The ABC of ELT

10 things I wish I had known before doing my CELTA

[Update: Since originally writing the post I have added some resources to this website with the aim is to give people, thinking about teaching English as a foreign language, information so they can decided whether or not they should give it a go. To find out more and learn more about CELTAs, TEFL, Job contracts and more. Go here to find out more]

It’s been over 2 years now since I left Language Link Earl’s court with my CELTA certificate in hand [It wasn’t actually, I had to wait another few weeks for it to arrive in the post] and those two years have been an incredible experience where I truly have changed as a person, both professionally and personally.

I though, as the end of the year approaches, it would be nice to think about some things I wish I’d known before hand. [In a “notes to a younger self” style letter]


Hi Chris,

I see you’re about to start doing your CELTA. Great! I know you’re going to love being a teacher and really enjoy the next few years. However, I thought I should pass on some of the lessons I’ve learnt over the last two years.

1. Getting a job is easier than you think with a CELTA.

I know you’re worried that A CELTA certificate won’t be enough but it is! There are plenty of places out there looking for teachers all around the world and, rightly or wrongly, being a native speaker will make it easier to get a job. Some countries are tougher than others and you might need to wait if you wanted to go to say, the middle east, but really for large parts of the world it is indeed your oyster.

2. Not all Jobs are as they appear.

Be careful. I’ve met some people who have ended up with real horror stories of their schools. Teaching larger classes than they were promised, teaching more hours than they were promised, not having proper visas. And, of course, they were all told the situation would be different! Do some research at Dave’s ESL cafe and make sure your school isn’t a horror story.

3. Professional development is great, get into it early.

At first, everything will be new and I’m sure you’ll learn a lot but after a while you’ll tail off. Make sure you keep trying to grow. There are lots of ways to do this, it doesn’t just have to be with reading, courses etc. There are lots of ways to do it such as …

4. Start a blog and get on twitter now.

Blogs are great. You can use them as a journal, talk about the latest things you’ve read, share activities and get feedback and new ideas on what you write 🙂 Oh and you can read some great blogs too.

Twitter is great as well. You can meet some great teachers on there who teach all around the world. Plus ELTchat is great fun. You really ought to check that out.

5. Make sure you still have a life outside of work

This is important. If you’re not careful then you may feel overwhelmed by having friends who are teachers, working long hours in a school, doing online professional development etc. You need to take breaks and have friends from outside of work too.

How do you relax? What do you like doing when you have nothing to do? Okay, do some of that. Oh and remember to get plenty of sleep, eat well and do some exercise. They’ll all make you feel much better.

6.  Learning not to be afraid in the class is the first thing you need when teaching

This took me a few weeks to get but it was definitely the most important step in my teaching career. Learning not to be afraid and that the students weren’t all out to get me. I know that you’ll probably just have to teach until it happens but it will happen. [oh I know about the whole grading your language issue, click here for some advice on it. I hope it helps]

7. Living in a foreign country will be hard

It’s not nice when you have no idea what someone’s saying, when you are surrounded by a completely different culture all the time. Remember, home is only a Skype chat away. Keep some home treats for bad times (yum Marmite!) and if you do feel really down, make a list of the good things about your new country and then go and do something. Trust me it’ll cheer you up.

8. Learn as much of the language as you can before you go

The more of the language you know the easier it’ll be for you to fit in, make friends and generally get around. You don’t want any incidents of misunderstanding with the policy or security services so do as much work on the language as you can before you go.

Oh, and once your there make sure you keep learning, being in the country isn’t enough to learn it. If you want to be able to talk to people properly, then you need to do your own studying.

9. The coursebooks aren’t always right! But they aren’t always wrong

Sometimes you’ll read something in a coursebook and…well, it’s just not right. After all, coursebook writers make mistakes too, and sometimes they simplify the grammar point to make it “easier” for students to understand. You shouldn’t always follow them.

However, The writers are very cleaver people and they have been teaching for a longer time than you. Some activities may not make sense to you (yet) but there may well be a reason for them. Check out the methodology sections in the books, ask your colleagues and try to find out why they have done it that way.

10. Place a bet on Mergio to win the Grand national in 2012, trust me you won’t regret it 😉

Hope this helps Chris.

If you have any more questions [or if you have any advice] then leave a comment bellow.



About Chris Wilson

I'm an English Language teacher based in Krakow, Poland. I enjoy writing, using technology and playing the Ukulele.

3 Replies

  1. i would add remember the adage “less is more”, don’t try to load your class time with as many things as possible, don’t be afraid to take your time even with advanced students.

    1. Great point! I remember my first lessons where I would walk in with half a rainforest! Thanks for the comment.

  2. PD indeed is great. What can I say but that I really feel sorry for those who are not involved in a network. Who do they go to when they have problems or lack ideas/resources?

    People talk about sites such as Facebook and Twitter being social networks, but to me, they’re more of a professional network than social. For those who aren’t convinced about Twitter or need more of a guiding hand, might I suggest looking at a collection I’ve put together: – it’s a good place to start.
    Just another comment reading coursebooks – be instinctive. Go with the flow of your class. Don’t feel chained to the coursebook. If there’s a good conversation going, don’t kill it just because you have to cover page 77 before the end of the class…

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