Posted in CELTA

My CELTA Story

I completed my Cambridge CELTA in June 2015 with Kaplan in Dublin. I thoroughly enjoyed the experience and it propelled me into the ELT world. Looking back on my experience now, I would love to do it again, just to experience that magic once more. That’s why it is my objective, with my Delta now in hand, to be certified as a CELTA trainer either this year or the next. The following is what I can recall about my CELTA experience:


I was very much at a crossroads in my life before CELTA. I had been working in retail for over a decade as my main source of income and was getting gradually tired of it. You can get incredibly comfortable in retail, but it is something I think everyone should do at least once in their lives in order to be a better and forgiving customer. 

I was looking for a change and had recently completed my BA in English and History. I was ready for the next step. My girlfriend suggested getting into English language teaching if I wanted to use my degree to pursue further interests in secondary school teaching. No word of a lie, I didn’t even think about English language teaching as an avenue for me. It is now a huge regret that I have today that I didn’t even consider this prospect when I was younger. But, you live and learn. 

I enrolled with Kaplin and was interviewed by Rebecca, who then became a good friend of mine. I got my first taste of teaching with her. She played the role of an A1 level student and I had to teach her how to make a cup of tea. As I started to say unfamiliar words to her like ‘boil’, she got confused and started shouting at me for clarification: “Teacher. What means… boil!” I was slightly taken aback by this reaction, but I recovered well and I used my hands and sound effects instinctively to convey the meaning; something that I have kept doing to this day. She thought I had potential and told me to enjoy the course. I was given pre-course material to complete which I found okay, but I got somewhat undone when it came to the verb tenses and phonetics.


My course took place throughout the month of June at the top of the Kaplan building. It was nice watching all the students and teachers rushing to class in the morning and greeting them on the way. My fellow CELTA candidates came from varying professional backgrounds and countries e.g. Argentina, Germany and Zimbabwe. They were all very encouraging and I felt belonged. We created a WhatsApp group straight away where messages were sent long into the night throughout the course about getting the lesson plans down and supporting each other while trying not to crack under the pressure. Without them I wouldn’t have been able to mentally recharge my batteries each night. One particular candidate, Jamie, has been a good friend of mine ever since and we have worked in two schools together; we often joke by saying that we are following each other. I would consider her to be my work wife or work spouse.

Jamie and I

My tutors, Geraldine and Brendan, were incredibly supportive, knowledgeable and approachable – everything you could want from a teacher trainer. The course runs at a breakneck pace. The curriculum doesn’t mess around on CELTA and you are in the thick of it from day one. We had to decide our teaching practice schedule on the very first day. While it may not suit others, I enjoyed the experience. My only caveat with the curriculum, from what I can recall, is that the input sessions and content seemed isolated and they didn’t bleed through. I guess it comes with the territory as there is so much to sift through in such a short space of time. The fast and frantic pace really put me in good stead for the summer work I did with Kaplan and other schools in future when students arrive in their droves during this time, particularly the YLs. 

I can remember my first teaching practice like it was yesterday. I went to the toilet four or five times with sheer anxiety. I was sweating like mad. I don’t know where I got the courage from, but I managed to get into that classroom and sit in the middle of the room with a number of A2 level students staring back at me. I don’t recall what I taught, but I remember using my shirt with a design of Simba from ‘The Lion King’ to elicit one of my favourite films. Geraldine noted this down and said it was a unique take on elicitation. I found with each passing teaching practice (TPs) that I was getting more and more comfortable with the role(s) that a teacher has to take on and unearthing qualities I needed to be a good teacher. I was experimenting with the IWB, getting the students to work off each other, maximising student-speaking-time and trying my best to clarify language as easily as I could. I was slowly starting to find my feet. However, it would take a whole year before I had a solid foundation and belief in what I was doing.

Feedback is very important for me as it sets me off on a new journey. I take criticism really well after working in TV for a number of years and having scripts ripped to shreds, but know when something doesn’t fit right. Geraldine helped me to understand that my lessons were full of great ideas, but there was one thing that was lacking from it all – concentrating and practising target language or skill work. Embarrassing looking back at it now with a Delta comfortably under my arm, but it took me some time to realise that I needed to focus my lesson around language or skill work and not just do activities for activities sake. Without her observation, I don’t know if I would have clocked this glaring error on my own.

Other areas where I fell down on were phonetics and verb tenses. The phonetic chart really intimidated me back then as it does a lot of teachers. As I hadn’t studied a second language well enough back then, this was just alien to me. During my input session on this, a lot of my colleagues had no problem with this as they probably studied it in school. I felt so vulnerable and isolated, as with the verb tenses, too. I don’t recall studying grammar in secondary school. I don’t think it was brought to our attention. I made sure to implement grammar with my first years in secondary school English years later. I knew they needed work as one child kept stressing adjective as ‘adJECtive’, probably thinking it has the same stress as ‘objective’. I’m now thankfully seeing the benefits of grammar instruction and pronunciation pay off with my German studies.

Another time I felt vulnerable was when a teacher, Mihaela, came into us and taught us some greetings in Romanian. My student’s perspective on language learning and their struggles to acquire it was ingrained on me that day. That session was a crucial one. Without that session, I wouldn’t have got a clearer picture of what it is like to be on the other side of the fence. 

I thoroughly enjoyed the experienced teacher observations. I had the privilege of sitting in the classes of Gerard, Victoria, John Guerin, and Eithne. Gerard was teaching FCE. It was great to see how he worked with and without the coursebook. He answered all the students’ questions with ease and had no problem diverting from his lesson objectives to handle the incidental learning needs of his students. I believe Victoria was teaching IELTS during my observation of her lesson. The main thing about Victoria is I was drawn to her commanding voice and how she handled a mischievous student who just couldn’t stop playing with her phone. She was and still is well disciplined and can rally any student to stay on task. I was amazed by her years later when she had finished her Trinity-Dip and I was observing her again, this time she was doing a grammar lesson on modal verbs and she only used one material/activity and maximised speaking time to great effect. John taught a lesson on appropriate adjectives to use for a CV. He could elicit language from a stone he was and is that good. With Eithne, unfortunately the IWB wasn’t working well for her so she had to think on her feet. I helped her with the printing of new materials for her lesson and she told me why you should never put all your eggs in one basket when it comes to relying on tech. I learned an awful lot from these teachers. I write a little more about them here


I thankfully passed CELTA and was snapped up by Kaplan almost immediately, myself and Jamie. I took a quick trip to Rome before I started with them.

I remember my induction. Jamie and I were introduced to two other recruits for the summer and they had 10 plus years of teaching under their belt. I think I gulped at that, but I knew I was a rookie and accepted that and was eager to get my career started in teaching. One of the new hires, Meadhbh, was paired up with me and was really nice. She helped me to settle in and we often had great conversations at lunchtime, along with my future DoS, Louise. I was chauffeured to my first class by my DoS, Michelle, at Dublin Business School and was literally dropped into the class without fanfare. This was it now. No turning back. I was teaching, and I haven’t looked back since (well… until I started writing this blog that is).

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