The Burning Questionnaire: Ben Goldstein

BenGBen Goldstein is one of those people, isn’t he? One of those people that it’s impossible not to like. He’s also extremely good at what he does (check out the article he wrote for ELTpics, if you need proof of that). A discreet but stylish, low-key kinda ‘ELT star’, it’s a real honour to be able to share this Burning Questionnaire with you, and offer you a peek at what makes Ben tick. I hope you enjoy the read – though I personally think the first half of his surname says it all…..

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What is your full name, and where did it all start?

I’m Benjamin Philip Goldstein, but everyone has always called me Ben or Benny. My middle name Philip comes from my mother’s grandfather who was Feifel (Yiddish for Philip). In fact, my mother’s family anglicised their surname to Philips.

After two boys (Joshua and Daniel) my parents were hoping for a “Catherine Elizabeth” I think but they got me instead and my father (who was a rabbi) had to officiate another circumcision. But anyway, they called me Benjamin (the youngest son) so I guess they didn’t except another. Apparently, it was a very cold April day in north London, snowing in fact like in that Prince song.

Image by Chrysa Papalazarou at eltpics

Image by Chrysa Papalazarou at eltpics

What music do you listen to or sing along with while driving / cooking / in the shower / contemplating your navel?

Just about anything and everything except heavy metal and country. Today it’s been Nick Cave, Manel, Caribou, Rahsaan Roland Kirk, Aaron Copland’s clarinet concerto and Max Richter’s reinvented Four Seasons. I’m a big fan of Brazilian music because it usually gives me such a lift. As a contrast, I also ambient drone and things like Sigur Ros. I like to keep up with contemporary classical as well, though now I find myself listening to my parents’ favourite composers – Brahms, Schubert and Mozart – which I used to hate as a kid. That’s middle age for you!

What’s the most satisfying – or frustrating – aspect of your job?

Frustrating are the endless rewrites and getting permission refused for texts or images so you have to think again. That happens so often! The slowness of the ELT publishing industry is also something that drives me crazy. Everything seems to take forever. Without a doubt, the most satisfying part is the face-to-face teaching training that I do from time to time. I recently ran a materials writing course in Brazil which I enjoyed. Teaching online is also rewarding but it has its frustrations and I spend so much time at the screen anyway. A fun part of my job is all the travelling – just finding myself in unlikely places talking to teachers who have used my books and getting feedback, of course that’s satisfying. The

Image by Ian James at ELTpics

Image by Ian James at ELTpics

fact that happens never ceases to amaze me, I don’t know why.

Writing, training or teaching? Why?

Well, all three but not in the above order. I’d like to do more training and teaching but writing predominates at the moment. I guess training is what I most enjoy of the three but that could be because of the novelty value, I don’t do it enough. I’ve recently started giving talks in Spanish on methodology and I really like it. It’s amazing because Spanish is a language I’ve spoken for nearly 25 years but I’d never used it in a formal or academic register before now. I like the fact that I can train these teachers but they can also correct me on my Spanish – there’s a good balance somehow.

A teacher from your schooldays:

Tony O’Sullivan – he was my English teacher at primary school and was incredibly encouraging and gave me a lot of confidence – creative writing became my favourite subject very quickly and that was thanks to him, I think. I knew I would end up writing as I got older and even suspected I’d make a living from it. I would also like to mention a professor of mine at Sheffield University – Dr Bryan Burns. His lectures on film I still remember to this day. It was a joy to be in his class. I was very sad to hear that he had died so young.

What was the first thing you learnt as an ELT teacher?

At the start, I couldn’t understand why my chats with the students in the coffee break and before and after class were somehow more satisfying than the class itself. Unwittingly, I then think I tried to bring a bit of “that coffee break feel” into my teaching – well, that’s the essence of a conversation-driven approach but I didn’t realize that at the time of course.

Image by James Taylor at ELTpics

Image by James Taylor at ELTpics

What motivates/inspires you most?

Hitting on a stimulating text, image or a video is something that really inspires me. The art then is that you don’t kill the original by designing a task around it. That’s not always easy to achieve but it happens sometimes that you still like the text after having exploited it!

Do you ever cry at the cinema?

