Life after CELTA | An interview with Resham George

Resham George.png

I remember getting interviewed for a language school in India, where the interviewer first asked me what the CELTA was, and then promptly asked me why I bothered getting it.

Here’s the next interview from my Life after CELTA series. I started this blog series to capture the range of career options that are available to CELTA-qualified teachers in India and the challenges they face in a job market where Cert-TESOL courses aren’t seen as having much value from an employer perspective.

Resham did the CELTA in Bombay a little over a year ago. I wanted to catch up with her because she’d been a drama teacher for a couple of years and I thought it would be interesting to see what sort of expectations she had of the course, whether these needs were met, and if she’d been able to find a job in ELT.  I think her honest and thoughtful responses are going to be very useful for people who are thinking about doing the CELTA and those who’ve just come off the course and are worried about what to do next.


What sort of work were you doing before the CELTA?

Before the CELTA, I edited academic material for a company in Bangalore. I also worked as a drama teacher for 2 years, working with kids between the ages of 4 and 18.

What motivated you to do the course?

When I started off as a teacher, I was pretty much learning how to teach on the job. This was extremely stressful and it made me question my teaching abilities. It can be really difficult overcoming the normal obstacles of being a teacher and it becomes discouraging when you are not trained. I remember feeling like an impostor. When I switched to editing, I soon became bored with my job. I missed interacting with students and the connections I formed with them  as I helped them overcome their individual problems. I knew that I didn’t want to return to teaching theatre. Then I remembered how on my first day at school, my ESL teacher placed a book in my hand and helped me understand the words. That’s how I realized that I wanted to become an ESL teacher. Having learnt from my past mistake, I began researching qualifications to meet this goal. The CELTA was the most recommended out of all the qualifications, so I immediately applied for the course.

What did you expect from the course and did it live up to your expectations?

After getting through, my first step was to Google the things that I could expect on the course. Most accounts included stories of sleepless nights and sudden bursts of tears. Somewhat arrogantly, I didn’t think that I would be that person. After all, I had some teaching experience. I knew where to use my articles and what tenses to use. How hard could it be? The reality was completely different. To manage the course, you have to be super organized, completely committed and ready to sacrifice any semblance of a life for that month. I came in expecting a challenging and stimulating course. What I got was a course that demanded that you sink or swim based on your efforts and ability to adapt to a steep learning curve. Was that a good or a bad thing? I’m not entirely sure. The speed of the course made you use each day of the course as effectively as possible – something that wouldn’t happen in a longer course. But it also meant that most of the pedagogy was absorbed only towards the end of the course. So I was only able to really try out the techniques taught in the CELTA towards the end of the course (and in the months that followed it). If you’re a quick learner, you’ll be fine. If like me, you’re not, then don’t beat yourself up. Because while the course is going on, it might feel like you’re not succeeding. But I guarantee that after the course, once you start teaching regularly, that’s when you realize how much you actually absorbed from the course.

You’re completely immersed in the programme. It becomes a part of every aspect of your life – whether it’s your ride to the centre (I usually used that time to go over my lesson plans) or your dreams (and yes, I did literally start doing my lesson plans in my sleep). The course effectively puts you into the shoes of your learners – instead of being given a list of dos and don’ts, you’re given models to follow. That takes some getting used to, but it makes it easier for you to choose the techniques that you want to try out.

What was your experience with looking for a job after you completed the course? Did you try for any overseas jobs? What challenges did you face?

After the CELTA, the job hunt began almost immediately. Our trainers had prepped us for an uphill struggle, but it was more difficult that I thought it would be. I had expected the CELTA to instantly open doors all around the world. That’s not the case. If you apply for jobs abroad, you’re usually competing with “native” English speakers – qualified and unqualified. It’s tough not to be discouraged or bitter when you realize that the work you put into getting this qualification doesn’t stop international organizations from choosing people based on their own biased (and sometimes racist) criteria.

I have found jobs in the EU for “non-native” speakers, but they almost always apply to people who have a work permit for the region. In my experience, it’s a good idea to check out forums and blogs to find out about which countries accept “non-native” speakers who aren’t from the EU. This includes several countries in South and Central America (Mexico, Guatemala, Colombia, Peru, Chile to name a few). Some Asian countries will accept you if you have some relevant teaching experience in addition to the CELTA (one of my CELTA batch mates had taught for a few years before the course, and he got a job in China). Japan is pretty stringent, but if you have relevant experience (they usually ask for between 1 to 2 years or more), you could get a job there. Thailand is another possibility. If you’re applying abroad, it’s a good idea to get some teaching experience in India before applying. Include a teaching video/introduction video with your applications – this usually garners more positive responses.

