Life after CELTA | An interview with Kumar Sharma

Kumar Sharma ELT

I sent my application to over 100 schools and agencies and only one bothered to reply …

Here’s another interview in a series I’m doing to address concerns about post-CELTA career options for Indian teachers. Some trainees do the course to ostensibly travel and teach but a South Asian passport and a non-native speaker of English (NNEST) tag mean that most doors are firmly closed. But there are those who’ve been able to find opportunities despite these challenges and I’d like to showcase one of those stories.

Kumar was on a course I tutored on last year. He was very determined about getting a job overseas. He left for China earlier this year. I caught up with him about his experiences so far and asked him to share advice for teachers who’d like to follow in his footsteps.

What sort of work were you doing before the CELTA? 

I was working as an English teacher at a private language institute in central Mumbai.

What motivated you to do the course? 

I was an English teacher without any teaching qualifications, so I did some research and came across the CELTA. I wanted to improve as a teacher and explore the world of ESL. I discovered that CELTA could be my passport to teach abroad and that was a deciding factor to do the course.

How did you go about applying for jobs overseas after finishing the CELTA? 

Once the CELTA was over, I knew I had to start looking for a job and put my learning into action. I searched online and registered myself on international job portals. Websites like and to name a few, post job openings daily. I sent my application to a lot of employers and finally got a reply from my current employers.

What challenges did you face? 

The biggest challenge I faced was finding companies who hire non-native English teachers. I was told during my pre-CELTA interview that its almost impossible to find ESL teaching jobs abroad because of visa restrictions.

Tell us about your current job and your teaching responsibilities. 

I am an ESL teacher in Changchun, China. I teach primary, elementary and middle school students. I prepare PowerPoint presentations and lesson plans for the grades I teach. My school provides me with the textbooks for these classes. I’m tasked with completing the lesson plans a week in advance and submit them to the school coordinators. I also co-ordinate with the local teachers to discuss the progress of the kids. It’s very important to be flexible and spontaneous as a teacher, so even though I have a lesson plan to follow, I sometimes adjust my teaching to suit the class.

To what extent does this job meet the expectations you had of it?

I am completely satisfied with this job. I wanted to teach abroad and get sense of the culture of teaching and learning. I came to China with no expectations at all, because I didn’t want to feel disappointed. But I wanted to do justice to the opportunity given to me and I am glad I was able to achieve that. I am working to get experience, because the time I spend in China will add value to my CV and make me a better teacher at the same time.

Tell us about the city you live in. 

I live in Changchun – it’s the capital city of Jilin province. It’s usually very cold here – winters can be as cold as -35 degrees Celsius. Changchun has been voted the happiest city in China, and I must say it deserves the title. People here are very warm and hospitable, not just because I am a foreigner but even with each other. The public transport in this city is efficient; you can reach any part of the city with ease. You can either travel by trains, buses or taxis and the fares are cheap. The cost of living in Changchun is also very low compared to other major cities in the country, you can easily save quite a lot of your salary. The cost of utilities like water, gas and electricity is also very reasonable. Parks, restaurants, temples, schools, malls, universities and tourist attractions – they have it all in this city! I can go on and on about it, because that’s how much I love it and as I write this, I’ve just been here five months!

What’s the most surprising/unusual thing about living or working in China? 

I can’t think of any unusual experiences as such but what surprised me the most is how much importance is given to a child’s overall development. In schools, kids are not just given an education in terms of subjects (like back home), but also moral and physical development. They make them responsible right from a very young age. The future of these kids is in safe hands for sure.

Have you been able to network with other expat English teachers who work in the area?

To be honest, I haven’t really got a chance to network with any teachers from other cities, but I have colleagues from Ukraine and Russia and we often exchange information about our respective countries, lessons and kids. I am sure over time, I’ll be able to network more. It’s still early days in China for me.

What do employers in China look for when recruiting teachers? 

Employers want teachers who are energetic, passionate and hard working. Teaching in China focuses on fun but teachers must also be good at discipline his/her class. If the kids in your class seem to be enjoying themselves, you’re seen as a perfect fit. There’s also a harsh reality about teaching in China – employers often discriminate between employees based on their nationality. White skin is unfortunately a qualification that can fetch you a higher salary. If you’re a white European or a native English speaker then your pay is going to be more.

