What is the DELTA course like? To find out, in the fifth week of the course, Tom Walton talked to trainees taking the eight-week intensive summer course...
You can spot those doing the DELTA course easily enough. They chill out on the terrace at about six in the afternoon over a beer, after classes are over for the day, taking themselves a well-earned break, looking as if it's certainly been a hard day, but looking too as if they enjoy being together.
One of the things that all the trainees on the course seem to comment on is how supportive they are of one another. Fred Kamperman, who is from Halifax, Canada, says that, though it can seem a bit "heads-down, don't-come-up-for-air" at times, "everyone is coping, everyone is very supportive".
"You're away from your friends and family for two months, so it's important to find support," Fred says. "Are all DELTA groups like that?" They probably are, perhaps particularly so on the intensive course. Emma Ruiz, a native of Barcelona, had considered the extensive course, but people had said to her that on the intensive course you have a lot more contact with your colleagues. "You virtually live with each other!" says Neil Forrest, one of the course tutors.
Emma was enjoying not just the support but also the collaborative learning sort of aspect to it - "I'm willing to be helped, and I'm willing to help, too… You learn more, don't you?" she says.
DELTA is certainly no holiday. "You have to buckle down and stay focused. For an eight week stretch, it's hard, but not impossible," Fred says, adding that "the tutors are very good at breaking it all down into bite-sized pieces, so you don't get so overwhelmed by the course workload" and that the tutors had been very good at "guiding and reassuring". Fred knew someone who had done the intensive course before him, so he knew what to expect.
Was it too intense on occasions? Apparently not. Tash Buccianti, from Melbourne, Australia, was finding it "very manageable" and thought that "no one is losing it" - to the extent that she is now right up with her assignments. Wisely, Tash had started doing some pre-course reading five months before it began: "Quite a lot of what I'm doing now is to some extent recycling, which has really helped," she says.
Emma (like most people!) had got just a bit behind with her assignments. "It's very intense," she says, particularly in terms of the amount of work you have to put in afterwards, after the teaching practice and the input and feedback sessions. There never seems to be quite time to write the next essay, or do as much reading for it as you would like. "At the end of the day, I'm just knackered, if you'll pardon the expression," Emma says. "I can't just go home and get straight down to work". Which is why they're sitting out there on the terrace at six, you see.
Of course, there is an alternative to the intensive DELTA course - the extensive option which runs from October to March, leading to the exam in June. Fred had chosen the intensive course because he thought he'd "feel more focused" on it. For Emma, it had been more a practical consideration: "I had no idea where I was going to be working in September, having recently arrived back in Barcelona".
For the people on the summer course, most will be taking the exam at its other sitting, in December.
For anyone who may remember being nervous about doing their first ever teaching practice on a CELTA course, it may come as a surprise to hear that the DELTA trainees seem to have enjoyed "TP".
"That's the difference between CELTA and DELTA," Emma says. "On CELTA there are always lots of people who are really young who just want to travel. Teaching is probably something they're just going to do for a year or two - whereas on DELTA you've got people who, well, that's what they do, that's what they're good at, and they just want to get better at it."
Emma had enjoyed being with people from different backgrounds, all experienced teachers, all people who actually like teaching. "I've learnt a lot from watching others teach," Emma says, "and from listening to the tutors' feedback, even on lessons that were not my own."
"People on the course are all very good teachers, as you can see every day in the classroom," says Fred. "They've got different styles and it's very interesting because you spend so much time in your own classroom you don't get to see what other teachers do - that's one of the big learning experiences for me. Sometimes you think, "That's not the way I would have taught the lesson", but then when you go for feedback, the tutor says 'That was great' and you get a second chance to look at things and take the blinkers off."
One reason why they enjoy TP may well be the sort of students they find themselves teaching. "The students have been great," Fred says. "They know why we're there, we know why they're there and it's a mutual admiration sort of thing."
Tash agreed with that: "I can't believe how responsive they've been! Partly I think it's that they know we're on the course and they are just genuinely supportive - it's been a joy!"
One of the many things they teach you at IH is how important it is to sit down and talk to your students. Fred Kamperman does just that...
That's the difference between CELTA and DELTA: on DELTA, teaching is what people do, that's what they're good at, and they just want to get better—Emma Ruiz
Emma Ruiz talks to her students: providing help when the learners actually need it - that's something else you learn...