In India, while the CELTA is rapidly becoming more recognized, it is still relatively unknown (compared to the more traditional teaching qualifications like the BEd). I remember getting interviewed for a language school in India, where the interviewer first asked me what the CELTA was, and then promptly asked me why I bothered getting it. So if you’re applying in India, be ready for experiences like this. Also, join as many relevant social media groups as possible – I got my current job by responding to a post on the CELTA India Facebook group.

Where are you currently working now and what sort of work does it involve?

I work at Kings Learning, one of the leading English language schools in Bangalore. I teach General and Business English courses, IELTS and online classes. In addition to training, I also create and edit content for enguru, a language learning app that helps users become familiar with General and/or corporate English. There are several steps involved in this – we start by choosing topics, then building relevant word lists at the appropriate level. After that, we create different sentence structures or activities that help users learn this vocabulary and become familiar with using the words in their own contexts.

The use of apps in English language learning is a relatively new development, but given the positive response that many apps have had, this could be a promising alternative to teaching after doing the CELTA. Some skills that are important in this line of work are grammatical accuracy and knowledge, the ability to grade your language and careful attention to detail.

Have you been able to use what you learnt on the CELTA?

Yes, definitely. While I could speak and write accurately before the course, the ability to explain language (that I developed during the CELTA) was particularly useful for content development and my classes. Similarly, the ability to grade language was useful – both in terms of writing content and teaching classes. Techniques such as ICQs (Instruction Checking Questions) and CCQs (Concept Checking Questions) made it easier and more efficient to check students’ comprehension. On that note, even learning that the teacher’s role in the classroom should be minimal was valuable input for me – one that I constantly try to follow in my classes. The lesson plan format we used in the course was also extremely useful – while I rarely get time to make my plans as detailed as they were during the CELTA, I use the general structure and template to create most of my plans, giving them a cohesive structure.

What sort of impact has the course had on you professionally and/or personally?

Professionally, the course has opened many doors. I had applied for ESL teaching jobs before taking the course, and the number of responses that I received (positive and otherwise) has risen drastically after adding the course to my list of qualifications. Many of my colleagues have a CELTA, and I work with a supervisor who has a CELTA and a DELTA. This course has allowed me to be on an equal footing with my colleagues, also making it easier to work with them since we have common points of reference.

Personally, the CELTA was a big boost to my confidence. I went from questioning my role as an educator to being able to conduct classes and corporate training sessions with relative ease and comfort. It helped me become more efficient, especially with students with little to no familiarity with English – which was something I had viewed as nearly impossible before the course. It helped me become more organized, giving my lessons (which had previously been improvised and, frankly, at times chaotic) some much needed structure and direction. Rather than throwing in random activities, I was clear about the types of activities and their use in the development of language. The CELTA allowed me to direct my creativity to make my activities both communicative and meaningful.

Where to next?

At the moment, I’m quite happy teaching in Bangalore, since my job exposes me to a variety of teaching contexts and challenges. I hope to eventually use my teaching certification to travel to different countries. There might be a bias for “native” English speakers – but with the CELTA and some relevant teaching experience, I do think that I’ll get more opportunities. So hopefully, in a few years, I’ll be posting pictures with my class in the Andes or Mexico City! 🙂

What advice would you give to teachers in India who’ve just completed the CELTA?

I’ll start with some useful advice I got from my CELTA trainers – start teaching as soon as possible. Regardless of salary, it’s necessary to use your skills in the real world immediately. This might be a bitter pill to swallow, especially if you’ve worked before and you’re accustomed to a fairly high salary. Chances are that when you’re done with the course, finding a well-paying job will be difficult. In my case, I spent 2 months at home, teaching English for free to a young boy. This allowed me to employ some of the CELTA methods and internalize them as part of my teaching approach.

Try to work with people who have done the CELTA – it helps if you’re working within the same framework. It also means that you don’t fall back into old teaching habits or forget the new skills and pedagogical framework you’ve acquired.

