I remember sleep. It was this thing I did every night almost without fail. I loved it so much that sometimes I’d do it for hours at a time, at night, or (and keep this one under your hat) during the day too. 7 or 8 hours of uninterrupted bliss. An escape from reality, full of vivid images and impossible moments. Sadly, it seems that sleep is now a thing of the past, at least for the next 5 weeks of so.
The intensive DELTA course at ILA Vietnam started a little over two weeks ago and since then those colourful dreams have been replaced by some of the world’s most boring nightmares. Where once fantastic adventures filled my unconscious mind, now only drab visions of incomplete assignments or teaching activities gone wrong remain. Well, they’re there when I actually manage to stay asleep. Much more common are the late night (and early morning) stresses over word counts, assignments, feedback and whatever else happened during the day the requires reflection upon.
Yes, the sad reality of life right now on this intensive course is that all I can think about, whether awake or asleep, whether I like it or not, is the course itself. The tutors warned us it would be this way, but I took their words of caution with a pinch of salt. “You’re just saying that to scare me” I thought, “it can’t be all consuming. They’ll be time for other things”. Sadly they weren’t wrong. The DELTA is my whole life and there isn’t much time at all for anything else. Every minute spent relaxing or ‘taking your mind off things’ comes with a free helping of guilt; if you aren’t revising your lesson plan or trying to work out if your phrasing of solutions in the background essay meet Cambridge’s (rather subjective) criteria for assessment, then you’re wasting time and setting yourself up for a fall at some point in the next week or so.
Yet, despite the lack of sleep, boring dreams and lack of a social life, I’m really enjoying the course. 8 weeks sounded like a long time before I started, but actually it’s flying by. And the progress I’ve made in such a short period is amazing to see. I came into the course having not seriously focused on teaching for almost 9 months and was concerned about how little reading I’d done from the suggested reading list, but none of that matters now we’re in full swing, and it hasn’t held me back in the slightest. I’ve found out about different methods, trialled some new techniques and gained a deeper understanding of what it means to teach skills in the classroom. Before the course I knew nothing of terms like interactive and non-interactive listening, or interactional vs transactional speaking, but even after two and a half weeks I feel confident that I could explain these to others and use them successfully in my own teaching. This is what I’d really hoped to gain from the course and thus far everything is exceeding my expectations.
There’s still a long way to go. I’ve only completed one of the four LSAs and have barely started on the professional development assignment, but I feel certain that, although the next 5 weeks will be full of sleepless nights and stressful days, I will enjoy them and will be a far better teacher than I was coming in to the course.
Coming up next will be some thoughts on the tutors, students, teaching practices and the first LSA but now it’s time to get up and start another long but fulfilling day on the all consuming intensive DELTA course.