thoughts, experiences on doing a celta course in Melbourne Australia
August 10, 2017 4:01 PM   Subscribe

Just looking for experiences, thoughts on doing a celta course in melbourne australia. Im 61, have studied french to intermediate level and am looking for a pathway into the future, either volunteering or helping people with limited english learn to read or something. Is it worth the money? Is it useful if you have no teaching experience? Its also a pricey course, can't get any discounts or help loans for it. Any feedback appreciated!
posted by sparkle55 to Education (5 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I teach English overseas with a CELTA I obtained about 11 years ago. Currently I live in Hong Kong.

A few answers to your questions:

- The CELTA is, as you note, very brief and quite expensive for what it is, which is a very basic introduction to teaching English to people in a relatively prescriptive way, in a classroom/school setting, with the help of a coursebook. The course's real value is in the assessed observed lessons - you teach real students a real set of language items over an hour and are assessed on your lesson plan and how well you follow it, your materials, and most importantly, on whether the students met the aims you set. It is very much sink or swim and there is little room for innovation or creativity on the course itself. Yet the in-class teaching practice is vital and many schools that hire people post-CELTA expect you to be able to complete similar plans and lessons throughout your employment with them. For some people this is a dealbreaker.

- The CELTA (and communicative language teaching as a whole) puts a heavy emphasis on activities that you plan, administer, monitor and respond to rather than students bringing you their own questions or problems - you are definitely preparing to be a teacher with a curriculum and marking and an attendance register more than a coach or a tutor who helps someone one-on-one. Expect the course to demand that you, for example, get students of different first-language backgrounds to exchange ideas or complete an activity in English together, even if it would be faster or easier to put two (say) Farsi or Mandarin speakers together to complete the task using both their first language and English: the goal, after all, is to force people to use the English they already have.

- A CELTA in Melbourne should be the same as a CELTA anywhere else, though there will be variability in tutor personality and student body makeup. I would expect that the place you do it will have a range of students from around the world at different ability levels; this will make your job easier on the course as students will expect to be using English a lot and presumably are already living and working in Australia, with a relatively high level of exposure to the language (though they may be quite bad at English regardless).

- The CELTA is focused on adult teaching (say, 16+), but the market in many places you might think of teaching (China or Indonesia, say) is heavily based on classes for kids and teens, sometimes as young as 18 months old! These skills will be far different to those you learn on a CELTA.

- You didn't ask about your age, but in some countries hiring people or sponsoring work visas for people over 55/60/65 is either difficult or impossible. Presumably working in Australia is not a problem, but bear in mind that some private language schools may not want to hire you if working overseas is your goal.

- The CELTA doesn't really prepare people to teach very low-literacy students - especially those who have little/no formal education. But I wonder if the population of English learners in Melbourne/other Australian cities has a relatively high number of people like this, especially among the immigrant and refugee populations (and their families). I bet your local further education college or even public library has a literacy/English-learning specialist you could pop in and speak to if you'd like to help people get better at English without a CELTA.

- Finally, perhaps see if a local teaching centre will let you observe a CELTA teaching session so the format of the classes you would be teaching becomes clearer to you.

Hope this helps!
posted by mdonley at 5:07 PM on August 10, 2017 [1 favorite]

I recently completed a 4-week CELTA course through Teaching House. I agree with what mdonley said. Though I'll note that one of my CELTA classmates was 60 and got into a program with a maximum age of 55; they knew his age when they accepted him.

Further opinions on the course itself:

One of the tutors agreed with me that it should really be a 5-week course, but unless someone at the Cambridge level changes the requirements for the program, it's going to continue to be a 4-week course because that's what students sign up for and are willing to pay for. The result is a program where many students end up with repeat sleepless nights. In my opinion, that's not an appropriate learning environment, especially when it's a known issue.

