Becoming a tutor

I am often asked what a person needs to do if they want to be a Delta  tutor. This is the answer.

Technicalities
You don’t have to be a CELTA tutor to become a Delta tutor (I did it the other way round, completing Delta tutor training on the 1999-2000 part time course here in Istanbul and then doing the same for CELTA in the spring of 2006, though I haven’t CELTAed or ICELTed lately). The processes for CELTA, ICELT and Delta are separate (though not dissimilar).

You have to be nominated as a tutor in training by a centre (you pay the centre and go through the training process, which is not unlike doing Delta itself in that you put together a portfolio of work for Cambridge) and Cambridge look at your CV and approve the nomination (so the centre can go on and train you) or don’t. So you should work out what you need on your CV to make yourself an attractive option to Cambridge and to the centre where you want to train (and then usually work).

Requirements
Qualifications
You have to have Delta. You don’t need a particular grade and you don’t have to have done CELTA before it. You don’t have to have done a Masters, though at any given Delta centre there must be some trainers with an ELT related Masters, so it would be an advantage in the longer term.
You don’t have to have any particular language qualifications, because it is ‘assumed that all trainers will use written language which is free of errors and spoken language which demonstrates an appropriate level of accuracy’. So if this is something you think might be an issue for you (any feedback that mentioned proofreading ? organisational skills ?) develop a plan to work on your language in the longer term.
Experience
Cambridge don’t stipulate a specific period of post Delta experience, but they do state that you need a range of experience and here in Istanbul we usually say an absolute minimum of two years full time language teaching experience post Delta (full time teaching, not in a testing department or some other post that means you don’t actually teach), but more is rather better. It takes at least two years for the Delta experience itself to settle in. Cambridge give a lot of weight to variety of experience so, for example, some time in an adult language school, some experience with children and some experience in a university would be a good mix. If different environments are not easy to achieve, think about how you can gain different experience in other ways – teaching both pre-sessional and in-sessional university courses for example or setting up courses in new areas for your institution.

Other things that will make you an attractive prospect for a centre.
Experience of observation
As a tutor you need the ability to watch someone teach and provide constructive feedback against considered criteria. You start learning to do this in a way when you do peer observations (in that you are watching lessons and reflecting on what you see). During Delta you will have asked others to watch you with regard to specific points (while they are in your classroom doing peer observations and so you can gather data for your R&A). You will also have started to use tools (e.g. journals / recording yourself) that allow you to reflect on your own teaching. Keep this up. Have a systematic approach to action research. Always have something that you are working on, some area of your teaching that you are trying to puzzle out / understand / improve. Have concrete goals (one or two peer observations per term ? be realistic, but without a written goal it is likely to get subsumed by more reactive tasks). If nothing is leaping out at you as an obvious focus to work on, you could use Wanjyrb’s book Classroom Observation Tasks (you can download a sample task from their pages in the Cambridge catalogue) or Parrott’s Tasks for Language Teachers to get ideas. Choose a task that looks interesting and maybe it will throw up a puzzle you can follow through further on.
Why not set up a peer coaching group in your school ? If you can find just one other person who is interested it would be enough, but if more people are involved the public commitment is greater and you are more likely to follow through on resolutions.
Keep data, reflections and conclusions. You can make them part of a teaching portfolio.
If you can’t get anyone to watch you in real time you could swap videos with a colleague, using the same techniques of asking them to look at specific elements. .
Or if none of those is practical in your institution, use one of the sharing sites designed for this. Smarter Cookie is free for ten minute videos and groups of up to five people. You can upload a short section of a video of one of your lessons and get others to comment on it. There are some ideas about how to use it in Audrey Watters blog.
When you are training you will shadow tutors, writing up your own version of feedback, then looking at what the tutor actually wrote and comparing the two and going on to reflect on how far they match and why, so the more self aware you become and the more practice you have had of this kind of thing the easier that will be..

