I have known Anne for about 2.5 years and it has been a great pleasure getting to know her. I enjoy talking about and learning all sorts of different things with her. I also thoroughly enjoy her blog. I always find her to be kind, clever, caring, curious and considerate. I am honored that she accepted my request for an interview. I enjoyed the process and I hope you enjoy reading it.
Thanks so much for doing this interview, Anne. It is my pleasure and honor to have you here. I must thank Matthew Noble (aka @NewbieCELTA aka Newbie CELTA Trainer) for the suggestion or at least for assuming you were next. It was such a great idea I just couldn’t pass it up.
Haha, that conversation got away from me really fast! Newbie tweeted that he was interested in the book ‘The Tale that Wags’ and I wanted to make sure I was still next in line for it (I had been waiting a year, after all). Suddenly I was being booked for an interview!
It is fun and funny how that sort of thing works out sometimes. I am very happy you accepted the request to be interviewed.
I have done a few interviews on this blog and you were the first to demand compensation. What were your demands?
I think it was almost two years ago that I learned that Tim Murphey wrote a fascinating novel called ‘The Tale that Wags.’ I’ve been wanting to read it and review it for my book blog, so I signed up to borrow it. It’s been a long wait… but I figured if I was being booked for an interview, I might as well be interviewed in return for the offending book!
Before we continue, I’d like some proof that you really have the book in your possession.
That is a very cool blog by the way. I always enjoy your perspective on the books you read. Oh wait, before we continue, where are my manners? Can I get you a drink? What are you having?
Mango juice, please. It’s a work day after all. Shall we go down to the beach?
Beach? That sounds great. Do you live near the beach or something?
Yeah man, living by the beach is the best. There is a coffee shop street that offers a variety of scenic places from which to plan my lessons each day.
I recall you had a very cool and different bio for a conference this year. What did it say? What does it mean? Why did you write it?
It said, “Anne is just a teacher.”
I wrote it because I don’t think number of years of experience or level of education attained (or the name of your university or the type of degree) or country of birth or type of workplace are meaningful ways to judge people. I think every voice is valuable and deserves to be heard.
I sometimes think people get lost in credentials and forget to find out about the humans behind them.
You seem to be very serious about professional development. Has this always been the case?
No, not really. I became more serious about professional development about six years ago. It had long been a niggle in the back of my head to take a course and see what it is I’m supposed to know about teaching. So when a course was offered in my city on weekends, I decided to go for it. From there, I met my friend Nina. She is the one who nudged me into most of my personal and professional development ventures since. It was because of her that I joined the reflective practice group and met you.
Now I think that professional development is essential for any teacher. I’m not too fussed with what forms it comes in, but for me I really enjoy having a community. Teaching can be a lonely job. Being part of communities of teachers (including #KELTchat, iTDi, #RPPLN, and the reflective practice SIG in Korea, for instance) has helped me see that my challenges are not so unique as I thought and that my questions have a greater variety of answers than I ever guessed.
I remember you have been called a “reflective junkie.” What does that come from? Are you a reflective junkie?
I’m going to plead the 5th and direct you over to Mr. Manpal Sahota for more information on that one. According to every definition of junkie I could find, there has to be something bad about it.
Fair enough. We can move on. I think you have taken plenty of courses over at iTDi. What draws you there?
I really love what iTDi stands for. Their mission is to provide affordable professional development opportunities to teachers around the world and they are really reaching out to teachers in many places. More importantly, though, iTDi gives these teachers a voice in the international community through their blog and their mentoring program. I would never have met some really amazing teachers if it weren’t for the work iTDi does. And their vision is very much in line with my beliefs about teachers as humans.
I get a lot out of the courses iTDi offers as well. I’m there to learn as much as I can. My favorite courses have been with John Fanselow, but there have been other excellent courses as well and a great line-up coming up. The current course (current as of answering these questions, anyway) is with Marcos Benevides. I’m learning about designing and adapting reading materials, which is something I really need for my current job.
Confession: I’ve never actually earned any kind of certificate from any of the courses I’ve taken (and I’ve taken quite a lot). I am just too busy to do all the tasks. But since I’m not there for the certificate, I don’t really mind. As long as I’m learning!
If it is not too challenging or strange of a question, what are some key learnings you have had in the past year or so?
Prelude to an answer: http://lizzieserene.wordpress.com/edu-hero-one-of-many/
Now I know how my students must feel when I ask them what they have learned in class. Seriously, though, in the last year or so I have learned quite a lot. I learned the value of self-observation and have been experimenting with ways to observe myself in my classes – so far I’ve done audio recording and video recording followed by reflection alone and with a group.
I have learned the value of student feedback (and also how better to request it, present it, and use it). I even learned that sometimes student feedback isn’t all that valuable. It’s important to ask the right questions, and important to have a purpose for collecting the feedback and making decisions about what to ask for and how to respond.
I have learned a lot about storytelling and the power of narrative. I have given my students more creative leeway over class projects and asked them to write stories instead of summaries of their non-fiction intensive reading materials. I have dabbled a little in studying story performance for myself because I love listening to stories so much and I wanted to learn how to tell them better. (One of my classes actually applauded at the end of a story that I’d used as an experimental piece. #bragging) And through this I have begun to reconsider the value of memorization and of reading aloud.
And most importantly, I have learned that I have a lot to learn. I am always learning from everyone around me and I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Thanks for the thoughtful answer, even if the link was a bit blush inducing. I have the sense you are pretty busy. What keeps you busy?
Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and Youtube.
The biggest and most rewarding thing that keeps me pretty busy is my job – I have 32 contact hours a week with around 200 students who are divided into classes by age rather than level. Preparing for those classes takes a lot of my time every day, and reflecting on them takes more. Another activity I love doing is the iTDi advanced skills courses. I have really enjoyed interacting with people I meet there and I have recently become an iTDi mentor as well. I also facilitate the Reflective Practice SIG in Korea and manage @officialkotesol in my free time, with occasional help from important KOTESOL personages. I’m the vice president of I forget what in #KELTchat, along with @breathyvowel, @bryanteacher and yourself, which is a lot of fun. I am a proofreader and copy-editor for The English Connection (KOTESOL’s magazine), and I do other proofreading projects as time permits.
Gosh. Wow. I will not complain about being busy when you are around. What do you do for fun?
Everything I do is fun. That’s why I do it.
I guess I pedal all over the country for fun. Biking relieves a lot of stress for me and forces me to leave the things that make me busy behind for a while. I really love exploring the Korean countryside and finding little gems that few people ever see. I meet a lot of interesting people this way, too. It seems like the first question Koreans ask me is “Where are you from?” But among bikers, they want to know “Where did you start?” and “How far are you going?” On my bike, I’m not quite so different.
Cool. I see. And back to teaching and professional development. What advice do you have for teachers starting out in Korea or elsewhere?
Maybe I’ll copy and paste real authentic advice I have actually given to teachers just starting out.^^ Stay tuned.
Nope. As it turns out, I’m not good at giving advice. I went through old interactions with newbies and what I mostly do is share experiences.
Nice answer, as expected. And now we enter “The Lightning Round.” Quick answers to somewhat random questions is what we are looking for. So, you’ve lived in Chicago and New York, right? How would you compare these cities in general and in terms of pizza? In 10 words or less!
I couldn’t do it in 10 words, but I poetried it for you.
Busy people rush
Down narrow winding streets
Lakeside life, museums,
Metra electric → millennium station
|Deep dish or thin crustIf you have to fold it up
It isn’t pizza
Thanks! If you could magically popularize one Korean item in the US and vice versa what would they be?
Oh man. The only thing I still miss from the US is proper clothes dryers. I sure wish those came with every furnished home like washers do.
In two weeks in the US, the thing I wish I could import here is the bike paths. Korea does bike paths really really well.
Who would win in a game of golf, Mike Ditka, Tony Gurr, Kevin Stein or God?
I don’t know, but there is practically no chance that I’d be awake by the end of the game.
OK, who would win in a game of (American) football, 11 mini Ditkas or the New England Patriots?
How is this even a question? #beardown
Finally, do you have any suggestions or requests for my next interview on here?
There are quite a few interviews I’d love to read: starting with Newbie and @datEnglish, who is my storytelling hero.
Noted, thanks! What brought you to Korea?
I came to Korea fresh out of university with a desire to experience something different and absolutely zero dollars to my name. Korea was a great place for people in that position because at the time the only requirement was having a degree and being from one of the great eight. The recruiter sent me a round trip ticket pre-paid.
How long did you figure you’d stay?
And I held onto that ticket for dear life, planning on leaving as soon as something went wrong. I’d done my research on Dave’s beforehand and knew I might be getting into a baaaaad situation – slavery or worse! But as it turned out, I fell in love with the students and watching their learning made me want to be a teacher.
What were your expectations coming here? Is there anything interesting you brought with you? *sigh* I brought a suitcase full of ramen, complete with the pot to cook it in and a pack of matches. I brought one fork, one knife, one spoon, one plate and one bowl. And that probably answers the question about my expectations coming here. (It’s okay. you can laugh.)
How long have you been in Korea? And, what changes have you seen in the ELT-world in that time?
I guess I’ve been here about 12 years now.
The biggest change is that ELT exploded onto the Twitterverse and there is a whole lot more connection between teachers in different countries and sharing of resources and experiences. I used to make all my own materials from scratch. Now I borrow ideas and adapt materials more often.
I also see ELT becoming more of a profession. Qualifications are sterner in many countries and there are fewer of the backpacker teachers, particularly in Korea. Now, if only the pay rates and job security would reflect the teachers’ experiences and qualifications…
Another thing I’d like to mention is the increase in popularity (and usefulness and quality) of ELT blogs. Blog challenges and branch-offs like your interviews, Eugenia Loras‘s multilingual parenting strand, and Laura Phelps‘s materials writing experiences provide a lot more depth and increase participation in the blogosphere, while a lot of academic blogs (like @anthonyteacher’s Research Bites, ELFA project, and History and Philosophy of Language Sciences) increase my awareness of research and focus my interests.
If my memory is correct, you are a fan of “Korean Students Speak” where students share a message on a blank piece of paper, right?
Korean Students Speak is a great place because it both gives students a voice and an outlet for their frustrations in the most trying years of their academic lives, when they study from dawn to past midnight and sleep 4 hours a night. I love this blog and I want to support those students and also support my own students. I hope they will be strong enough to turn away from this status quo when they are adults with children of their own.
What would your message be?
If I could leave a message to support these students and also remind them and the world that things do not have to be this way forever, it would be a simple message:
“Let them play.”
“Let them play.”
That sounds like a perfect note to end on. Thanks so much for your time! It has been a pleasure.