Showing posts with label istanbul. Show all posts
Showing posts with label istanbul. Show all posts

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Such Great Heights, or Laments of a Serious English Teacher

Remember that old gem from The Postal Service?

They will see us waving from such great heights
"Come down now," they'll say
But everything looks perfect from far away...

Imagine that song played on a million tiny violins, because I don't expect sympathy. I just want to be straight about how things that seem so feasible can be so not feasible, and how hard it is to claw your way to good professional development in this field.

I have another post in the wings on my final thoughts on Distance Delta Module One, but that's not what I feel like writing about after my long hiatus (sorry - there was the exam, then the holidays, now getting ready to travel for Chinese New Year. Although our planned trip to Myanmar is not expensive, it is time-consuming to plan as it's not as 'easy' a destination).

Until about five minutes ago, we'd been planning to return to Istanbul - the Other City of My Heart - in June for the six-week Delta Module Two, plus a seventh week to visit the city (you don't get any time off for sightseeing on the course) and see our dear friend Emily, who was planning to make it so she'd be in town.

Then I did the budget for our trip and realized - this is probably not going to work. We made our nine-week trip to Turkey and the USA work two years ago and I'm not sure by what magic or sorcery that happened (and it almost didn't seeing as Paypal decided to hold our savings hostage for two weeks right in the middle of it - I was sending it from my account to Brendan's as my ATM card stopped working and they kept freezing the transaction because activity in Turkey is automatically "suspicious" - and I'll never forgive them for that. We only got to eat food and take the subway for those weeks because we have a great, supportive family).

So, seeing as we made it work two years ago, I figured we could make it work this time around too. Everything looks perfect from far away...

Between rent here (yes, we've considered subletting or getting a temporary roommate in the guest room, but we can't bank on that working out for us), rent in Istanbul, bills here (at least they'd be lower if we weren't around), student loans, course tuition, a 'cushion' fund for when we get back that does not impact my emergency fund (with a major family illness, I need to always have the cash on hand to fly home literally at a moment's notice), etc. etc. it comes to - and I kid you not - about $15,000 US total, about $7500 each. It's just too much to come up with between February (when we'll be able to start a fund for this trip) and June (when the course starts). I don't even feel bad admitting that it ain't gonna happen - I don't know anyone our age, anywhere, who can come up with $7500 that they didn't have before - because I won't dip into other funds, that's not safe - in four months.

Who knew CPD (continuing professional development) could cost so damn much?

There are ways to cut down the cost a little - we could rent out that guest room for awhile. We could couchsurf or cut our accommodation budget (but what if that doesn't work out?). We could ask someone to watch our cat for free as a favor (we usually pay). We could hack our spending budget for Istanbul to the bone and eat a lot of cheap bread, olives and ayvalik tost. If I cut the budget to "just enough to scrape by and there better not be any problems" I can get it down to about $6500 per person...still more than we or anyone we know who is our age can sock away in four months. We could spend very little over the next few months - no cafes, no nice beer, no fancy cooking, (I was really getting into the fancy cooking, but I can give that up for awhile) no dye jobs - everyone can just see the gray hairs, it's cool - and still not be able to put that away.

Anyway. I am sure a lot of tiny violins are playing for me now. Poor baby can't afford six weeks in Istanbul and to have her really nice three-bedroom apartment and she's going to Myanmar in three weeks, boo hoo. Of course we're quite lucky and privileged to have what we have. Of course I take none of it for granted. Of course I need to put on my big girl pants and be realistic about what we can and can't afford. And in the grand scheme of things, not being able to do this course in Istanbul this year is hardly something that will send Oxfam running to help.

