Julian Wing interviews Rod Bolitho.

I was interviewed by Julian Wing of the British Council about my career and my views on English teaching issues.



Dear Rod,

              For me a high point in this interview came when you tell the story of how a student killed your appetite for daft. mechanical drills. early on in your teaching. The students were handing each other a pencil while entoning the the liturgical phrases:

What are you doing?     I'm passing a pencil 

When it got to the student sitting by the window his response was:

I'm throwing it out of the window     .....a few second later came the sound of the pencil landing on the concrete way below the window.

I know from your work over the years that that you could write a Stevick-like book on the vast learnings you have got from students. I look forward to reading it!!

 Warmly yours,  Mario ( Rinvolucri)

Thanks Mario,

 Very good to have your response.  I enjoyed a lot of your entries last month but as usual was very busy 'doing' and didn't get round to responding. 

One of my biggest learnings in the classroom has been learning to listen to what my students are telling me with heightened interest and to focus much less on how they saying what they say.  I had to teach myself to do this but have been helped by students through the years to see how important this is and what a difference it makes to our interactions and mutual respect.  Looking back, I think the anecdote in the interview was probably the start of that process.

'That book' is still in my head, but thanks for your reminder (not the first one!) that I should write more.  I appreciate it.

A hug




Dear Rod

Thanks a lot for the interview! I had a great time watching it. For me one of the highlights was when you mentioned the reading/research influences in your career and when you say that we have to draw from other sources beyond the ELT research. Couldn't agree more as I truely believe that knowledge and understanding come from the broader, wider connections we make between literature, arts and professional writing and research. Thanks for mentioning that.

Thanks Julian for the great interview - as usual :)


Chris Lima

Hi Chris,

 Thanks for the feedback.  Really nice to know we think along the same lines.  When I think back to my early influnences, in addition to Carl Rogers, the names I come up with include Charles Curran (Counseling Learning), John Holt, Paolo Freire, but I also learned so much from talking about ideas from writers like these with other people, not only fellow ELT professionals but also teachers of other subjects and others from different professions.  I miss this kind of cross-disciplinary interaction now, working in a smaller, language-focussed organisation.

And yes, Julian has the knack of making interviews easy!

Very best


Hi Rod and Julian,

Thank you so much indeed for a wonderful interview where we've enjoyed thought/discussion provoking questions and Rod's answers full of life wisdom, humour(as always) and teaching experience which he generously shares with us.

At the British Council Uzbekistan, we launched Teachers' Club (TC) for ELT professionals on December 19. I led the first TC session where 20 teachers, heads of chairs, PDC assistant, project team members and Macmillan head of Rep office got familiarised with TeachingEnglish website, took pleasure in a discussion based on your two articles about 'Teacher induced neuroses' and 'The voices that guide us', and your interview, and participated in Christmas activities.

For our ELT professionals this interview and your articles have become the moment of discovering the beauty of your Stevick-like language (as Mario mentioned above) and some ideas that twinkled in their mind but so nicely voiced by you, among which are being 'open-mineded; in students' shoes; a friend rather than a controller; being able to use not only grammar and textbooks'. You've made them think on developing learners' thinking skills and considering the use of mother tongue as scaffolding. And I like what Lena wrote in her feedback about the lesson learned from your articles and interview: " To become successful professionals we need to love our students, love English teaching, love our job as Rod does."

I strongly believe that TeachingEnglish website deserves e-Governmnet National Awards 2008 for this-each-month-interaction-with-ELT-gurus-opportunity which it gives to ordinary ELT professionals across the world.

Uliana Lee, Chief Counsellor

British Council Uzbekistan

Dear Uliana,

 Greetings from Omsk and many thanks for your thoughtful contribution.  I'm delighted to know that the TC is now launched and that you found a use for all my scribbling in the first session.  Thanks also for your kind words - however I am very cagey about any attempt to distinguish between 'gurus' and 'ordinary ELT professionals'.  I've been lucky to have my voice heard, but I hope I remain grounded in the ordinary professional world of ELT - you know me well enough to know that!

 A very happy New Year to you and to all my friends in the Tashkent office.

 Warm wishes


I can’t help thinking Mr Bolitho’s answer to the question on the ‘post-communicative era’ was rather disingenuous.  Mr Bolitho stops being communicative when he goes to bed at night; I often start being uncommunicative when I wake up, but we know that’s not the point.

Dear Iain,

 Thanks for your comment.  You picked up very shrewdly on my rather light-hearted answer and homed in on its logical 'Achilles heel'.   Thanks for that!  But I still don't understand what people mean when they refer to the 'post-communicative era'. Do you?



Dear Rod

The same with me.  When I was listening to your interview, franlky speaking, I was shocked by this newly invented term 'post-communicative era' as soon as I saw it. (My first thought was it is a misprint). Personally I liked your answer as for me  it's impossible to imagine people not communicating, i.e. without any communication at all. (It may be language, body-language and gestures for those who can't speak etc).

It would be nice if interviewer or someone else explain what stands after this term.

Best wishes


Dear Rod,

In the senventies I learnt my very first English in London (Holborn School) and my teacher was a nice and friendly middle age Pakistani. Needless to say that he was a teacher-centred old fashion kind of teacher who depended on his book most of the time. I then studied at the West London College. My teacher happened to be a witty charming Canadian who stubbornly taught us to pronounce sentences in a native way(Thank God for that) such as I would've done it if I'd had the time but I... so we were drilling constantly but fair enough I passed my First Certificate with a B. I passed my Proficiency at the British Council in Barcelona but , in this case, my teacher was an Aussie in his fifties (a gay wearing a wig, T. Jones style like)) dressed in the latest gentlemen fashion suits. He love himself so much that he used to spend mos of the whole hour talking while we were listening. Also at the BBC I passed a translator module  course. This time, my teacher was a very talented Irishman (he liked to hit the bottled though) who unless there was some very difficult structure to translate, he did not bother to ask us (everyone of us was panicking as we knew the answer was going to be really rough).

So, after such a background, before I passed my CELTA course I was repeatedly corrected for being a teacher-centred in accordance with my tutors.

Such is life, I supposed.....

Best regards

Pere Joan