Use social media as much as possible, whether it’s to find out more about the ELT field or jobs. It helps to have a community of people who have a similar approach to teaching. On that note, keep in touch with the people who did the CELTA with you. I’ve gotten some great advice and support from my batch mates, whether it was celebrating when someone got a job or comparing approaches to working with learners.

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Life after CELTA | An interview with Parvathy Nair

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I think I am up to any challenge the classroom has to offer.

Here’s the next installment in my Life after CELTA series in which I attempt to document the professional journeys of Indian CELTA trainees. Parvathy Nair did the CELTA in Mumbai exactly a year ago. I was interested in catching up with her because in many ways, she represents how many trainees on the CELTA in India differ from those on courses elsewhere. The CELTA might be a pre-service course in other countries but in India, it tends to be a mid-career course that teachers do as a way of reinvigorating themselves professionally or finding new directions in their teaching careers.

Parvathy came to the CELTA, having taught school-level English in Pune for many years. I was curious about what she hoped to get out of the course as an experienced teacher of English and what kind of impact, if any, it’s had on her teaching practice.


What sort of work were you doing before the CELTA? 

I was teaching as a primary teacher in a CBSE School in Pune, when I took a month-long break for my CELTA. And now I am the Head of the Department.

What motivated you to do the course?

I did not have a certification that qualified me as a language teacher. Specialising in English for my B.Ed. did not help me in any way either. The B.Ed. was more about the philosophies of education proposed by the various thinkers and educators of modern India and there was little about language teaching. I felt it was high time I learnt the pedagogy of language teaching. And CELTA fit the bill.

What do your employers/colleagues know about the CELTA? 

When I told my employers about the course, they asked me why I wanted to do it – a reaction that probably stems from the comfort zones that the teaching fraternity often operates out of. I had to convince them that this certification was important for my personal and professional development. But a couple of my colleagues who had taught in international schools knew about the CELTA.

What kind of impact did the course have on your approach to teaching?  

Pre-CELTA, I was in an ‘ignorance is bliss’ mode, and thought that the techniques that I was using were the most appropriate. But once I completed the course, I discovered multiple approaches to teaching language. While the CELTA, by definition, is targeted at teaching adults, my experience over the last year has been that it works wonderfully for young learners as well.

What kind of impact has it had more generally on your professional life? 

I have become a very confident teacher. And I think I am up to any challenge the classroom has to offer. I never thought I had it in me to teach a class that comprised a visually impaired child, children with learning disabilities, first-generation English learners and children with conventional needs, all at the same time.

Have you had opportunities to apply what you’d learnt outside your regular school context? 

Yes, I have been fortunate enough to apply it in the curriculum that I am designing for the RTE students. These are first-generation English learners without much access to learning resources and are typically from economically challenged backgrounds. While they attend their regular classes during school hours; two days in a week are dedicated to language learning under my supervision. I used my CELTA learning experience to design the approach used on this course.

Many newly CELTA-qualified teachers in India would like to work with schools but find this challenging without a Bachelor of Education (B.Ed.), existing experience teaching at a school, and/or lack of awareness among school administrators about the CELTA. What advice would you give them?  

If a teacher intends to teach in an ICSE, CBSE or State Board school, a B.Ed. is a must. These schools do not see the CELTA as a recommended qualification, but just an additional self-development course. The CELTA does not impact your pay scale and does not offer job security either. A B.Ed. on the other hand ensures a salary as per the prescribed government pay scale and also secures your job (unless the school flouts the government-laid rules and regulations). The IB and IGCSE schools though, do not have B.Ed. as a prerequisite, as the affiliations are not based out of India. But these schools are far fewer in number and do not cater to the larger population either.

CELTA course administrators will have to work with policy makers, government and schools to emphasise the importance of this certification. Until such time, B.Ed. will remain a prerequisite.

What are your plans for continuing professional development?

There are two courses that I would like to take up in the future – an M.A. in English Language Teaching and short course on the history of English.

Where to next? 

At least for the next two years I intend to continue in the same school.

In India, we get a lot of trainees, who like you, come to the CELTA with many years of teaching experience. What suggestions do you have for experienced teachers who intend to do the CELTA? 

Unlearning is, as much a part of learning and one should have an open mind. I would leave it at that.


