Doing the Delta is a massive commitment – financially (if you pay to do the course somewhere and stop work in order to do it), mentally (you can look forward to brain over-load for the duration) and emotionally (’emotional roller-coaster’ may take on new layers of meaning!). I think what you do during both the preparation time beforehand and the readjustment time afterwards (where I am now…) is, in some ways, equally as important as what you do during the course itself. Why? Because how you prepare for the course will deeply affect how successful you are during the course and once the course finishes, you are left with a lot of new learning to marshall and come to terms with.
Here are a few general tips for all three stages, based on what I’ve learnt from my own experience and from talking to others who have completed the Delta – both at the same university as me and beyond – which will hopefully help you to get as much as possible out of doing the course. If you think I’ve missed something crucial, or even less crucial but nevertheless should still be there, post a comment on this post and I’ll add it on! 🙂
Before the Delta:
- Read Sandy Millin’s blog post Preparing for the Delta: She knows what she is talking about! 🙂 This post contains a lot of useful information and links.
- Make sure you really want to do the Delta: It’s all-consuming and not something to take on just for the hell of it. If you are 100% sure you want to do it, make sure the timing is right: are you able to commit the time, money and non-stop effort required at this point in your life?
- Read blog posts aimed at people who are doing the Delta, such as those which have been curated by Sandy in her blog post Useful links for Delta : This will give you some idea of what to expect and therefore help you to decide if it’s really what you want.
- Make sure you choose the right place and the right mode of delivery to suit you and your needs. Sandy has started a Delta Conversations series, to which a number of people have contributed accounts of their Delta experiences so far. If you are unsure of where/how to do it, have a read of this and take time to make the right decision. I can, of course, highly recommend the course I did at Leeds Met.
- One I will re-emphasise is: Read. Read. Read, read, read…oh and read. Preparing for the Delta contains some recommendations, as does my Annotated List of Resources I found useful in preparing for and doing the Delta It really does make a difference. One I will add is: Do the activities in About Language (the above blog posts for further information about this book) – even if you’re pretty good with terminology and how language works, this will make sure everything is fresh before you embark on the course, which will save you time in the long run (through knowing things rather than having to look them up and remind yourself of them)
- Decide on a note-taking system and investigate different ways of curating information – you will probably acquire a wealth of notes, handouts, electronic handouts, journal articles, links etc during the course and it helps if you keep things organised (less time spent rootling around either your computer or your bedroom for the crucial bit of information you know is there somewhere).
- For storing electronic stuff, I would recommend using Evernote (and wish I had known about it before the Delta – I only started using it during my M.A. semester!) for anything electronic. Why?
- Because you can put anything into it (pdf’s, various document types etc) and it has a handy web-clipper and desktop clipper too. The web-clipper can save articles, pdfs, links, webpages etc and the desktop clipper works a bit like Jing, in that you can take screen casts and they save to Evernote too.
- Because you can also tag everything, which makes finding information a LOT easier.
- Because if you have a tablet and can write (legibly/not like a two-year-old!) on it with a stylus, there is an app called Penultimate, which talks to Evernote. So, the notes you write in Penultimate will be saved to Evernote as well, and you can then search them using the Evernote search function. Pretty handy!
- Remember that you are going to be a student again and brush up on your study skills! This would be a good point to learn all about the formatting tools that exist in Word – these will be timesavers when you are producing your course work. (See Preparing for the Delta no. 3 for help with this!)
During the Delta
- Be a stickler for deadlines and be organised: if you get behind, chances are you won’t ever quite catch up again until the course finishes! (From experience, even if you are organised and meet every deadline, you only just about keep on top of things, at least most of the time…)
- Make sure you take breaks and have a means of making yourself switch off. (For me, yoga was a life-saver.)
- Exercise regularly – your brain needs all the oxygen it can get! (I found swimming and running good) Even a half hour break to exercise is time well-spent. And you will probably work more effectively when you come back to it – so you can justify it!
