Avoiding & reducing stress on the Trinity Cert TESOL Course

Nobody will disagree when I say that the Cert TESOL is demanding. There’s no denying that it is intensive, it does have high standards, it does need hard work. As with everything, whether it’s achievement in sport, any other skill or academic pursuit, you won’t be surprised to learn that it is stressful. This is especially so when embarking on something new. If you want to succeed, then you need to put in the work and it’s going to have its challenges. That’s the reality. The other realities are that it’s going to be stressful, the stress is more often than not self-inflicted. Another reality is that there are solutions. Organisation, application and mindset.


It’s important to organise yourself before and during the course, whether you’re on the full time or part time course. Even if you’re only thinking of doing the course, it’s never too early to start organising yourself:

  • Find out about the course. Ask people you know who have done the course, visit the EfA website. In particular look at the CertTESOL pages and read some of the blogs. Have a look at the Trinity College London website  It’ still surprising to see the numbers of people who haven’t done this by the time they have their interview, know little about the course and have effectively made their application without any research. Would you do this for anything else? Probably not, so why do it for the Cert TESOL?
  • Have a fully functioning laptop of your own that you are familiar with and can use. Not one that you have to borrow, not one that has a broken camera or other non/malfunctioning elements, not one that isn’t compatible. Make sure that you have reliable and stable access to the internet, Zoom and make sure that you can create Word docs or pdf ‘s. You won’t be able to function properly on the course trying to use a phone or an iPad.
  • Apply for your preferred course early. This will avoid disappointment if places are not available if the course gets filled early. The later you apply, the less time you have to prepare for the course. This is important as everyone needs to complete the ‘Starter Pack’ before day 1 of the course. The Starter pack will take around 20 hours to complete and is compulsory. The earlier you apply, the less stress you will encounter in completing the Starter Pack before the course begins. You can always buy the Starter Pack separately in advance too.
  • If you’re applying for and are accepted for the full time course, don’t even think of trying to work or do another course for the 4 weeks of the Trinity Cert TESOL. Although some have tried and try, they begin to fall behind in the first week and create unnecessary stress for themselves even though they have been warned during the interview. Those that try to work/juggle with other courses are easily spotted. If you are working either leave your employment or get the time off. If you’re doing another course, finish that one first.
  • If you’re applying for and are accepted for the Part time course, it’s likely that you are working. Don’t hide the fact that you’re going to do the Cert TESOL. If you’re already in education, the qualification will benefit your organisation as well as you. It can’t be emphasised enough to let your employer know you are taking the course and make sure that they know the expectations you will be required to comply with; being punctual for Tuesday/Thursday sessions that begin at 1830 HK time on Tuesday & Thursday nights.
  • Punctuality is essential as otherwise you might miss something, or sessions will fall behind and finish later. Being late is also disrespectful and discourteous to others on the course who have been on time.
  • Other requirements include being in attendance for your scheduled teaching practices. Approach your employer formally, inform them of the requirements of the course and get their specific agreement to: not requiring you to work late on Tuesday/Thursday, not providing you with extra work, not suddenly requiring you attend meetings/events that would mean being late or absent from the course. A failure to do this is a common cause of unnecessary stress and is easily avoided. If necessary, we can always confirm the requirements to an employer.
  • Absence is not acceptable under the Trinity regulations, other than in exceptional circumstances (which does not include work commitments). The only circumstances that are considered exceptional are illness/injury supported with a doctor’s certificate or family bereavement.
  • For both full time and part time courses, keep to the study guidelines/landmarks in the timetable and keep to the deadlines. These are there to help you organise yourself, to pace things, reduce the potential stress and to facilitate the smooth running of the course. One more important thing to reduce stress of managing the workload is, if you are having problems or struggling, let us know. There’s always a solution.

