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.