Not much. I think music has a more powerful effect on me. It must be something to do with the power of visualization – the images that are conjured up in my mind affect me more. But that probably happens to quite a lot of people.

Your favourite meal? Where? And perhaps with whom?
I don’t have a particular favourite. But I love the informality of sharing food it doesn’t matter what it is – sushi, pizza, tapas, paella – that’s what so good about living in Spain, people love sharing food here. I particularly like dim sum, opening up all those bamboo boxes and being surprised about what’s inside. Eating in a formal restaurant with my own dish in front of me is just not the same.

A book?
Impossible to choose one or even ten, but I’m developing a taste for big books that linger with you for days, weeks, months. I’ve just read The Luminaries by Eleanor Catton, it’s set in the 1860s in New Zealand and is over 800 pages long. It’s fascinating because I didn’t really care that much about the characters or even what happened in the incredibly convoluted plot, it’s just so well written that you want to carry on reading it for the sheer pleasure of having that book by your side. That story could have carried on forever. I love books like that. Roberto Bolaño’s novels are similar – I could read Los Detectives Salvajes again and again but just because I find his voice is so compelling.

A dream?

Image by Fiona Mauchline at ELTpics

Image by Fiona Mauchline at ELTpics

To be able to have enough time and mental space to write something that isn’t ELT-related. One day…

Beach, mountains or city?
I’m lucky enough to live next to the beach, so I’m going to say mountains. My favourite holidays have always been in the mountains, for example I’m lucky enough to have gone trekking in Patagonia and Iceland – it’s in places like that where life feels worth living, simple as that.

Tablet or pen & notebook?
I don’t have a tablet, so notebook but I rarely use a notebook either – I’m not organized enough. I’m still one of those people who’s surrounded by scraps of paper and my desktop has a thousand files on it. I work in a rather chaotic way, which I’d like to change.

Day or night?
Night – I work better, I think better, I feel more relaxed as the day reaches its end. I’m hopeless in the mornings and always have been.

A sport?
I’m not good at any sports and I don’t enjoy them. Running is about all I do really and it’s good because it clears my head and makes me feel better afterwards but I can’t say like it at the time.

The Burning Questionnaire: Paco Gascón

As Take a photo and... creeps towards its third birthday, I thought we’d revisit another ‘early days’ blog post and get to know its author in glorious technicolour – though in shades of blue and amber would seem to be more appropriate😉pacogamosaicPaco is a teacher – yes! a real one! – based in beautiful Jaén (a must visit area for hikers and nature-lovers), in Andalusia in Spain. And if there’s one thing that Paco knows about, it’s what does and doesn’t work in the state education, secondary classroom, so it was with great pleasure that I added his contribution to our ‘using images’ blog. As a film buff, I was also chuffed at his choice of title….. Now almost three years have passed since that post from early 2012 and Paco is back! So it is with great pleasure and a bow that I bring you…. Francisco ‘Paco’ Gascón. (And, as our first ever MUSICAL BQ, the interview comes with built in soundtrack, too!)😀

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What is your full name, and where did it all start?
Everybody calls me Paco – actually, it’s a very common short-name for Francisco. So, my full name is Francisco Gascón Moya (we take both dad’s and mum’s family names in Spain). As far as I know, my first surname has a French origin, whereas the second one comes from a literary Castilian region, La Mancha.

Image by Chiew Pang (@aClilToClimb) at eltpics

Image by Chiew Pang (@aClilToClimb) at eltpics

My journey began in the afternoon of a warmer than warm June day in a neoGothic hospital in Linares, Andalusia, SE Spain. Mum told me she thought something was wrong because I didn’t cry a bit when doctors gently tapped me on my back when I was born; they found it awkward, too, so I was given an injection with some kind of drug that would stimulate my crying… And, well, once I burst out crying no one could stop me and I kept on bawling and howling for hours.
You just asked where, not when, didn’t you?

What music do you listen to or sing along with while driving / cooking / in the shower / contemplating your navel?
I’m a real music fan. I like listening to music anytime anywhere and, today, I can really enjoy any kind of music, ranging from bossanova to flamenco or from alternative folk to dubstep. It just depends on the mood I’m in, really.

