How’s this for being engrossed in a book?
I got on the train at 8.30 this morning for an hour-long journey to Strasbourg and started reading. I looked up two hours later, and I was back in the same place. I’m not as daft that I stayed on the train after it had arrived at my destination; no, no, nothing like that, I just went to the wrong country on the wrong train. And back.
I’m in Strasbourg to do a Delta Module 2. It sounds like a training programme to learn to man a spaceship; it’s actually the practical and observed teaching element of a language teaching qualification. It’s tough.
The train story isn’t all that unusual for me. I get lost more days than I don’t. But it is an eensy weensy bit embarrassing because the engrossing book I was reading was a……..grammar book.
The Delta is as fascinating and enlightening as it is stressful and painful. The pain and stress come as a result of being dragged, kicking and screaming (and in my case crying), through the process of having to analyse exactly what you are doing before and during every moment of a lesson teaching a non-native speaker English. The fascination and enlightenment come from developing a deeper understanding of how language works and how cool (and fundamentally important) language really is.
The kicking and screaming and (optionally) crying is potentially more painful because it’s very public. There is an assessor at the back of the room writing pages and pages, or screens and screens, of notes – who at this stage could talk me into wearing a chicken costume during a lesson so hallowed is he amongst his students – and also in my case three other teachers with a combined practical teaching experience of about 50 years. But – and this is the best part – it’s only potentially painful because the peer support is amazing. There are 7 of us on the course in total, and I’m close to donating a kidney to any one of them.
That is the beauty of the Delta. It’s very much a team thing. We each had our own strengths (and weaknesses) to bring to the table. For now my weaknesses flash like a beacon, but that too is part of the journey: challenging and questioning our language learning beliefs and how we put those – or don’t actually put those – beliefs into practice.
From my experience, teachers rarely have the time or opportunity to observe their peers teaching or to have someone observe them. It’s great.
The course has a basic structure which suits me very well. There are a number of ways it can be configured in practice. The second module which consists of 27 days of intensive input, preparation and (optionally) crying is broken down into 3 blocks of 9 days. I’m on day eight of the first block. On a train far from where I should be, clutching a language book. It’s going to be quite a journey.