This is part of a series of posts showing you all the different ways you can approach the Cambridge Delta. They are designed to help you find out more about the course and what it involves, as well as helping you to choose the right way to do it for you, your lifestyle and the time you have available. If you’ve done the Delta (or any other similar higher-level teaching course, including a Masters), and you’d like to join in, let me know by leaving me a comment or contacting me via Twitter @sandymillin.
Natalia Gonzalez Brandi (Nati) started teaching in 2007. She was Director of Studies at IHMontevideo for two years and in 2013 she moved to IH Buenos Aires, where she currently works as teacher and YL Coordinator. She loves teaching and sharing ideas with colleagues. In 2013 she attended and presented at IATEFL’s annual conference. She tweets @natibrandi.
My DELTA experience, when I finally learned with a little help from my mistakes and peers.
How did you do your DELTA?
I signed up for a Distance DELTA Module 1 course in 2011. I did my background reading but didn’t have time to do enough exam practice, and reading Cambridge sample answers didn’t seem as interesting as my ELT books, so I failed. Despite this, I did the intensive DELTA Module 2 Course at IH Buenos Aires in 2012, and the experience wasn’t as bad. Although I struggled with the assignments, I did pass the course and managed to never fail a lesson. Of course, I wouldn’t have finished this course if it weren’t for the help and support of my tutors and peers, most importantly Hannah Pinkham and Eduardo Santos. We would read each other’s work and observe each other’s lessons. Hannah even proofread some of my assignments, so I cannot thank them enough. On December 2012 I retook DELTA Module 1. This time, my classmate Tom Campbell and I spent a whole week doing exam practice and analyzing Cambridge sample answers in great detail, with a kind of product approach to DELTA 1, and the result wasn’t at all bad: MERIT. DELTA 3? I honestly couldn’t think of ticking more Cambridge boxes in 2013, so I took a year off, and will definitely submit my assignment in June this year.
What did you gain from this course?
- I had a chance to observe and read my peers’ work. We were all keen teachers sharing the same group of students. We could observe other people teach, and analyse students’ reactions, and thereby reflect on what was conducive to learning and what wasn’t. I saw people do dictogloss, TBL, Dogme, grammar translation, genre and even humanistic approaches, and in a way, I incorporated aspects of each of those lessons into my own teaching practice.
- I enjoyed writing the lesson commentary and post lesson evaluation.
The lesson commentary linked my background essay with my lesson, and feeling that my lesson made sense and that I could justify each part of it was wonderful, because I finally felt I was doing my job the way it should be done. It didn’t feel like potpourri; it was more principled teaching? Eclecticism? Good teaching? You name it! Next time someone tells me that teaching is to stand in front of a class and follow a couple of coursebook activities, I’d say: write a background essay, a lesson plan and a lesson commentary and call me, maybe!
The post lesson evaluation was also empowering because I had a chance to reflect on what worked and what needed to be worked on. To finally share this with a tutor who would give me detailed feedback was very useful, and I remember reading the feedback I got three times at the very least. It encouraged me to reflect on my lessons, in a way I hadn’t done before.
- Module 1 was also helpful. It helped me to analyse language in great detail and I also learned a lot about discourse analysis, testing, guided discovery and many other topics. It’s really useful, especially if your job involves observing other people. You learn so much about standard coursebook practice as well as language and genre analysis, that then it’s easier to plan your own lessons and help other colleagues do the same.
What wasn’t so good?
- I didn’t get much sleep.
- The criteria is really long, and I sometimes felt I just couldn’t tick all those Cambridge little boxes. It’s not easy to meet standards.
- I only realised how much I learned months after the course was over. It’s too intense to keep track of how much you are learning.
- Like Sandy, I didn’t get a holiday neither before nor after the course, so my 2012 wasn’t great.
What tips would you give to candidates?
- Make sure you narrow down the topics you are studying. Don’t be too ambitious and study everything at the same time. This is true for all modules, and it especially helps if you know what the topic of your Module 2 LSAs will be.
- Before you start reading, write down all your ideas. It’s like a classroom brainstorming, and it did help me. I remember my classmate Meghan Finn suggested this, and she was right! We know more than we think. We are there in the classroom, we are experienced teachers and brainstorming before reading help us read more efficiently. If you are doing the intensive DELTA, time is always a problem, so you’ve got to read efficiently and be good at taking notes.
- We normally tell our Cambridge exam students ‘read questions carefully’. Well, I’d say read the Cambridge criteria carefully, make sure you know what you are expected to do, because otherwise you cannot possibly pass. There are too many boxes to tick, and sometimes you just need to state the obvious.
- Ask for help! Read other people’s assignments, look at your peers’ lesson plans: you cannot learn on your own. Some candidates do not like helping others and they prefer to work on their own; it’s okay. Now, if you don’t like learning like that, get help! Twitter, blogs, even people who’ve already passed DELTA, and I’d be happy to share my lessons and assignments with anyone who asks for it.
What would you have done differently?
Holidays after the course! The rest was a learning experience: you fail, keep going, learn from your mistakes, work really hard and then pass.