Once upon a time, there was this middle-aged, slightly scuffed and dented South African teacher who came to England in search of some peace and quiet and a gentle little teaching job to see her through to the end of her usefulness.
After a few (read ‘loads of’) confidence-shaking refusals due to lack of suitable qualifications, one slightly less suppressed, independent language school took me on, based on my experience and – this is the best bit – my enthusiasm. For this I will be grateful evermore.
After some three years of teaching the widest, most interesting, range of people I had ever encountered, the post of DoS became available. I was a natural to take up the position because, my boss said, “you’re good with people.” Now I need to point out that this is a teeny wee school – between 7 and 9 staff, depending on student numbers, which have a limit of 18. So essentially, not a huge ask for this middle-aged, slightly scuffed and dented South African teacher.
Then the British Council reared its head. We HAD to have accreditation in order to go on a list of schools that had credibility in terms of incoming foreigners. And in order to get accredited, the DoS HAD to have a Diploma.
So off this middle-aged, slightly scuffed and dented South African went to “get the Diploma”. At the time, I had been in my DoS-ly position for four months, so still learning the rather complex ropes. Halfway through my DELTA training, I had to set up the academic department for the summer school (the second year of such a venture for the teeny wee school). I had done it the year before (and nearly lost what were left of my marbles). I had to find, interview, recruit and train a staff of 20 some teachers and set up a programme and all that insane stuff that summer schools require and that comes at you like a tsunami. Not only was this threatening to send the marbles scattering into all the available corners yet again, The British Council was coming to inspect the summer school for purposes aforementioned. I was in at the deep end and drowning quickly and still the DELTA had to be done.
I knew I would probably fail the assessed lesson part. I remember it so clearly. It was an unseasonably warm May afternoon, I had spent the morning weeping gently at my desk in the face of the mountain of paperwork I had to get through to send off to The Britsh Council. I had verily reached the end of my rope. But I hoped for the best.
I failed – just the lesson part, but I had never failed a thing in my life and that wasn’t the end of it. We failed to get the accreditation. Why? Because I didn’t have a diploma. EVERYTHING ELSE WAS ABSOLUTELY PERFECT. I got on an aeroplane as fast as I could and went home to my mother in Africa. I needed someone to reaffirm my worth.
And that, you may think, was the end of it. I would come back revitalised, redo my lesson and pass and get my DELTA and be proud and then we would get our accreditation next time. Don’t you believe it. During my 14-day R and R in Africa, an ADoS, with a Diploma, was appointed in my absence, without any warning or consultation. Her sole purpose? To get us the accreditation. She had never taught for us, she didn’t even know we ran a summer programme, she had never run or managed a summer programme and said roundly that she had no intention of ever doing so. But because of that piece of paper that said “Diploma”, we got the accreditation.
Besides the fairly long-term damage that did to my self-esteem, it has left me with very deep suspicions about the British Council Accreditation system and what it really means – in terms of assuring a quality school. And much though I love my boss, I doubt I’ll ever truly forgive her.
PS. Although I had received a pay increase when appointed as DoS, I didn’t get one when I became DELTA’d. Go figure…….