What’s the most satisfying – or frustrating – aspect of your job?
As it reads on my Twitter bio, I’m a Secondary education teacher working in a state school in Martos. So, even if I normally teach English, it is not the subject (ELT) that’s central to my job, but rather the recipient, aka, teen students – as a matter of fact, I’ve had to teach Spanish, Geography or even ICT more often than not.
Accordingly, satisfaction or frustration come along with either achieving or failing to achieve goals on the part of the students.
Let’s get practical. One of the most rewarding teaching experiences I can remember was the day we could send a gipsy kid to college. Due to a series of assorted socioeconomic reasons, the school dropout rate at early stages is alarmingly high among gipsy students, so the day we could help one of them access Higher education against all odds we were delighted.
On the contrary, those occasions when you try hard but fail to motivate students and they

Image by Csilla Jaray-Benn at eltpics

Image by Csilla Jaray-Benn at eltpics

finally give up are absolutely disappointing. That’s just depressing. There’s another thing I also find particularly irritating: those days your lesson plan involves the use of lots of hi tech devices, you spend ages sorting everything out and eventually, nothing seems to work and, suddenly, you’re compelled to go freestyle and whip it all up. That’s just @#$%&!

Writing, training or teaching? Why?
Teaching, definitely. I like writing, but I seriously doubt I could make a living that way. Furthermore, I don’t think I’m qualified for teacher training. And even if I might not be a teacher by vocation – I’ve also worked as a graphic designer or salesperson – I’ve learned to enjoy my job and I always try to do my best (I swear).

A teacher from your schooldays:
Mrs Sagrario Garzón, my primary education language and literature teacher. She made me love language, enjoy reading and grow self-confident. I just can’t thank her enough for what she did.

What was the first thing you learnt as an ELT teacher?
I taught my first group when I was 23 and it was a class of adult learners. I walked in, stood by the blackboard and introduced myself. Everybody thought I was just joking pretending I was the teacher and it took me quite a long (and hard) time to convince them I was the real one. So the very first thing I learnt when I started teaching was to appreciate the importance of good classroom management.

What motivates/inspires you most?
As I’ve already mentioned, the feeling that you’re helping students succeed and achieve goals is fully motivating and satisfying. A couple of years ago I took about fifteen teens on a school trip to London. For most of them it was their first flight and their first trip abroad and they were freaking out at the thought of having to get by in an English speaking environment. However, they were quite happy to find out they were able to cope with situations that required the use of English and discovered that all they’d been learning at school was a tool they could use for real communication. I must say I felt happier than them.

Image by Clive Elsmore (@CliveSir) at eltpics

Image by Clive Elsmore (@CliveSir) at eltpics

Do you ever cry at the cinema?
I don’t think I’ve ever cried watching a film. All in all, I find some songs more emotional or moving than films.

Your favourite meal? Where? And perhaps with whom?
Paella by the sea with family and/or friends. Ice cold lager, some idle talk and plenty of time. That’s it.

A book?
There have been many, but I read 2666 by Roberto Bolaño a couple of years ago and it blew my mind. I read it in Spanish, so I don’t know whether the English translation is good or not, but every respectable bookworm should give it a try.
If you could travel back in time, which era or moment in history would you go to? Why?
Maybe France (Paris, more precisely), 1789. Western societies owe much to the French Revolution and if I could move back in time I’d like to witness all the historical events that made our world as it is today.

A dream?
Respect, equality and social justice. It’s no joke. When it comes to dreaming one should always remain ambitious.

Favourite film? Why? What does it make you think of?
Choosing one single film is quite a difficult task, so I’ll just pick one out of my top hundred list, and the Oscar goes to… Blade Runner. I loved everything in it: plot, cast, scenery… It was an unusual sci-fi movie as it raised deep philosophical questions and made up a totally influential aesthetic universe. I saw it twice long time ago and I keep such good memories that I dare not watch it again in case I feel disappointed. I’ve heard the script for Blade Runner 2 is ready – I hope it doesn’t fail to live up to expectations.
Keyboard, mobile device or pen & notebook?
I don’t think it is a matter of choosing one tool to completely forget about the rest of them. So, even if I have a soft spot for ICT devices and hi-tech gadgets, I’ve never given up the pencil-paper combo, especially when it comes to taking down notes – I’ve tried hard to become a faithful Evernote user but I’m all thumbs (almost literally) when I’m typing on an Android keyboard and I must do it fast – the result is often a load of illegible lines. On these occasions, I acknowledge my clumsiness, put my mobile back in my pocket and proceed with a nibbled pencil and a piece of paper. No problem.
Day or night?
I’d always been a night owl – either for work or leisure. I feel more relaxed, less anxious at night. However, as I grew older and had to change habits, I began to appreciate the advantages of being an early bird – you suddenly realize you have time to do twice as many things as you were able to do when you used to stay up late.

