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How I managed – and enjoyed! – the DipTESOL course as a new parent

I decided to take the Trinity DipTESOL shortly after finding out that my wife and I were expecting a baby in 2020. When I started the course, I couldn’t help but worry about how I would manage all of the assignments alongside supporting my wife, working and preparing myself for an extra little family member. I’d be lying if I told you that I thought it would be a breeze! There were ups and downs, some weeks were harder than others, but there is light at the end of the tunnel!

DipTESOL trainees have to wear many hats.

Later, I’ll talk about how I handled the two main components of the course. First, though, I have a few general tips to keep in mind.

Be realistic

Set yourself weekly goals that are achievable considering the situation with being a new parent and all it involves. Avoid the temptation to pile too much work on yourself, because it will turn into a nightmare and you will find it all unmanageable. That is where there’s potential for things to get pretty tough and any concentration that you had before could go – don’t try and juggle too many things at once! Start off with small goals for the week and build up on those.

Stay positive

Don’t let DipTESOL grads get you down! Probably trying to reassure you, they might talk about how they managed the Trinity and aced their assignments. Don’t take it too much to heart! Similarly, don’t let other blogs on how to pass the Trinity DipTESOL demotivate you. They contain some great tips, but there is a different approach for everyone, and you needn’t feel bad if you don’t follow every tip you read. Remember that what you are doing is pretty impressive. Just attempting to do all this while becoming a new parent is already a massive ‘hats-off’ moment!

In short, set realistic goals and prioritise what you can do now and what will take the shortest amount of time; put some time aside for the harder assignments, readings, etc. Like I said, you do not have to ace all the assignments of the units. Focus on passing them and the rest will follow.

Try to relax

Make sure you do find the time to try and relax. It will be good for you and the people around you. You will only drive yourself mad if you constantly focused on doing all the work. The tutors really encourage everyone to make the most of the rest weeks and take that advice and RELAX! There is nothing worse than burning out and feeling demotivated, because you piled too much on your shoulders. The same goes for working during the module weeks. Take some time off and chill with your family, it really does wonders for your mental wellbeing!

Take time to relax between DipTESOL tasks.

Now that we’ve seen some more general advice, let’s take the two main elements of the course in turn…

The study phase

The basics

This is the first part of the course and the longest. It involves:

  • 7 months of online training in virtual classrooms, interacting with tutors and other trainees on the course, participating in forums, webinars, and attending live video lessons.
  • Twenty week-long modules with rest weeks in between.
  • Weekly assignments that help you prepare for the assessments. You receive feedback from your tutors on every one of them.
  • 350 hours of online studying and support.

In my experience, the work kicked off pretty quickly. I started working on different assignments and doing a lot of reading and research from the outset. At first, I was quite overwhelmed with the amount of reading materials and resources available. My first piece of advice, then, is not to feel like you have to read everything! Focus on the task or assignment at hand and pick out texts that will be useful. I also found it useful to watch ELT YouTube videos and make notes on the different approaches and methodologies discussed. A lot of these videos are summaries and they saved me a huge amount of time.

My tips for this part of the course

Again, it’s important to set yourself goals for each week. Remember:

  • Don’t panic if you occasionally feel overwhelmed
  • Make sure you stay on top of what you need to do. If you feel that you can’t, get the smaller and less stressful things out of the way first. Build up to the tougher assignments and give yourself more time to think about them.
  • Most importantly – remember to separate work, study, and family time. Letting the three overlap just adds to the stress, and means you never get a chance to relax.

Keep in mind that you do have breaks and that if you feel that you are falling behind in some areas, make a note and set some time aside for these during the rest weeks. Also, make sure that you actually get some rest!

Personally, I really enjoyed this part of the course. Of course, there were tough deadlines that I had to stick to, but I really enjoyed learning new teaching strategies, which I made an effort to experiment with in my own lessons. This gave me a feeling of accomplishment when I felt exhausted from juggling work, the course, and looking after a newborn.

The assessment phase

The basics

In this part you will:

  • Complete unit 3, which is the phonology interview. You will do a mock exam and from there have the opportunity to work on any areas of weakness before the official assessment.
  • Complete unit 4, which involves the observed lessons. This includes: planning lessons, language analysis, meeting with tutors, feedback with other trainees and brainstorming ideas for your lessons.

