Delta Conversations: Martin

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.

Martin Hajek works as an English teacher in the private sector in Colombia. He moved into TEFL in 2017 when he did his CELTA at CELT Athens. He fell in love with the profession and decided to focus on his professional development. You can read about his journey on his blog teflincolombia.com and follow him on Twitter @martinhajek_ELT. [Note from Sandy: Martin has lots of useful information about Delta on his blog – I’d definitely recommend it!]

How did you do your Delta? How did you arrange the modules?

II took the Delta Module One exam at the British Council in Bogotá in June 2019 after individual preparation. I got a Pass with Merit and decided to do Module Three on my own as well. It proved to be a rash decision because I had to resubmit the assignment. I asked for marker feedback and rewrote the essay according to it. I passed the module after submitting it in June 2020 through NILE, whose tutor read my assignment and told me that it was good enough to pass. Finally, I took IH Mexico’s online Module Two course from January to March 2021 and received a Pass with Merit.

Why did you choose to do it that way?

The first decision was kind of an accident, really. I actually wanted to take a preparation course with one of the distance course providers, but my payment kept getting rejected for no apparent reason, so I gave up and decided to prepare for the exam by myself. I couldn’t do Module Two immediately afterwards because online courses weren’t approved at that time. There are no course providers in Colombia and I couldn’t find a local tutor in the city where I lived, so I chose to do Module Three instead. I was then ready to travel to Mexico to do Module Two in person in 2020, but we all know what happened that year. When the option to do the module fully online was approved, I decided to do so because I didn’t want to keep waiting any longer.

What do you think you gained from doing the Delta?

A huge confidence boost! When I did my CELTA, there was a Delta course taking place concurrently at the centre. We mingled with those teachers and even observed one of the lessons, and I found it all very inspirational. I loved my CELTA experience and from that moment I knew that I would do a Delta at some point in the future. I managed to reach the goal four years later, which brought me a sense of achievement, and I hope that it will allow me to have a long-term career in TEFL. In practical terms, I feel that the Delta has helped me make principled decisions. I enjoy going beyond the coursebook and designing my own activities from scratch, and I found all three modules beneficial in that regard.

What were the downsides of the method you chose?

The biggest issue was doing Module Three before Module Two. I think it makes sense to do the diploma in the conventional order because the first two modules prepare you for the extended assignment. In addition, doing Module Two online is probably more challenging than the in-person course because many things can go wrong teaching through Zoom. It’s also more difficult to build a sense of camaraderie with other candidates. Don’t get me wrong, it was great to meet amazing people from around the world and we did have fun in our Module Two group, but it wasn’t the same experience as studying together in the library and discussing lessons, essays, and books over lunch.

What were the benefits of the method you chose?

Since I did Module One and Three independently, it helped me discover many helpful resources. I became very organised and improved my strategies for studying autonomously. My approach also helped me save money, particularly by taking Module Two online. I didn’t need to stop working and travel to another country to take the course there. 

What tips would you give other people doing the Delta?

  • Take advantage of free online resources. There is a lot of useful information on blogs and various websites. The Delta handbook is very helpful, but reading practical advice from those who have completed the diploma is even better.
  • Take notes when you do your background reading so that you know where to find key information. You also need to bear in mind that it’s necessary to have access to a lot of books and articles to pass the Delta. This is particularly important when you take a distance course, so you need to make sure that you’ll be able to do your reading.
  • Learn how to use relevant features of Microsoft Word or another similar program. Knowing how to create a table of contents, cross-references, or footers will help you save time. It will also make your documents easier to mark for the tutors and assessors.
  • When your tutors tell you that you should improve in a specific area, take their advice seriously. They want to make you a better teacher and it’s their job to give you negative feedback when you make mistakes. Nobody enjoys being criticised, but reflecting on your teaching practice is an important element of professional development, so it’s necessary to take the feedback on board.
  • Be open-minded and don’t be afraid to experiment. There isn’t just one way to teach, so it’s a good idea to explore other methods and approaches. For example, you need to pass only one of the internal LSAs in Module Two, so I think it makes sense to try something new in one of the observed lessons instead of relying on tried and tested methods and materials. Delta shouldn’t be only about confirming what you already know; it’s also an opportunity to teach challenging lessons that you haven’t done before.

In retrospect, what would you have done differently?

In hindsight, I should have asked someone to read my first Module Three essay and give me feedback. I wasn’t ready to submit it on my own without having done Module Two. There are a lot of criteria to pay attention to, and I underestimated how strict the marking is.

Delta Conversations: Claire

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.