Image by Fiona Mauchline (@fionamau) at eltpics

Image by Fiona Mauchline (@fionamau) at eltpics

A season of the year?
Dog days, no doubt. I love travelling and summer is the season when I’m really able to get around. Besides, I’m fond of every single summer cliché: swimming, the beach, the endless sunsets… and, to top it all, I can easily stand the heat, which is quite an advantage provided you’re based in the south of the Iberian peninsula. The end of summer is the most depressing time of the year for me – I have even set up a Spotify list of saudade songs to help me get over it.

The Burning Questionnaire: Chiew Pang

Chiew collageWay back, when Take a photo and…. was but a fledgling blog, we invited a prolific photographer / eltpics contributor to write a post for us. Time has passed and, as we tend to do, we are now revisiting both the blog post and the blogger, so it is with great pleasure that we hand you over to………. Chiew Pang.

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What is your full name, and where did it all start?
Chiew Pang is full enough. Where did what start? The name? It was almost certainly an afterthought because my parents were bent on having a daughter. But I guess you mean the teaching bit; well, that was also an afterthought, born out of necessity…😉

Balancing.  Image by @Purple_Steph at eltpics

Balancing. Image by @Purple_Steph at eltpics

What music do you listen to while driving/cooking/contemplating your navel?
I don’t contemplate my navel; actually, come to think of it, I must look down there – it might be dirty! Yucks!
These days, I hardly drive, but yes, I do listen to music a lot. At home, I put my Media Monkey on shuffle so I get a mix of what is on the drives: blues, rock, jazz, classical, reggae, etc. In class, music tends to be mellow jazz, classical, even some gamelan. If I had to put two genres above the rest, they’d have to be the blues and classical rock; it’s like I’m stuck in the groove of the late 60s and the 70s. ;-P

What’s the most satisfying – or frustrating – aspect of your job?
The most satisfying is watching the previously silent ones creeping out of their shells and blossoming…
The most frustrating? The gaps between employment.

Writing or teaching? Why?
If I am to be honest, I’d say writing. I’m more of the slow thinker type, and I get the chance to mull over words before I write them. I haven’t written much these past few months and I must say I miss it. That said, I’ve been enjoying my classes this year, more so than at any other time…

Image by Carla Arena at eltpics

Image by Carla Arena at eltpics

A teacher from your schooldays:
Speaks volumes, I guess, but no name comes to mind, certainly not from schooldays.

What was the first thing you learnt as a ELT teacher?
The shy and quiet ones need to be coaxed and encouraged; they may need more thinking time, too. Everyone has a voice and must be given a chance. Silence, on the part of the teacher, can indeed be golden.

What motivates/inspires you most?
People who want to learn and are willing to dedicate time to achieving their goal motivate me. I find inspiration in passion and in people who beat the odds with hard work and perseverance.

Do you ever cry in the cinema?
I’m a sentimental old fool, so yes, I do cry, but it’s been donkey’s years since I was in a cinema.

Your favourite meal? Where? And perhaps with whom?

Image by Vicky Loras at eltpics

Image by Vicky Loras at eltpics

You know, years ago, I might have said dinner in a cosy French restaurant with a little vintage Bordeaux, but now, I’ll probably settle for something Asian – perhaps Thai or Japanese, and the company, well, someone who’s on the same wavelength as me… Also, I’ve got a sweet tooth, so I do enjoy the occasional teatime in a quiet café, followed by a walk along the river, except the river and the company is missing…

A dream?
To be mentally and physically healthy and to have a quick, painless death, which comes when I have accomplished everything I want to.

