Interview with ELTABBer of the month: Sabrina Bechler

September 8, 2017

What was the subject of your doctoral thesis and why did you choose it?

I was among the first students who studied European Bilingual Education at the University of Education in Karlsruhe. By that time, I wanted to become a primary school teacher. I chose the programme because meant I wouldn’t only learn how to teach English, but also how to teach Geography in English. Although it was already mentioned in the curriculum that teachers should use Content and Language Integrated Learning (CLIL) as often as possible, there were neither guidelines nor material available, and no research had been carried out at that point. The first teachers started to work in primary schools but were left alone. This is why I decided to write my thesis about CLIL modules in primary schools. The title is Bilinguale Module in der Grundschule and was published in 2014 by Peter Lang.

Could you tell us how you got into editorial work with the magazine?

When Grundschulmagazin Englisch (Oldenbourg) changed their concept in 2015 and decided to include an extra magazine called Sally’s World, they offered my former boss from the University of Frankfurt- who is one of the authors of the textbook Sally- to edit the magazine. She declined but suggested me as a suitable editor. By that time, I had already worked with the textbook Sally for a couple of years. This year, I have also become involved in editing Grundschulmagazin Englisch.

Tell us more about the magazine for young learners. I see to remember there are stories of a kangeroo that travels around the world!

In Sally’s World, the main character is Sally the kangaroo from Australia. She helps the children to learn English and gives insights into the English-speaking world. This magazine offers additional material to the textbook Sally. Teachers can also buy a Sally hand puppet to use in the lessons, and at some point, I had the idea to take the puppet to English-speaking countries and present her photos and stories on a blog. This year, she has already been to Scotland and Northern Ireland with me, and soon, we are going to the USA. Luckily, other people can help me and take Sally on their holidays.

Sally’s travel blog

Article in Humanising Language Teaching about the blog

What makes teaching young learners different to teaching adults?

I think the main difference is when you teach kids, you are an entertainer. They can’t concentrate for a long time and get bored easily. So, you have to keep them busy with games, stories, and other fun activities. In primary school, they are normally complete beginners, so you have to give a lot of input. Often, the lessons are teacher-centred. That can be quite exhausting! What I liked a lot was that they easily get excited about activities like creating a picture with drawings and stickers and later on writing a text about it in English. The results are usually great and rewarding!

What skills are transferable and especially useful when teaching YL? Can you give us any tips to make our lessons with kids and adults more dynamic and interesting?

I don’t teach children anymore, but I teach one class at a vocational school here in Berlin. After a couple of years of teaching experience, I can conclude that students of all ages like to be creative and to work independently. They are usually quite motivated in those situations to use English.

You are also a teacher trainer. Can you tell us how you got into this profession and whether you prefer teaching YL or training teachers? Once I had my university degree, I didn’t feel like teaching at a primary school for my whole life. One of my lecturers had just become a professor, and when I told her that I didn’t have any concrete plans for the future, she suggested that I could write my PhD thesis with her. After a while, she also offered me a position at the University of Frankfurt. I really like teaching English, but I prefer being a teacher trainer. I will see what the future brings. There are different options!

What exactly is your job at Paderborn university?

Within the Master of Education, students have to do a one-semester placement in a school. I accompany every group of prospective primary school teachers for two semesters. First, I prepare them for their placement. Then, I support them during that time. I really like giving these seminars, because my students are eager to learn and can share their experiences. Of course, I also have some other tasks, such as supervising and correcting BA and MA theses.

If someone wants to have a career teaching young learners, what advice would you give?

Teaching young learners is quite different to teaching adults, so someone who only has the CELTA should do an extension course such as the Teaching Young Learners Extension Certificate (TYLEC). Of course, you should also have an appropriate personality: be patient, outgoing, entertaining… and you should feel comfortable playing games, singing songs and telling stories!

You revived the Eltabb Stammtisch with great success! What motivated you to do so?

As the vice-chair, I don’t have any fixed tasks. So, I thought by taking over the Stammtisch, I would make a big contribution to making ELTABB a success! I really like Irish Pubs, so that’s why we often have our Stammtisch there. I have been organising the Stammtisch for over a year, and a lot of potential members join in to get to know ELTABB. Hopefully, we can gain new members that way!

What is your role on the Eltabb board and why did you get involved?

I am the vice-chair and got involved because I think it is good to be in touch with other teachers. We can all learn from and support each other. I also enjoy being in touch with people from around the world.

Who would you like to nominate as ELTABBer of the month for September?

I would like to nominate Breanna Leigh as the next ELTABBer of the month. I think she is a very interesting person. She has lived in different countries and has worked in so many different contexts!

Edited by Mandy Welfare