It was during my first year teaching English in an academy in Madrid when I first heard about the Cambridge Diploma in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (in other words, the DELTA course). I was fresh off getting my CELTA teacher certification, which is the initial course you need to take to teach English abroad. Before I’d even considered the DELTA course, I had already felt like the CELTA course had been tough. The DELTA sounded even tougher.
My fellow teaching colleagues spoke of the late nights, stress, and overwhelm that they endured during the course. Some complained about the heavy workload and pressure of lesson observations. Others bemoaned the fact that their social life had gone out of the window. Some even spoke about losing their hair due to the high stress of it all!
DELTA Surprises in Store
Needless to say, as a new English teacher, these descriptions did not seem very appealing to me. “You won’t catch me doing that DELTA course”, I used to think to myself. “Not a chance!” So it came as a surprise to me, when five years into my teaching career, I suddenly felt that doing the DELTA course was the next step I needed to take. By that time I already had a lot of teaching experience under my belt and it felt like the moment to throw myself into a new challenge. The idea of studying again and furthering my skills appealed to me. So, I did the very thing I never thought I would and enrolled in the course.
However, far from being a nightmare experience, I actually enjoyed it! For me, those nine months, whilst being challenging and difficult at times, turned out to be very fulfilling. Even my boss noticed how much of a breeze it had been for me, commenting one day that “out of all the years that you have worked here, this DELTA year hasn’t been your most stressful”. And he was right! Not only that, but I graduated from the course with a Merit, something that isn’t so easy to achieve.
Tips for Success
So what was my secret to getting through the DELTA and thriving rather than barely surviving? Read on to find out!
Accept That You Won’t Have Much of a Social Life This Year
The DELTA is a lot of work packed into a short space of time. The idea that you can maintain a busy social life at the same time is a delusion. During my DELTA year, I noticed that those who suffered the most during the course were those who resisted this inevitable reality and thought that they could work and play in equal amounts. The truth is, you can’t, as they soon found out when they were stressed, unhappy, and not getting the results they wanted.
Instead, it is better to follow the lead of those who accepted their unsociable fate and made their DELTA studies a priority. In my experience, they were calmer, more centred, and able to take it all in their stride. Their lack of inner resistance allowed them to suffer less and waste less energy complaining. Therefore they were more productive, got work done faster, and went out for drinks more. So it pays to accept the situation as it is — you may be able to go to that party after all!
Make Time to Look After Yourself
Whilst it is true that you need to prioritise your studies, it is also vital that you schedule time for self-care. I have seen so many people work so hard that they burn themselves out. They end up doing worse than they would have done if they had just taken an hour out to walk in the park, meditate, or do something creative.
When I was doing my DELTA, my yoga class was non-negotiable, as was my morning meditation practice, regardless of how much work I had. When people asked me how I got through my DELTA so well, my response was always the same: yoga and mediation!
Whilst it is true that these things might not be for everyone, I think it is absolutely vital to engage in something every day that feeds you on the inside and keeps your inner tank filled up. That way you can get through your DELTA without the same spiritual exhaustion that so many burn out from, and, instead, get through it with a sense of wellbeing rather than stress.
This also goes for making sure you are feeding yourself adequately! Pot noodles and a diet of pasta and pesto will not support your energy levels sufficiently. Take the time to cook good meals for yourself and you will feel the benefit.
Be Authentic in Your Lesson Observations
For most teachers, the most stressful part of the DELTA is the lesson observations. No one likes feeling like they are being watched at the best of times, let alone when the person watching you is scribbling down notes every few minutes. My advice to you is this: just be yourself. Don’t try to be something that you are not or put on a show. After all, how can you focus on delivering a good lesson, if you are trying to keep up an act?
By all means, prepare thoroughly for your observations. You should do run-throughs with other classes and even rehearse the parts you feel most nervous about. However, on the day itself, just relax, be yourself, and try to enjoy it. The students and the examiner will notice your authenticity, which will make everyone enjoy it more, including you. So ditch the preconceived ideas of how a teacher should be and just be who you are. It will definitely pay off.
Don’t Compare Yourself to Others
Whilst sharing resources is common practice in English teaching, during your DELTA year, make sure that you don’t fall into the trap of comparing yourself to others. Any kind of competition between you and your fellow classmates is only going to cause you to put more pressure on yourself, leading to more stress and anxiety.
Constant comparison will also have an adverse effect on your confidence levels, leading to insecurity and self-doubt. This in turn will cause you to be less self-assured, which could affect your performance in the classroom. Instead, just focus on doing your best, and don’t waste your time worrying about how well others are doing. Put your all into your studies and you can be satisfied with the result, come what may. Your best really is enough and it is important to remember that.
Whilst you obviously need to put your all into your DELTA studies if you really want to see good results, it’s also important to keep perspective. This is not a life or death situation (although it might seem like it at times). Yes, you paid a lot of money, so you naturally want to do well. However, to kill yourself with stress and worry is simply not worth it. Keep perspective of what is important: learning, growing, improving your professional skills, and the sense of achievement you will feel once you have finished.
The grades and results won’t matter much in the end anyway, so why get so caught up in the details? Just focus on getting through the course and coming out the other side feeling satisfied and proud of what you have achieved.
Getting through the DELTA course is an achievement in itself. It requires courage to take on such a big challenge and I commend those who dare to do so. If you follow the advice in this article, I am confident that getting through the DELTA can be an enriching experience for you, just as it was for me. It is just a question of how you handle yourself, your time, and your priorities. Good luck!