Technologically and linguistically adventurous EFL teacher, trainer, writer and manager

Arghhhh!

I’ve thought for a while about whether to publish this, knowing that people from my Delta course read my blog, colleagues read it, that representatives of my current employer probably do, and that potential future employers may read it as well. But I really need to get it out of my system. And if I didn’t publish it, I feel like I would be hiding something that needs to be written about.

Delta is doing my head in!

I’ve been ill for the last month (a combination of IBS, which I’ve never had before and you probably didn’t want to know about, and a bad cold/cough/losing my voice). Now admittedly, last year was very busy, and the lack of a proper, doing-nothing-at-all type holiday for 12 months probably had something to do with it, but I strongly suspect that constant thinking about Delta probably tipped me over into nearly two complete weeks off work – and the guilt and resentment I felt about having to take that time off probably made it worse too.

The amount of motivation I need to actually achieve anything towards my Delta seems to be increasing exponentially. For everything I hand in, it seems to take twice as much motivation to get through the  next piece of work. I’ve had a relatively relaxing Delta-free ten days off for Christmas and the New Year, after the two weeks of no Delta at all that I had when I was off sick. I came home on New Year’s Day to give myself five days to Delta in before going back to work. So far, in two days, I have read two documents for background reading, gone through two sets of exam guideline answers and done half of an exam training document . To do each of these it has taken me at least twice as long as it should have done, with probably more time spent on procrastinating than work in each of these cases. I have no motivation to write a timetable and stick to it. What would be the point? As long as I hit my deadlines. Before I started the Delta, I thought I would like a distinction. After a couple of weeks I thought ‘As long as I pass, who cares what grade I get.’ And I still intend to pass, but I find I can’t be bothered to work a lot of the time.

After six hours of ‘work’ today, probably consisting of about two hours of actual work, and about the same yesterday, I am already tired and in tears because I am so frustrated. And I still haven’t started doing any work for Module 3 (extended assignment) at all yet. All the effects of my holiday seem to have worn off already, and my illness, which seemed to have almost gone three days ago, has come back with a vengeance. That can’t be coincidence.

Take regular breaks, I hear you say. Since I started the distance part of the course at the end of October, I have only had three (I think) weekends which were entirely dedicated to Delta. Most weekends I have gone out in the evenings to meet friends/go to the cinema/…, and many weekends I have had a complete day off. I’ve had two complete weekends off since then, until I got ill. Since the middle of November, I have done almost no Delta on weekday evenings, sometimes working on one evening if I could motivate myself to do it. I am lucky enough to work 9-5 so I have a regular timetable, and should have some energy to work in the evenings, but I just don’t. I don’t really see how I can have any more breaks. And I can’t go away on holiday unless I don’t plan to have any time off for the rest of 2013. I’ve already booked the week after the Delta exam off work.

At the start of the course I felt like I was learning quite a lot. Now I feel like I am filling up pieces of paper with pointless notes about how to do the exam in the (too short) allotted time. Oh yes, the exam. Is it just me or does the Delta exam not actually test whether you are a good teacher or not? I know that the things you have to study for it are useful, and I’m sure without an exam most people wouldn’t bother with it, but surely some of that stuff could be put into module 2 teaching practice more. How about a spoken exam? It would require more manpower, sure, but why not have Skype exams? Recorded video ones? Those are my best suggestions at the moment, but this is something I thought long before I started doing Delta, and it’s a feeling that just won’t go away. All it seems to test is whether you’re good at studying for and doing exams, and whether you can handwrite for three hours without your arm falling off. Luckily, I’m normally fine in exams, so I shouldn’t worry, but all it does is annoy me that other people might fail despite being amazing teachers. What part of teaching is a three-hour exam really applicable too? Apart from maybe helping you sympathise with students you are preparing for exams.

The most frustrating thing about all of this is that THIS IS NOT ME. I like studying. I like learning new things. I even, weirdly, don’t mind doing exams. I normally want to do the best I can in any course I do. I love teaching. I want to be a better teacher. But is this really the best way to do it? Now I feel stressed, I find I increasingly don’t really care about Delta, I am bored with it, and annoyingly, I sometimes find I’m not really that bothered about my lessons: “Oh, that’ll do.” THIS IS NOT ME.

But it’s OK, because this is apparently normal for Delta students. You should expect to feel like you don’t know how to teach (I haven’t felt like I don’t know how to teach (big-headedly perhaps), and I’ve always  known that I have a lot more to learn about it). I don’t like hippy-dippy overly cheery ‘everybody is amazing’ type things, and I am a realist about this kind of thing, or at least I like to think so, but why should you be torn down and built back up again. Surely it should be a gradual, positive, building process all the way through your career. Dream on?

On the plus side, because of Delta I’ve read some books I wouldn’t have read otherwise. I’m thinking about starting a kind of blog-based EFL methodology book club after I’ve finished Delta, if I can motivate myself to keep reading. Another plus point: I’ve learnt some terminology I didn’t know before, which helped me understand said books.

So how else can you get in-depth certified CPD that will let you become a DOS or a teacher trainer or simply a better qualified teacher? There must be a better way than this. Suggestions on a postcard please.