They gave us a 3-ring binder handbook and then we hardly used it, including doing a different homework than the one that was included. Instead, we got loads of paper handouts from the tutors. An assessor came for a day in the fourth week, and I suggested that they include those in a handbook or an online data storage system. The assessor said they get that advice a lot, but it wouldn't work because it's not always the same tutors teaching together (for instance, the first time my tutors met was 10 minutes before the first class). In other ways, they do model what they teach, but they fall far short on this. In my opinion, a course that teaches teaching should also be modeling good teaching practices.

The pre-class emails included an optional pre-class task that wasn't actually optional. Books that the pre-class email suggested that we might consider looking at turned out to be required for the course. Surprise! But then it also turned out that I was the only person doing the required reading, everyone else was just using them to do the homeworks. Someone suggested to our assessor that the school lend student copies of a certain book that they required we use, and the assessor strongly implied that we were expected to have all gotten illegal digital copies of it.

I had plenty of specific complaints about my particular class, but these are the main issues that I expect would transfer to all CELTA courses.

One of my tutors kept saying that doing the CELTA course is the most grueling thing a lot of her students have ever done, including students who had previously done a PhD. I think it would be more accurate to say that it's like going through four weeks of finals in college. I absolutely learned things, both in finals, and in the CELTA program, but that's the sort of learning environment it is.

On cost and value
If you're looking for a cheaper CELTA and you're considering teaching in Eastern Europe, that's where the least expensive CELTA programs are.

There are a lot of volunteer English teaching programs that don't require a CELTA, or that will accept a less expensive credential. Whether it's worth it to you will depend on what you want it for. I would not recommend the full-time 4-week program for people who have a goal of learning beyond just getting the certification. If you want to maximize learning, definitely consider looking into a part-time program. Unless perhaps you're someone who already doesn't need much sleep.

Most of the people in my group were planning to take a year to save up before going off to teach English abroad. I think the program is more useful if you're planning to do some sort of teaching English directly afterward, so that what you've learned is still fresh.

There are more options available with a CELTA certification than without one.

Recommended Further Reading
Teaching English abroad : your expert guide to teaching English around the world by Susan Griffith
posted by aniola at 6:03 PM on August 10, 2017

If you have specific goals for moving to a country where English teaching job ads usually call for a CELTA, you should consider it, but not if otherwise. My CELTA got me my first English teaching job but on the other hand I don't feel like it really prepared me for a good portion of that job.
It's expensive and a stressful 4 weeks, so I'd recommend being sure you really do need it.
posted by sacchan at 8:38 PM on August 10, 2017

thanks everyone. I wasn't thinking of teaching english overseas actually, but maybe i should check out language schools in Melbourne. Maybe the people teaching English in Melbourne have teaching qualifications rather than celta.
posted by sparkle55 at 1:24 AM on August 11, 2017

In other ways, they do model what they teach, but they fall far short on this. In my opinion, a course that teaches teaching should also be modeling good teaching practices.

I was a CELTA tutor many years ago, and still a teacher trainer but not on that course. I strongly agree with your ideals here and it is something I am very serious about doing in any training I deliver. Trainers and trainer quality vary greatly.

Someone suggested to our assessor that the school lend student copies of a certain book that they required we use, and the assessor strongly implied that we were expected to have all gotten illegal digital copies of it.

I consider education to be a professional field, sadly at entry / CELTA level TESOL teaching there are plenty of candidates looking at it as a job or just a temporary money making dealio. I bought ALL my books when I initially took the CELTA, and many more, because these were useful and valuable reference materials as I started in a new professional career. YMMV.

To answer your question:

Based on the context you describe, I do not think you really need the CELTA.
Is it worth the money?
Yes, if you are looking to work abroad as a professional TESOL teacher. There are a million "Bob's TEFL" type online courses that are cheaper but they do not provide the assessed teaching practice or the benefit of experienced trainers.

Is it useful if you have no teaching experience?
All the more so. Those few hours you get to spend planning, teaching, and having written and oral feedback (as well as seeing the lessons of the rest of your trainee cohort) is particularly valuable to green n00b people.
Some people say "yeah but you will get more class experience in your first week of work". Those people do not understand the value of observation and feedback.
posted by Meatbomb at 8:08 AM on August 11, 2017 [1 favorite]

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