Parvathy blogs at The Nomadic Gene although it’s not strictly ELT focused. You can also connect with her on Instagram. She’s a talented poet and I hope she doesn’t mind me sharing a link to ‘I sent the horses back home’ which she wrote in response to the sexual assault and murder of an 8 year old girl in Southern Kashmir last year. 

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 ESLcafe.com and gooverseas.com 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. 

Life after CELTA | An interview with Arundhati Moebel

Here’s another interview in a series I’m doing to address concerns about career options and professional development among newly qualified Indian teachers who have done the CELTA.


I met Arundhati Moebel on a course I tutored on earlier this year. I was interested in her journey because she was an experienced teacher of German and wanted to explore her reasons for doing the CELTA at this stage of her career and the impact it’s had on her teaching and professional life.

Arundhati Moebel.png

1. What sort of work were you doing before the CELTA?
I am a product of the Goethe Institute and have been teaching German ever since  I
completed my teacher’s training course in Munich 25 years ago, with a break in between when I had my children. My first real job was at the Ecole Française Mumbai. (French school) where I taught German to French children.

I worked at the Max Mueller Bhavan in Mumbai where I taught up to the Intermediate level & also Business German. For 2 years I taught at Indo-German Chamber of commerce to young business students. A large part of this training was cultural & social differences. I recall how those students doing Masters degrees were more enthusiastic to learn about social norms & rules of etiquette in the West, rather than bother with grammar & vocabulary. It was a very enjoyable experience for me. I then got married & moved to France & have been living here for 17 years. I work at the Ecole Internationale Bilingue Monceau in the 17th district of Paris.

2. What motivated you to do the CELTA?
I got an offer from an International school to train their students for TOEFL/IELTS. That’s how I first got in touch with the British Council in Paris. They offered me two workshops to train IELTS students over the last 6 months.

Some of my Indian friends teaching English in Paris had taken a TEFL course & some
taught without any training at all. I felt that I needed a legitimate qualification, not only for myself but also for the school I work in. And one night I met an American at a dinner party who had completed her CELTA course in Mumbai and was raving about it. She was so excited that I felt compelled to meet her on the next day again, where she explained the entire procedure of admission & the course details to me. That was it! I came home & consulted my family first about my absence & then jumped straight on to the British Council website. As soon as they  confirmed my application, I booked my ticket & a week later I started my CELTA course in Mumbai.

3. Are there any benefits or drawbacks to doing the CELTA in India as opposed to
Europe?
The biggest advantage for me was staying in the comfort of my parents’ home where I
didn’t have to worry about meals. I used to feel sorry for my course-mates who had come to Mumbai & had no means of preparing food. It did make a very big difference, as time was scarce & there was so much input every day.

Besides that, my tutors were extremely dedicated & supportive. I was instantly at ease with my batch-mates, as we were all confronted with  similar situations. In fact I’m still in touch with them from time to time, a part of India for me!

4. What kind of impact did the CELTA have on your teaching style in your German
classes?
To be honest, a lot that I learnt on the CELTA, I was familiar with, during my Goethe training – the methodology, pedagogy & especially non-teacher fronted communicative lessons. But I needed to brush up my teaching skills, get rid of old, bad habits & refresh my memory. Besides learning how to teach with new technology & searching for resources for my future English lessons. I have incorporated a lot of new ideas in my German lessons, all thanks to CELTA.

5. What kind of impact has it had on your professional life? 

I have also been asked to take over the Cambridge centre at our school, which I consider  a big honour. And this would never have been possible without CELTA!

6. Have you had opportunities to teach English after the CELTA?
Yes I did. As soon as the academic year started in September, I was assigned a 6th grade class for a month, until the school recruited a Canadian teacher. It was the best opportunity for me to put everything that I had learnt, into practice.

7. In your experience, how do French employers perceive the CELTA?
The CELTA is unfortunately not recognised by the French Government, just like in India. Private organisations, however, will accept you with open arms, as Cambridge enjoys a fine reputation in France.

8. What are your plans for professional development?
At the moment I’m completely devoted to students in my German classes. I am teaching grades 6, 7, 8 & 9. I’m constantly in touch with the Goethe Institute in Paris where I get invited to open days, workshops & training sessions. The Germans are extremely professional when it comes to organising these events and I’m proud to be part of the Goethe family.