Favourite film? Impossible to select one. Some that springs to mind: Casablanca, Rear Window, Godfather, Apocalypse Now, Diva… In Godfather & Apocalypse, the casting was just perfect, not a single bad actor/actress. Duvall was incredible. I bet you many readers would go Duvall who?

Favourite poet? I’m a hopeless romantic, so Shelley would be my choice.

Digital device or pen & notebook? Tablet/digital device. Do I get one for doing this interview? I may be a romantic, but I’m also practical. Digital information is that much easier to manage. One of the biggest time-waster is searching for information and it’s more efficient looking for it when it’s been stored digitally.

Day or night? Used to be night, but now I’m more of a day person. There’s more light in the daytime; beauty is more visible. That said, nights can be very alluring still…

Image by Leo Selivan at eltpics

Image by Leo Selivan at eltpics

 

The Burning Questionnaire: Antonia Clare

Antonia Clare is a lovely woman. A lady. Inspiring, gentle … the kind of person who makes you feel lucky to know them. And I’m sure many of those who do know her would agree. She has written several ELT courses for Pearson, including Speakout, and is also a trainer and of course a teacher. Want to find out more about her? Read on………

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AntoniaC

What is your full name, and where did it all start?

Antonia Charlotte Jane Clare (a lot of name for a small baby). I was born in a basement flat in Earls Court, London, at 2 o’clock in the morning, on a summer’s day.  My mother says that she chose my name after the author Antonia Fraser, who later married Harold Pinter.  It didn’t matter, as she soon took to calling me ‘the Bean’ because I was small, red, round and wrinkled, like ‘the last little bean in the tin’.  It’s a nickname that has stuck. Friends, family and people who know me well still call me Beanie.

What music do you listen to while driving/cooking/contemplating your navel?

Nowadays, I usually listen to the radio: Radio 2 or 6 Music generally.  But when I’m on my own in the house (which doesn’t happen often) you might find me dancing around the kitchen to the hefty beats of some loud Studio One Roots Reggae, Dub or Ska.

Image by @purple_steph at ELTpics.

What’s the most satisfying – or frustrating – aspect of your job?

Some days the writing just comes together. It flows, you know where things are going, and you end up with some really good material.  These lessons often go through the whole editorial process remarkably unscathed.  Other days, I can sit at the computer for hours, going in circles and achieving nothing.  I’ve come to understand that this is all part of the writing process, but when you’re under deadline pressure, it can be horribly stressful.

However, when I travel and meet teachers who tell me how they’ve enjoyed using the material, and how it’s helped them in their teaching, that makes everything worthwhile.  And more recently, through social media, I even get students I’ve never met, in countries around the world, contacting me to say ‘thank you’.  That’s just brilliant.

Writing or teaching? Why?

In an ideal world, a bit of both. I love writing, and still revel in childish delight at the fact that I can actually earn a living doing something that I enjoy so much, and that allows me the flexibility to work from home and spend time with my children.  Having said that, I still get a tremendous buzz from being in the classroom, and enjoying that special teacher-learner, two-way relationship.

A teacher from your schooldays:

My art teacher at school taught me to be independent, to have the confidence to do things differently, and to try and see things from my own perspective.  I think these are really important lessons in life.  My sculptures were never that great though.

Image by @Raquel_EFL / Raquel de Oliveira at ELTpics

What was the first thing you learnt as a TEFL teacher?

One of my first ever timetabled lessons was with a group of six-year-old Italian kids.  I diligently spent hours preparing a lesson based on a few basics (Hello, my name is ____, What’s your name?  numbers 1-10, colours etc.) which I thought would make a good first lesson.  With some trepidation I walked into the room, laden with cut-up bits of coloured card and piles of photocopies, to be enthusiastically greeted by a hoard of smiling children who all simultaneously shouted out ‘Hello teacher.’  ‘My name is Matteo/Claudio/Elsa…’ ‘What’s your name?’ ‘One, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, ten!’ ‘Red and yellow, and green and blue….I can sing a rainbow, sing a rainbow, sing a rainbow too.’

I quickly learnt how important it is to be able to think on your feet.

What motivates/inspires you most?

Without doubt the people I work with. Writing can be a lonely affair, but I’ve been incredibly lucky to collaborate with some really talented writers and teachers, who have become great friends along the way. Working as part of a creative team can really help lighten the burden.

