TEFL: Getting Started

By Donna Hutchinson
Newly-qualified TEFL Teacher, @donnatamara

studyingThe CELTA. Where it all begins, where you learn from the oracles of TEFL and begin your emotional rollercoaster of a journey into the unknown TEFL world. I mean, yes, this is true, my tutor Danny was an all-knowing, all-seeing, all-powerful TEFL being, without whom I would have no clue how to function in this world in which I currently reside. BUT, it is one’s motivation to do a CELTA that I feel is wholly more fundamental.

My pre-CELTA days were spent doing the usual: gap year (yah), university (BSc Psychology) and working in bars.  I couldn’t help feeling, however, that there was something out there that would be better suited to my brain and my heart and my sleeping pattern.

You know that phrase, ‘the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree’? Well, despite years of effort trying to defy it, it soon became true for me. You see, TEFL is in my genes; my DNA and I can’t escape it, though, believe me, I tried. My parents and my brother all work in TEFL. I’d grown up with it around me. So when I voiced the idea of getting into TEFL, they yelped and screamed and said it was perfect for me. Perfect? I don’t know, but I supposed it was definitely worth a little look-see. So, I embarked on an internet search and was confronted with a mass of gobbledygook; a wave of acronyms that meant nothing to me.  Thankfully, I had family to guide me and tell me that the CELTA was the qualification to do, and thus began my search for a good school and schedule and eventually found one.

I did my CELTA at International House in Covent Garden. I’d read up on the different schools available in London as there are many. I combed through blogs and websites and decided that IH (see, so many acronyms!) was the school for me. It was thorough Google searching that guided me to my decision. It’s always worth reading people’s opinions on the various schools out there; believe me, the internet is full of the opinions of the masses. You’d know, you’re reading mine. Personally, I highly recommend International House, but I know there are many other reputable schools out there offering CELTA courses.

The CELTA itself was tough and emotional, but I have to say it was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made in my mere 24 years on this earth.  More on the trials and tribulations of the CELTA next time, but what I wish to leave you with here is to understand your reasons for doing a CELTA. There are many: to travel, a career change, something extra for the CV, etc., but it is not a course to be taken lightly. Pick your school wisely, and I guarantee that you will meet some of the best people ever once you get started: from your tutors and your students to your fellow trainees.  Your motivation is key… and you’ll learn loads on learning motivation in the CELTA.

Those pesky acronyms:

A little help with the acronyms you may be confronted with when researching.

  • TEFL – Teaching English as a Foreign Language
  • TESOL – Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages
  • CELTA – Certificate in English Language Teaching to Adults
  • DELTA – Diploma in English Language Teaching to Adults [Note: you do not need to consider this until you already have a CELTA and substantial teaching experience.]
  • EAL – English as an Additional Language
  • ESL – English as a Second Language
  • ESP – English for Specific Purposes
  • IELTS – International English Language Teaching System [Note: these are exams which students take, but they are in high demand. Do not mistake them for something you need.]

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