Article

Are you ready to go beyond your comfort zone?

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Once an English teacher has put a few
years of experience under their belt, they
often come to a point in their teaching
career where they are beginning to feel the
need for further professional development.

article

This is a stage akin to the intermediate learning plateau that learners of English as a foreign language reach: teachers realise that, while they can somehow manage to carry out their day to day teaching duties, it is also evident that they are repeating themselves, that there is no development in the way they teach or even the content they teach, that they keep doing the same old things in the same old way. It is no surprise then that they start to question themselves and their teaching ability.

Stagnation symptoms

The symptoms, which you, like many other teachers experience at some point, include the following:

  • You have attended methodology courses and/or workshops but you feel you cannot implement what you learnt in your own classes
  • You are beginning to feel restless about your teaching approach and are no longer happy that what you do in class “works” as well as you once were sure it did
  • You realise that your repertoire of techniques and activities that would help you solve problems you encounter in your teaching is rather limited
  • You realise that there are attractive careers in areas of English Language Teaching such as Business English or Academic English, for which, in spite of your experience, you are ill-equipped, as you cannot do a sensible needs analysis or draw up a syllabus based on your students’needs
  • You find yourself in a more senior position in the institution where you work, such as a director of studies position, but find it difficult or impossible to guide and support the teachers, observe their classes critically and give them clear and supportive feedback.
  • You would like to teach in another country but, once you start applying for teaching jobs abroad, you realise that your professional qualifications are simply not enough

If you are experiencing any of the above symptoms, it may well be that what you need is not merely another series of unrelated workshops and seminars that you gratefully attend at ELT conferences, book exhibitions and free events offered by publishers and examination bodies, but rather a focused course that will take your career to a different level and earn you a qualification that can open up new opportunities.

Considering a Diploma-level qualification in English Language Teaching?

Over the years, I have trained hundreds of teachers on advanced methodology courses leading to internationally recognised post-graduate level professional qualifications such as the DELTA or its predecessor courses, the RSA DOTE and DTEFLA, and I have come to identify certain characteristics present in all good candidates:

  • They have a passion for teaching
  • They have a tendency to reflect on their classroom practices
  • They seek out opportunities for further development
  • They think giving up time for a workshop or conference is perfectly normal
  • They are always on the lookout for new ideas and new ways of enriching their teaching
  • They are committed to teaching as a profession

On the practical side, it is important to remember that a good candidate will also have a related degree and will ideally have attended a basic methodology course which involved teaching practice and observation in a real class.

Will a diploma make a difference to your career in TEFL?

Many teachers just don’t see how a qualification such as the DELTA might change their career opportunities in their local context. While there are many schools which do seek out and recognize the value of such a highly qualified teacher, it is also true that there are many which don’t.

Here is a comment written on my other blog by one of my current DELTA trainees:

comment1

As a result of following a DELTA course, this teacher is now able to find summer jobs in UK based colleges as a teacher of English, thus taking her career to a different level and giving her more opportunities to develop as a teacher in other teaching contexts as well as being eligible for jobs which require a Cambridge DELTA as a minimum requirement, positions such as Directors of Studies, Academic Directors or Coordinators, Oral Examiners for a range of Examinations, including the City & Guilds Examinations.
The world is out there and whether you want to go out to it or bring it to you (e.g. by becoming a successful online teacher), you need the confidence and know-how that a diploma can give you.

Can a Diploma guarantee you that you will become an outstanding teacher?

There is absolutely no course in the world that can guarantee you will become a truly outstanding teacher, but having a DELTA ensures that you will be given the tools and knowledge which will help you achieve this goal.
It is no surprise that in order to become a teacher trainer, a qualification such as the Cambridge DELTA is considered an absolute must! For example, you cannot even be considered as a prospective tutor on courses such as the Certificate in English Language Teaching to Adults (CELTA), unless you have the DELTA Diploma yourself. This is, in fact, a very fair requirement, as a course like the DELTA guarantees that you will have observed and been observed teaching and that you will have learnt how to analyse teaching and reflect on your own classroom practice.

comment2


So where can you do an advanced methodology course?

The number of centres offering the Cambridge DELTA around the world is significantly lower than those offering introductory-level CELTA courses, and with very good reason: to become a DELTA tutor you need further qualifications, such as postgraduate degrees in TEFL, TESOL or Applied Linguistics and the ability to plan and implement course syllabuses which will bring your candidates to a successful result, a task which is much more demanding than that of a CELTA course designer or tutor.
When selecting a centre, it is important to make sure that:

  • the centre itself has been established for a long time and can guarantee you quality in tutorial input and support.
  • the centre is well networked with educators and institutions around the world, an absolute necessity if you are to pursue a career which, nowadays, is very much based on networking and connecting.
  • the centre integrates technology into its programme, so that it can offer trainees excellent support systems.
  • the centre has an up-to-date ELT methodology library as well as electronic and online resources that are available 24/7
  • last but not least, the centre tutors are highly qualified and experienced in teaching and assessing such demanding courses

Are you ready to go beyond your comfort zone?