My tips for this part of the course

They’re not joking around when they say the full-time option for the teaching practice is intensive! This was by far the most challenging part for me. I took the month off paid work so that I could fully focus. My daughter was about 3 months old and there was a lot going on for my wife and me. Not least, we were still in lockdown and no family member could visit to help out. Notwithstanding this, I had to commit to 40-50 hours per week to my work towards units 3 and 4. I won’t say that I got through it unscathed and it definitely added a few extra wrinkles to my face and grey hairs to my beard! Nonetheless, I survived and passed! I made sure I separated my time on the course and with my family, which looking back I think is what kept me sane and able to keep going.

The following explains how I did it. Some of these tips may work well for you, and others you can always adapt:

Stick to your schedule

Yes! It’s a tip that works here too! My ‘live’ schedule was Monday–Friday, 09:30–12:00, followed by a chat with the tutor about lesson planning. As for writing the lesson plans, lesson evaluations and teaching practice journals, I set specific times of the day aside for that. These were usually around my daughter’s nap times and late at night. It was tough, but it was the only way I could manage everything. It also involved a lot of coffee…

Work together

There were workshops between the break and the tutor session. These were really useful and practical, but I wasn’t always able to attend. My fellow trainees and I had a group on Slack and they were kind enough to share what had been covered. I explained my situation to them and they were very understanding. We even had a shared doc with all the information we needed about students, tasks, activities, etc.

Work collaboratively to manage your time on the DipTESOL course.

Take some time out every day

I made sure that the time after my chat with the tutor and the evening was me spending time with my wife and daughter. It really helped me focus my thoughts and break away from it all for a few hours. Whenever there was a chance we would go for a walk to the shops so I could stretch my legs, sit on the balcony, cook some food, play with bub and so on.

Enjoy the weekends

These are your only two free days, so make sure you give yourself a little break! At the weekends I focused on being a dad, spoke to friends, and even joined a couple of online pub quizzes that my mates and I had made during lockdown. Taking time out to disconnect is really important because when you start working again you can look at what you’ve done with fresh and well-rested eyes.

Don’t fall behind

This is especially true regarding your lesson evaluations, as these can pile up and leave you stressed towards the end of the month. After your teaching practice lessons, make as many notes as possible – DON’T leave it for later. You want to write down everything while it is still fresh in your head. Give yourself a couple of days’ break and move on to the next evaluation.

Be painstakingly organised from the start

Your Teaching Practice Journal needs to be kept in order from the minute you plan your first lesson. Don’t add any unnecessary documents to it. If you keep it concise and tidy, it will be less stressful when you have to prepare it for your external assessment.

Everything I mentioned above is possible, even the late-night studying. You can always catch up on sleep over the weekends and remember that this is only for a month! Try to enjoy yourself and take breaks as much as possible.

One more tip

Reach out to people that have already done the course. Whether they are parents or not, any help and advice you can get will come in handy. These people might be colleagues, people that you have worked with in the past and have done the DipTESOL, or perhaps even people who have done the DELTA. People are generally willing to share their expertise and experiences, and it’s extremely useful to take advantage of this. Good providers will have a Facebook group or similar to help you connect with graduates. As we said though, don’t worry if you’re following a different path from theirs – we’re all different!

Some final thoughts

Despite the challenges I’ve described, I have really enjoyed the course! All of this work was worth it and the Trinity DipTESOL has opened up more opportunities for me in the EFL world. It has really helped me develop professionally as a teacher. Apart from teaching, I am also a tutor and lead the Specialised Workshop in Teaching Cambridge Exam Classes. I also contribute to Oxford TEFL Connect. This involves coaching teachers who are fresh off the CELTA and helping them with lesson planning, classroom management, teaching GE and Exam classes, and phonology. Finally, this will help me become a CELTA tutor, which is what I would like to be.

As you can see then, the Trinity DipTESOL course is tough! However, by taking advantage of these tips and the expert support on offer, you’re sure to make a success of it and everything that comes afterwards. Good luck!

Ready to take your career to the next level? If you’re considering the Trinity DipTESOL course, you can find everything you need to know here. Already decided you want to open the door to roles in teacher training, materials writing and academic management? You can apply for the course here.

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