22 TEFL-y things

I am delighted to report that a hand of friendship has been extended to this blog from the TEFL blogging community. Elly has nominated me for an ’11 Things Blogging Challenge’, so we are going to have a short break from church-related pondering and awkward moments while I don my teacherly hat. If you are not at all interested in English language teaching, you’d better stop reading now.

monty python

You can decide who has the most teacherly hat here.

Step 1. Acknowledge the nominating blogger.

Elly is an inspiring teacher, an example of commitment, enthusiasm and imagination and generally all-round fantastic. Any teacher who finds they have the privilege of, for example, having a Saturday coffee with her at Le Pain Quotidien will certainly find themselves more motivated, energised and stocked up with ideas for the next week. She is also a skilled artist.


Step 2. Write 11 random facts about yourself.

  1. My favourite animals are penguins. I never thought about this before teaching, but one needs a favourite everything.
  2. My favourite film is The Lion King. See above.
  3. My favourite colour is green. See above.
  4. My least favourite phrase is ‘it depends on the situation’. My teenagers had to be banned from saying that it depended on the situation.
  5. I have been genially mocked by students for saying ‘OK’ too often, saying ‘indeed’ too often, and always tapping the same rhythm on the whiteboard with the marker.
  6. I’m still proud of the class of competitive 7-year-olds who learnt to shake hands at the end of every board rush and say “good game, good game”.
  7. My left hand quite often looks like this  DSCF3696
  8. and my right hand quite often looks like this  DSCF3697
  9. but I did manage to teach for three weeks with only my left (non-writing) hand available due to a right olecranon fracture. My students were very nice about this and would often look up while I was scrawling on the board and say “Maybe I will do it for you?”
  10. My seminars for teachers always include some allusion to Monty Python.
  11. The number of seminars for teachers I have so far given is two.

Step 3. Answer 11 questions.

Why did you decide to become an EFL teacher?

Amongst other reasons, I had just spent a year being a Creative Writing student, that is trying to become a poet, with other poet-hopefuls, and some professional poets, and some people who had signed up to be novelists and looked rather twitchy at poetry seminars as if the “pure poets” might suddenly call them second-class citizens and chuck them out. “Poet” seemed an uncomfortable label involving too much self-consciousness. “EFL teacher”: much more manageable.

(Of course, I later discovered that “EFL teacher” comes with its own stereotypes, for example that an EFL teacher can be easily identified by his/her rucksack, or that it’s unsurprising if thirty-odd EFL teachers attending a vocabulary workshop could all guess the word ‘inebriated’ in a gap-fill but only one or two could guess the word ‘abstemious’.)

Who inspires you (personally or professionally)?

If you’re reading this blog and I know you, you inspire me. If I don’t know you, I’m sure you would inspire me if I did.

What blogs do you read? Would you recommend them to others?

I don’t read blogs much. If you have one, by all means put a link in the comments and I will read it ASAP.

What’s the most challenging thing you’ve ever done?

You can read about my most challenging teaching situation ever if you click here.

Have you always been a teacher? If not, what did you do before?

Immediately before becoming a teacher, I was the annoying person in the train station café who hadn’t done the all-important Cappucino Training Course yet. First Great Westerner cappucino enthusiasts have reason to rejoice at my career move.

What’s something new you’ve tried this year? Would you recommend it?

I did a lesson on Religion and Beliefs with a Pre-Intermediate class. It was a cover lesson and the coursebook wanted them to discuss psychic powers. I didn’t want to discuss psychic powers, and I wanted to know how the students felt before I introduced the topic. So we spent the whole lesson on “useful language for explaining what you believe and why”. It was challenging for the students, utterly terrifying for the teacher, and no, not recommended. But I do think, as it was a small group with a good friendly atmosphere, that they enjoyed the opportunity to talk about deeper topics than our coursebooks typically permit.

Where’s your favourite place you’ve visited?

In connection with teaching, this half-tumbled-down church which popped up out of nowhere two or three hours walk from the site of our summer camp.


What do you do to relax?

Banter, laugh at the students’ jokes, laugh at my own jokes, sing a song, do a dance or alternatively make the students do everything so I can just sit on a chair. Or did you mean outside lessons?

What did you find most scary/difficult as a new teacher?


What advice would you give your younger self?

When the kids come into the room for the first lesson looking so sweet and innocent and nervous…. don’t be fooled. Clear expectations. Discipline. Routine routine routine.

What, for you, is the best thing about teaching?

Students. (But I like my colleagues as well.)

Step 4ff. Sadly I will be unable to provide 11 more bloggers with 11 more questions, because (as mentioned) I don’t read many blogs. If you have stumbled upon this post and you are a TEFL blogger yourself, please leave a link in the comments so I can broaden my horizons. If there are 11 of you, so much the better.


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2 Responses to 22 TEFL-y things

  1. I was one of the people who ‘looked rather twitchy at poetry seminars’ for exactly the reason you give. Odd that I now quite happily call myself a poet – but it is an uncomfortable sort of label if you’re not among other poets. I’m sure you can be both a ‘teacher’ and a ‘poet’ – and at the same time neither of them.

    • lucysixsmith says:

      Thank you! And remembering your poems, I don’t think that’s at all odd! I always enjoy reading your blog and it’s been great to see what you’ve shared about your journey of poeticality (if that’s a word?). I hope that confidence and success keeps developing.

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