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Comments on: "Arghhhh!" (16)

  1. Hi Sandy,
    I have no miraculous answer, but I think you should know that however you’re feeling right now, you are one of the people on the online tutoring course we were on together who really inspired me, and the fact that you are a good teacher is blindingly obvious.
    Having got that off, I think there are two main reasons for your current state.
    The first is that you are ill, even if you think you’re better, you are obviously still a bit weak, and those kinds of illnesses always strike you when you’re down….but I’m afraid I have no cure, as I also realise that you can’t just sit there moping that you are ill and hoping it will all go away.
    My second point is that I totally agree with all of what you say about Delta and this is probably applicable to most other exams of that type. I remember feeling fairly similar when I did my MA in Linguistics (TESOL) by distance – but possibly the fact that I was also bringing up three kids (and that I was old enough to not mind sometimes just winging it) – enabled me to just get on with it and not feel guilty if every assignment was not worth a star grade. In the end I did well enough – though I’m sure I could have done better had I spent more time etc….but you know, in the great scheme of things, it doesn’t make a lot of difference.
    I have never done the Delta (in my day it probably wasn’t essential), and I’m sure that its a worthwhile qualification – if only as a means to an end. If I were you, I would try to think of it as if its a sort of driving test – what you don’t learn from Delta, you will learn elsewhere (I mean, who ever imagined that someone who has just passed their driving test knows how to drive?).
    The thing is, you are perfectly capable of getting it, and you need it to give you more choices in the rest of your life – and that’s what’s really important.
    My advice to you is, stop feeling guilty because you aren’t always doing your best (life is too short for that), remember that nobody is perfect and that you are entitled to feel like shit some of the time (and of course this will affect the way you feel about teaching, Delta and the rest).
    Take care and hope this has helped even a tiny bit,
    Gill

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  2. Hello! I havent anything illuminating to add but have to pipe up: module 1 exam needs a longer time limit so that it isnt just testing how fast u can write! I found (in the mock exam i did that is also the m.a. module exam) that i got super stressed about time and it made me panic n mess up. So it wasnt a real reflection of my knowledge or ability.

    I think the hard thing about the distance delta must be that you dont have regular face to face contact with course mates and tutors? this i have found helpful in my intensive course. Conversely, module 2 development limited by lack of time between lsa’s for improvement. What are you doing for module 3?

    Ive had 4 days off delta and am back at work again now. days off are GOOD!!

    Happy new year, hope you get your mojo and health back soon…xx

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    • Thanks Lizzie. I’m doing IELTS for module 3. I do feel we have time between LSAs but could be too much time! I think the lack of face to face is part of it.

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  3. Hi Sandy,
    I don’t know the specifics of DELTA, but I’ve watched American teachers who go through NBPTS certification feel the same way. I was at a school with a knowledge-and-skills-based pay system who felt similarly during their “career structure” year. Lest you feel like you’re alone because no one writes about the struggles – know that you are not alone.

    I wish there was something I could say to make you feel better. Moreover, I wish there was a way to provide PD and fairly evaluate teachers that does not make them have to take valuable time away from their normal teaching responsibilities – which is what the programs should be evaluating.

    When you get the certification, perhaps you can lead the effort to make the process more authentic and worthwhile :).

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  4. Dear Sandy,

    Hang in there!

    No matter how you do it, the DELTA can be quite tiring (mentally even more than physically) and stressful and it seems to me you are suffering from some kind of burnout… some of it may be the state of your health which does not leave you very much energy to focus properly or to be inspired to go the extra mile.

    I have gone through it myself and have supported numerous candidates – I recognise the symptoms.

    But, if it helps, I have also seen how quickly all this is forgotten once the course (and assessment) is over.

    So, just hang in there. I know it’s not much of a consolation but I hope you won’t give up your efforts for higher grades because I am convinced you are capable of getting them and perhaps all you need is someone or something to kickstart you again.

    If blogging or presenting at conferences inspires you more, think about what wonderful blog posts your LSAs might turn out to be some day 🙂

    Keep going and don’t lose heart.

    Marisa

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  5. Having finished the Delta recently, I feel your pain!!! But it won’t last forever. Hang in there 🙂

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  6. The DELTA sucks. True story.

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  7. Marisol Fernandez Zetina said:

    Hi Sandy!
    If it is any consolation to you I feel pretty much the same!!!! Motivation is hard to find these days and I also believe in what you said…. perhaps the lack of face to face and toomany technical things to worry about which leave little room for the “human side of teaching” which is what makes it one of the most rewarding things I’ve done in life 🙂
    I wish you luck and hope we can both get our motivation back! I’ll Keep in touch in the forums…

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  8. Hi Sandy

    Not much I can add really, but hang on in there,and you will never regret this time! The relentless nature of the studying involved and deadlines to be met – these are things I remember from when I did mine many moons ago. It was all worth it in the end and as you will see for yourself, once it is all over, in a few months’ time, you will look back on this period and feel very proud of your achievements…

    Wishing you all the best for the coming months. I know you will be fine :-))

    Janet

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  9. […] felt very isolated and didn’t feel like I had much support from my local tutor. I didn’t think about […]

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