in the past but wanted to take the CELTA as it has such worldwide prestige. I was looking for an opportunity to be observed when teaching and find out ways to improve what I do. 

What attracted you to the 100% Online CELTA course with Oxford TEFL? (benefits of the online format and why you chose Oxford TEFL etc)

I had been planning to go and take the CELTA in Cape Town later this year. Then, of course, the world got shut down, and it was no longer a viable option. My work has also been quieter because of the crisis, so when I discovered it was being offered 100% online, it was the perfect fit. I interviewed with another provider but chose Oxford TEFL as the communication was very efficient and friendly. I’m very happy with my choice as everyone at Oxford TEFL has been great from start to finish. Of course, I’m still a little gutted I don’t get to go to Cape Town…

What was the application process like?

The application process was very simple and straightforward, but it was also useful as an opportunity to reflect on my experiences as both a language teacher and language learner. I really enjoyed my interview with Justin – which was also probably another reason for taking the CELTA with OxfordTEFL. Even though I knew he wouldn’t be one of the tutors he just made me feel welcome from the get-go. The interview was pretty relaxed, we swapped a bit of info on background, talked about the course and we went over the answers to the pre-course assessment. This is a good introduction to whether you’ll be able to handle the CELTA too, as you start running through some finer details about grammar, and you need to be ready for criticism and correction.

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

Day-to-day life doing the CELTA is no walk in the park. It is a very, very intensive course. Mornings are dedicated to teaching practice or “TPs” where you and your fellow trainees deliver lessons to real students through Zoom. In the afternoon, we discussed various methodologies relating to pedagogy, grammar, and tried out activities ourselves. In the evenings, I tended to dedicate time to lesson planning or doing assignments before crashing to bed.

What was the teaching practice like? 

Teaching practice was done entirely through Zoom, which posed its own challenges as you have to grapple with the software as well as trying to deliver the best lesson possible. It’s cool though as now we are all Zoom teaching pros! We were given materials to use as inspiration and guidance but still given flexibility. We all taught for a total of 6 hours over the course. The first 6 sessions are only 40 minutes long, which I found tough, but it’s good as it makes you work to get your planning down with to-the-minute precision. 

You get the opportunity to teach two levels, for me Intermediate and Upper-Intermediate. It’s useful as you get to experience the challenges involved with different levels. All the students were incredibly kind and supportive, and eager to learn. I’m going to miss them too, actually. It’s funny getting a little snapshot of people’s lives for a brief two weeks.

What were the other people on the course like?

I think one of the amazing things about doing the online CELTA course was that my fellow trainees were from all over the world. It meant we had trainees from Saudi Arabia, Slovenia, Malta, Vietnam, Australia, Spain, Switzerland, Corsica, Ireland, the UK…. We were a mix of ages and there were a variety of levels of teaching experience. We all got along well and there was always lots of laughter, which is awesome considering we were never in the same room. It was very weird on the first Monday after the course not seeing everyone’s faces!

What were your tutors like?

The tutors were phenomenal and inspiring. They are industry-professionals and you could tell even from the shortest conversations. If you’ve got your ears turned on you can learn a lot just from a throwaway comment. 

My first tutor for TP was Higor Cavalcante, who is based in Brazil – he got up and started TP with us at what is his 5am! I don’t envy him that, but he didn’t lack for energy. He was incredibly supportive, kind yet constructive, and full of great tips. My second tutor for TP was Zeynep Çağatay, who is based in Prague. She was also fantastic and really got me thinking critically about every single thing I did in the classroom to find my own style. The third tutor on the course was Adam Scott, who worked with some of my fellow trainees for TPs, but I only saw him in the input sessions. Adam’s input sessions were a great model for many of the techniques that you learn about on the course – you get to understand more about different pedagogical practices by assuming the role of the learner.

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

I have friends and colleagues who have told me about their experiences doing the CELTA, so I was expecting a lot of work. However, I really wasn’t prepared for how much it would take over my entire brain/life. There is always more work that can be done – tweaking your lesson plan, adding a reference on an assignment, reviewing your notes… It was hard to switch off. So, in the end, I just kinda embraced it, knowing it was only going to be for four weeks. At times it felt like I was overthinking things, but, in the end, it was always worth it. 

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

The best thing has been getting feedback on the TP sessions. It’s really brought to light many ingrained weaknesses in my teaching, many of which I managed to improve on throughout the course, and some to keep working on now. The other thing was connecting with like-minded people even though we were all on far-flung corners of the globe. Actually, I enjoyed the assignments! Yes, yes, I’m such a geek! But I’ve never really read much about the EFL. It’s made me appreciate the intricacies of my job. It has inspired me to read more.

What’s one thing you wish you had known before the course started?

I feel like I was pretty well prepared for the course in terms of what it would entail. I would recommend to anyone taking it to read up as much as they can about the course content and structure, talk to people who’ve taken the course etc. I wish I’d bought a good grammar book before the course started too.

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

If you’re prepared to work hard, you are ready to improve, you have an open mind, and you’re prepared to lose a bit of sleep, go for it. It will help you if you have support at home – someone who can bring you buckets of coffee or help with your kids (or dogs in my case) – as it is a very demanding schedule. Also, the work seems insurmountable, but stick at it, you’ll get there. You’ll miss it when it’s over.

What are your plans now?

I’m staying in Rwanda for the time being, but the lockdown has hit the economy hard, so I’m looking for more clients. I’m going to try branching out into the online ESL world in some shape or form. Might as well make the most of my new-found Zoom expertise!

Who would you recommend this course to? 

I would recommend this course to anyone who is interested in teaching English, really. Grammar-nerds and grammar-newbies, experience and inexperienced teachers, language fanatics or people interested in pedagogy. Above all though, I would recommend it to anyone who is dedicated to becoming the best teacher they can be.

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.


Learn more about the Online CELTA