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How to Develop and Thrive as a Teacher without Taking CELTA or TESOL

By Ahmad Zaytoun

When experience and qualifications are discussed in English language teaching, TEFL, CELTA, TESOL, and DELTA instantly spring to mind. However, the truth is that in poorer or less developed countries there are many unqualified EFL teachers native or non-native, who learn through experience on the job. While some will be better than others, I believe we should not deride these teachers but attempt at every turn to help and encourage them.

It is often the fact that they are victims of circumstances of geography, politics and economics.

Many teachers question the value of courses like CELTA or TESOL in relation to cost. The rationale behind this is that they are already working for companies or institutions which do not pay well because they are not qualified, and because of this, they have neither the financial resources nor the time or even the motivation sometimes to better themselves. It can indeed be a vicious circle.

In my own country, Syria, some years ago, a CELTA course would cost 6-8 months’ salary! Where I currently work, in Turkey, a CELTA course costs as much as 2-3 months’ salary and in some other countries, it might cost a whole year of earnings or even more. This is clearly a de-motivational factor and also very sad as taking a CELTA/TESOL is definitely going to transform the way any teacher teaches.

The lack of initial training courses and qualifications makes it difficult for these teachers to land a teaching job even after years of experience., Employers naturally prefer TEFL-qualified teachers. As Scrivener says in Learning Teaching “Twenty years’ experience can become no more than two years’ experience repeated ten times over.”

These days many teachers, when applying for a job are asked to give a demo lesson. The employer will be looking for many attributes, such as professionalism, a modern approach, creativity, how the teacher interacts with the student etc. A self-taught teacher may rely on traditional and archaic methods, which may not be sufficient to gain the job.

This article, therefore, is dedicated to all teachers who, through no fault of their own, have no access to further training in their country or cannot afford to undertake it.

How to develop and thrive as a teacher without taking CELTA or TESOL


The How to Teach Series by Pearson and the Oxford Scheme for Teacher Education provide titles that cover the language skills (speaking, writing, listening, and reading) and the language systems (grammar, lexis, pronunciation, and discourse). They also provide titles for assessment and teaching with technology. Learning Teaching the book from which I took the above quote, is a must for every English teacher. This book discusses so many techniques and approaches regarding language teaching and presents activities for the language classroom.

Short online courses provides 23 different courses and gives a certificate for each completed course. The website was known as Cambridge English Teacher, but it was moved to the new platform earlier this year. The courses provide invaluable information, techniques, and activities. There are courses about language systems, language skills, Cambridge Exams such as IELTS and FCE, how to motivate teenagers, teaching with technology, and some others. The courses do not cost much; about 20

There are courses about language systems, language skills, Cambridge Exams such as IELTS and FCE, how to motivate teenagers, teaching with technology, and some others. The courses do not cost much; about 20

The courses do not cost much; about 20 USD and access for 12 months is given to finish the course. I took six of those courses, I certainly learned a lot from them, and I list them on my resume when I apply for a new teaching position. I always find that my potential employers are impressed with them.

Coursera and Future Learn also provide courses by respected institutions such as

Cambridge University, the British Council and the University of London. They are free to take and can be found here, here, here and here. I took two of these and learned a lot from them.

Seminars, workshops, and webinars

Seminars and workshops are available all year round. They are short, usually held at convenient times, presented by experts, and equip teachers with various techniques, activities, games, and what is trendy in the ELT world nowadays.

Webinars are the same as seminars, but have the advantages of being available to anyone around the world, and they are recorded so that people can watch them days, week, or even years after they are held. I maintain a webinar calendar on a page here. I almost never miss a webinar due to what I can learn from them. Another advantage is that they give a certificate of attendance that you can show to your current

I almost never miss a webinar due to what I can learn from them. Another advantage is that they give a certificate of attendance that you can show to your current employer, or a potential one. As you have guessed, I showed my certificate of attendance to my current employer and they were really amazed by them.

Collaboration in the Teachers’ or Staffroom

Sometimes you do not need to look further than the person who is sitting next to you in the teachers’ room to develop your skills. You and your colleagues could start an ELT book club. Each teacher could choose a book, read it in 2-3 weeks, share interesting ideas either via discussion, or by giving a presentation. Starting a sharing board would serve your development well. You can use a bulletin board to share ELT related materials. I have designed a board and written a post about it, you can read it and download the board from here.


Being mentored by an experienced teacher such as a colleague at your institution, or by a qualified friend or family member can lead to developing various aspects of being a teacher. Some institutions have mentorship programs so both sides can benefit from them. If your institution does not run such a program, you can ask one of your experienced colleagues to mentor you.

Some teachers think that asking to be mentored might expose their weaknesses, however, mentorship should not be perceived in this way, because all teachers have weaknesses (some more serious than others,) and secondly, it is natural to have weaknesses, what matters is that you work on them and turn them into strengths. I have mentored a teacher and I was able to see how she developed. I also learned as much as she did from the experience.

A mentorship can be started by a discussion between both parties.

The mentee expresses his/her teaching beliefs, strengths and weaknesses as a teacher to the mentor. The mentor takes notes and discusses what has been expressed. Then, the mentor can observe the mentee in two lessons, give feedback on the action points, suggest some techniques and readings, observe the mentee again, and discuss the progress. This process should be repeated until the mentee feels confident and feels that he has gained from the experience.

Reading Teaching Journals

ETprofessional, IATEFL Voices, EFL Magazine (obviously), ELT Journal, Modern English Teacher, and IH Journal. Some of these journals and magazines are free, others require a subscription. The articles in the journals focus on various aspects in ELT, and also keep you up to date with what is going on currently in the ELT world.

Over to you

How do you continue your professional development?

Which of the suggestions do you think you will start applying?

Do you have any other suggestion for continuing professional development?

Bio Ahmad Zaytoun is an EFL teacher based in Turkey where he teaches at a private college.

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One Response

  • Elsiye

    Hi, Ahmad, what a sensible and practical guide! I love FutureLearn courses, even though the company is now stealthily introducing fees :-( But there are still loads of good quality teacher training and CPD materials on the Internet. The British Council also has a number of exceptionally well-written and professionally sound books with free pdf versions (the book review in this issue is about one of them). The mentoring you mention is particularly interesting, because a couple of colleagues and I are thinking about setting up an international buddy system for academic writing. Watch this space - I mean the main pages of EFL Magazine!