Technologically and linguistically adventurous EFL teacher, trainer, writer and manager

This is a message I wrote a few months ago for a friend of a friend. She had just started a CELTA course with no prior experience whatsoever and was lacking confidence. Here’s what I said:

  1. Stop aiming for perfection. Perfect teachers are robots, not humans. Do what you can, then stop. A well-rested teacher with a 50% lesson is better for students than a teacher who is exhausted with a ‘perfect’ lesson. You’re teaching the students, not the presentation. And everything we do should be for our students. There’s no point killing yourself.
  2. Remember that everyone is assessed individually and the course is designed for people with no experience. The people with experience might be OK at the start of the course, but they sometimes struggle to accept feedback. You’re a blank slate so will probably develop more as long as you listen to the tutors’ feedback. Also, learn from their experience – ‘steal’ techniques and ideas from them. You’re also expected to make mistakes and need feedback. Otherwise your tutors have no job! Be open to all of the learning opportunities you have on the course, and know that it will take time for you to absorb them all, and you’re not expected to get everything in 4 weeks. Just do what you can and keep improving bit by bit.
  3. Ask for help from the tutors and coursemates. That’s what they’re there for. You will not be penalised for it. Teachers in good staffrooms ask for help all the time.
  4. Confidence takes time to build up, and will improve with experience. Know that you are doing your best at any given time.
  5. Try sitting down at appropriate points in the lesson – that can anchor you and make you feel less exposed. For example, when giving instructions and getting feedback.
  6. Remember that learning to teach is a skill, just like any other: playing the piano, playing tennis, learning to drive, learning English… You don’t sit down at a piano and expect to play Chopin instantly. You learn little bits, practise them, and gradually build up bit by bit, getting closer to your final goal. I’m 10 years in, a CELTA trainer, and a manager, and I’m not sure I’m at the Chopin stage yet. I’d be impressed if you are after 3 days! That’s one of the reasons I love this job: you never stop learning, both from those more and less experienced than you. Reduce the pressure on yourself and you’ll teach better.
  7. Have a minimum of 30 minutes every day when you do something that isn’t CELTA. It may feel like you don’t have time, but believe me, that 30 minutes will be your lifeline and your sanity, especially once you hit week three.
  8. They wouldn’t have accepted you on the course if they didn’t think you had the potential to pass it. That’s why there is an interview process.

These things weren’t in my original message, but might help too:

  • Useful links for CELTA is a list of resources to help you out throughout the course.
  • Here’s 5 minutes of pure, unadulterated enjoyment:

  • And here’s a picture of some kittens to calm you down 🙂

Stock photo from Pixabay (via Pexels)

Good luck! (and when you’re done with the course, look here…)

Comments on: "Starting a CELTA? Brand new teacher? Lacking confidence? Read this…" (10)

  1. I wholeheartedly agree with all of this. I thought I was well educated, had a degree but couldn’t make head not tail of the entrance test for my course. I knew it, but didn’t know the words. The tutor pointed me in the direction of some good books, then I learned.

    Teaching terrified me. But I soon learned that it’s impossible to be perfect. Be prepared, but be prepared to go with the flow as everyone is human, teachers and students alike.

    I’ve been teaching for 5 years now and am still not perfect, but I know that the human approach is far better than a robot repeating things until students learn by rote.

    I’m about to start a new job in a new country and am thankful everyday that I did my CELTA for the opportunities it’s brought me.


  2. José luis Frizo de Pontes said:

    Thank you for the uplifting message! I do intend to take the CELTA in the foreseeable future. 🙂


  3. I feel the teacher who keep updating the methods will also lack perfection at times due to new adapatations. I my self feeling such situations as I progress. But your words are soothing when I can find the world where some one thinking like me… Great words…


  4. Farid Bourkache said:

    Best blog ever! Thank you Sandy Millin


  5. […] if you need help, here’s a similar CELTA-specific post, here’s a list of useful links for CELTA, here’s a short presentation about building […]


  6. Carolina said:

    That’s it. I’m doing it. I’m applying. I’ve been thinking deeply about it, but this is simply the step I need in order to feel completely educated and professional. Thank you for your very encouraging and kind words, I think I needed this letter.


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