- Make friends with your course mates (sounds obvious but still!) – they know exactly what you are going through, so you can jolly each other along. (I imagine if you are doing a distance option, then the equivalent would be ‘make use of the message boards’ or something!) That way, you can have some fun too. And not feel isolated.
- Tell your tutors when you are struggling or panicking and considering dropping out – don’t be embarrassed to, they’ve seen it all before (!) and will be able to help you. And hopefully they will all be as lovely as the Leeds Met tutors. 🙂
- Take every opportunity to observe other teachers teach and be observed teaching by colleagues (using tailored observation forms for both). This was built into our course, because of the way the teaching practice element worked, but I imagine if you are doing module 2 where you work, while you work, this won’t be quite as easy. It is worth making the effort to make it happen, if it’s possible, because it is very valuable and really helps with the PDA element of the module.
- Don’t feel bad if you find it extraordinarily hard – it is. Extraordinarily hard, that is. It’s quite normal to rant, rave, cry etc – the trick is to find people you are able to do that with! (Hence: “Make friends with your course mates” 😉 ) It doesn’t make you inadequate or incapable or anything else – it just means you are human!
- Keep in mind why you wanted to do the course in the first place: As the course wears on, maintaining motivation to keep going will become key.
- Reward yourself when you submit assignments on time, when you get a good grade etc etc. (You can think of various such reasons, I’m sure!) E.g. treat yourself to a long hot bath and a night off or take a day off at the weekend to see some friends. This will help you not to burn out.
- Eat healthily – try and make sure you take time to prepare and eat healthy meals as much of the time as possible. (It’s tempting to decide you haven’t got time and just munch a bowl of cereal instead of having dinner – I did it a few times: A few times is ok, but don’t let it become a habit.) You need to keep your strength up and not open yourself up to illness. Especially if your course runs over winter in a cold country…
After the Delta (Cos there is life after Delta, believe it or not! 😉 )
- (Perhaps, depending on your personality type) be prepared for some serious confidence issues when you emerge out of the other end of the Delta tunnel: Having spent the length of your course having your teaching completely deconstructed, poked and prodded, analysed and reformulated, you will be hyper-sensitive to everything you do in the classroom. Don’t beat yourself up. Give it time for things to settle. (And I have it on good authority that it really does take time for everything to settle – which is reassuring!!) Everything will be ok…
- Have a holiday (if you can!) – you’ve earnt it!
- Blog about your experience of doing the Delta and what you’ve learnt – the more people do that, the more complete a picture of what doing the Delta means will be built up. This is helpful for prospective Delta candidates as well as current Delta candidates. It could also helpful for you – blogging about what you’ve learnt means you re-process it and maybe get more out of it as you do so.
- Don’t jump straight into another course (unless you happen to be doing the Delta/M.A. ELT at Leeds Met, in which case you will jump straight into the M.A. semester of the course – via a few weeks off at Christmas!! But I’m counting it as one course, and won’t be jumping into anything else for a while!) – give yourself plenty of time to let your teaching settle and experiment with what you’ve learnt. You learn so much on the Delta, and, particularly if you do Module 2 intensively, there isn’t time to experiment with and really get to grips with all of it. Studying is awesome, I love it, but you really do need time in between courses, I think, to integrate what you learn into your teaching, so that you can fully benefit from the courses you do.
- Think about what you want to do with your Delta: maybe you aren’t interested in making any changes and will just continue with/return to your previous job. But otherwise, the Delta opens up lots of doors. Have a good look at what is out there, what new things you might be able to do with it, and think about what you really want to do and how to go about reaching that goal. Then go for it!
- Don’t get complacent: keep learning – read, experiment, reflect, evaluate. Attend conferences. If you haven’t already done so, think about presenting something. Use Twitter. Blog. In a nutshell, keep up to date and keep seeking out new opportunities for development. The world won’t stop turning just because you now have your Delta!
- Give yourself a pat on the back and a nice big glass of red wine/ <insert your tipple of choice here> – you survived! 🙂