I was an ‘army brat’, by that I mean my father was in the British Army.

Most of my uncles were military people, and my early years took place against a backdrop of army life. I spent many of my formative years living out of the UK in different countries.

When I was one we were living in Cyprus, where my twin brothers were born and where I spent much of my time on the beach in a sun hat playing in the sea. This, I am sure, is the reason why I was drawn to hot countries and seasides later on in my life. At the age of 4 the family returned to the UK and when I was seven we upped sticks again and went to live in Germany. It was there that I began to be aware of different languages, and I am always astounded when I remember that in three years, because school, homelife, even shopping on the army base all took place in English, we learnt almost no German beyond a few sing-song rhymes and how to ask for a loaf of bread. What a lost opportunity!

From the age of 10 I attended a boarding school, and it was there that I learnt independence, autonomy and a fierce sense of self-preservation. I also learnt French, with a teacher who was a native French speaker and always used only French in the classroom. At the time, aged 15, I was convinced there must be a better way to learn a language. But later, as a language teacher myself, and as an adult learner of Spanish, I became a fan of the idea.

When I left school I worked in the retail trade for some years before deciding that that direction was not right for me. There were two things I thought I might do, and I had to make a decision: become an air hostess and fulfil my dream of travel, or become a teacher and fulfil the teaching dream I had had since I was very young. I didn’t debate for long. I realised that I didn’t fancy being a glorified waitress and that if I didn’t return to studying I was headed for an unchallenging life of likely boredom. My first thought was to study psychology, which, ironically, my wonderful 22 year old daughter is doing right now at university in Barcelona. But that was not to be so I enrolled at Goldsmith’s college on a BEd teaching degree. I may have stayed in the UK as a ‘real’ teacher had I not taken a 4 week TEFL course and headed out to a private language school, International House in Barcelona.

So, travel, language and teaching laid the foundations of who I am now. Up until 2 years ago I lived and worked in Spain, first as an English teacher, then as Director of Studies and then as a teacher trainer on CELTA courses, and finally as Head of Teacher Training in a busy and successful department. In 1997 I was coerced by Scott Thornbury and Gillian Porter Ladousse into organising a conference called Current Debates, a joint event between my school and the IATEFL Teacher Trainer and Educators’ SIG (special interest group). This was my introduction to IATEFL and before long I was on the SIG committee and soon I was the Coordinator. This led to a post on the IATEFL coordinating committee as representative of all 14 SIGs.

Although I had already been in ELT for 17 years, it was with IATEFL that my real development took place, through conference attendance, meeting ELT experts and talking to real teachers from all over the world, as well as giving conference talks and organising events. Most of my ELT life has been as a manager, initially with very little training: moving into management as many of us do, taking an opportunity as it offers itself and going on from there.

In 2005 I did arrange some training for myself, the International Diploma in Language Teaching Management (IDLTM), a really great course that brought all the strands together and consolidated management principles for me. I am now on the IATEFL ELT management SIG committee.

My professional interests are reflective development in teaching and training, continuous professional development (CPD), professionalism, lifelong learning, and teacher, trainer and management training and qualifications.

Projects I have been involved in which have really interested me include writing a chapter with Susan Barduhn on ELT certification and qualifications for a forthcoming Cambridge Guide to Second Language Teacher Education, a think tank on the future of IATEFL, setting up a language school accreditation scheme, setting up online teacher training courses, and strategic planning exercises for IATEFL and Cactus. I also enjoyed writing Teaching English in Spain, a guidebook on living and teaching in Spain, (which is now all but out of print). The greatest project of my life, though, is my daughter Jessica, and my favourite activity is watching her and listening to her sing at gospel concerts in Barcelona. I also try to join my partner Bill Harris for a week or two when I can during his international CELTA training exploits all over the world.

I now head up the Teacher Training department of Cactus TEFL, a department of Cactus Worldwide based in Brighton UK. Cactus is a commercial organisation, so much of my work has to do with sales, budgets and targets. The most enjoyable part of my work is advising would-be TEFLers on training courses and qualifications, helping them get started in the world of TEFL, and the most enjoyable thing about being back in the UK after all those years in Spain is walking on the magnificent, green and rolling South Downs in spring.

 

Comments

Hi Jenny,

By reading your great bio (I liked the "army brat" remark, I was a "farm brat" cause my dad was a farm manager here in Brazil of a British company)) I noticed that one of your professional  interests is the reflective development in training and teaching. This is also an area that appeals to me cause I do believe that through refleection of what we do we can manage to learn better... and even change things or rooted habits in our teaching. In fact, reflection has been consider relevant for ages by philosophers like Plato, Aristotle and Confucius.And I heard that John Smith, an American educator, in the 30´s, associated reflection to the teaching field as well. Quite recently I read an interesting book by Phillipe Perrenoud, a professor at University of Geneve . The book in Portuguese is called "A prática Reflexiva no ofício de professor."I´d like to read more about this issue. Can you recommend nice articles in this area? Or is there a forum which I can join in to know more about it? Do you know about other interesting authors who  write about this topic?

Best wishes,

 

Hi Monica

thanks for your comments! nice to meet a 'farm brat'!

[quote]I do believe that through reflection of what we do we can manage to learn better... and even change things or rooted habits in our teaching.[/quote]

Yes the area of reflecting on your teaching is a very important and useful one and definitely leads to development. I'm not sure where it all began, but certainly Donald Schön's book The Reflective Practitioner has been influential, and David Kolb's experiential learning cycle has often been applied to teaching:  the teaching experience -> thinking about the experience -> coming up with ways to improve -> trying again (to put it simply). You will find lots of articles if you Google these two. One of the most comprehensive books on the subject is Reflective Teaching in Second Language Classrooms by Charles Lockhart, series editor Jack C. Richards.

To get you started, on this Teaching English site there is a nice article in the Think section by Julie Tice

http://www.teachingenglish.org.uk/think/articles/reflective-teaching-exploring-our-own-classroom-practice

let me know what you think of it!

Jenny

 

 Hello Jenny

Biographies are always interesting and I enjoyed yours.

Doing TEFL seems to have turned the course of your career ( or , rather determined its course).

 I have been teaching English at schools where it was not considered as a second language. Now at the tail end of my career, I have somehow fallen into teaching English as a second language for adult students. Unfortunately I never learnt of TEFL till pretty late in my career, and now especially I regret not having done such a course.

Do you think it's too late to do such a course now? How useful do you think such a course is for a teacher teaching English as a second language?

Would love to have you share your views.

Regards

 shama

It's very nice to know you better by reading you biography. It's always nice to know someone's background and activities.

I'm a new English teacher and this site, including your bio drags me to a meadow surrounded by spirit.

I have always wanted to go to UK someday and learn English by myself with the people.

Light and love, Maulani.