I realize all of these things, but it is disappointing to know that a simple teaching diploma - not really all that much to ask - is something that may have to wait yet another year because we're on our own as far as CPD is concerned. We can always do Module Three in the meantime, if we're accepted on the course without having done Module Two, but it's disappointing to not be able to see Emily and return to a city I love so much, as we'd been planning for months (but not saving for months, because I took a part-time schedule to get Module One done. Sensible academically, nonsense financially). So far we've been the ones to make it work. To have enough cash, to get the nice apartment, to take the cool trips, to just make it work (They will see us waving from such great heights...). It's disappointing to know that this time, it's probably not going to work, and over something that's actually important like CPD. ("Come down now", they'll say...)

My only hope is that I can jiggle the numbers around to make it work, or maybe Brendan could sell his sperm (his genes have got to be more desirable than mine, and it's easier to beat off in a cup than harvest eggs...imagine cute little dorky kids with big green eyes reading books and wearing glasses all over Taipei), or I could take up pole dancing or something (people would pay me not to do it! WIN-WIN), or we could get accepted onto Module Three in Istanbul (if they run a face-to-face course there) and go for just two weeks. Or we could just put it off for a year, do Module Three online in Taiwan, go see Emily in Istanbul for a week (what is it about that city?) and then visit the USA. We have it's not like I expect people to be Kickstarting me or anything like that.

I'll end with this - all the after-school-special morality plays on not insisting on what you can't afford, on living within your means (which means budgeting within your means), on not chasing shiny baubles that will plunge you into financial disarray - hey, maybe those previous trips worked because we were willing to risk a little financial disarray, but now we're not! - they always seemed to have at their core something materialistic or even shallow. A new car, the latest video game system, an iPad for everyone including the cat, some expensive jewelry, a house that the protagonist couldn't quite afford. The sort of things my values have already taught me to not want (OK, we have an iPad. But just one). Nobody in one of those "how to be a grown-ass adult" specials ever had to face the idea that what they couldn't afford was education! Education - another thing my values have taught me to cherish!

Oh well. I'm going to go mope in bed now - it's 1:30am after all - and come up with a solution tomorrow. There's always a solution.

They will see us waving from such great heights
"Come down now," they'll say
But everything looks perfect from far away
"Come down now," but we'll stay.

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.


1.) for pickup at 7-11. Most titles take time to arrive, they're not immediately in stock.


Anyway, that's all I've got for now. Check back in later when I've actually started the course!

Monday, October 10, 2011

The Various Kinds of Me

So our course is finally (finally!) done and I'll have more time for blogging from now on. I have a lot to say about Turkey but I might wait a few days until we're in Maine and have some time to relax to write up my thoughts on our time there. I still feel more attached to Taipei, but a month in Istanbul with an honest-to-goodness apartment, social life (everyone on our course got along extremely well - the chemistry was just phenomenal and we went out for lunches and every weekend), routine, dinners at home and neighbors who recognized us...well, that made me feel like a part of me has experienced Istanbul expat life, too.

I really adored it - Istanbul is an awesome city. Gorgeous and varied architecture, from Byzantine churches to grand mosques to 18th and 19th century European grandeur to touches of Oriental Express Art Nouveau to pre-war rowhouses to modern concoctions. Phenomenal food is everywhere, as well as fantastic shopping. Hills which are hell to climb but afford dazzling views. Friendly people, lots of street cats that are clean and well-fed (but not owned by anybody). All that is topped off with a nightlife that puts both DC and Taipei to shame - it's on par with New York but in some ways better - there is an entire neighborhood (Beyoglu around Istiklal Caddesi) on the Golden Horn that goes nuclear at sundown, with seemingly infinite choices for bars, dancing, cafes and food. Not even New York has something like that (although some places light up more than others). Let's just say that we partook generously of it - which is a lot more fun when there are ten of you and everyone needs to blow off some stress. I would totally stay - even live - in Istanbul again.

Now we're "home" - or at least on our way. Yesterday afternoon we landed at JFK and met my parents, spending the night before heading back to the airport (where we are now) to visit B's parents in Maine.

