Shortly before Christmas 2011, Dale Coulter was our third guest poster on Take a photo and… At the time, he was living in Rome but has since decamped to another European capital, swelling the ranks of ELTs finest in Berlin. A great believer in reflective teaching, here we have a bit of reflective interview question answering…… We hope you enjoy it.
What is your full name, and where did it all start?
My full name is Dale Alexander Coulter. For about a year and a half of my life, under the impression that Alex would be easier for Italians to understand, I went by the name of Alex. That was when I first moved to Florence, four years ago. It makes it difficult sometimes when people who know me as Dale and Alex meet each other – there have been arguments!
It all started when I sat in a language classroom learning Italian and it struck
me that the job of the guy sitting in front of me seemed like something I’d really enjoy doing; the rest, as they say, is history.
What music do you listen to while driving/cooking/contemplating your navel?
While I’m cooking, I rely on my housemate’s impeccable music taste – mainly indie music. When I’m driving, it depends on how law-abiding I want to be; The Chemical Brothers is likely to get me arrested, let’s just leave it at that! When I’m contemplating, there’s nothing better than Radiohead. I’ll never tire of listening to them.
What’s the most satisfying – or frustrating – aspect of your job?
Satisfying is seeing someone take control of their learning and seeing real gains in their language without the need of a teacher anymore. I hope this doesn’t make me obsolete one day! Being Gemini – yes I do buy into that kind of stuff every now and then – I want to communicate with everyone. When I don’t manage to establish a rapport with a class or a student, I feel like I’ve let them down in some way and this can be pretty frustrating. Also, when I start something, I throw myself at it 100% and failure can be quite hard to take, which in itself is a bit frustrating.
Writing or teaching? Why?
On a Monday morning I would probably say writing, but honestly I like them both. The satisfaction you can get out of both of them is what drives me to continue pursuing them both. I don’t think one could exist without the other now.
A teacher from your schooldays:
My economics teacher. Absolute legend. Best teacher that ever lived. He took a class full of 17 year-old boys and brought out the passion within us for the subject. He used our daily experiences and interests and helped us apply them to things like macro-economic theory. He defined the true meaning of education to me and I have enormous amounts of respect for him. Needless to say, we all got As.
What was the first thing you learnt as an EFL teacher?
Grade the task, not the input. Wise words.
What motivates/inspires you most?
This is the question I’m meant to answer with “making a difference to the lives of the people I teach” or something like that. I’m not going to say that. I get the most inspiration from daily encounters with passionate and friendly people. Inspiration has many different faces. All of them are different. As for motivation, there’s a certain sense of ego in there, I like to do things to make myself feel better or to gain recognition for my efforts – I think that’s normal and healthy. But thinking of the bigger picture, I am motivated to try new things and constantly strive for something better. I am driven by goals – when I know what I want, I am motivated to get it.
Do you ever cry in the cinema?
I have cried at films, but not in the cinema. I went to see Dude, Where’s my car? with my Aunt when I was about 13 and laughed so much that I cried, does that count?
Your favourite meal? Where? And perhaps with whom?
Good pizza. To be precise, Bari, Italy, a place called La Bomba, and the carpaccio pizza, thick and fluffy base with a large bottle of beer and my best friend. It’s the stuff of dreams. All the component parts need to be there, including the best friend.
To take my bike and a good friend and just cycle around the world to different countries, without any worry of money or where to stay, just the two of us, our bikes and the road.
High Fidelity – Before I read this book, I didn’t know it was OK to be a man and neurotic about love and relationships. Somebody must have forgotten to tell me about that. It also introduced me to a heap of good music as well!
Many, but perhaps Swingers. Vince Vaughan at his best. It’s about a failing actor/comedian, Mikey, and his attempts to get over his ex-girlfriend with the help of the outrageously mysoginistic character of Vince Vaughan. You’ll be hooked after the first watch. I have a theory that everyone is one of the characters in that film at some point in their lives.
A racing bike, Bianchi preferably. Cars are just functional in my eyes. Bikes are my real passion.
Beach, mountains or city?
Beach… I feel at peace by the sea. The one year I lived in Puglia in the South of Italy taught me the value of having the sea close to you.