What is the DELTA course like?
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Why do DELTA?
Even so, no matter how much you might learn on the course, no matter how much you might enjoy parts of it, why do DELTA in the first place - why subject yourself to all that work and effort?
"Well, you get to that stage of a career when you start to think, maybe I should get properly qualified for this," says Fred. An MA in TESOL had been the alternative, but Fred felt that he "didn't have the time" to devote two years to doing that.
For Tash, the distance DELTA course had been an option but, knowing how stressed out friends and colleagues seem to become, doing it at the same time as working full time, Tash decided "it was just going to drive me mad". "Ok," she admits, "people go a bit mad here, too, but here you're living in a bit of a bubble - the rest of your life stops, and that makes it easier."
Tash works for the British Council, who have been very keen for teachers to do DELTA (and have also been good about helping to finance it). She says she had been thinking about doing it for several years for personal and professional development, and also because she sees having DELTA as opening up better job opportunities.
Emma had wanted to do it for the sake of professional development, to be able to get a better job, wanted to learn "some of the theory behind teaching" and also wanted to get into teacher training.
Tash chose to take two months off her job in Bangkok and come to Spain because she'd been here before and loved it and also because IH Barcelona is one of the few centres in the world where you can actually do an intensive DELTA course. She had also worked previously for IH in Madrid and knew that International House has a reputation that is deserved.
"The Med" was Fred's answer to the same question. Fred has an EU passport and thought two months would give him "a good taste of what living in Europe was like", to see whether he liked it or not. To be honest, he doesn't really sound 100% convinced by the experience. "You've got a very different lifestyle from Vancouver," he says. "We don't have any pollution, it's not nearly as noisy, we've got more vacation time and are way ahead in terms of technology".
The whole cultural adjustment had been harder than Fred had perhaps expected. "He keeps asking me all sorts of weird questions - like, what are those huge orange bottles people have on their balconies," says Emma. For those unfamiliar with Spain, the orange bottles are the butane gas canisters that still get delivered in rickety old trucks to people in the older parts of the city - and are also the source of the noise of someone bashing on a metal container with a large stick that you occasionally but regularly hear.
A few cultural adjustments are only really to be expected, and though Barcelona is definitely now modern European and Spain increasingly less "different" than it once was, the "new" culture thing is probably part of the adventure of being in a foreign city and makes doing a course abroad more fun than doing it back home. It's a bit like going to Boy Scout camp, I've always thought. Not that the course leaves much time for sightseeing. Tash says she hasn't seen that much of the city this time, though says she "did the tourist thing" a couple of years ago on a previous visit to Barcelona.
What do you get out of it?
And what did they think they were learning from it all? Fred feels he's learnt a lot ("If you didn't have things to learn, you wouldn't be here, would you?"). Examples? "New ways of presenting language... TPR... There are things I'd never given much credence to and you think, 'maybe I should rethink that'".
"I'm learning a lot," says Emma, "for example, about how to look at lessons from the point of view of what I want the students to be doing, where I want to get them to, rather than just working straight from the book - the 'what-page-is-it-today' sort of approach I maybe had before."
Tash feels she has learnt a lot from watching her fellow-trainees. She'd seen one giving groups of students a rule on the use of the definite article and then getting them to teach another group. "The idea of getting learners to teach other learners, that was something I'd never done before - but it's something I might now try," she says. "The trouble is that, normally, when you're teaching, you're living in a vacuum - in a little box. On the course, you get to see what others are doing, and to talk about it."
DELTA isn't about changing your teaching completely, Tash feels. She says its about "tweaking and streamlining" and "taking a step up" and "thinking about what you're doing". "What's fantastic about the course is that it does de-construct you, but in a very positive way… You think, 'I've been doing that for years' and only now do you realize that it wasn't very effective."
She sounds very positive about the whole thing. "Yes - I love it, I really do!" Any doubts - about the syllabus, or anything? "No". Oh, well, perhaps it wasn't that challenging, Tash says, on second thoughts. "Everyone said 'it's the hardest thing you'll ever do'. I don't think it has been but, from the teaching point of view, it's probably been one of the best."