Currently I am teaching English to students ranging from 6 - 60+, in a variety of different environments. I teach 3 pairs of children at home every week, give online and in-business classes with the Oxbridge Academy and am covering larger (10 students on average) kids classes for the Family Language Academy.
I have worked a lot, often very hard.
English Literature BA, First Class honors from the University of Sussex, 2014.
TEFL 120 Hour Face-to-Face Certification
My teaching approach
For me the most essential element in the practice of teaching is the relationship between teacher and student. Regardless of what is being taught, from a language to the mastery of a musical instrument, it’s the qualities of the unique connections between people which shape the learning process. My approach to teaching is founded on the belief that getting to know a student's needs, personality, and unique style of learning is the best way to create a successful relationship. The teacher’s attitude is vital. Without genuine enthusiasm, empathy and energy I believe that a class can never go as well as it could.
Unique to the learning of languages is the fact that our mother tongue is not really consciously learnt. As infants we acquire our ability to understand and communicate through an organic and unconscious learning process like no other. I think it’s essential to remember this fact. Arguably all subsequent language learning experiences are influenced by the ways in which we first acquired language, and any new languages we begin to learn are going to grow in relation to the first.
I believe that the relationship between our first language and the ones we may learn later in life needn't be one of direct translation. As teachers we have to use not just the content of our mother tongue but the ways in which we learnt it to guide student in speaking their second, third or fourth language. Cognates can definitely provide a springboard for people speaking and learning languages which share ancestral roots. But I think we have to take inspiration from how we first learn, from our immediate immersion in language, from the social and conversational exchanges we have, from the ways in which language can be graded and transformed into a world of images, sounds and practical activity. We all learn differently, and engage uniquely with all of the above. Finding out which mix of approaches works best is a journey that the student and teacher have to go on together.
In addition to learning in different ways students want to learn languages for different reasons. A student who wants to converse with friends or whilst travelling will have different needs to someone learning for new job. And different jobs will have different lexical demands. The uses which a students wants to put their language to should change the structure and focus of the course. Their learning goals are essential to the ways in which student and teacher can co-create their course after the students have progressed past the basic levels. However I think there are some general practices which are personal to my approach to teaching which I should state here.
Whilst teaching grammar, vocabulary and pronunciation is essential I personally believe that the balance between these core elements should change as students develop. For absolute beginners I believe the focus should be on gaining basic vocabulary and some much needed confidence! Over-emphasising the conceptual complexities of grammar or the more subtle aspects of pronunciation could really knock a new student back. As students grow the grammatical structures underlying the English language should be given more emphasis. Understanding these structures will allow students to experiment and use their initiative to express themselves.
I believe that vocabulary is best learnt in an immersive way. For students of all levels, being constantly exposed to conversations, music, film and other media is the best way to acquire vocabulary. Teachers should encourage their natural curiosity. Past a certain level of proficiency it is important to modify the vocabulary to a student's learning goals. An engineer will want to learn a different range of words to a teenager.
As for pronunciation it’s my belief that effective communication is a far more important goal than sonic mimicry. For beginners it’s important to introduce and practice the most foreign phonemes. But it is up to the student and teacher to work out how much focus pronunciation needs, depending on the individual student's learning goals, and in what contexts and for what purposes they intended to speak English.
When structuring a syllabus I think it’s important to have comprehensive coverage of grammatical structures and vocabulary. I would arrange exercises around real-world topics, situations and media and make sure that there was enough variety for courses to be tailored to each student or group of students. For me a syllabus should only form a framework and pool of inspirational resources for a teacher. When teaching vocabulary a supply of high-quality imagery should definitely be collated, but exactly how that resource is used is an imaginative task for the teacher.
I prefer to use authentic material and media, rather than those created specifically for teaching. I believe that, if used well, these kinds of resources are going to be much more engaging for the student. Using resources which are less didactic and more open to interpretation may require more attentive teaching when used with lower-level students, but these materials (for example using real photography rather than clip art) are more likely to ignite imaginations. When teaching very young students the quality of your resources is essential. Just like when we learnt our first language any visual resources must be bright and exciting. Similarly with teenagers it’s important that any video clips shown are actually interesting, and that cultural references are not irrelevant or patronising. Video is rapidly becoming the most consumed form of media in our society. Whilst I don’t disagree with using video it think that short snippets are best. All resources should be jumping off points to conversation and interaction.
The effective and informative fun you can have with words, pens and paper alone is astounding. I love to draw and believe that drawing is one of our most direct forms of communication. People of all ages and backgrounds have the ability to draw and although they may lack confidence and ideas, concepts and information can always be exchanged with a felt tip. Nouns can be quickly sketched out, flashcards made, scoreboards scored or pronunciation highlighted (particularly useful for those pesky silent Ks you know). For more advanced students you need nothing more than language to have a fantastic time learning/teaching English. People of all ages behave like kids when there is an element of competition. Whatsmore the level of concentration that students display when there is a “prize” as stake is immense, even if the prize is only pride. Debates, negotiations, pitching and judging ideas, charades and other forms of tomfoolery can really push students to express themselves in English.
Central to my approach to teaching is the idea that the creativity and enthusiasm of the teacher will bring the same out in the student. That’s why I value face to face teaching and a focus less on digital resources and more on tactile tools and interaction. Constant innovation and technological developments in the world of education are undoubtedly important. Access to high-quality resources and media, tracking students process, and the creation of bespoke courses and course content have all been enhanced by technology and will continue to develop. Video calling has made learning incredibly flexible and accessible for both the teacher and the student. But I think it's important to bear in mind some of the methodologies of the past. Whilst the sweet trickle of baroque music which accompanies Suggestopedia classes, a teaching methodology developed in the 1970s, may bring it under some ridicule I think the underlying philosophy is very close to my own. The classroom must be have a relaxed and comfortable atmosphere, even if it take place in a busy cafe or office nowadays. The student should be encouraged to feel confident, open and curious. Above all I agree wholeheartedly with what Suggestopedia founder Georgi Lozanov said is essential to the success of his technique; that teaching must be a form of “communication in the spirit of love and respect.”