Experience of designing and delivering input
If you tutor there is no course book. Usually someone else has worked out a way of meeting syllabus requirements through elements of a course, but session plans are often loose systems of notes and eventually that someone will be you. When you train as a tutor you will be expected to analyse syllabus and course materials saying what is addressed where and how, to create a couple of input sessions yourself (and include the plans for those in your portfolio) and deliver at least two of the sessions you have written. So you can start working towards this  by offering to do in-house workshops. What are you interested in ? What might others want to know about ? Can you get a peer to peer workshop system going in your institution ? If starting in your workplace is daunting and you are based here in Istanbul, join one of the training / presenter courses where people take it in turns to deliver sessions on subjects and then get peer feedback on what they did. ITI runs them regularly (look in the short courses section of the web site). Publishers are also often looking for people to deliver workshops and presentations. Another way of addressing this would be to start presenting at conferences. Do some action research and present that, or find a new way of using a tool or a technique in class and then present what you have done.
Work out what you are interested in and start to become more of a specialist in that (lexis ? using concordances with learners ? phonology ? academic writing ?). If you create a workshop or a presentation it gives you something very concrete to put in a professional portfolio (useful for jobs, not just for future tutoring). If you can bring some new ideas to how to do something or why it should be done in a particular way you will be more likely to get proposals accepted (and your workshop or presentation will be more memorable).

Background knowledge
If you finish Delta and go on and do a Masters that will give you a structure which pushes you to read, but apart from that you have to find a way to keep expanding your knowledge base yourself. Answering forum questions (especially on Module One), marking on Module Two and draft marking on Module Three are excellent for this (you can’t tell someone how they can make something better if you don’t have a sensible idea in your own head of what an assignment could include, how it could be shaped and what key sources actually are, so you have to keep up to date and frequently have to stop and check things), but that happens once you are actually tutoring.
Meanwhile, trying to solve action research puzzles or finding theory to back up practical ideas you want to include in workshops would be one drive to read.
Another mechanism for this is to write. Keep a blog, or write articles for things like OnestopEnglish (they usually have competitions on the site for lesson plans, or try the methodology challenge) or the British Council teaching English site. English Teaching Professional are always looking for new writers too. Try sending an article to them. If you get things published they sit well on a CV (and if your name is known you become a more attractive prospect when centres are trying to choose who to train).
Go to conferences, follow writers you like, join in with on line discussions and keep a reading log.

So how to make some of this actually happen ? Remember your R&A assignment ? Concrete, achievable goals with numbers and times written into them. It is all useful for a professional portfolio if you are job hunting and when you decide you would like to train as well as teach, it will be easy to make the case to a centre that they should take you on. In fact, if you are doing lots of the above you may find they approach you …

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3 thoughts on “Becoming a tutor”

  1. Hi Sally,
    Thanks for the post (I was one of the ones asking!) You’ve given lots of ideas for ways to keep working on my own teaching. One of the reasons I’d love to be a CELTA/Delta tutor is because it would force me to raise the level of my teaching and put me in contact with lots of fresh ideas and perspective. But your post has reminded me how much I can do now, on my own or with colleagues, to improve my teaching.

  2. So nice to hear you are still interested Zach. I think that’s exactly it – in fact, you don’t have to tutor to always be a reflective teacher, but if you do tutor you have a constant flow of ideas from lessons you have watched, and a constant voice saying ‘look at what you did, why did you do that ? what would you have said if one of you teachers had seen you do that ?’. There are a lot of parallels and a lot of loops.

    1. “What would you have said if one of you teachers had seen you do that?” As a senior teacher in my center, I regularly have other teachers coming into observe my lessons. That’s a question that often goes through my head when I’m not being observed, and spurs me to make all my lessons “observation-quality”. On the other side of the coin, I spent a week doing some teacher training with local Vietnamese teachers. On the first day of the week, I taught a demo lesson to a group of real students while all the other teachers observed. The lesson didn’t go nearly as well as I had wanted it to–too much time on very controlled practice, not enough time for freer practice, students with varying levels of engagement. Fortunately the teachers weren’t overly critical and we were able to have a meaningful discussion of what worked well and what didn’t and why. But all the time there was a voice in my head asking: “What would you say if one of your teachers had taught this lesson?” I imagine that training on a CELTA or Delta leads you very quickly to shore up any weaknesses in your own teaching, so that you’re upholding the same standards you’re trying to instill in all the trainees.

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