Saturday, August 17, 2013
Not-Really Doing The Delta in Taiwan: Preparation for Module One
I'm posting this - and more blog posts to come - because there isn't much talk of doing the Delta or having a Delta credential among teachers in Taiwan: this includes teachers who are more serious about actually teaching and aren't just kids looking to travel or older dudes who never really thought about doing anything else, or doing what they do now better (I know, I said dudes, not people. But I've never met a long-term female English teacher in Taiwan - or anywhere else for that matter - who didn't at some point seek out training and professional development in order to pursue it as a proper career. There seems to be a time limit on women willing to do this job without improving their skills and 'getting serious'. But, sorry to say, I've met plenty of men who are in exactly that rut).
So what is it like to be based in Taiwan as one works their way through the Delta modules? I aim to find out (also, I'll end up with a Delta) and I figure I may as well blog about it.
This is a "Not-Really" series because we're not really doing the Cambridge Delta course in Taiwan, we're doing Module One online, Module Two - well who knows, really, but if we can't get a Local Tutor here we're going to have to go abroad for it - and Module Three will almost certainly be online (but who knows).
Another option we could have taken but didn't is a 12-week intensive course (I think shorter options are available, though) - they're offered in various centers around the world. We looked into doing it at International House Bangkok but the up-front cost for both of us at that time was just not feasible (and we weren't really excited about repeating our four-week CELTA experience over even more weeks). Why Bangkok? Cheapest to live in of all the nearby cities, and the program director was very responsive. I got a good vibe. If we have to go abroad for Modules 2 or 3, we'll probably put them as our top choice.
These are, at the moment, the only option available for those who want to do this, and I do hope in the future that the number of people who do will increase.
Module One hasn't started yet, but we're already pre-reading for it, because we figured that'd be a good idea. So, some preliminary thoughts:
Why would you want to do the Delta from Taiwan, if you want to work in Taiwan?
The CELTA and Delta are not officially recognized in Taiwan, because the government is stupid that way. Sorry, it's the honest truth. After doing the CELTA, I truly believe that it's the best initial ELT qualification out there, it produces teachers with a good foundation in basic skills for the job, a foundation that further training and support can build on. If the government of Taiwan can't be bothered to recognize that, they're stupid.
They're also paid for (maybe not literally, but close enough). They're not interested in having quality English teachers, they're interested in keeping wages low at buxibans, because the bosses have more influence than the foreign teachers. One way to keep wages low is to make it easy for the workforce to be unqualified - it's not like most people understand on a deeper, more complex level what a professional, talented, qualified teacher actually does. Doesn't take too much thought to put it all together: they don't want a qualified foreign teacher workforce, because then those foreigners might demand better pay, and the laobans wouldn't want that (the laobans don't seem to care much about good teaching - - generally speaking, they are not teachers, although some believe they are).
But there are other reasons to do the Delta, even if your home base now and for the foreseeable future is Taiwan. Here are mine:
1.) It will make you a better (real) teacher. The CELTA is an initial qualification. It doesn't make a full-on professional teacher. It's a foundation. The Delta, I daresay, will make you an actual professional who knows what they are doing. Besides being more impressive in interviews and demos, if you're going to be an English teacher for realsies, wouldn't you want to be the best one you can be? No matter where you live? Isn't self-improvement a good thing? I was impressed enough with the CELTA that I do believe a Delta is a good move in terms of professional development.
2.) It's affordable. It's cheaper than a Master's, and will count as credit towards that Master's. It's not dirt cheap, but that's OK. I felt that what I got from the CELTA in a highly professional center (ITI Istanbul) was well worth the tuition. I believe the same will be true for Delta. I trust the program. If you want to be an English teacher, a real, qualified one, it's a wise financial bet.
3.) It's practical. I will eventually get a Master's degree. I can't imagine not doing that. But Master's degrees in Education, Applied Linguistics and TEFL/TESOL tend to be theoretical, not practical. The Delta is a practical, in-service qualification and I value that over academic learning in this particular instance. Eventually I want both, but I place more value on the practical qualification first.
4.) It will prepare you for further education. Imagine if you were plonked down in a Master's program with a few years' experience and an initial qualification, and everyone around you seemed to know better than you what they were doing. I could imagine myself there, and I wouldn't welcome such a scenario (would anyone?). After the Delta I'll feel poised and learn-ed enough to enter a Master's program - a reputable one - with confidence. It also takes about as long as one semester of a Master's degree, meaning that if you choose the right university it'll count for a heck of a lot.
5.) It may not be recognized by the government, but foreign prospective bosses LOVE it. If your prospective boss is Taiwanese, they likely won't know a Delta from their butthole (well, that's a bit mean - some will. I'm really just drawing on my own experience at my last job. But in general it's true). This may or may not be their fault (it's their fault if they're one of those this-is-business-I-don't-care-if-you-can-actually-teach bosses, but not their fault if they are qualified teachers who, by dint of being from and educated in Asia, simply aren't familiar with it). But if your prospective boss is a foreigner - especially if (s)he's British - it won't matter what the government recognizes. You'll be gold.