Being home, even for just an overnight - we return to my parents' next week - has made me think about who I am in Taipei, who I was in Istanbul and who I am in the USA. The Jenna who ate her mom's eggs, bacon and blueberry muffins this morning and helped putter around the kitchen she knows so well, who cuddled the two cats and took a lovely post-flight bath in the huge upstairs bathtub is basically an adult - and much more mature - version of the Jenna who last lived in that house in high school. The Jenna who lives in Taipei sometimes feels like a woman who experienced entirely different formative years than she did. You wouldn't have expected that Jenna to have grown up in a small town, and she's really nothing like the dorktacular girl that went to high school in that same town.

The first Jenna is the one who was always a little eccentric but is ticking all the right boxes as she grows older. It's the one who had a big, local, family wedding to a beloved-by-parents guy. It's the one who knows how to build a hearth fire and which apples are the best to pick, who knows a lot about LL Bean winter gear and is no stranger to chasing deer off the lawn. It's the one that would have probably made a really good school teacher or office worker and wouldn't have traveled that much outside Western Europe, and would probably own a house and car now.

The second one is more than a little eccentric without actually being insane. She's the one who had a big but non-traditional wedding in a crazy fuchsia dress to an awesome, adventuresome guy who also travels the world. It's the one who knows her way around an urban jungle and can tell you where to find the best siphon coffee bar, who knows how to bargain in a foreign bazaar and is no stranger to the realities of city life or how things (generally) work in foreign countries. It's the one who will never work in a public school (teachers deserve more support and higher salaries than what they earn in that system - and I deserve better, as well) and couldn't stand office life. It's the one who regularly gives her parents heart palpitations with her travel choices...and may never own a house or car (although an urban or semi-urban townhouse someday is not out of the question).

The first one is familiar with the way the light hits the Hudson River in the morning and lives near New York City without actually visiting it often. The second can tell you what it smells like as you bike along the trail from Jingmei to Zheng-da and stops in New York whenever she can. The first speaks French. The second forgot most of her French and speaks Chinese.

It's hard to explain, and harder still to draw a clear line, but it's there - Taipei Jenna isn't quite the same as Hometown Jenna. Neither were the same as DC Jenna - that one dated a few inappropriate guys, had a lot of friends but not a raging social life, worked in a cubicle and had a lot of growing up to do, and went out on the weekends to nightspots she didn't even like all that much. And of course there was Guizhou Jenna and India Jenna, and more recently, Istanbul Jenna.

They're all different women, and that's not just the result of growth and the passing of time. Their different facets come out not just as I grow, but as I live in different places. When I come home, the old me comes out a little more (ever heard the old story about how when you're around your parents, you revert to a lot of your childhood behaviors and ways of dealing with them despite the fact that you're all adults?), and the me who lives in Taipei recedes a bit.

Everyone is influenced by where they are and the places where they live or visit - not even necessarily for a long time. A week in Bangladesh could very well blow the mind of a lot of people I know (it certainly blew mine). I do think that expat life magnifies and deepens that. When you live in another country, especially one with a wildly different set of cultural norms, you absorb more of that place and change as a result. I have felt for years that my study abroad time in India is what knocked the Hometown Jenna's pinball down a wildly different course. She's the reason why Guizhou Jenna and Taipei Jenna got the chance to exist. Taipei Jenna made Istanbul Jenna possible. This is hardly a Nobel-worthy insight, but it's one I'm writing about now because my visit home made me more aware of it.

I quite liked Istanbul Jenna, though. She was a hard worker with a lot of friends who knew how to party. I hope she sticks around for a bit in Taipei!

Monday, September 26, 2011

Some more photos from Istanbul

I do apologize for not having time to write a real blog entry. I'm on the intensive CELTA course right now and everyone who's taken it knows that you just do. not. have. time. to do ANYTHING else while on that course. 

So, here are a few good photos from Istanbul, before we signed our life away!

Including photos from the Grand Bazaar, the Spice Bazaar, the Hagia Sophia, the Chora Church, Galata Tower, several historic mosques and more...