The Burning Questionnaire: Ian James

Orrai?        (Image credits below)

Ian James was the second guest poster and second WELSH guest poster to contribute to the eltpics blog Take a photo and…. A rather wonderful photographer (and a very nice man), we were keen to invite Ian early on to share his great ‘techy’ ideas using images from eltpics coupled with webtools ranging from Googlemaps to Wordle. His post, Landscape Stories, was even better than we’d hoped for. But what is Ian actually like?…… Up periscope… :

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

Ian David James. Somewhere between Bridgend and Porthcawl I think, but you’d better ask my mum and dad about that – there were no other witnesses. I was born and brought up in Cardiff, about 20 miles down the road.

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

New Order and the Electric Light Orchestra while driving, Sufjan Stevens while navel-gazing and Ron Sexsmith (the songwriter’s songwriter and popular music’s anti-hero par excellence) while doing most other activities. To add a little local flavour – I live in Barcelona – I’d also recommend a young Catalan group called Manel.

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

Satisfying: when a student thanks me at the end of a course – we all like to be validated now and again.

Frustrating: maybe not having enough time to pursue my interest in educational technologies. I teach at a public university where I give rather a lot of classes to rather large groups of students, who give me rather large amounts of work, which takes me rather a long time to correct. I would dearly love to be able to integrate more technology into my teaching, but this would entail not having a life.

Writing or teaching? Why?

Image by Diarmuid Fogarty for eltpics


After more than 20 years at the coalface I think I’d probably like to do a little less classroom teaching and a little more writing. Writing would be designing materials and developing resources – I think this is where I could be of most use. As regards more theoretical scribblings, I’m not sure I have a great deal to say, or indeed, whether there is a great deal left to be said. Of course, in the future, my paradigm may shift. Who knows?

A teacher from your schooldays:
Evan Davies, a history teacher at Cardiff High School who first introduced me to the pleasures of listening to a good lecture – and “Doc. Davies” certainly did give a great lecture: clear and engaging, they were a distilled synthesis of his vast knowledge of the past – well, it seemed pretty vast at the time – and he even let us ask questions at the end. Yes, I know, I know! According to current thinking, schools were like factories then; we sat on wooden pews and were taught useless facts (as opposed to higher-order thinking skills) which were transmitted into our heads and then instantly forgotten … etc … etc … Well, I actually quite liked school. Of course, not all my teachers were like “Doc. Davies”, but I rarely felt disengaged, nor considered myself a brick in a wall. So, I think I’d like to take this opportunity to thank all my school teachers – they’ve come in for rather a lot of stick lately.

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

That I enjoyed it! Learning to teach is a bit like learning to ski: you have to spend the first couple of days falling on your *rse before you have a clear idea of whether you enjoy it or not. After my first few days of teaching (IH Barcelona, circa 1990) I came to the conclusion that I was indeed having fun – whether or not my students were is, of course, debatable.


Image by @elt_pics at eltpics

What motivates/inspires you most?

Inspires: I’m a bit wary of the word “inspire”. It’s been abused, over-used and generally become rather uninspiring. But if I had to say what inspired me I think it would probably be creativity and originality, which is not a very creative or original answer I admit. I also admire teachers who after 10, 20, 30 years in the profession remain dedicated to their teaching and go about their work quietly and diligently without too much waving around of their arms. Ironically, these are people who don’t normally aspire to inspire.

Motivates: Insatisfaction and the desire to perform better next time.

Do you ever cry in the cinema?

No, I normally watch the film.

Beans on toast and a cuppa, or haute cuisine and a 1995 Rioja? Where?

British cuisine: Toad in the Hole with HP sauce and a can of Brains SA at my mum’s

Image by Victoria Boobyer at eltpics

house in Cardiff | Spanish cuisine: Chipirones con patatas fritas and a bottle of Estrella de Galicia at Bar Kilowatio in Cedeira, Galicia.

A dream?

I’d like to buy and do up the house that I rent in the Pre-Pyrenees (“The Country Retweet”). Then take a year off to grow tomatoes, construct dry-stone walls and pursue other country pursuits.

A fave film?

I made a quick list of films that have made an impact on me but couldn’t decide on a favourite, so here’s all of ‘em: “How Green Was My Valley” by John Ford, “Monsieur Hulot’s Holiday” byJacques Tati, “Man of Marble” by Andrzej Wadja, “Glengarry Glen Ross” by James Foley, “Los Santos Inocentes” by Carlos Saura, “Duel” by Steven Spielberg and “The Railway Children” by … mmm … can’t remember who the director was, but it starred Jenny Agutter!

A fave book?

Don’t really have one. Books I’ve enjoyed over the last year include: “Stoner” by John Williams (Btw, it’s about a university professor, not a pothead), “Alone in Berlin” by Hans Fallada and the immensely-funny “How Mumbo Jumbo Conquered the World” by Francis Wheen.

Dream car?

Can I have a lorry, please? I used to hitch-hike in them and have always wanted one of my own. Truck-driving would provide me with some of the things I often long for: independence, solitude, time for contemplation, space etc – of course, dreams tend to be ever so gilded, so I’ll stick with my trusty Skoda Fabia for the mo. Thanks anyway!

Down periscope……….


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