Podcasts, Prince and UnPlugged – An Interview with James Taylor

I am delighted to present you with the first interview for 2016, with one of my favourite educators ever, James Taylor!

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Today’s guest is an invaluable ELT colleague and friend: an English teacher, blogger, co-founder and former President of BELTA Belgium, TEFL Commute podcast co-producer, iTDi mentor, ELTChat moderator, conference and webinar speaker. He is very active on social media and we all learn such a great deal from him on a daily basis.

James joined me from Brasília, where he now lives.

Enjoy this amazing interview and listen to James talk about everything from ELT, life experiences and travelling around the  world as a teacher, podcasts, books, music and more!

A huge thank you, James!

(And thank you, James for coming up with the brilliant post title!)

Reading and Restaurants: A Long Story of Learning for @iTDipro

George Loras - my dad!
George Loras – my dad!

Here is my post for the Special Issue of Outside Influences for iTDipro. I hope you enjoy this story!

When I remember myself as a little child, I always remember a rather quirky child that disliked pink, princesses and fairy tales, and most toys – instead, I loved reading, as I could read from a very young age. I read anything I could. I was also an absolute klutz when it came to anything graceful, like ballet. I disliked being in big crowds.

I loved another thing along with reading: listening to “real” stories.

I was and I am very fortunate to have someone in my life who taught me that I was not weird, and he taught me so much more. He has nothing to do with ELT. Most of his working life was spent in restaurants, with grueling schedules, either as a waiter, chef, owner, or all three together. He is my first teacher and a huge part of who and what I am is thanks to him. He is my dad.

Despite his very long working hours, sometimes working 16-17 hours or more (he has always gone on very little sleep which is something I have also got from him), he was always there for me, either on the phone, in the morning before he went to work, or at night, after he returned. What have I learned from him? Numerous things, but I will mention a few:

  • No matter what you do in your life and how far you get, you are equal to everyone else and never forget where you come from. I always saw this in the interaction with his customers, the good ones, the difficult ones. He treated everyone the same and had a joke and a smile for everyone.
  • You always need to be polite and not load other people with your bad mood. You can talk about that with people close to you. He also told us that you know when a person is genuine and kind by how they treat waiters and children 🙂
  • Pay attention in school, but also outside school. You can learn from anyone, anywhere.
  • He told me real stories. Even though I was only 11 at the time, he told me about the Berlin Wall. He told me about the war in Vietnam. He introduced me to people like Martin Luther King and Neil Armstrong.
  • The first movie I watched with him was…Rocky! Still one of my favourites. “Now what’s the message? Not that I want you going out there punching everyone…but see how much he tried for what he wanted?”
  • He showed me a love of reading. He was and is always reading something, be it a book, newspaper or on his tablet – at 69 years old! He always loves talking about what he is reading. Now that I live far away from him, we still do this over Skype! He always starts like this: “Hey Vicky, listen to this…I read…”

Thank you Dad for all you are and all you teach me and have taught me. I am so grateful for every single day.

Mentoring – PD in Focus 3

(Image taken from www.juangreatleap.com)
(Image taken from http://www.juangreatleap.com)

In Greek mythology, Mentor (Greek: Μέντωρ, Méntōr; gen.: Μέντορος)[1] was the son of Alcimus or Anchialus or Heracles and Asopis. In his old age Mentor was a friend of Odysseus who placed Mentor and Odysseus’ foster-brother Eumaeus in charge of his son Telemachus, and of Odysseus’ palace, when Odysseus left for the Trojan War (Retrieved from Wikipedia, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mentor).

The role of mentors is so important, regardless of the profession one is in. Especially for us educators, having a mentor and mentoring other teachers can evolve into an amazing and creative relationship.

It is as simple as talking to someone about their worries, concerns, interests and guiding them into new paths. New kinds of teaching, new studies even. Be open and help out someone who needs it!

A new colleague: All of us remember how we felt when we first started teaching. We either felt scared of trying anything new out, or nervous before we started teaching a new level or student or class. Letting them know what you would do in those cases can feel reassuring, Perhaps they feel disappointed after a bad teaching moment – you can help them reflect on it and move on. With someone there to guide them, things are easier and can be solved.

A colleague with a problem. Again, as with new teachers a colleague might come up to you with a problem they have. A mentoring moment! Help them first of all understand that whatever it is, it has a solution. That if they have done something that didn’t work, it is not the end of the world (a lot of us tend to be self-flagellating) – they can reflect on it, see what they can do the next time it happens and not dwell on it too much. It can drain them of any motivation they have – this is another good aspect of having a mentor: getting all the motivation you need.

A fellow educator in need of new ideas. Either new or experienced, all of us have been in need of new ideas. We feel at some point that we have completely dried up and cannot come up with anything new. That is another form of mentoring! We can help that colleague get out of that predicament. Some new ideas and guidance and they’re good to go!

After their lessons, have feedback sessions with them, for you both to reflect on – set up discussion groups and/or feedback sessions, as I described in my previous post, PD in Focus 2.