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………



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



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