9. Where to next?
Time permitting I would like to teach English at our school, even if it for a few hours. I have signed up for the 3 day TESOL colloquium next weekend in Paris, through which I’m convinced that I will get new ideas & meet lots of interesting people from different parts of the world. It will be exciting to work with Cambridge & run exams for them. I have already met some of the invigilators who encouraged me to take the CELTA. And now I have it.

10. What advice do you have for experienced teachers of languages other than English who intend to do the CELTA?
I would definitely recommend it to anyone who intends to teach English. Because even if you teach another language, it doesn’t mean you can teach English. You need to
familiarise yourself with grammar rules and find sources of information. It was best
decision I took this summer. With the CELTA certificate, I can teach English just as I can
teach German. As the French say: it’s like wearing two caps.

Life after CELTA | An interview with Khadija Tambawala

Khadija Tambawala.jpg

Last year, I blogged about the types of qualifications Indian ELT professionals could explore after completing the CELTA (Post-CELTA Development (PCD) | A primer for Indian ELT professionals). I wrote that post in response to the questions I got from teachers who’d just completed the CELTA. There’s also understandably a lot of anxiety about career prospects after the CELTA. Many of the conventional routes that CELTA qualified teachers take in other countries are either not available in India or are closed to teachers from India.

So here’s the first in a series of interviews I hope to do with Indian ELT professionals documenting their post-CELTA journey, with the aim of addressing some of these apprehensions and showcasing the rich range of meaningful career opportunities that are possible for someone who wants to work in this field.


I met Khadija Tambawala a couple of years when I was doing a demo lesson at a CELTA course. We met again, recently, albeit virtually, on a MOOC. I was curious about Khadija’s post-CELTA journey. Here’s what she told me.

1. What sort of work were you doing before the CELTA? 

I did the CELTA two years after I graduated, during which I experimented with different kinds of work to see which one I liked best and considered worth pursuing. I worked as a content writer for a social media marketing company, as a PR professional, as a voice artist (something I still do in my free time), and also as a production executive and content creator for English e-learning services.

2. What motivated you to do the CELTA? 

In 2014, I got an opportunity to volunteer as an EFL teacher for a month in Yemen, and even though I had no direct experience teaching English, all the work I had done until then was based on my love for the language and proficiency at it. So, I went for it, and what an experience it was! It was absolutely exhilarating, and once I came back I decided that this was something worth exploring because I found it so challenging and enjoyable at the same time.

3. When and where did you do the CELTA? Have you completed any other formal qualifications since then? 

I did the CELTA in May 2015 in Mumbai with the British Council. Since then, I haven’t completed any other formal qualifications.

4. What kind of impact did the CELTA have on your teaching style? On your professional life? 

The CELTA shaped my teaching style because I didn’t have substantial teaching experience before it or any other teaching qualification like a B.Ed, which other CELTA participants often do. It exposed me to very effective ways of teaching English as a second language, great methodology and techniques, and things I would never have known otherwise. I felt better equipped and more confident about teaching and training in the field, post the CELTA.

5. In what contexts have you been teaching post-CELTA? 

Post CELTA, I worked with an MNC to train their employees in spoken and written communication skills in a full-time capacity, and after that, I started freelancing as a corporate trainer for different clients. I’ve mostly worked with young adults and junior level employees in organisations, focusing on grammar, conversational skills, soft skills and employability skills.

6. In your experience, how do Indian employers perceive the CELTA? 

Either they’ve never heard of it, and are just looking for someone who has relevant teaching experience, or they are aware of it and are only willing to hire people with a CELTA because they think it brings some credibility to the training and they can vouch for the trainer. Sometimes, employers just have ‘CELTA’ as a required qualification in their job profiles, but don’t really know how that should translate to the training quality and experience once the person has been hired. They believe getting a CELTA-qualified trainer will guarantee quality training and are thus also willing to pay for it, because it shows them that you’ve invested time and money towards your craft and are serious about it.

7. Did you apply for any jobs overseas? What was your experience? 

The first few months after I completed my CELTA I often contemplated looking for a job oversees and getting a year or so of experience teaching people from around the world, thus widening my repertoire. However, the opportunities are extremely bleak if you aren’t white-skinned or don’t hold a passport to prove you’re a native speaker. I did a lot of research about teaching in places like China and Vietnam, where it is believed that some schools and institutes are willing to hire “non-native” English speakers, but it honestly didn’t seem worth it to me. Most of them had crazy working hours, or were in extremely remote places, often hard to find on a map, so I gave up the idea.

