Doing a DELTA | by Rachel Sims

Doing a DELTA | by Rachel Sims

Experienced ESL teacher Rachel Sims describes her experience of acquiring a funded DELTA qualification through her employer, York English.

I am Rachel and I currently work at York English as the Teacher Training Leader. After much experience, I am realising my passion of training teachers and leading senior teachers. I get to observe and give feedback to teachers of all levels, as well as working on projects for curriculum development. So it’s safe to say, I’m kept pretty busy.

Before coming to Fuzhou and accepting a job offer with York, I was lucky enough to experience working in many different countries and settings within EFL. I have gained experience of teaching dribbling 3 year olds, grandmothers with a passion for travel, business English for CEOs and everything in between! My experience has taken me to places such as far apart as Spain, Japan and Chile.

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This all started when I left university and decided to embark upon a CELTA course in Bournemouth. This gave me a valuable teaching qualification that would help to open up all subsequent doors to come. My CELTA tutors were so inspiring and I knew by the end of the course that I wanted this to be my career path. I hoped one day to be training teachers like they trained me. And so I knew that when the time was right, getting a DELTA qualification would be a future career goal.

18 months ago, my partner and I found ourselves in a tricky situation in Chile where we were confronted with extortionate, unexpected visa costs. We decided to make sure we prioritised and got the best job possible for us both going forward. We knew after this ordeal we wanted somewhere that offered job security, a salary that reflected experience and opportunity to develop, as it’s fair to say we are both ambitious individuals! This is what made York English really stand out from the crowd for us from other job advertisements and offers we received. It honestly prompted us to consider a job in a country that had never been on our radar before.

York has definitely quenched our thirst for professional development. We both arrived here as experienced teachers, progressed to be senior teachers and now we work within management here. It was refreshing becoming a part of a school where teaching standards are high, training is cutting edge and professional development is fully supported. The latter really came to light when I found out that on top of all the training York offers, there is also a funding pot available to everyone for further training.

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Considering at this point I had been teaching for nearly 5 years, it appeared to be the perfect opportunity to consider starting the DELTA qualification. So I wrote a funding proposal to my managers that we would later discuss in a meeting. They listened intently to my reasoning behind wanting to do this course and were curious to find out what it could bring to the school and my job role. I was over the moon to later that week receive the new that this course would be fully funded by York English, but also to realise that I work for a company that would support my career ambitions and clearly valued me as an employee.

I got on with applying for the course straight away and eagerly awaited news of enrolment and booklists to start my book worming! York even helped out with resource costs for this course as my manager realised that this would be quite an expense as not many resources were accessible here in China. A subscription to an EFL journal that would be invaluable to my research was paid for without hesitation by the school.

Why the DELTA? What is it and what does it involve?

DELTA stands for Diploma in teaching languages to speakers of other languages…quite the mouthful! It comprises of 3 modules focusing in on specific areas of teaching and training. There are many ways to go about doing these 3 but I decided the best option would be to start module 3, which could be done online through Distance Delta over 3 months and so I wouldn’t need to take time out of work for it.

For module 3 you write an assignment, similar to a dissertation for a chosen specialism. Mine was Teaching Young Learners aged 7-12. For the assignment, you read about theory related to your specialism and key issues within it, conduct research and needs analysis for this specialism and design a short course for these learners based on the above. Sounds simple (ish) right??

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It’s definitely been the most challenging thing, besides a skydive, that I have done so far…in my life. If it wasn’t for my partner that made sure I had lovely cooked dinners every weekend and didn’t miss a Planet Earth episode, it may have broken me! It meant sacrificing a social life for 3 months and eating copious amounts of chocolate but, I did it! I ate, slept and breathed everything teaching related so when it came to submitting my assignment for the final time, I was so relieved!

Has it had an impact?

I realised pretty quickly into the course that I was lucky because I was going to design a course that was actually going to be used by the school I work for! Surprisingly, other fellow course participants were designing purely hypothetical classes that weren’t going to be implemented, merely just a part of getting the qualification. I felt far more invested in what I was doing as my managers wanted to trial run the course I was designing for one of our short courses, with a view to implementing and scaling it up across the levels.

I am far more confident in my role as a trainer but also as a teacher, having gained useful insights into teaching theory on interesting topics like language acquisition. It has also given me a greater appreciation for what really goes on behind the scenes of a successful English school in terms of it’s curriculum development.

Our research and curriculum development comes from a man called Tom Gant, otherwise known as the nutty professor, mainly for his hair and sometimes for his creative ideas! Without kissing ass too much, in my opinion, he is quite brilliant. Whilst I was trawling through teaching theory I would often come across research that would make me realise why Tom had chosen to promote certain teaching methodologies. I had experienced the great results that our teaching philosophies can achieve but not always understand the reasoning behind them, and I guess, hadn’t needed to.

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Despite being less creative myself, I hope that as a trainer, I can share this knowledge I have acquired with other teachers and continue to gain new knowledge. Oh, and I’m a third of the way to gaining the full DELTA qualification…hopefully…the 2 month wait for results has commenced!

What now?

Currently, I am in the process of writing workshops for our teachers that are more theory based, the challenge being that they are digestible and relevant to the teaching that we do here! Many teachers here are very invested in their teaching and development and always seeking to gain new knowledge and try out new ideas so hopefully, it will aid this.

I am going to be teaching the course I have designed next week, super nervous but very excited to see how it pans out! I hope that I will be able to bring more to the table when I am needed to help out with future courses now that I have experience at designing a short course.

As for module 1 and 2? No thanks, at least not right now! Working full time whilst doing this module online was exhausting, the 9-10 hours a week that Distance Delta say you will need is definitely on the ambitious side! So for now, I want to concentrate on my job role, have a social life and gradually ween myself off the chocolate!! I remember my CELTA tutor said to me “courses like the CELTA and Delta are like the army: you can talk about them to death but only those who have followed one of these courses will be able to understand you”, that rings very true, although, I’m sure my partner understands too!

However, I have my beady eye on those other two modules, which I certainly hope to tackle in the foreseeable future. Fingers crossed for the results!

*Since completing Module 3 of her DELTA, Rachel received her certificate and has successfully passed with merit!

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