What are a few of the ways you bring creativity into your work?
I think human beings are creative beings and I like bringing creativity into all aspects of my life. One way to do that is to know the rules and then break them. Deconstructing, daring, experimenting. Another way is to use a multidisciplinary approach. Mixing things up. And allowing yourself to be a child and to play.
What do you think is the greatest challenge facing ELT professionals today?
I think we are all different and have our own individual challenges. One thing that comes to mind is working conditions.
You’ve lived in a number of different countries. How do you think this has affected your teaching?
I think it is great to have the experience of living in a number of different countries, as many of my colleagues know, too. The experience of going through different types of educational systems has especially helped me be more aware of different approaches and methodologies. It also helps me understand that adult learners may have different expectations in the classroom based on their own experiences.
How has the focus of your ELT work changed or developed over the years?
I think the focus of my work is constantly evolving. For example, at the university I moved away from ELT and have started working with bilingual and native English speakers on their Business and Communication skills. I also work with academics and business clients on their presentation and public speaking skills, and this, as well as my personal research and interest in fields like intercultural communication, or psychology, creative writing, photography, or even marathon running – it all influences me as an ELT teacher. I believe in the interconnectedness of all that we do.
What was the best change of direction or new challenge you tried?
I had a career change 9 years ago when I became a teacher and this was the biggest and best change of direction so far. It has helped me overcome my social anxiety and has brought me where I am today. That said, I challenge myself all the time with new things. Taking up running and training for marathons, for example, or reading my creative writing publicly. Each challenge has taught me something and has improved other aspects of my life. The most recent new direction in my professional life has been becoming a facilitator for The School of Life, where I am a course leader for a seminar on How to be Confident.
How much of an intercultural focus do you bring to your classes?
I would say a lot. I grew up in a multicultural family and lived and was educated in different countries. I studied cultures as part of my MA and I am a trained cross- cultural and intercultural trainer. I live and breathe this topic and I am naturally inclined towards applying and sharing what I know. In a language classroom I have observed that learners bring their own perceptions that stem from their language and culture into a foreign language classroom. That is why I think it is necessary to communicate this interconnected relationship between language and culture to our learners and to take it into consideration when teaching.
You write, teach, study and teach. How do you manage your time?
I try to balance intellectual and physical activities in my day and that helps me a lot. If I go for a run after work it helps me clear my mind and write, read or study in the evening. Scheduling the time for each of my activities helps me achieve more. I have a weekly planner and I write down and schedule the time throughout the week for things I want to accomplish.
How much emphasis should be placed on communication and intelligibility, rather than accuracy?
I think it depends on the specific needs of each learner and there is no simple answer to that question. I think the best approach is to keep an open mind and approach each situation individually.
You are giving a workshop for ELTABB soon. Tell us what inspired it and what we can expect.
My workshop is going to be on promoting learner autonomy, which is something I am passionate about. I see myself as a facilitator of learning and in my workshop I would like to share my knowledge with my colleagues, and provide a platform where we can exchange ideas and practical tips on how to help our learners develop strategies both in and outside the classroom.
Who would you like to nominate as ELTABBer of the month for February?
I would like to nominate Theresa Gorman because I think she is doing some great work raising awareness of working conditions within the ELT industry.
Thanks to Justin for his nomination and to Tihana for the interview. Don’t miss next month’s interview with Theresa! Remember, you can send your questions to email@example.com by February 20th!
Questions and editing by Mandy Welfare