Above: Hana’s blog.
How did you get into ELT?
I’m not one of those people who you could expect to say: ‘I’ve always wanted to be a teacher’. Not that I had something against it, but I primarily wanted to learn English. I fell in love with the language when I was a high school student and one of the easiest ways to learn it well was to become an English major at university. So, I enrolled in an English teaching program. It was called fast track because it originally only lasted for 3 years (indeed, it was quite ‘fast’ in comparison with traditional programs which would take you 4–5 years to complete). I earned my bachelor’s degree and started teaching at a local grammar school – the one I had once attended as a teenager. But I was never quite happy with my achievements; I always longed for more. It was almost 20 years later when my dream came true and I obtained my master’s degree in English teaching to secondary school learners. Throughout my career, I’ve worked in the private as well as the state sector of education teaching English to kids, teenagers as well as adults. Currently, I’m back at my local grammar school, mostly teaching teenage classes. And I love it!
Are you a native English speaker? If not, have you ever had any issues with prejudice against non-native speakers?
I am not a native speaker and I’d be lying if I said that I’ve never wished to be one. Back in my school days, native speakers were the most respected professionals in the field, regardless of their education background. And at that time, it never occurred to me that their privileged position should be questioned. We always turned to native speakers when we had a linguistic problem. And what they said was the ultimate truth. Having said that, luckily, I’ve never experienced prejudice as a non-native teacher of English. I’ve heard about it, though, mainly from teachers working abroad, and I feel very strongly about it.
What is a positive and negative aspect of ELT blogging?
First of all, your blog is a space where you can store your teaching ideas. Also, writing helps you to sort out and reflect on everything you’ve experienced in the classroom – the positive as well as the negative. Finally, the blogosphere is a great place where you can ‘meet’ other like-minded professionals. As for the negative aspects of blogging, exposing your feelings about teaching in an online environment may appear unsafe to some people. But once you experience the feeling of belonging, which usually comes after a few encouraging comments, blogging becomes addictive.
How can teachers use social media in the classroom, or do you feel that it should not be used?
Although our administrators advise us against it, I believe that teachers can and should use social media in the classroom as well as outside of it. But I’d add that they should always do so with caution. I’ve used Twitter a couple of times to demonstrate how to use social media safely. I often use Facebook to ask linguistic questions we are not sure about in class. Also, I remember sharing with my students something I had written about on my blog. But most importantly, my blog posts serve as my lesson plans.
How has your teaching style changed over the years? And how does it change according to the age/level of your students?
Every class is different and that’s what I love about my job. Over the past 25 years, I’ve learned to predict how my lesson plan is going to work with a particular group of learners, which is a real lifesaver. But that doesn’t mean that my students can’t surprise me sometimes. They are teenagers after all. In general, I’ve become more relaxed about teaching-mainly because I plan less (in both senses of the word) and because I can afford to rely on my instincts and intuition, not just on what is deemed right and wrong.
What does the future look like for ELT?
As far as ELT in the Czech Republic is concerned, I believe there will be even fewer real beginners (especially adults) in the classroom because people will learn the basics of English on their own-either from the Internet, TV, or through travelling. We teachers will use technology more, but we will use it in smarter ways than we do now. And we will be much pickier. Coursebook publishers will have to be a lot craftier and they will need to find new ways of getting to the customer because with all the technology available, teachers will be able to make their own teaching materials. Materials writing will be one of the many skills the new generation of teachers will have to acquire.
What are you currently working on?
At the moment, I’m working on lots of non-ELT related stuff. Apart from the all the annoying paperwork I grapple with as a teacher in the state sector of education, I’m currently finishing my thesis for a four-semester course I’m doing. However, whenever I have time, I sit down and blog about something that happened in my classroom. Read her latest post here.
What is your motto?
Nothing is impossible.
What is your favourite word/ idiom? Which words or phrases do you most overuse?
‘It’s a piece of cake’ (my favourite idiom). ‘Needless to say…’ (this is the one I tend to overuse, I think, especially in writing).
Which person do you most admire?
My husband – for his immense patience.
What did you want to be when you were growing up?
What was the last book you read that you’d recommend?
Me Before You by Jojo Moyes.
A fact about yourself most people wouldn’t know?
I’m an introverted person.