Inspiration for writing can come from anywhere: a picture, an article, a TV programme, film, conversation, or something I hear on the radio.

Do you ever cry in the cinema?

Always, much to the embarrassment of my children.

Your favourite meal? Where? And perhaps with whom?

In the summer, when the mackerel are in, we head down to the beach with fishing rods and an impromptu picnic.  The boys catch fish, and I sit with a book or my camera.  We grill the fish on a barbecue with some vegetables from the allotment, and eat it with salad, strawberries and cold beer.

Image by Scott Thornbury at ELTpics

A dream?

A little house in Italy, with a view of the blue sea, and enough land to grow tomatoes and have my own olive tree.

Beach, mountains or city?

Beach, though I have to say after living in Norfolk for a few years, I’m beginning to long for mountains too.

Tablet or pen & notebook?

Ahh, tricky one. I love my notebooks and always buy a new one when I’m going on a journey, or starting a new project. But the camera on the ipad has been quite revolutionary for me, and now I rarely leave the house without it.

Day or night?

Night. I love the stillness, and there’s less pressure to get things done.

A sport?

At the end of 2012, I was treated for breast cancer. It was a difficult time, but one of the positive things to come out of it (and there were a few, actually) was that I took time out just to walk. Walking along cliffs with friends, or barefoot on the beach can soothe both mind and soul.  It’s my new addiction.

Image by @Mr_Schenk at ELTpics

 

The Burning Questionnaire: Adam Simpson

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Adam Simpson (known as @yearinthelifeof on Twitter and for many months the owner of the only avatar not visible on Tweetdeck, making him ELT’s greatest mystery man) lives and works in Istanbul and is an integral part of the online ELT community. His previous blog was A Year in the Life, but has been succeeded by the highly popular Teach them English. Adam contributed one of ELTpics blog Take a photo and… ‘s most visited posts in early 2013, and now he’s back with a Burning Questionnaire….  I give you……. Adam Simpson!

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What is your full name, and where did it all start?

Adam John Simpson.

Current estimates suggest somewhere in the region of 13 billion years ago, which, quite frankly, is accurate enough for me. At a point around 4.5 billion years ago a certain star was formed and then lumps of rock started to accumulate into a big lump of rock which then managed to form a stable orbit around said star. The relative abundance of water, among other factors, allowed for the chemical reactions to occur which enabled protein strings to form, leading to amino acids, enzymes, protein strings and then DNA. Things kind of just took off from there. Either that, or six thousand years ago God wiggled his fingers and…

What music do you listen to while driving/cooking/contemplating your navel?

Image by Victoria Boobyer for ELTpics

Image by Victoria Boobyer for ELTpics

Driving is rubbish and I try to avoid it at all costs. If and when I drive I listen to dub reggae. It’s important to consider the profound effect that music has on your emotional state, and this is particularly the case whenever you take control of a four-wheeled death machine. Dub reggae is great for putting me in a becalmed state which enables me to engage the ‘thousand yard stare’ necessary for surviving on Turkish roads. You need to focus on what the idiot(s) in front of you are doing and know exactly when they are going to endanger your life: dub reggae helps.

When cooking I leave it to the choice of the radio DJ. I nevertheless shout at the radio if I dislike the message of a particular song or find the lyrical content banal. I’d certainly encourage everyone to adopt this approach, as the worst thing about audiovisual entertainment is that it turns you into a passive receptacle: think about what you’re watching or listening to and respond appropriately, especially when no one else is in the room. Engage with the entertainment. Regardless of the fact that it won’t hear, this is a healthy action fro your mind. This, basically, should serve as a warning to anyone who finds themselves in a room with me when that bloody Lenka starts singing ‘as cold as a cold thing, as hot as something hot, as big as a really big thing, as obvious as obviousness.’ It perturbs me to think about that crock of nonsense polluting ‘comparatives’ lessons for decades to come.

I’ve long since discarded ‘delivery by stork’ as a valid theory of reproduction. I know why my navel is there and so spend little time contemplating it.

What’s the most satisfying – or frustrating – aspect of your job?