What sort of perceptions do they have about English teachers from India?

There are very few Indian-English teachers in China. The general perception about Indians is that we don’t speak good English. The fact that we receive our formal education in English is unknown to them. A lot of Chinese people are surprised that I speak English fluently. However, I’ve not yet had any opportunities to speak with any other Indian teachers in China. All the schools I teach in are okay with the fact that I am from India and this doesn’t seem to have an impact in their behaviour or attitude towards me.

What advice would you give to CELTA-qualified teachers from India who’d like to teach overseas? 

The road ahead isn’t easy. But if you believe in your skills and abilities then you can overcome any obstacles. I’d advise teachers to be patient when searching for teaching jobs overseas. If you’re a non-native English teacher, then be prepared for a lot of rejections because the visa rules in most countries are getting stricter by the day. Don’t take the risk of working illegally in any country as that could jeopardise your career. I sent my application to over 100 schools and agencies and only one bothered to reply, and I grabbed the opportunity. It’s also very important to get teaching experience post CELTA. Don’t always look for money. Every teaching opportunity post CELTA, even if it’s seemingly insignificant is valuable. Back your CELTA with self-belief, hard work and dedication. All the best!

NB: Kumar has consent in place for the image used in this post. 

Upcoming MOOCs for ELT educators | Jun – Jul 2018

Education MOOCs.png

Here are some Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) to keep you occupied over the next couple of months. All of these courses are free but you also have the option of  upgrading and buying a certificate from the course provider. Some of the courses have already started but it’s not too late to join.  A good way of keeping track of upcoming courses is using Class-Central‘s alert function. They’ll send you an email when courses you’re interested in become available.

Adult learners


Behaviour management 


Language teaching


Special needs and inclusion

Teacher education 


Young learners

Other topics


Image attribution: Photo by Ciprian Boiciuc on Unsplash

Developing as a CLIL practitioner | Resources

CLIL resources

When exploring career options with CELTA trainees here in India,  I find that there’s understandably some apprehension in response to the question ‘what next?’ The range of options available is considerably more limited than other countries. It’s technically illegal to employ a teacher who doesn’t have a Bachelor of Education, which essentially locks trainees out of the formal K12 education sector.

However with the rise of English as a Medium of Instruction (EMI) across South Asia and the exponential growth in private EMI schools who often have questionable standards, there’s immense untapped opportunity here for CLIL.

Content and Language Integrated Learning (CLIL) “is a dual focused educational approach in which an additional language is used for the learning and teaching of both content and language. For example, CLIL has involved Malaysian children learning maths and science in English. CLIL has been used for Norwegian students to do drama in German, Italian students to learn science in French, Japanese students to learn geography in English and Australians to learn maths in Chinese. The combinations of languages and subjects are almost limitless.”

Uncovering CLIL, p.9

As a CLIL practitioner, you could consult with school networks and tertiary institutions (EMI is as much a reality in colleges as it is in schools) on a project basis. Your work might include writing materials, planning curriculum, teacher training, monitoring and evaluation activities and co-teaching.

Here are some ways of developing as a CLIL practitioner. While courses can be useful, I think we are sometimes too quick to discount the role books can play in our professional development and I’d recommend creating a professional development plan that includes resources from all of the following categories.



  • Putting CLIL into Practice by John Clegg, Keith Kelly, and Phil Ball (OUP). You can preview this book here.
  • CLIL Activities by Liz Dale and Rose Tanner (CUP)
  • Content and Language Integrated Learning by Do Coyle, Philip Hood, and David Marsh (CUP)
  • The CLIL Resource Pack by Margaret Grieveson and Wendy Superfine (Delta)
  • Teaching Other Subjects through English by Sheelagh Deller and Christine Prince (OUP)
  • Uncovering CLIL by Peeter Mehisto and Maria Jesus Frigols, and David Marsh (Macmillan)
  • The Roles of Language in CLIL by Ana Llinares, Tom Morton, and Rachel Whittaker (CUP)
  • The TKT Course CLIL Module by Kay Bentley (CUP)

Note that only Teaching Other Subjects through English and The TKT Course CLIL Module are available as low priced South Asia editions.


