Svetlina Trifonova

My teaching approach

My approach towards teaching…

      Derives from the moments I was repeatedly delighted with English and the moments I have seen others do the same. These moments have served me because I started learning for the right reasons, rather than due to external stimuli. I am unable to recall the precious time with uninspiring teachers, but the energy, dedication and infinite amount of love for the language that teachers over the years modeled stayed. That led me to acquiring these as qualities and now translating them into the Oxbridge system. I also appreciate the advantage of being able to give and take in professional insight with others. I believe the network is our protection from overlooking aspects of teaching and is the key to us evolving as teachers. Each profession needs their environment to thrive.

      From the students` perspective, whether realized or not, learning a language is a participation of our senses, directing attention, applying it in practice and joy in showing better and better fluency.  

      From the teacher`s perspective, whether realized or not, there is hidden connectedness between all there is in the world of language – our presentation of words, sentences, and cultural imprints. There is even higher responsibility to activate the student and engage him/her in the process. The realizations I value the most had a lot to do with the teachers` own knowledge, passion, intellectual and emotional strengths, his/hers ability to engage. We, as social creatures, are curious about personalities that explore life and the world of language. We are also resistant to learn from those whose knowledge has not been lived through or do not want to relate to us.

      My fields of experience linked to English are about to follow here.  Business – four years in three different fields, where my writer’s nature was challenged for being concise, focused and had to adopt a number of soft skills. Content writing – a year and still ongoing, where analytical skills are valuable to come up with a new outlook and I was required to be technical, but user-friendly. Speaking – well, that is done in all environments.  Translating and interpreting, more than a year in business and I still do it occasionally. At last, writing essays and poems.  I have learned and I am still learning to adapt the language depending on context, purpose, and participants. We should not seize to incorporate humor where possible because any knowledge seems to be flawed without it. Humor is our cure to embracing errors while learning, weaker or stronger hints of correction inside depending on the individual.

      Being in any of the above environments, the loss of connection or detachment at one side resulted in a less than productive reaction from the receiving side. This is valid for our coworkers, family, and all social interactions. It happens when one party has detached, so the other party lets the initial mechanism of “see, copy, and repeat” be their guiding master, thus outsourcing their inside power and failing to embody the message. Rising above that, is necessary and finding your own language tools, is the smarter thing to do. I started learning from basically everything and English started living a life of its own, in the comfort of my curiosity and slight intolerance to generalization. Therefore, here is my answer to content we need for classes – English is indeed everywhere, why not use that or why limit our resources? For me, that progressed beautifully through jobs, travels, and friendships. Therefore my students would be encouraged to learn from general to specific, but not lose their uniqueness in the process as well.

 The Oxbridge system resonated by being natural and intuitive - it incorporates the firm balance of structure, vocabulary and discussions, which has proven success.

I am inspired by the Communicative approach when it is combined with a dash of Suggestopedia, while allowing for another part of the overall class system to remain open for changes. We embody the language through communication and by adding or adapting some of the essences of other methods that we choose as appropriate for the student/s. The syllabus creation process follows the same path, too.

      The Silent Way, Suggestopedia and the Total Physical Response Method all have their precious insights but seem incomplete on their own. We cannot rely on techniques such as The Grammar-Translation Method and Audio-Lingual Method either because they don’t correspond fully to the real life environment nowadays. Below are seven checkpoints of major importance to me, where there is an answer as a teacher on the approaches and methods mix useful for the students. I do not underestimate the power of being grammatically correct, being fluent in speaking, reading or writing or the richness of vocabulary.  I underline that, we as teachers, should go from a higher perspective, as much as possible and incorporate that into teaching within the Oxbridge system. There is the simple, yet profound difference in viewing this as a profession or as an intentional part of one’s purpose and service to others.

1.            The importance of assisting the student in the creation of a tailored strategy, that is designed to mirror and challenge his/hers personality, purposes, goals, and interests. That helps in finding the emphasis to either vocabulary, to discussions or to structures practice in context.

2.            The importance of being attentive to the students’ state of mind, emotions and attention in each particular day and lesson. Overlooking that destroys slowly, but steadily the bridge to being receptive, therefore, limits the possibilities for the student to advance in the learning process.

3.            The importance of both the student and teacher’s emotional intelligence evolving along with the language acquisition. That determines our attitudes and the next methods we’ll choose, but also implies that we should maintain personal boundaries and respect personal will.

4.            The importance of viewing language skills is a valuable side-product of self-actualization and interest. There is value-added in that on a personal level, too and that contributes and multiplies itself on other levels as well outside classrooms. The choice of topics in the syllabus is related to that.

5.            The importance of always aiming to do the best with what have - love it, appreciate it, nurture it, be playful with it. There we can see our games interaction where the knowledge obtained so far is ensuring its foundations. Not resorting to mother language translation is what I mean by doing our best.

6.            The importance of being together – whether one on one or as a group. We will work together to let go of things that no longer serve us and continue with deeper understanding.  Teach the students to be each others` teachers, too and let go of dogmatic teacher behaviors completely. We should be authentic and respectful.

7.            Last, but not least, the importance of openness. For any knowledge to grow and conquer chaos, we should leave space for imagination, creation and cultivation.

      Our attitudes towards developing ourselves through learning a language and positive human interactions are far more important, than the common perception of pre-determined genetic capacity for languages. Yes, there are some inclined to learn more than others, but the others can become inspired in the process and have the pleasure of inventing a strength they did not believe they had. Sometimes, they experience more joy in their own unique way.

      The above seven points also differentiate for kids and adults. Kids who have fewer barriers compared to adults are open to learn, play and act. Adults do have many times system of thought governing the mind standing in the way. However, adults also have the power of attention techniques, intentional learning and personal experience. Therefore we can make methods and results tangible for both groups by acknowledging this and adapting the environment and choose between games, discussions, resources and tools to leverage that. 

       Certain personal qualities in each of us can help and it is unfair that we expect everyone to possess a full entourage of everything. Hence, this is why smaller groups are, according to me, more effective, because personal strengths and weaknesses are visible and we can work with them. The teacher assists the student when she/he is looking into tapping into his own personal “best bets” and resources, because they will help to initiate and elevate a sustainable language process. Each of us has a different rhythm when befriending a new language. We also have the choice whether to accelerate or slow down certain processes with the students. Sometimes it makes sense to let the student slow down for a while/re-evaluate progress, or add more, if he/she is on a high speed learning curve. The student should feel free to show that to her/his teacher.

      Regarding the consistency and goals to reach, I can relate to the approaches adopted in project management. There are universal techniques to deliver results and they differ depending whether the team and goal are linked to a controlled environment (e.g. English for specific purposes or ESP is controlled in terms of time, results and costs for adults) or more of a free creation environment (e.g. general English practice, when the purpose is not specified yet), the number of the resources and teams.

       In conclusion, I believe we will continue to see more technologies being adopted, more openness towards casual learning environments and less and less dry transmitted knowledge. I envision the processes as a circular ever-evolving motion of learning and teaching, where we are saying “Allow me to help you”, realizing teachers and students are both people at a different stage of a language acquisition and utilization - both prone to making mistakes. The human interaction, as a guiding principle and success factor, would remain intact.


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