Interview with York CELTA Tutor's, Sarah Masters and Pete Woods
This month, we are looking at taking the CELTA in the historic city of York in the UK. Known for its Roman walls, cobbled lanes and also being one of the most haunted places in the UK, the York CELTA centre is the perfect for those who are looking to experience a city with culture and plenty to do in their CELTA downtime.
For our last CELTA interview of the year, we don’t get to interview one Tutor but two! We are pleased to catch up with Sarah Masters and Pete Woods who are both experienced teacher trainers and reveal the perks of taking the CELTA in York and their own advice for CELTA hopefuls!
Thank you for letting us interview you both! Let’s dive straight in. What point in your career (or education) did you both decide to go into English Language Teaching?
Peter: I had been teaching in Primary for over 20 years and had been working with classes, which included students with English as an additional language. They were very interesting to teach and I worked closely with an EAL teacher. She told me about the CELTA. My brother was working at an international school and also told me about the world of ELT and CELTA. It sounded like something that would allow me to transfer my teaching skills in a different direction.
Sarah: I’d been working in publishing for a while, as editor of a social work magazine, and began to be more and more interested in international issues. I decided I wanted to work overseas, and took the Celta to give me a foundation in English language teaching. I subsequently became a language assistant in China, and later worked in Dewsbury as an ESOL tutor, teaching refugees and asylum seekers before taking a job with York (then English Language Centre York).
2. Have you felt that the CELTA has changed since you took the course?
Pete: I don’t think that it has changed much except maybe in terms of the use of technology. In many ways it was very similar to CELTA courses now. I remember it being very rewarding, very intensive and loved the way that a group of people who didn’t know each other before the course were helpful and supportive though-out it, ably assisted by two very encouraging calm trainers.
3. Do you have any stand-out moments in your careers? Any classes that you particularly remember?
Pete: I think the standouts for me have been times on courses when trainees have done particularly well even though they have had initially difficult circumstances. It has been especially satisfying to see trainees grow in confidence from their nervous beginnings to become a confident teacher by the end of the course. I have enjoyed seeing people develop on the course and then come back and work for our centre, becoming really successful teachers. I have trained teachers who have gone on to work as ADOS in schools in Europe or even set up their own business as a result of graduating on CELTA. One such trainee graduated a few years ago, came to work for York for a while, receiving excellent feedback on their teaching. As a result, they felt confident enough to use previous experience and skills to set themselves up as a company. It’s great to hear what an impact doing the CELTA course has had on people’s lives and careers.
Sarah: In Dewsbury, I was the tutor of a community class of women who were quite isolated, spoke very little English, and who had had little experience of socialising outside the family. We worked on basic literacy and developing confidence in speaking and they became a very close-knit group who helped each other enormously. Several years later many of them had developed the confidence to join regular classes at the college.
In York, I particularly remember a lovely upper-intermediate class I had at the end of 2017. There were 14 students, and every student was from a different country and had a different first language. Despite the differences in culture, the class really bonded. There was so much warmth and laughter, and we all went out just before Christmas to celebrate the end of term and class friendships. My partner was using duolingo to learn French. I told the students this, and they each wrote a short message to him in their first language.
4. What have you found to be the most difficult aspect of the CELTA for trainees? How can prospective candidates prepare for this?
Pete: CELTA is a great learning curve and I think that it’s important for even experienced teachers to realised that they will learn new things and that the ideas of teaching they had before may be challenged. It is important to have an open mind and not be too concerned at not being successful at first in terms of teaching and assignments. It’s a case of small steps and pacing yourself. Sometimes, trainees find this idea of one step at a time difficult if they are used to being able to do things confidently and successfully straight away and they can be critical of themselves, if they feel that that they are not achieving as fast as they thought they would. It is very important to be prepared and to have a clear understanding of how CELTA works. The pressure of time can be an issue and not having chance to evaluate fully before the next task or lesson.
Sarah: I think planning lessons and completing assignments after TP2, when a lesson plan is needed. Managing time, healthy sleep and eating patterns can be really difficult, so I think being prepared for this (keeping social commitments to a minimum; getting shopping done/ food cooked in advance) helps. It can also help if you take a look at some of the recommended texts, even a coursebook at elementary and intermediate level, before the course starts so you can see which areas of grammar might be covered at different levels.
Looking to prepare for the CELTA? Introduce yourself to the core methodologies and refresh your grammar with ELTCampus' CELTA Preparation Bundle.
5. As you are both CELTA Tutors, you both have a Delta. What one piece of advice would you offer for people who are interested in taking it?
Pete: The thing to remember is that the DELTA is tough and will make you question your own practice and ideas about what makes effective teaching. Be prepared to have your notions challenged and whatever programme of DELTA you do (Intensive, Modular, Distance DELTA) be aware that it will involve a lot of work. It is very important to plan how you will complete that work so that you have a systematic approach and you won’t get overwhelmed. Like CELTA, being prepared in terms, of pre-reading, considering current issues etc is very helpful.
Sarah: For module 3, choose an area where there has been a lot of research. Mine was on teaching English for employment and I struggled to find enough reference material to draw on. One more piece of advice for the Delta overall – remember it’s tough, and everyone doing it will feel the same: you’re not on your own.
6. What are the facilities at the York CELTA centre like? What would a trainee expect?
Sarah: We have access to computers, a photocopier in the teaching room (extremely useful), and a small library of textbooks which are available to take away (several copies of the core texts). Trainees can also work in quiet in the study centre. There’s a kitchen and a common room (shared with students) with a pool table and table football.
7. What is the ELT industry like for jobs in and around Yorkshire? What should a trainee expect after completing their CELTA?
Pete: This year a lot of our Celta graduates have taught with York on our young learner programme, which is incredibly busy from around May to September, and have also gained further experience on one-to-one courses and cover teaching in the centre. For regular teaching hours, there are often opportunities in ESOL in Leeds and West Yorkshire. Some graduates have also gained valuable work experience volunteering at Refugee Action York or Leeds Asylum Seekers Support Network. We will provide a final report and an initial reference for graduates. CELTA in York is the start of a journey and we like to follow people in their careers.
8. What are your top recommendations to do around York?
Sarah: Explore the cycleways (Sustrans) by bike or on foot. Join City Screen cinema, which shows a range of independent films, has a great café and also runs comedy gigs. Buy an annual pass to get free access to the York Art Gallery, which specialises in ceramics (and is part of the Yorkshire sculpture triangle), the excellent Castle Museum and Yorkshire Museum.
For more information on what to do around York, see the local tourist information.