8. How have you been developing yourself? 

I’ve been looking for a substantial qualification to further my career, something that doesn’t just look fancy on paper but also adds significantly to my skills and knowledge- I’m primarily considering an M.A. in ELT- but there aren’t a lot of options if you’re looking to do it in India. I’ve done a lot of research on credible digital M.A.s in ELT too, but can’t find anyone to vouch for them or share their experiences. In the meantime, I’ve been doing whatever I can to upskill myself, like taking courses through sites like Udemy and FutureLearn, participating in webinars and following blogs and websites that I find interesting.

9. Where to next? 

As a freelancer, I’m currently working on getting more consistent work which would be ideal. I’m looking to explore different kinds of training as well as polish the kind of training I already do. Within the next few years, I not only want to get another useful qualification, but also work on different kinds of projects with varied clients.

10. What advice do you have for new CELTA qualified English teachers in India? 

One very important thing I would say is, don’t expect the CELTA to create jobs for you overnight. From what I’ve seen, in India it’s quite a niche qualification for a niche industry, which not a lot of people are even aware of; but if you look really hard and in the right places, you will find people who are interested in your qualification and willing to hire you for what you bring to the table. It’s not like an MBA that often promises high-paying jobs in big companies, but what you learn from the CELTA is something that will always be with you and can’t be replaced by any other qualification.

I would also advise newly qualified CELTA teachers to keep themselves updated with what’s relevant to their fields. It’s easy to get comfortable at a full-time job that pays the bills, but keep developing yourself professionally, or one day you may just become obsolete!

If you have questions for Khadija, please put them into the comments section and I’ll pass them on to her. 

A round-up of IATEFL 2017 Pre-conference interviews

IATEFL 2017

Here’s a round-up of some of the pre-conference interviews that were conducted on April 4, 2017

Jim Scrivener: Scrivener talked about a recent study he conducted in China where he observed over 50 teachers teaching English lessons and concluded that the lessons were largely teacher-led with passive students, taught in L1, and with a focus on learning definitions. This is of course nothing new. What’s interesting is that during the conference, Scrivener is going to be contrasting his ‘Western’ views about effective learning with a Chinese counterpart who will talk about the historical and cultural basis for the way teaching and learning takes place currently in China. There’s been lots of criticism of CLT particularly from Asia where I recall someone describing it as a Western ’boutique’ approach. I haven’t heard the Chinese take on this so this symposium if livecast will be worth watching. The question is whether he and the audience will truly be open to understanding an approach that contravenes the established norms of what we perceive as ‘effective learning’.

Jo Gakonga: Well-known for her CELTA videos, Gakonga is currently engaged in research into feedback and has been looking at it through the lens of Brown & Levinson politeness theories in how teachers provide feedback to other teachers particularly in mentoring relationships. Her rationale for using Brown & Levinson is that it’s a framework for thinking about how you give feedback so the recipient can take it on board.  Politeness theory has two aspects: positive and negative. Positive politeness is about making people feel wanted and a part of the group and negative politeness is about making people feel that you are not telling them what to do so you decrease the possibility of rejection. Gakonga suggested that teachers could audio-record their feedback, transcribe it, and do some discourse analysis on it in order to reflect.  This seems like a really simple technique but I have to confess I’ve never used it. She also mentioned that some people find it natural to reflect on their practice and others don’t – an observation I too made on my CELTA tutor-in-training program. My supervisor and I discussed whether this could by caused by cultural factors and differences in education systems but that’s a topic to explore in another post.

Carol Read: Read is going to be talking about values education with children during the conference. Understanding values education requires us to unpack what values are (cognitive, affective, behavioural dimensions), whose values they are, and whether we are imposing these values on children or using a model of influence where children make decisions. She spoke about a gap between a child getting an awareness of values and putting it into practice in their daily lives e.g. children may understand fairness and justice but do they apply these behaviours in the playground. Read pointed out that we are never just language teachers with children but more holistic educators. In her conference workshop, she is going to be covering life skills. She thinks the most important are the ones listed in the UN’s core skills framework: critical thinking, creative thinking, problem solving & decision making, communication, empathy, relating to people and resolving conflict. She believes that using everyday classroom activities such as stories and topics could enable teachers to encompass life skills training as well as language, potentially enriching language curriculum.