The Cambridge Teaching Knowledge Test (TKT) has a specialist module on the CLIL. Here’s a free handbook from Cambridge for candidates who are preparing for the TKT – CLIL. While it’s information light, it outlines syllabus areas for the CLIL and could be useful in designing your own development plan. The TKT Course CLIL Module book describes these syllabus ares in greater detail.


  • Exploring content and language integrated learning (CLIL) is a 15 hour course spread over 5 weeks from the British Council. This is an online moderated course and is run periodically. I think it’s reasonably priced at £100 and covers a range of relevant topics and includes virtual sessions in a webinar format.

  • Content Language Integrated Learning (CLIL) offered by Oxford TEFL, is a 30 hour online course.  It seems to have good reviews but the syllabus outline included on their site gives you the sense that they cover less on this 30 hour course than the British Council’s 15 hour course. However, they state that participants “will read articles, blogs and watch videos and then discuss the content with your tutor via forum discussions and live tutorials. For each module you have to complete an assignment.” An assignment for each module might be the clincher.  However, at €350, it’s a bit dear.
  • English for Teaching Purposes is a free MOOC from the Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona on Coursera. It’s offered quite frequently and there’s one starting on June 18, 2018. It focuses on CLIL in a tertiary context and its intended audience is university lecturers who are required to deliver their sessions in English. You can purchase a certificate for under ₹2000 (NB: Coursera has differentiated pricing based on location you may see a different price in your own currency)
  • CLIL Teaching Method is a face to face course from Kaplan International which is offered as a 15 hour, 20 session course at language schools in the UK and Ireland. I don’t know much about this course and it would be sensible to connect on social media with people who’ve done it.
  • Postgraduaat CLIL is a year long diploma (?) course offered by UC Leuven Limben in Belgium. It’s taught in French and English and looks interesting but it seems to be aimed at teachers in Wallonia, Flanders and Netherlands.
  • CLIL (Content and Language Integrated Learning) Methodology in Higher Education from the Summer School at Utrecht University is a week long course priced at €750 – the institution also organises accommodation.
  • Techno-CLIL: Over the last two years, Italian CLIL practitioners have offered a free moderated course as part of Electronic Village Online. If it’s offered again in 2019, you’ll be able to enroll in the first week of January.
  • Free CLIL Video Course: This is a video series rather than a course but why look a gift horse in the mouth. After subscribing to the course, you’ll receive four emails with links to videos that introduce you to CLIL. It might be a good idea to follow the course author Patrick de Boer on Twitter.


  • TeachingEnglish: articles and blogs on the British Council’s site for teachers.
  • OnestopCLIL: lots of resources but mostly for paid subscribers.
  • LexiCLIL: this site offers ideas for blending the lexical approach with CLIL.
  • CLIL@India: a project funded by the EU’s Erasmus+ programme to introduce CLIL methodology to India. You can follow the project on Twitter (@CLILatIndia ).


  • CLIL Seminar in Getxo: An up-to-date blog with lots of CLIL lesson resources from Loli Iglesias.
  • CLIL for success: interesting stuff and some of the posts are bilingual.
  • A CLIL to climb: hasn’t been updated in yonks but I’ve included it because I encountered CLIL for the first time on Chiew Pang’s blog many years ago.
  • CLIL Media blog: this is a successor of the CLIL Magazine which was full of useful articles and resources.
  • Reflections on CLIL: Not been updated in a while but worth a dekko.
  • Nina Spain: has a lot of resources including training materials.

Gaining experience

  • Volunteering with an initiative such as Teach for India which places its ‘fellows’ within low resource, disadvantaged classrooms could be a good way of getting teaching experience.
  • Find out if any affordable private schools in your suburb/town offer EMI classes or are making the transition to full EMI status – offer your services to them. You could co-teach with subject teachers, dealing with English needs while they can focus on maths, science, social science etc.

Are there any other resources you think I should include in this list? Share links in the comments below.

If you’re working with CLIL, your experiences of developing skills in this area might be useful to teachers who are interested in a career in a CLIL. Give me a shout if you’d be interested in being interviewed.

Image by Tra Nguyen on Unsplash