- Question from John: Have you ever been to India? If yes, why? If not, would you like to go there, why and what would you do there?
Rosie: I’ve never been to India but I would love to go. I think one of the first things I would do is travel and see as much of the country as I can, perhaps choosing a spot to settle for a while and teach English. I would of course have to find the time to practice yoga. I had the chance to go to a yoga retreat in Nepal and it was an incredible experience, especially as no one there spoke any English so I was literally going with the flow.
Ken: No, I haven’t but I’d love to go there. From what I know it’s a vast country with diverse people, culture and places. Some things on my to-do list would be to watch a live cricket match somewhere, spend some time in a yoga retreat, lie on a beach in Goa or Kerala, and just generally try to soak up the experience of being there. I think I’d need at least a few months there…maybe I could teach some English!?
- Most of us also started by doing a CELTA or equivalent early in our careers, but over time the takeaways from this initial training course become muddier as our planning/teaching routines become shaped by time restrictions, our own personal needs and growth, and by needs of our students and institutions. So to take us all down memory lane; what were the biggest takeaways from the CELTA course for you?
Rosie: I think one of my main takeaways was the importance of having plenty of relevant activities and exercises up your sleeve, especially for learners who may move on with exercises quicker than their classmates. I think my other takeaway was the importance of making the lessons fun, being creative with materials and making sure the lesson is engaging for your students rather than just going through standard materials step by step.
Ken: Although I only finished the CELTA a few months ago, and got a lot out of it, this question is testing my memory. Two of the big takeaways for me – as trite as they may sound – were to personalise as much as possible with learners, as this really seems to facilitate a smoother and more enjoyable learning experience, and to always remember to focus on the learner.
- What brought you to Berlin?
Rosie: My husband and I had talked about living in another city for several years but we hadn’t decided where. When my husband was offered a job here in Berlin we jumped at the opportunity. I hadn’t really made a solid plan for what I would do here but was happy to have a break after over ten years working in health and social care.
Ken: I originally came to Berlin to take a sabbatical for six months – to learn German, travel and explore Berlin. This is something I’d wanted to do for a long time. I’ve now decided to stay longer!
- Why did you join Eltabb and what do you hope to get out of it?
Rosie: I joined Eltabb whilst finishing the CELTA course. Sherri gave a presentation about Eltabb as part of our teaching input in the last week of the course and it sounded like a great thing to be part of. As well as having access to the jobs board on the Eltabb website, I would really like to meet more teachers in Berlin. I can imagine after a while of freelance teaching you could start to feel quite isolated. Unfortunately, I haven’t had the chance to come along to any of the Eltabb events but I will definitely be there as soon as I can. Looking forward to meeting you all!
Ken: I heard about ELTABB through the CELTA and joining was a no-brainer for me. I was a brand new teacher, with no contacts or network and quite limited experience. In the couple of months I’ve been with ELTABB, I’ve met so many great people (all with very interesting backgrounds) and become of aware of different teaching opportunities.
- How do you think your previous careers and experience will help your teaching practice?
Rosie: Before moving into EFL teaching, I had always worked with adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities. I had various roles in my career: support worker, job coach, sports teacher, daily living skills teacher and most recently Behaviour Support Practitioner. The theme that runs through all of these roles is the need to support people to learn and develop new skills, whether this is learning how to clean your own home or make and serve hot drinks in a café. I think the skills I developed in my previous role will help my teaching practice as I learnt the need to have enthusiasm for the subject you are presenting and how to be creative in developing materials, especially for learners with communication needs. For this reason, I am quite keen to teach beginner students.
Ken: In my career as a lawyer, I spent some time in the courtroom, where good preparation and structure for oral submissions, while also being able to think on your feet, were always very important. I try to bring this same sense of preparation and structure to my teaching practice, while of course building in some flexibility when unexpected things arise. Someone recently told me about the German concept of “der rote Faden” (“the red thread”), which really resonated with me. Building rapport with clients is also (perhaps surprisingly) an important part of being a lawyer, and I really enjoy doing this with learners as a teacher.
- For Rosie: Tell us about your experience teaching in Nepal. Did it influence your decision to move into EFL teaching?
I went to Nepal with a friend whose family is from there. We spent the first month travelling and meeting his extended his family. This was a wonderful experience, I got to see lots of places off the beaten track and spend time with incredibly kind and generous people. My friend went back to Europe and I stayed in Kathmandu with his sister. It was always my plan to work in an organisation that supports people with learning disabilities and after spending a few weeks visiting different charities I started work at a boarding school next to the famous Buddhist Stupa. I can’t say that this experience necessarily influenced my decision to move into EFL teaching. I did teach in English at the school but I wasn’t teaching English, my day at the school was mainly spent playing games and teaching daily living skills. It was great fun!
- For Rosie: Why online teaching?
I just got offered a job with a Berlin based online teaching company today. Wahoo!!! The idea of online teaching appealed to me because I travel quite a bit to visit family. It is also quite likely that I will have to move again in the near future. Online teaching means I can teach anywhere, any time as long as I have a laptop and good internet connection. This doesn’t mean I’m not looking for jobs teaching with schools in Berlin it’s just online teaching is where I decided to focus my job search for now.
- For Ken: I’m curious as to what prompted the change of career from lawyer to English teacher?
A few things! First, as I mentioned in my earlier spiel, I come from a family of teachers and I’ve always felt an element of fate at play in bringing me to the teaching profession. Secondly, I’ve done some teaching in my legal career and always enjoyed it and derived a strong sense of fulfilment from it. Thirdly, I decided to stay longer in Berlin and teaching, which I enjoy, seemed liked a natural way to help me do that. Before I left Australia, my then-boss recommended that I consider English teaching, having done it himself in Japan. All that said, I don’t think I’ve completely given up my career in the law, and I’ve been thrilled to find out that I can combine some of my legal background with English teaching opportunities in Berlin.
- For Ken: What does your ideal career look like?
It’s becoming more and more common for people to have more than one career in their lifetime, so personally I wouldn’t pin it down to one particular vocation or profession. For me, my ideal career is one in which I can help people and contribute to my community, while getting to explore the world. I’m lucky that so far my career has usually allowed me to do these things, and I’m hoping that teaching will continue that trend!
- Who would you like to nominate as Eltabber of the month and what question would you like to ask them?
Rosie’s question: One of my favourite things about Berlin is the fact you never feel very far away from nature. What did you enjoy most about living in Berlin or Brandenburg?
Ken’s question: I’d be interested to know what motivated her to join the Eltabb board.
Thanks a lot!
Edited by Mandy Welfare