The week began with writing our PDA stage 3 – analysing the techniques we’d used to evaluate our skills and refocus our plans. This included samples of questionnaires and observation forms filled out by our colleagues (who were observing each other in every lesson). With another week came another assignment – I decided to get the second skills assignment out of the way so I could choose a comfortable area for my final assessment.
I selected formal writing. By this point we were running on grit and caffeine alone – probably paying the school’s’ annual rent in espresso sales. But we were all starting to see light at the end of the tunnel.
I found the research easier this time round, after my epiphany on teaching a skill rather than practicing it, things made more sense. My lesson didn’t go so smoothly – the delivery was fine – but I vastly underestimated the knowledge of my group (who had probably written more formal letters than I had) and had spent twenty-five years sitting through tedious English writing ‘practice classes’. I basically got schooled – they knew all these rules and regulations – most of which were completely new to me. I was forced to wing it, but my research helped and I managed to backup my lesson with some (almost) plausible theory.
The essay was a merit and the lesson got a high-pass – basically because the skills were addressed well (even if the knowledge wasn’t spot-on). The rest of the week was spent on reflection writing and research for the fast approaching Experimental Practice essay.
Finally, some down-time, or so we thought. I went home at the weekend and had a well-needed night off down the pub. Inevitably by the time Monday morning rolled around I was shattered. That’s when we were hit with the weekly schedule that included a research and experimental teaching assignment (+ evaluation) for our PDA stage 4. This was genuinely one of the most fun parts of the course – we researched different methods of language teaching and chose something to replicate. I was feeling adventurous and decided to go for ‘Suggestopedia’ which has roots in hypnotism and yoga – pretty far from traditional language teaching. I got my learners to do some stretching then sit on bean-bags whilst I acted out a story over baroque music (It’s exactly as crazy as it sounds).
Surprisingly, it went really well. The learners loved it. I dunno if they actually learnt anything but damn it was a refreshing change from grammar and lexis – something well-needed before the final push.
Other colleagues tried out: Task-based learning, Dogme (teaching without materials or a plan) and using the phonemic chart. They were all really engaging and a massive eye-opener to the other kinds of methods out there.
To find-out more about Suggestopedia and its’ relative insanity, my lesson plan and a video is available here.
As soon as experimental practice was over we were onto researching our final assessments, I had chosen pronunciation.
As any of my fellow students would tell you, I’m a pretty chilled-out guy. But, as the weekend before Week 6 rolled-up I was getting more anxious than I’d care to admit (most nights I dreamt about pronunciation).
My research and essay was focused on intonation and how we use it – as I began writing I noticed a big problem:
Intonation is a massive area that covers virtually any speech.
You need words to practice intonation, and that meant my pronunciation specific-lesson needed to branch into both lexis and discourse.
As with each assignment before, I focused on putting pen to paper, it didn’t matter if it was writing complete shite – I could rewrite it. One of my strengths was getting started early and not procrastinating, something a lot of my group had trouble with.
The final assessment is externally assessed – a tutor comes in from an outside institution and gives an impartial observation. If you don’t pass this one you fail.(to be fair you can retake it – but you need to wait six months, find an examiner, and pay to resit it).
As you can guess, the pressure is enormous. Most people didn’t even bother coming into the school unless they had to teach – the fifteen minute travel time saved was crucial and could not be wasted! This was a week for stress-tears for many of the group, the mood was somber and tense, but the light of optimism was still just about shining through.
Fortunately (or unfortunately depending on how you look at it) I was the first-up, my lesson was ok – but the examiners give nothing away. I felt my aims were met – but I also felt they may have been too easy. Either way, it didn’t matter. I was done.
I taught on Tuesday evening, wrote my reflection straight after and transitioned directly from the school to the nearest pub and made short work of a lot of beer. The following headachy morning our PDA stage 5 – a self-evaluation of our entire learning experience – was handed in. I found myself with nothing to do other than support my fellow colleagues, run around finding pens and ponder on whether or not my lesson had passed or failed (you don’t find out for three months).
So here I find myself, with what seems like an eternity of free-time on Thursday of week 6, writing away furiously as I have been doing every night for the past month and a half – it just seems like a habit now more than anything.
Over the total of the course I submitted more or less fifteen thousand words – what I actually wrote was probably closer seventy thousand (basically a standard novel). Doing this on top of daily teaching practice, input sessions, living in a new city and trying to have some kind of social-life was a challenge, but it was definitely worth it. I’ve probably learnt more in the last six weeks than I have in several years of teaching. Despite the stress and difficulties it’s been a great experience. I’m still waiting for the results (having already passed module 1 & 3), but honestly, right now I feel like I’ve learnt so much that having a piece of paper to say I did seems kind of petty and meaningless (although I do still want it).
If you are thinking about doing the Delta then I would recommend it. There are good and bad aspects but if you are intending to be a career teacher, manager or trainer, then this is a great investment. Just make sure you are prepared mentally and physically for a hell-of-a-lot of work and even more writing. Finally, a big thanks to all the tutors from the Cambridge summer 2017 course and my fellow students.