The best time to follow any teacher development programme is not when you are pushed by a higher authority, but when you yourself feel ready to question your current practices, to develop as a professional, to take your career to a different level. An advanced methodology programme, such as the DELTA, will give you the chance to lift off your teaching to a different level and to acquire a depth of understanding of the principles involved in ELT practice. The best time, then, is when you feel ready to become the best teacher that you can be.

And this time could well be now!

This post first appeared in the City & Guild’s Newsletter “Lion’s Voice”  Issue 6, January 2011. ]]>

17 replies »

  1. Thanks for this comprehensive post, Marisa.

    Would you recommend the DELTA as a sensible stepping stone to doing a Masters? I’m currently considering further study, but would need to go part time to focus on it (a decision not to be taken lightly in the current climate). I can’t decide on which option to take: launch straight into a Masters or do the delta in the interim?

    Yours,

    Confused of London

    • Hi Mike,

      I did both in that order – DELTA first and M.A. later and for me it was a very good decision as my M.A. was in Applied Linquistics and did not have a practical teaching component.

      I don’t know that this is the best for everyone but I personally think it’s a good idea to be a strong teacher practitioner with a good solid theoretical back up (which the DELTA will give you) and then go for the background when you can’t do otherwise (my last paragraph applies to an M.A. as well)

      Do also check the list of Universities which offer some exemptions from core units or offer credits for having completed a DELTA – you can find it here http://www.cambridgeesol.org/exams/teaching-awards/delta-exemptions.html

      I hope this helps but the ultimate and final decision you make may well be beyond what you feel you need to do – sometimes we do what we have to do for more practical reasons

      Marisa

  2. Dear Marisa,
    Thank you for the post,

    it seems I have symptom #1,2,3,4,6. done CELTA 3 years ago, IHC-YL 2 years ago, IH-FTBE, IH-COLT, finishing IH-CAM, going to the IATEFL in Brighton, doing full-time DELTA this summer. Looking forward to it (a bit scared though)My friends have decided to do Master’s without DELTA (and have been accepted for the course), sounds like we’re out of our comfort zone:-)

    All the Best,
    Dasha

      • Thanks Marisa,

        Thanks for the support!
        am doing CAM now and trying to read books and absorb as much as possible from my trainers(who are great btw)!
        Got the Visa today, so now I can say: I’m going to IATEFL conference! I am so happy!!!

        All the best,
        Dasha

  3. Hello!
    Congratulations on your post! It was really claryfing and what I needed. I’m really rethinking my teaching practices and willing to improve my qualifications. Thanx a lot, It was very helpful!
    Cheers,
    ML

  4. Hi Karin,

    (Don’t want to be butting in, Marisa – hope it’s ok)

    If you wanted to teach English at primary and secondary level in the UK, you would need to do a PGCE (Post Graduate Certificate in Education) or CertEd. You might find some useful info here: tda.gov.uk

    You’d also have to teach language AND literature (well, at secondary level at least) from my experience as a pupil.

    Mike

    • Dear Marisa and Mike,
      Thank you for the info. I have no plans of teaching in the UK. The reason I asked was the debate that’s going on in Turkey about whether or not ESL is a profession and the fact that the native speakers hired to schools in Turkey (and other countries) are usually not qualified teachers. A few schools (like the one I work for) only hire teachers who are qualified to teach the subject in their native countries but most hire anyone off the streets who look the part and have the right passport.
      :-)Karin

      • Hi again Karen,

        If you mean teaching EFL then I think the minimum required would be the CELTA. That would probably be for teaching summer or short stay students if they were primary or secondary age. In school, both primary and secondary, then the pgce would be required, probably with a BA in English as well.

        Sorry for my lack of clarity above. I didn’t mean you in particular when I said ‘If you wanted…’ but rather the general you to mean ‘if someone wanted…’

        The debate in Turkey sounds interesting.

        Mike =)

  5. A great summary, and a great motivator as well I’m sure. One thing I found about doing the DELTA and then an MA is that I really should have left a gap between them to give myself a break!

    Also thought I should just point out that most of the things above are also true about the Trinity Dip TESOL.

    • Hi Alex,

      Did my MA about 4 or 5 years after my Dip and I was pretty ready – chose Applied Linguistics, a decision I have not yet regretted as at that time MA TEFL or TESOL were pretty new and looked more like Dips than proper research MAs…

      Point abt Trinity: sure, but fair to talk about a Dip I teach too, don’t you think – I know more about this one than the other 🙂

      Motivating people to do the DELTA is not an easy thing – at least locally – as the FL job market is pretty locked into cheap untrained labor, never mind if they can’t teach, as long as they are doing all the coursebook exercises….

      Marisa

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