‘Above all, be proactive and passionate about what you do – education is no place for mediocrity. Read, write an article for a journal – above all, step outside of your comfort zone. It’s the same advice I give to my children – You get out of life what you put into it.’
Could you tell us something about your early career in the language teaching sector?
I started my career in ELT some 18 years ago, as a Management Co-ordinator for Norwich Institute for Language Education (NILE) after a background in International Marketing.. Over the course of the next 17 years, I saw a small organisation grow from its early beginnings to being one of the largest organisation of its kind. Throughout that period, I held various roles but all were with a focus on marketing and business development.
As a ELT trainer, I have worked mainly in the area of ELT management, whilst still retaining an interest in my passion for reading & reader development and have been an active conference presenter in these areas.
What big changes have you noticed in the language teaching field since you started?
In-country provision has certainly improved dramatically in the years I have been in the business, and this has had a big impact in English native-speaking countries. From a business perspective, Students have become more discerning – the concept of ‘Value-Added’ is something we are all now familiar with, and I think this has helped to encouraged professionalism within the industry. The ‘noughties’ was also a period which, sadly, saw the demise of many small, privately owned language institutions and the growth of large-scale ‘chains’, not only in the UK but across Europe.
From language learners’ perspectives, significant growth in European funding over the last 15 years has led to increased opportunities for students and teachers in terms of both transnational mobility and exposure to new ideas and practices.
I think it is the field of EdTech where the greatest changes have been seen. An explosion of options in online learning has provided global, innovative opportunities for both students and teachers alike. In addition to this, developments in mobile learning are also levelling the playing field globally.
Why did you choose to get involved with an organisation like Eaquals?
We share so many common values! A commitment to delivering excellence in language education should be something that everyone in the field aspires to, and I think Eaquals has inspired many language practitioners to refocus their professional goals and raise their game.
Being part of an organisation like Eaquals also offers real ‘value’ – not only in the ability to attend conferences and training events, but in being part of a body that is committed to sharing expertise and fostering innovation. It’s like being part of a big, professional family!
What new development in the field of language teaching interests/excites you the most?
It is an exciting period in which to be involved in education. As I have already mentioned, these are some incredibly inspiring innovations in EdTech, which are set to continue – I am particularly interested to see the work being done around AI and language learning at the moment.
From a business perspective, I think it is also an incredibly dynamic time, when education professionals can instigate real change within the industry. I’m very excited by current opportunities to form partnerships and networks, to collaborate with other organisations in the field to be able focusing on large-scale education reform projects globally. I am convinced that it will be this ability to work together with others across a wide range of contexts and issues that will drive education forward in the 21st century.
What advice would you give to a new teacher/trainer starting out in the language teaching sector?
If you want to be successful, emulate a successful person! I think mentors are invaluable, particularly in those early years when you are trying to find your feet and develop within your field – George Pickering was my first mentor to whom I am greatly indebted for those early years of support.
Join a special Interest Group, either through IATEFL or other local/national organisations, or become a member of you National Teachers Association. Engage with CPD, either formally or informally. Start a Facebook discussion group in your field.
Above all, be proactive and passionate about what you do – education is no place for mediocrity. Read, write an article for a journal – above all, step outside of your comfort zone. It’s the same advice I give to my children – You get out of life what you put into it.