Satisfying:

On the last day of every class I write each person’s name – mine included – on a piece of A4. I

Image by Ian James at ELTpics

Image by Ian James at ELTpics

tape these to the walls and then require every person in the room to write something nice about each other. Please consider doing this, as it’s a magical experience. The papers I’ve collected with students comments about me are my prized possessions. 

Frustrating:

Assessment is horrible. Learners have an absolute right to get feedback on their progress and this is the role that assessment should play. Anything more – or less – than this is just complicating matters, as is so often the case.

Writing or teaching? Why?

Writing has helped me become a better teacher. When you start blogging, it’s difficult to imagine that anyone is actually going to read your posts. When you realize that you have an audience, it suddenly takes on a whole new meaning. I have to teach well so that I can write about my experiences. The more I write about my experiences, the more I reflect on my teaching. It’s a virtuous circle.

A teacher from your schooldays:

I’d like to briefly talk about a character by the name of J.T. who is still going strong, although now in his 70s. I met him at a point in his career when he clearly felt that he’d burned out. I learned as much about what not to do as a teacher as I did about good practice, but the fact that he was aware that his star was flickering out made him all the more compelling a classroom presence.

What was the first thing you learnt as a TEFL teacher?

Learn your students’ names and use them as much as you can’, followed very quickly by ‘It’s better to teach half of what you planned to properly rather than all of it too quickly.’ I had some very great teachers guide me in my early days. Fortunately, I’m still in contact with nearly all of them.

What motivates/inspires you most?

Learning stuff and helping my kids learn stuff

Do you ever cry in the cinema?

Toy Story 3

Your favourite meal? Where? And perhaps with whom?

Image by Vicky Loras at ELTpics

Image by Vicky Loras at ELTpics

The one cooked by someone else, with my wife, anywhere

A dream?

Quite possibly

Having said that, I’m starting to lean more towards the theory that we’re part of a controlled experiment.

Favourite book?

World War Z by Max Brooks

You’ll learn everything you need to know about what it means to be a member of our species from this book.

Favourite film?

Image by Sandy Millin for ELTpics

Image by Sandy Millin for ELTpics

Nearly all films are rubbish

People tend to think that just because there are loads of them made all the time that a lot of them must be quite good. They aren’t. I like Andrei Tarkovsky’s work and would probably go for ‘Solaris’ or ‘Stalker’. People really miss the point with films, thinking that they have to be taken from point A to point be in a linear path that makes total sense and is full of action and clear explanation. Thinking about it, The Mirror is pretty amazing, too. Having said that, if you ask me again tomorrow, I might choose ‘Die Hard’ or one of Jason Statham’s films.

Day or night?

Night

You – should – get a lot more perspective on your place in the scheme of things when the sky isn’t full of sunlight.

A sport?

Rugby League

Headingley rocks on a Friday night when the Rhinos are in town.

The Burning Questionnaire: Victoria Boobyer

Just who is Victoria Boobyer?...

                                        Just who is Victoria Boobyer?…

The first question I ask all the interviewees on this blog is What is your full name, and where did it start? Whilst the second question is deliberately ambiguous, there is no ambiguity about ELTpics’ own answer to it. ELTpics started with three friends, one of them Victoria Boobyer, at that time known as @VictoriaB52. Hers was the first ever ELTpic in the first ever set, so it seemed appropriate to invite her to be the guest blogger (at that point, she was taking a sabbatical from ELTpics activity) for the first Take a photo and…. Christmas post. As ever, she did us proud, she did😉 and ELTpics also got its first ever calendar.

As this blog, The Burning Questionnaire, approaches its first birthday, and has recently been shortlisted for an international award as part of the ELTpics suite of resources, it seems appropriate that it also just happens to be Victoria’s ‘turn to Burn’ – and I must admit, I had more than the average giggle when I read her answers. Hope you do too. So without further ado, I give you……… Ms B52.

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What is your full name, and where did it all start?

Image by @EHerrod at eltpics  "A beautiful family moment shared on #eltpics. Something terribly British about this made me very homesick and also want to wish grandma happy birthday."

       Image by @EHerrod at eltpics                                  “A beautiful family moment shared on #eltpics. Something terribly British about this made me very homesick and also want to wish grandma happy birthday.”