6.) It's a good credential to have if you ever have to leave Taiwan but still want to teach. It's recognized elsewhere, and having it means you'll always be at the head of the pack when it comes to finding a job.
7.) It may someday be recognized in Taiwan. Don't get your hopes up, but there are people with a strong interest in seeing this happen. Maybe. Someday. One can dream.
8.) It can be done online. I know Taiwan doesn't generally recognize online Master's degrees, but I do hope that someday it will be different when it comes to recognizing a comprehensive Delta. After all, if you're in Taiwan there aren't many other options. You could go abroad for each module, but that costs a fortune.
Why are you pre-reading for this thing? Can't you just take it and read the books as they come up in the course?
Plenty of people have already blogged about why pre-reading is a good idea. I know you'll hate me for this, but I'm going to give you another list of my own reasons:
1.) Because there is a lot of terminology, and the sooner you are exposed to it, the better. It may seem silly to you now, but it counts.
2.) Because the course references scads of books, and if you haven't read any of them, you'll have to work your ass off. If you have read a few, life won't be so horrible for you.
3.) It gets you familiar with the sort of things you'll have to know to take the test (which is for-realz difficult, it's not a fluff course, nor is it a fluff exam).
4.) Because the rubrics are extremely strict, and you'll want to know that and understand how as early as possible so you can prepare appropriately
5.) Because if you're in Taiwan you probably had to order the books online, so you may as well crack 'em open. After all, this is not a course to take if you're not serious about teaching.
6.) Because I want to not just be good, I want to be great, fantastic amazing, whatever, and if I want to not only pass this test but shake it 'till I break it, I'll need to pre-read.
7.) Because although this is a practical qualification, there is an academic component. The sooner you get yourself re-adjusted to academia, the better. Academics generally don't go out of their way to write things in clear, concise, accessible ways.
8.) Because you probably won't have time to read every book cover to cover, but if you eventually go on to get a Master's, having done so will really help. A lot. A lotsy-lot.
And most importantly (so importantly that I'm putting it in hot pink):
7.) The Delta is aimed at people who have an initial qualification (preferably CELTA) and a few years' experience. The problem here is that they seem to assume that that experience came with things like "further training" and "support" and "a knowledgeable, qualified school staff". So they expect you to really know more than you did when you took the CELTA. Which you do, because you have more experience, but if you didn't get any further training or support, you won't know much more. So...if you're like me (zero training post-CELTA and the level of "qualification" of the office staff at my former company would be laughable if it weren't so sad), you'll need to pre-read just to feel like you can hang with the cool, experienced kids. You'll need to be Mike Wazowski in Monsters University, because you're not James P. Sullivan.
The Delta website recommends two years' post-CELTA experience. Other bloggers say it could easily, perhaps should be, more. But with no support or ongoing training, more time won't make me a better teacher. I've reflected as much as I can reflect. I work to improve, but feel a bit rudderless. With that kind of obstacle to overcome, knowing that even if I had more "experience" it wouldn't matter much, I have to pre-read.
OK, so what should I pre-read?
1.) Beyond The Sentence - this is discourse analysis. a fairly easy book to pre-read, you can plow through it without needing a course tutor to walk you through it. Also, totally fascinating and I don't mean that sarcastically. This is an especially good book for terminology - keep a notebook of new terms you come across. Stuff like deixis, parataxis, anaphoric reference, adjacency pairs etc.. If it sounds fancy and Greek, write it down like the good little nerd you are. These are very likely to be on the exam, and the sooner you are exposed to them, the better.
2.) Linguistics for Non-Linguists - I will be a linguist someday (DAMMIT!) but for now, I am not. I have not read this yet but Brendan either has or is currently in the midst of it, and says it's easy enough to read, accessible and interesting. I trust his judgment, so I give it a thumbs-up.
3.) About Language - I haven't read this but it comes highly recommended from several trusted sources, many of whom say "if you read one book before the course, make it this one".
4.) If you didn't read it for CELTA, read it now: The Practice of English Language Teaching. I am a very big fan of this book. Our CELTA course was basically a vehicle for inserting the knowledge, with practical use, from this book into our brains Matrix-style, and I ain't complainin'.
5.) Delta Module One Exam Reports - read, read, read, and note the correct answers and why the incorrect ones are so. Read more than one (just Google, they'll come up).
6.) Anything else that strikes your fancy on the reading list (varies by center).
7.) Blog posts like this one, this one, this one, this one, this one, this one and this one.
8.) Get yourself some Quizlets
There may be more - if so, I'll come in and edit this post.
WHERE CAN I BUY ALL THAT CRAP IN TAIWAN? ESLITE IS USELESS. JEEEEZUS.
1.) books.com.tw for pickup at 7-11. Most titles take time to arrive, they're not immediately in stock.
2.) http://www.bookdepository.co.uk - FREE DELIVERY WORLDWIDE!
Anyway, that's all I've got for now. Check back in later when I've actually started the course!