Pete Sharma: Sharma is one of the big names in terms of tech in ELT and incidentally he was interviewed by Nik Peachey, another tech evangelist. They discussed the potential virtual reality has for things like role play but suggested that it would be presumptious to say that something is definitely going to be the next big thing. There was an interesting aside on how tech evolves from its original intended use: Youtube was intended for dating videos and Twitter was a way for children to let their parents know where they were. With the advent of Artificial Intelligence (AI), there’s a risk of translation devices entirely disrupting our industry. Peter argued that AI may not do away with language teaching entirely because technology may not enable you to engage with culture or literature more deeply. Peachey, however, pressed on with the question that if technology translates for you, why would you want to learn a language to which Sharma reiterated his point about both (technology and teaching) co-existing but ended with an ominous “I hope”.

Marek Kiczkowiak: Kiczkowiak is the untiring voice behind TEFL Equity. He stated that 88% of job ads in the Middle East were discriminatory. In the EU, adds now deceptive words like native-like or native-level to mask their real intent. He suggested that there was an urgent need to address these issues on pre-service courses like the CELTA. Jason Alexander who did a study with native and non-native CELTA trainees found that their needs were different. Non-native trainees often came to the course with language and teaching qualifications. He also suggested that we need to talk about the international nature of English on pre-service courses and that by not doing it, we aren’t preparing teachers for it who in turn aren’t preparing students for it. This was something I was wondering about as well while I was getting trained up on the CELTA. Kiczkowiak also touched on the lack of diversity in marketing materials which sets the wrong expectations and that there’s a need to influence the agents who are responsible for recruiting teachers and pitching courses to students.

You can catch the livecast of the IATEFL 2017 plenaries here.

Teacher training | An interview with Meena Sridharan

All the theories will start making sense only after some gruelling days out in the sticks.

Meena Sridharan is a teacher trainer who works extensively on large scale education projects in India. In this interview, we chatted about her experiences on the field and discussed some advice for developing teacher training skills.

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1. Tell us a bit about your background.

I grew up with a passion for English and history and all my degrees are in English Literature. There was a Linguistics and Phonology component in the course at University which I detested those days. It’s ironic that my work is only to do with English language teaching now.

During my post-graduate years, we had a mandatory social service requirement and I opted to teach English to bus conductors. I enjoyed that a lot, and one day, when I heard a couple of conductors speaking in English on a bus, felt really happy. To my uninformed teenage mind, this seemed to be a matter of course. It never occurred to me then that this was something I could do, and find rewarding, nor did it occur to me that I was actually listening to a demonstration of effective practice.

Many years later, I taught English language and conversation skills in Japan. There again, I just did it for fun, and to make enough money to put me through Japanese language school.

2. How did you get into teacher training? 

It was by accident. I had been teaching for over fifteen years all across the country. After I came back from Japan, I diversified into teaching Japanese concurrently with English at some very reputed management schools. I dabbled in some French language teaching very desultorily as well.

A friend was roping in large numbers of teachers and trainers for an assessment activity and I joined the crowd. That is where I interacted with a huge cross-section of ELT teachers and trainers, and was fascinated by the stories they were exchanging. This led to me thinking about revamping my technique, unlearning my previous teaching style, and taking a language teaching qualification.

The next step was a stint training a small bunch of teachers, and almost immediately after, a training program for the first in a series of large scale education projects. I got thrown in at the deep end, and learnt to swim the hard way.

3. What does teacher training involve and who do you generally train? 

Teacher training is a very broad term and doesn’t reflect the more complex parameters of the job.

If you look at it superficially, it means delivering modules or specific training materials over a specific period to a group of teachers. This could mean skilling them up in various aspects of language, or customising the course to meet their specific, pre-determined needs. The length could vary from two weeks to two years. This is just the top layer. If you peeled away the veneer, you would find that it involves many more levels of skills and empathy.

I train teachers across levels – primary, secondary, tertiary, of all ages. Though the bulk of my work is with the government sector, I am involved with other organisations and schools where I train smaller cohorts of teachers. I like to keep in touch with classroom teaching, so there are instances where I might take on an assignment to just teach children. This comes as a refreshing break from training.