Claire Parsons started out in EFL in 2012 as a British Council Language Assistant in Chile. After a year, she decided she liked teaching, and took her CELTA in Strasbourg in 2014. She has since worked in Vietnam, Poland, the UK, Israel and Spain. She is currently based at IH San Sebastián in Spain, where she passed the IHCYLT in 2018, and the Delta in January 2021. She’s interested in teacher training and materials writing. When she’s not teaching, she can be found cooking, reading, hiking or knitting. 

Claire Parsons

How did you do your Delta? How did you arrange the modules?

I did my Delta part-time, through the Distance Delta for all 3 modules. I worked in the same school for the duration of my Delta. I started in 2018, and decided to do Module 1 first, to “ease” myself into the swing of things – I took a prep course starting in September, and took the exam in December. I started Module 3 in the following March, and completed it by June. I started Module 2 in September 2019, and the plan was to have everything done and dusted by April 2020… but you can guess what got in the way! I ended up deferring Module 2 until a later session because of COVID, and eventually completed Module 2 in October 2020, before the country went into partial lockdown (again). 

Why did you choose to do it that way?

In practical terms, it would have been difficult for me to get time off from my current job to do an intensive course. I had several friends and co-workers who had taken the Delta through the Distance Delta and they were really happy with the support they received. I also liked the idea that I could study and work at the same time, and not have to commit to an intensive course somewhere else (as full-time courses aren’t on offer where I am currently based). I also spoke to friends who DID take the intensive format, and I honestly think if I’d done it that way, I wouldn’t have lived to tell the tale! 

What do you think you gained from doing the Delta?

Loads! I remember my DoS in San Sebastián saying that her Delta comes in useful every day, and I have to agree. I feel like I got much better at evaluating what makes a lesson effective, and I think it opened my eyes to how many different ways there are to teach something. The Professional Development Assignment I completed over the course of Module 2 was probably the most enjoyable part for me, because I liked taking the time to really think about what I needed to work on to become a better teacher. I think it helped me think more critically about what my strengths are and exploit them, and what my weaknesses are to try and address them. It’s also come in useful as my school put me in charge of putting together assessment materials for some of our Young Learner levels, which meant that I could put my Module 3 knowledge (which focused on YLs) to good use. Not a day goes by where I don’t use something I learnt from the Delta. 

What were the downsides of the method you chose?

It took over my life for the best part of 2 years, and at times it felt like there wasn’t a day that went by where I wasn’t reading, meeting a deadline, tweaking a lesson plan, and so on. It was quite a lonely experience at times because there wasn’t anyone else at my school taking Module 2 at the same time as me. Although plenty of senior staff and other teachers in my school have taken the Delta, it’s very different when there’s no-one going through the same things as you at the same time! I think I was disciplined enough to stick to the deadlines set, and to do enough reading and research without being prodded and reminded, but this is definitely something you should be brutally honest with yourself about: if you’re not so good at organising your own time, maybe this method isn’t the best way forward for you. 

What were the benefits of the method you chose?

Financially, it worked out well because I was earning my normal salary while I studied. It meant I also spared myself the stress of finding short-term accommodation in a new city! I also felt comfortable with the profile of students I was teaching, so I didn’t feel under pressure to get to know a new learning culture in a short space of time. Spreading the Delta over a year or two meant that I could experiment a lot more, and take my time to try out things I was reading about! I was really grateful for the Module 2 orientation course in London. There were only 4 of us, and our tutor was amazing, so I feel like we all received an incredible amount of support over the 2 weeks we were there. I got MUCH better at managing my planning time: because I was working a busy timetable throughout the courses, I had to really learn to prioritise and plan effectively. This has been a really important takeaway since finishing the Delta, as now I realise that I can plan effectively without agonising for far too long on a lesson plan!   

What tips would you give other people doing the Delta?

Do the Delta because you WANT to be a better teacher. I think that people sometimes believe the Delta is the next logical step in an EFL career, but I think that’s only really true if you’re willing to put your teaching under a microscope and actively decide you want to make it better. Check if there’s an academic library in your school or city. Although the Distance Delta provides access to a lot of articles and reading materials, it’s helpful to have access to other books that are recommended on the reading lists. Make sure you have a decent break before you start Module 2. I had just done a 6-week summer school and went straight into the orientation course in London, then straight back to my normal job! I was exhausted before I’d really even started. Don’t try to re-invent the wheel in your LSAs. Tutors aren’t interested in how fancy your lesson is if you haven’t met your aims! Although there’s SO MUCH literature available, try to resist the temptation to read every single chapter/book that you hear mentioned during the course. Be selective with what you read, and ask your tutors for advice if you’re stuck.  