Application and mindset

  • Apply yourself to the course as best you can. Being accepted onto the course is indication that we consider you have the ability to manage the course, complete it and pass it. Taking an approach that you’ll take a back seat and do the bare minimum will create more stress for you and you’re not getting the benefits from the course that you could and doing a disservice to yourself. You’ve invested time and money into this course. Make the most of it. If you’re having problems or struggling, let us know.
  • A couple of different mindsets that at some point sooner or later cause unnecessary stress are, ‘I’ve already got experience and know what to do’, ‘I’m only doing the course because I need the certificate’, ‘I know how to plan a lesson and I know what I’m going to do’. Come onto the course with an open mind and be prepared to be introduced to different perspectives and new ideas. Those that come with this positive mindset do a lot better and experience a lot less unnecessary stress. How else can the more positive mindset of ‘I’m open to new ideas and different perspectives’, ‘I don’t know everything and if I engage, I’m going to learn’ be realised?
  • The introduction of what is now known as the Online Study Companion a couple of years ago provides the self-learning and self-paced element of the course, which is a compulsory element of the course. Units are spread out over the course and whilst each week the timetable will provide for units to be completed, this is designed to fit around your schedule, to be flexible and to reduce intensity and potential stress. Keep to the timetabled guidelines and you won’t go wrong. It’s those that don’t engage and try to cram everything in at the last minute suffer the stress and reduce any potential for learning.
  • You’re given plenty of opportunity for help with lesson planning. Take the opportunities provided.  On the full time course, you’re offered lesson planning help every day and on the part time course you’re offered lesson planning on most Tuesdays/Thursdays and extra lesson planning sessions on Monday/Wednesday. It’s always very noticeable who has taken advantage of the help offered. Even those that have experience and/or think they can go it alone realise at around their third or fourth teaching practice lesson that they can benefit and could have avoided unnecessary stress in planning and learn more had they realised this from the outset. Don’t ‘go shopping’ and ask different tutors for guidance on the same thing. If you genuinely haven’t understood or want clarification, go to the tutor that provided the guidance.
  • Be receptive to feedback. You’ll get feedback on your assignments and your lessons. The tutor that observes your lessons (there will be more than one) will provide both oral and written feedback following each of your lessons. This can be stressful if feedback is approached with the mindset that the observing tutor is going to ‘tell me what I did wrong’, which is a common approach to feedback. It’s also not uncommon for trainees to be thinking about what elements they perceive didn’t go so well. To reduce potential stress; don’t seek perfection, it’s never going to happen, for anyone, regardless of how much experience they have and everyone has a bad day from time to time, reflect on your lesson objectively, identify what went well and why, identify what didn’t go so well and why, think about how you are going to address the development of these things, think about what you have learned from the lesson. Don’t make assumptions that your observing tutor will tell you what you did wrong, don’t assume that your observing tutor will tell you what you must/mustn’t do or should/shouldn’t do and be so binary. Feedback sessions are there to help and guide, not to attack you and not for you to be defensive. Listen and answer the questions that you are asked by your observing tutor. You are being asked to reflect and will be asked ‘could you …’ and you will hear expressions ‘you could have …’, ‘have you thought about …’, ‘you might want to consider/think about …’. You’re not being told you’ve done things wrong but being offered alternatives. This will help your learning and development by providing you with new ideas/perspectives, which you can try. Remember, there isn’t only one way of doing things. Remember this and you’ll possibly avoid a lot of stress.


Experienced or not there are going to be points on the course when you are stressed. Overcoming or reducing this will help you gain the most from the course. A lot of stress is self-inflicted, so take a step back and think about why the stress is there. Usually through not understanding the expectations and standards to be maintained on the course, not being organised, and not having a positive mindset. Follow the points above and reduce the potential for stress and give yourself a better chance of getting more out of the course than you might otherwise have done. It does work, we’ve seen it.

About the Author

Sean Martin

Over the last 10 years Sean has worked in a variety of TESOL settings in Hong Kong, from teaching academic English to secondary and tertiary learners. He has also taught professional adults of various nationalities to develop their English skills across a range of commercial sectors including law, aviation, hospitality and leisure. In addition to his work at EfA as a Trinity CertTESOL tutor and delivering CPD workshops, Sean works with the University of Sunderland on their English for Academic Purposes programme. He has academic interests in sociolinguistics and its application in the classroom.

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