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4. What do you enjoy most about working with government school teachers? 

Their enthusiasm and passion, and their humility. They are not jaded. When you see the conditions in which some of them work, they are truly heroes. They are strong on theories about learner centred teaching and can spout Chomsky and Vygotsky at you, but when they find that some techniques can actually be made to work in the classroom, and succeed, there is a child-like wonder and transparency in their response.

There is no gainsaying the fact that some, I would say about 40% of them, are cynical and are in the job just for the financial security it offers. It can get very discouraging while observing such teachers. Nevertheless, the majority are enthusiastic, and handle their students with passion, and sensitivity. Their reactions and responses can be startlingly acute and quite liberal.

The challenges these people face in their classroom environments may seem almost insurmountable when viewed through the lens of an urban educationist. There is no consistent electricity supply in most states, and not very good Internet connectivity. Sometimes, when introducing digital tools and resources, I can feel the resignation emanating from them as I speak. Their technical skills vary from being very competent to not having even an e-mail ID or access to a computer.

I remember some years ago, before smart phones came to rule our lives, how a group of teachers from the far reaches of a rural district formed a motorbike pool and would take turns every weekend travelling about seventy-five kilometres to the nearest town and a cyber parlour to access the internet. They informed me through their very first e-mail sent from that location!

I have a great regard for the Head Teachers I meet. They are really outstanding but embattled men and mostly women, who are beset with problems of every nature and yet manage to sail through the day with ease. They deftly manage teachers, students, irate parents, authorities, and the constant flow of visitors and observers and keep smiling.

I have learnt a lot from just watching them at work.

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5. What are the challenges of working in this context? 

The challenges are numerous, and as I have said earlier, are outweighed largely by the motivation demonstrated by a majority of the teachers.

The lack of motivation and cynicism displayed by the nay-sayers is a major challenge. One has to keep the energy level up, and get them all involved. There are inherent challenges of mindset and societal norms. We have to work around these with some discernment and not hurt their sensibilities. (Grouping, for example, can be a big hurdle).

Sometimes it takes a couple of days of training to make them even start to rethink their attitudes, beginning with just having to get up off their chairs and stand in a circle for a simple ice-breaking activity. Resistance to change is the greatest roadblock. Convincing them to implement change is the consequent roadblock.

Lack of infrastructure and facilities are a given almost everywhere, but each new situation just adds to the experience and learning. It ceases to be a challenge once you know how to innovate.

6. How would you rate training vis-à-vis teaching?

This could be a topic for a thesis. Anyway, just to talk through the bare bones of the comparison:

  • Well, they both require the same basic qualities of energy, passion, motivation and stamina, and of course intensive preparation. However, many trainers tend to blur the lines between training and teaching. They tend to deviate into teaching, while trying to exemplify concepts.
  • I think we need to remember, as trainers, that we are teaching adults who come with a set of fossilised practices which you are going to be enhancing, changing or challenging. Their schemata will have to be consolidated by practice in the training room.
  • A teacher clarifies content and concepts to the student. She doesn’t need to explain the principles behind her technique, as they are implicit.
  • A trainer has to deal with teachers who come with a bank of knowledge and experience. Hence the trainer needs to respect that knowledge, but at the same time consciously articulate the principles of the technique or concepts. The trainer’s task is therefore far more demanding. You become an agent of change and that sets you at a disadvantage to begin with.

7. What professional development advice would you offer to Indian education professionals who aspire to facilitate teacher training in state or institutional contexts? 

  • Read up on national and state level education policies and the curricula of various states.
  • Be familiar with their academic patterns.
  • Be prepared to feel frustrated and helpless.
  • Be flexible.
  • Be prepared to relearn your so-painstakingly acquired academic knowledge and adapt to totally different contexts.
  • All the theories will start making sense only after some gruelling days out in the sticks.

Be excited about what you do always and never lose sight of the ultimate outcome. Motivation is contagious. If you have it, you infect your learners.

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One of the little perks of doing teacher training on government projects is that you get to see unexplored parts of the country like these 2500 year old Jain Caves in the Samanar Hills, a stone’s throw from a venue that I trained at.

If you have questions for Meena, please put them into the comments section and I’ll pass them on to her.