1 year, 2 centers, 6 CELTA courses

For my first post this year, rather than doing a retrospective of 2016, I want to look back as my first full year as CELTA tutor and my overall experience.

Like many of the things I have written about the CELTA and DELTA,  this was inspired by something Sandy Millin posted on her blog. If you haven’t read it yet, I highly recommend you doing so.


During 2016 I worked in 3 part-time courses and 3 full-time courses. The full-time courses I worked at took place in either January or July (I have already written about working on two full-time courses in July here) and the part-time courses in between (from February to June and the two courses from August to December).

I can definitely say at this point that I like working on intensive courses better. That doesn’t mean I don’t like working on the part-time courses, but the atmosphere and camaraderie are simply different if you spend every weekday of a whole month with the same group.

I’ve also felt that candidates in the full-time courses tend to ask more questions, and I mean that positively. Because these candidates are (for the most part) not working during the course, they have more time after input sessions to stay back and ask additional questions. Conversely, candidates in part-time courses usually have their plates full with their regular working hours, which means they leave the course and are supposed to be on the other side of town to teach on the same day. Naturally, that leaves very little time for questions or pleasantries.

Regardless of my preference, average performance seems to be the same in both types of courses and I have been told by another tutor that there is research to back that up. This reminds me of something I have said before, but that bears repeating: getting a Pass A is really difficult. The six courses I worked at had a total of 80 candidates and if memory serves me right, there were fewer than 10 candidates who got a Pass A. When candidates ask me about it, I usually say 10-20% of Celtees get an A, but the truth may be in the lower end of that.

Earlier in the year, I mentioned I was afraid of having candidates cry during feedback, but it ended being so common that I think I’ve got used to it. I’ve also got used to being called the bad cop in the centre where I taught in four of the courses during the year.

Working at two different centres was tremendously rewarding because I was able to learn from tutors who were both more and less experienced than I was. Different centres have slightly different Lesson Plan documents, slightly different assignments and do things in slightly different ways (all according to Cambridge’s criteria). This doesn’t mean there is a right or wrong way of doing things, but I have been to pick and choose things that I liked and that I can use going forward.

Working on six courses also means being assessed six times, by 4 different assessors in total. During an assessment, one of the tutor’s is observed giving feedback to candidates. This happened to me three times during the year. Although there can be a little extra anxiety, it also means you get some feedback on your job, which is invaluable. I particularly remember something the assessor told me in July, about trying to use more probing questions during feedback. It hasn’t been easy, but it’s one of the things I want to work on for this year.

Out of the 80 candidates, there were people from 7 different states in Brazil and 10 different countries (and I’ve just added another one in my first course of 2017). This means a great variety of backgrounds and experiences. As a tutor, I end up learning a lot from the Celtees both about teaching and about how to deal with different personalities.

I had planned to teach a wider range of sessions during the year, and I have definitely done that. For instance, I have already done both receptive (listening) and productive (writing) skills, which I hadn’t earlier in the year. I’m up to 29 different input sessions given. A full course has about 38 input sessions, so another goal for 2017 is to continue expanding my portfolio.

Talking about input, my favourite sessions to teach are definitely phonology. These are often difficult sessions for candidates, but many of the concepts are new to teachers and they are grateful to learn about them.

2017 started with a new challenge, as I’m running my first CELTA as an MCT (Main Course Tutor). I’m hoping to do another six courses this year. Let’s see if I’ll manage that.

Thanks for reading.



8 thoughts on “1 year, 2 centers, 6 CELTA courses

  1. What a fabulous year 2016 was for you! You inspire me and many other teachers! Be sure of that!
    Ricardo, I do have a question: you said that the performance doesn’t change from the full-time to the part-time courses, my questions is “How do you really know you’re up for a Pass, B or A”? I find the criteria to be very hard to understand, especially for those candidates with very little knowledge about Cambridge courses and tests. Do you think the grades are really “fair” or do you think in the future CELTA will change the scale just like the other certificates (FCE, CAE, CPE)?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi, Karin.
      I agree that the criteria can be unclear. One of the things to look for is receiving an ‘above standard at this stage of the course’ during tutorial 2. This indicates the candidate is going for a Pass B or Pass A. If the candidate receives a ‘to standard at this stage of the course’ in tutorial two, however, that usually indicates he/she is going to get a Pass or a Pass B.
      I don’t think the grades are going to be changed to scales like exams. The Celta works mostly with formative assessment whereas exams such as the CAE use summative assessment and it’s much easier to produce scales in the latter case.
      As far as the grades being fair, I think they are as fair as grades can be. There are some subjectivity to it, certainly, but candidates often don’t realize that they are being assessed all the time, and not only when they are teaching.


  2. Hi Ricardo,
    It’s interesting to see how you’ve developed as a tutor over the last year and your clear goals for next year. Do you know about http://www.teacherfeedback.org? That might give you some ideas of how other tutors approach feedback.
    Good luck with your first course as MCT – that’s not something I’ve done yet!
    Happy New Year,


  3. (…)I mentioned I was afraid of having candidates cry during feedback, but it ended being so common that I think I’ve got used to it (…)
    Great to see that crying is not something uncommon! 🙂
    But let me ask you: What do they cry? I mean, sadness? hapiness?

    Very informative post, Ricardo! Especially for me, who is planning, little by little, to take the full-time course and sit the certificate very soon.

    Thank you and congratulations! 🙂


    • Hi, Juliana.
      Candidates may cry for a variety of reasons. There’s a lot of pressure involved in the Celta, and the full-time course in particular. Sometimes they cry during feedback, sometimes they cry at home and tell you about it during feedback. They sometimes leave the classroom to cry in the corridor or the restroom.
      The course is a huge investment of both time and money and candidates may get frustrated if they don’t get the results they expect (and, more rarely, when their result is better than expected).
      Teaching lessons in the Celta requires a great deal of preparation and that can sometimes mean sleepless nights for candidates. Again, if a lesson you spent hours preparing doesn’t do well, candidates can get frustrated.
      Sometimes problems come from outside the course. During a full-time Celta candidates don’t have time for much social life and husbands/wife/partners are not always supportive. That can lead to stress, which may result in tears. And so on.


  4. Hi Ricardo,

    it’s really interesting to read your post after being one of your Celtees.
    I do agree when you said you were the bad cop, but the candidates do need someone ‘to pick on’ them, to challenge them. Thanks for that!
    Taking the CELTA was a hard and great challenge. Totally rewarding, though!
    By the way, phonology was one of my favorite input sessions. I actually like the phonetic chart now, I used to be scrade of it… hahaha
    Well, I wish all the best as a tutor! Keep challenging the candidates and drivng them to excellence!



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