Teaching Diplomas: Should You Go It Alone?

This is a question which I’m often asked, and it’s a justifiable consideration. It’s a question which arises, much in the same way as the one much-debated by teachers as to whether someone should learn an instrument on their own. I suspect it’s also a question which many teachers think about, even if they don’t ask it outright.

So, if you’re asking yourself whether you should prepare for your teaching diploma alone, whether you should find a teacher or mentor, or sign up for one of the courses offered, read on. At the bottom, you can find a free downloadable PDF contenting some questions and prompts to help you think about the issues raised below.

Can I work towards a teaching diploma on my own?

It’s a basic question, and the basic answer is yes. I worked towards my teaching diplomas alone, and whilst in retrospect, I wish I hadn’t had to, it was possible. If you feel confident in what you’re doing then you can, of course, go ahead and prepare on your own without any external input. There are many blogs and websites out there which can help, and a multitude of other books and resources. You can enter yourself, and you could, in theory, prepare and take the exam without anyone ever knowing (I know people who have done this)!

What are the advantages of working on my own?

I guess the blunt answer here is money. If you work on your own, it will be cheaper. That is the inevitable reality of most things in life. It’s pretty much the same as asking whether you should paint the walls yourself, or get a decorator in. I could argue that by working on your own, you’re not having to set aside time to work with someone else or to meet course deadlines, but I think the difference is negligible. So far as I can see, it really does come down to money.

What are the disadvantages of working on my own?

Firstly, you aren’t accountable to anyone other than yourself. If you’re a pretty self-motivated person, that might work well, but it’s a big undertaking. You need to be 100% sure of what you’re doing, what the requirements are and the expected standards. Sometimes, it’s good to just have someone else to bounce ideas off so I think that’s also a consideration. Ask yourself what happens if you get stuck or you have a question about your diploma work: who can you turn to for help?

What happens if I’m still undecided?

I can only speak for myself here, but as a mentor, above all, I’m interested in seeing people develop as individuals as much as they develop as teachers. Yes, by taking a teaching diploma, you get a certificate at the end of it and a recognised qualification. Those are important too, but working towards a teaching diploma provides a framework and mechanism by which you can develop your teaching in the longer term. The amount you put into working towards a teaching diploma can reap rewards for many years to come. It can also be a springboard towards further development, for example, a previous candidate whom I mentored was able to use their work on the teaching DipABRSM to gain a place on the Royal College of Music’s MEd programme. I wholeheartedly believe that as a teacher, by investing in yourself, you invest in your students.

A cautionary tale

We don’t like to talk about failure: it’s unfashionable. The fact is that some people enter for the teaching diploma and fail. That’s not to say if you work on your own, you’ll fail, because that’s simply not the case; I passed both mine working on my own. But sadly, I have worked with some teachers previously who’ve come to me having arrived at their third or fourth resit. They are passionate about what they do and are clearly effective teachers, but working alone, they just haven’t been able to get to grips with what a teaching diploma demands. In those circumstances, the entry fees alone will have reached four figures. Clearly, this is an extreme example, but it’s another consideration worth weighing up when you’re thinking about whether or not to work alone. Is it a false economy?

These are all difficult issues and important considerations to which there is never any one right answer. Each individual teacher has to decide what works best for them. There is never a ‘one size fits all’ approach. I encourage you to find someone to talk it over with, or feel free to send me a message. I believe that working towards a teaching diploma can be a rich experience, one on which you can build as you continue to develop as a teacher. Whichever path you take, there will be twists and turns, but ultimately, you will be a better teacher for the experience.

To help you think about how confident you feel about preparing for your teaching diploma, download the sheet below which contains some questions and prompts to help:

Working on your own towards a teaching diploma can be a lonely, and often, overwhelming experience. If you’re not sure where to start or how to approach your teaching diploma preparations, then one-to-one online mentoring could be for you. I can also offer one-to-one advice and guidance for the quick study itself.

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