The Trinity DipTESOL (Diploma in Teaching English as a Second or Other Language) is infamous in my line of business. There are other options if you want to progress beyond the post graduate certificate stage, but if you don’t want to end up in management or course design, the Dip is the go-to higher qualification for EFL teachers. The only problem is, it’s rock hard. I mean diamond tipped, tungsten carbide, Rammstein on full volume HARD.
My school is a centre for the Dip, so we get to see exactly what the candidates suffer, which makes it all the more unlikely that any of us would willingly put ourselves through it. Apart from pitying the candidates, in the past it was for me a positive experience – I got to spend some time with their supervisor Nick who is an interesting man and a good laugh, and then sometimes I got an hour off while the candidates used my class for one of their horrendously difficult teaching practices. But there was no way on earth I was ever going to sign up for the damn thing.
Then last December in a staff meeting our boss announced that she would pay for us to do the course and give us a significant pay rise if we passed it. Martin, the other most likely candidate among the teaching staff, looked across the room at me and said “looks like we gotta do it”. I doubt I’ll ever forget that look, it changed the course of a year.
And so we did it. There were four of us at the beginning but two dropped out quite early on. Martin and I have battled on, supported by our supervisor Nick, the other Dip qualified teachers in school and each other. Every Sunday since January has been given over to studying; there is reading and a classroom task every week. My house is filthy, I haven’t been in the garden for a year, I had to give up my beloved Welsh evening classes, I can’t remember the last time I went for a long bike ride, my kids have nothing but fond memories of home cooked food. Martin and I have collaborated on some tasks and moaned together about them all. We’ve written three essays each, taken a three hour written exam and done five out of the six teaching practices.
Unbelievably, some good stuff has come out of all this. I know a lot more about my job than I did a year ago and am probably a better teacher. I really enjoyed the reading for the essays and some of the weekly tasks, and I have thoroughly enjoyed, positively revelled in, the company of my fellow traveller Martin and our very own Obi-Wan Kenobi, Nick Regan.
13 November 2014
City School of Languages staffroom
Both Nick and Martin were flattered that I had asked them to be part of my birthday celebrations. I pointed out that for the last year I had had more meaningful interactions with them than with anyone, including my husband and children. They looked a little alarmed at this, but had to admit I was right.
As usual, we relaxed and chatted happily – Martin and Nick both make me laugh out loud. I suppose it’s not surprising that we all have the same verbally based humour given our chosen profession, but what’s worth noting is how unthreatening that humour feels. I sometimes feel slightly uncomfortable with clever, witty people – the conversation can feel like a competition, but with Nick and Martin I feel totally relaxed.
I won’t miss studying for the Dip at all and am fervently hoping I can pass the last TP and the phonology exam first time so I don’t have to do it all again next year, but having regular interaction with these two lovely people has been a joy and I am already sad for the loss of it.
The food for this lunch was largely irrelevant. We might have wanted to go out and have a leisurely pub lunch washed down with a few glasses of red, but we knew that we had to come back to school and do a phonology workshop, as well as receive feedback on our latest teaching practice. Neither Martin nor myself ever get much sleep before these sessions, we are too keyed up (Martin) and just plain scared (me), so by the time we get both teaching practices out of the way, all we really want to do it sit in a darkened room and sob quietly.
We decided to stay in the staffroom at school for lunch. All the other teachers were back at work by the time we were ready for lunch so it was pleasantly intimate. I made a lemon drizzle cake to keep us going, and we all had sandwiches from the Tesco Metro nearby. The cake was well received, it’s Martin’s favourite and Nick was very complementary, but it was the company that really made the day for me.