Monday, 20 October 2014

Teaching – the hardest and most rewarding work available

Although I trained to become a teacher at university when I was younger, I didn't go into the profession straight away. I wasn't sure that teaching was right for me.

Many years later, I still believe that I made the correct decision not to become a full-time teacher straight out of university. Instead my path took me into the world of business where I experienced diverse roles and responsibilities in a range of working environments. Although I didn't know it at the time, this actually gave me the management skills and business know-how on which to base my future career as a teacher. Without this solid grounding, I doubt that I would be anywhere near as successful as I am.

Thursday, 16 October 2014

Everyone's favourite English teacher

John Peter Sloan just keeps popping up everywhere in the news these days, especially since Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi's recent visits to both England the USA where he spoke English, in a fashion that has been dubbed Renzese by the Italian press. What they actually meant by this was that Renzi attempted to speak English, he wasn't afraid to give it a go, even though his grasp of the language isn't great and the message he was trying deliver wasn't clear.

As always, the opinion of JPS is in great demand by the Italian media who just love to disparage their politicians. On this occasion though, and I have to agree wholeheartedly on this, JPS gave him 6 out of 10 for having the courage to try in the first place. I for one take my hat off to Renzi for having a go, despite the bad pronunciation and grammar.

Monday, 13 October 2014

Grammar. It's not essential.

Living in Italy, I meet lots of native English speaking expats from all over the world, some who have spoken Italian, as well as other languages, for quite a while, and others who have just begun the task of learning a foreign language for the first time. The one common denominator between all of them, in my opinion at least, is their lack of knowledge of essential English grammar.

This isn't the sort of topic that normally crops up in everyday conversation over coffee or drinks at the bar, however, once you put a native English speaker into an environment where they are having to learn a foreign language, especially Italian or another Latin based language, then their knowledge, or lack of knowledge in most cases, of English grammar becomes a hot talking point.

Friday, 10 October 2014

For fun's sake

I am, and always have been, an advocate for making learning fun, and never is this more important to me than when it is me who is doing the learning. What brought me back around to this subject was a comment my teacher made to me during one of my Russian language lessons recently.

She said to me that I was 'fun' to teach, which I took to be a compliment, as I always try to inject some element of fun into my own learning experiences, whether it is me attempting to tell a joke in Russian, or perhaps just chatting about mundane subjects and really taking an interest in what my teacher has to say. However, I know from experience that the fun element of our lessons doesn't just emanate from me, it has to be a two-way street.

I know I have touched on making learning fun in the past, and you can read one of my previous blog posts on the subject if it interests you. What really struck me about the situation was the fact that the student, as well as the teacher, has a role to play in making learning fun. As teachers we need to recognise this and make sure that our students also take their responsibility seriously.

So I'll just you to ponder on that thought...


The Teacher Abroad

Monday, 6 October 2014

Build confidence through leadership

Helping a student to advance in their language learning activities normally depends upon how confident they are in actually using the skills that they are learning. Children at school and college tend to build their own self esteem and confidence levels through academic achievements, which most will take with them into the workplace. As we get older however, learning new skills such as languages becomes harder to achieve and this can knock an older, or adult student’s confidence.

My students tend to fall into a mix of ages from school age, mid-to-late teens, through the early twenties and all the way up to forty or fifty years old, and they are all learning English for different reasons. Because of this, I regularly come across those either less or more confident in their abilities than others. Although the techniques I use to encourage all of my students are the same, I have to use them differently depending upon the age range and levels of self esteem. There is a great book called 'Inspiring Active Learning' which calls itself a complete handbook for today's teacher which is full of tips and techniques for confidence building. Most of the ideas the book describes are probably used every day in most classrooms, but as teachers we tend to do these things automatically, probably without actually realising what we are doing.