Delta Conversations: Harriet

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.

Harriet Lowe discovered her passion for teaching English in Italy, returning to London to complete her CELTA in 2016 and continued teaching English and EAP (English for Academic Purposes) at various institutions in London. She has attempted to bridge the gap between theory and practice, continuing teaching alongside her PhD in Applied Linguistics from the University of Greenwich. Since completing the Delta, she has become a Senior Lecturer in Applied Linguistics and the Academic Manager for English Language Courses at the University of Greenwich, and a Dissertation Supervisor in Applied Linguistics and TESOL at UCL. She continues to use her research, which uses eye-tracking methodology to gain insights into the cognitive processes behind second language acquisition, and knowledge gained from the Delta to influence her teaching, teacher training and curriculum development. More information can be found on her website https://harrietllowe.wordpress.com

How did you do your Delta? How did you arrange the modules?

I ended up doing my Delta in a rather jumbled way but I still found the modules really complemented each other regardless of the arrangement of them. I started with Module 2, attending a part-time course at Oxford House College in London, with Tuesday and Thursday evening classes and four full Saturdays spread over a few months. I followed with Module 3, which I did independently, with a private tutor just looking over the final draft. In general, the advice on the Cambridge website gave me sufficient support and direction to complete this module alone. Most colleagues who I spoke to told me that the paid courses were just access to links and books, but I was lucky enough to have full access to my university library and journals, which I was able to use as research and sources throughout the module. I ironically finished with Module 1, with the help of a private tutor, who provided me with materials, feedback on mock exams and a lot of intense studying!

Why did you choose to do it that way?

With working part-time and doing a PhD, I only had time to do one module at a time. I had heard how intense each module was and despite being encouraged to wait to complete module 1 first (to ensure my terminology knowledge was adequate) I happened to think about the Delta when a Module 2 course was starting, so it seemed most convenient to do it this way. I also knew how bad I was at exams so I wanted to make sure I had the time to be able to revise for this module (and I am pleased I waited to do this – because it requires hours of studying!)

What do you think you gained from doing the Delta?

I gained a lot from the Delta. Although I found some problems with the Module 2 course which led to me completing the final two modules independently, each module encouraged continuous reflection and consideration of my own teaching, my theoretical knowledge, and the future of my teaching. Reflecting on the individual modules…

Module 2 – I learnt so much from colleagues and conversations about my lessons, especially my background essays and plans. Completing these was not necessarily the bit I learnt from but discussing the ins and outs with colleagues and my mentor helped me consider the impact of my lesson materials, staging and approach on my learners. This was not just the CELTA ‘Can you teach a lesson?’; but this was ‘How does your lesson effectively encourage learning?’ and I really enjoyed and developed from these considerations. This module completely changed the way I envisage and plan lessons, focusing on my learners and the acquisition of the target language, and I have seen a real change in my learners since.

Module 3 – I struggled with this module, having to adapt the academic writing I am used to, but again learnt to adjust my perspective, bridging that gap between theory and practice. Being encouraged to look at course design from a student-centred perspective helped both my own English teaching and curriculum development.

Module 1 – Having taught theories of SLA at university, I had a head start on this section of the exam; however, I was thrilled to be able to fully focus on phonology and phonetics. I’ve never really been a grammar nerd, but I had a chance to really sit down and study this in more detail. 

What were the downsides of the method you chose?

It took a long time. Of course, the impact of COVID was completely out of my control and I had to delay Module 1 by 9 months which delayed job development opportunities. I felt like I was dragging by the end!

What were the benefits of the method you chose?

I had time to continue working alongside the Delta and put the knowledge into practice throughout the entire process. By the end (Module 1), I had spent nearly a year self-studying and continuing to develop my knowledge and understanding of the concepts from Modules 2 and 3. Spreading the modules out like this meant I could see the influence of the modules on my teaching as I completed the Diploma.

The modules are hard-core and require your time. Doing the modules separately was really beneficial as I spent around 2-3 hours a day every day studying for Module 1. Module 2 completely absorbed my life for the month of the part-time course, and I spent at least 6 full weekends of research and writing for Module 3. I’m not sure how much I could’ve processed and learnt if I tried to do all these concurrently.

What tips would you give other people doing the Delta?

I found spreading the modules over time greatly beneficial to really see myself develop as a teacher. I would also encourage anyone completing the DELTA to not just consider it as the final step in your teaching CPD, but as a stepping stone to open the world of ELT research, L2 research, and the connection between these two for you.