Who or what inspired you to teach?
I believe it was the allure of all the potential travel, job flexibility and the nature of teaching English to foreigners. Also, I was very young when I started out and I had just arrived from Australia to Poland. In 1999 Poland was crying out for native speakers of English. I suddenly became a respected and sought after professional and I was getting paid a lot more compared to my previous bar jobs that I was holding down as a student in Sydney.
I could see that there was a high demand for English native speaking teachers in Poland and beyond. I saw a future in teaching. English had been my favourite subject at school – I honestly felt it was a good fit!
What is the most memorable lesson you’ve ever taught?
I’ll never forget my first lesson. I was only 19 and I was asked to teach an evening class of professionals. Everyone was much older than me and my manager told me not to disclose my age, as I wouldn’t be taken seriously by the students. I wasn’t a natural born public speaker but I’ve always been up for a challenge. The night before, my first class, I couldn’t sleep a wink. I just kept rehearsing the lesson in my head over and over again. I’ll never forget that moment when I was just about to walk into the classroom – I was terrified! Little did I know that day that I’d be walking into a career that has spanned over a decade and a half.
What is the biggest challenge you’ve ever encountered whilst teaching, and how did you overcome it?
I’m a pretty sore loser so not giving up on students that have had a bad attitude or been negative in the classes from the get go. It’s so rewarding later seeing them come into their own and transform their attitude and actually enjoy the process of learning. I really feel like I’ve done something worthwhile.
What do you consider to be your greatest achievement?
I can’t pinpoint just one great achievement. I feel I’ve had quite a few achievements throughout my years of teaching. Helping students achieve their goals whether it is helping them pass exams or communicating more effectively in their courses or workplace gives me a sense of accomplishment. Having at least a little bit of an input in helping my students pursue their dreams gives me a warm fuzzy feeling inside. Also, positive feedback from students is always a big motivator for me.
Do you have any tried and trusted ideas or activities for motivating students?
Always inform your students clearly why certain exercises are taking place in the classroom; suggest ways for them to practically use their gained knowledge outside the classroom. At times, it is very difficult for students to see the practical side of classroom based activities and how they can translate this acquired knowledge/skill into a ‘real world context’. I find that students react exceptionally well when they are asked to generate materials for their English classes, as they feel they are truly contributing to what is being taught.
How do you ‘keep calm and carry on’ in the classroom – and relax when you get home?
Luckily, I’ve rarely had situations where I’ve not kept my cool in class. I think being well prepared for the class is a must but experience has taught me that you can never be fully prepared as the unexpected just happens. I have a few tried and tested activities up my sleeve (or rather in my folder) in the event when something goes wrong. When I get home, I always make myself a cup of tea and put on some music. This helps me unwind.
How do you keep up-to-date with the ELT community and find new ideas to keep your teaching practise fresh?
I am a member of BALEAP, I travel regularly to industry conferences and my university organises learning and development workshops. I find peer observations particularly useful, especially when bouncing ideas off each other about certain approaches to teaching and activities.
Do you have a favourite quote, mantra or philosophy to teach by?
I tell my students that I learn from them as much as they learn from me and I can honestly say I do! They’ve shaped me to a large extent as an individual and professionally by teaching me things about their cultures, countries, food, customs and life in general. I don’t think I would have learnt all of this in any other working environment.
My top teaching tip:
Don’t be afraid to admit to your students if you don’t know the answer. You’ll be surprised how understanding and cool they can be about it – you’re a teacher, not an oracle!
My Desert Island Desk
- Drink or snack: Kusmi tea
- Music: Fat Freddy’s Drop
- Book: Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland
- Luxury item: My Bialetti Caffettiera
- Teaching tool: VLE: Blackboard