 

For Victoria Laura Boobyer it started with a name change by deed poll in 2011. For Laura Victoria Boobyer it started in small town England way back in the year that Black Sabbath’s Paranoid was released. As a little girl I loved the countryside around Wiltshire but by the time I hit my teenage years, I truly hated the small-mindedness of the army-barracked market town I was born in. The Boobyers moved to Maes-y-Gwartha in South Wales where I went to Brynmawr Comprehensive in the mid-1980s. It was a great move and I’ve felt more Welsh than English ever since.

What music do you listen to while driving/cooking/contemplating your navel?

Music is a huge passion for me. We like to go to two or three concerts a month. I like to ‘sing’ loudly in the car so The Cure, Siouxsie and the Banshees, Blondie, Arcade Fire, I am Kloot rule there. On the commute to work, I don’t tend to ‘sing’ on the train and so that is where I listen to softer music and experiment with new music on Spotify. At the moment, you’ll find me listening to Dry the River, Daughter, Hannah Peel and An Escape Plan.

What’s the most satisfying – or frustrating – aspect of your job?

The most satisfying is definitely when teachers come into my office beaming with deserved pride about something that has gone spectacularly right in class. We have so many ideas in our school and a desire across the board to innovate and improve. The most frustrating is simply not having enough hours in the day and days in the week.

Image by Guido Europeaantje at eltpics   The start of a thousand classroom discussions.

Image by Guido Europeaantje at eltpics               The start of a thousand classroom discussions.

Writing or teaching? Why?

I haven’t taught for a little while now. I enjoy writing courses to fit the specific needs of groups of students and integrating little tech bits here and there. I’d love to be a professional writer of comedy sketches in a future life.

A teacher from your schooldays:

Mr. Owen from my primary school was fabulous. He used to bring in owl pellets for us to take to pieces and we used to plant trees and learn all about nature with him. Once, though, he told us all that the king of Siam (I know, I know) was coming to visit and we had to practise the national anthem of Siam. He recorded all 106 of us innocent little Church of England students singing, “Oh! Wa tan ars, Siam! Oh! Wa tan ars, Siam! Oh! Wa tan ars!”

What was the first thing you learnt as a ELT teacher?

Not to use permanent marker on a whiteboard.

What motivates/inspires you most?

Just to do my very best at everything and to be a good person. My dad died a few years ago and he was such a great, simple person: a huge inspiration to anyone who knew him.

Do you ever cry in the cinema?

Cinema? I cry at everything. I cry at ‘Undercover Boss’ and can’t listen to The Archers if it gets too upsetting. In the cinema, I have to wait for the credits to finish and everyone to leave to compose myself. The Welsh national anthem makes me cry and when long-term students leave I cry. The teachers and students have a competition to write the most heartfelt ‘thank you and goodbye’ to get me in tears.

Your favourite meal? Where? And perhaps with whom?

Image by Graham Stanley at eltpics   "Just a cracking picture.  Nice colours."

Image by Graham Stanley at eltpics                    “Just a cracking picture. Nice colours.”

 

An Indian meal with Kingfisher beer and stacks and stacks of popadoms plus a classy variety of accompaniments.

A dream?

A retirement with warm summers.

Please also choose three or four of these Burning Questions and add the ‘why?’:

Favourite poet?

Many many hours and nights spent being serious and geeky reading The Wasteland over and over and all the background references have left me uncomfortably scarred with a love for T.S.Eliot’s poetry.

Beach, mountains or city?

Kalamata is a perfect blend of mountains and sea.” (As all the FCE students there had been coached to tell me time after time.) Actually it was. And lovely too. Climb up the mountains in the morning and reward yourself with a dip in the afternoon.

Image by Scott Thornbury for eltpics      "Not a terribly stunning image in itself but it was a day when Scott Thornbury went for a long walk and took an image of every type of path / road for #eltpics. (It was the set of week).  It was early days for #eltpics and a batch of images made a big difference."

Image by Scott Thornbury for eltpics                   “Not a terribly stunning image in itself but it was a day when Scott Thornbury went for a long walk and took an image of every type of path / road for #eltpics. (It was the set of week). It was early days for #eltpics and a batch of images made a big difference.”

Day or night?

Day with a clear blue sky and white light. Gardening or on a romping walk with the right music in headphones makes you have a beaming smile and want to say “Cracking day” to everyone.