Yesterday, @Lizziepinard and I were having one of our many chats on Twitter, and I proposed collaring her as my second interview victim (after Naomi) for Brad Patterson’s excellent PLN interview challenge. We originally planned to do the interview in June, but after chatting for more than an hour, it was clear that neither of us had anything more exciting to do on a Friday afternoon (me)/evening (Lizzie)…so off to Skype we went.
What I already knew
I first became aware of Lizzie as a contributor to #eltchat, the weekly meetings of ELT teachers from around the world which take place every Wednesday. Unfortunately, as she is teaching in Indonesia at the moment, Lizzie can only make the first chat, but she’ll be in England over the summer, so hopefully she’ll be joining us for both soon! Lizzie’s participation in #eltchat has also taken the pressure off me a little 🙂 as she’s now the number one summary writer, having done three summaries in the last month, all of which are easy to read and very entertaining:
- The effect of culture on teaching and learning
- What makes a good Director of Studies?
- How to avoid death by coursebook
In her own words:
born in Chichester (and got family in East Sussex), grew up from age 2-16 in Botswana, A-levels East Sussex, degree Warwick Uni w/a yr in France, a few months in Durham when among other things I worked at Northumbrian Water in Pity Me [that’s a real place if you were wondering!], then landed in Sheffield for a few years, then Indonesia!
Read on to find out more!
The Big Five
- If your students were to label you with three adjectives, what might they be?
This is one of those questions that is pretty difficult to answer, but after much um-ing and er-ing, Lizzie eventually said enthusiastic, creative and…unpredictable (this was the best word we could come up with!). She later qualified it in a great way:
“Just to clarify on the “unpredictable” point… it’s not in a scary, kids don’t know where they stand with me kind of way, more in a surprising instead of boring kind of way. But maybe energetic would be a better word! In ELT speak (well, in Jim Scrivener’s Learning Teaching book anyway!), I like to go the parabola way instead of the direct way :-p”
- What would we find in your refrigerator right now?
Next week Lizzie is leaving Indonesia for the summer, so her fridge is pretty empty right now: just some biscuits, a quarter of a papaya and some milk (we decided this was very English!).
Normally it would be much fuller, ideally with:
“lots of salady things, fruit, hummus, cheese, yoghurt, decent milk (the long-life milk you get in Indonesia isn’t the same)…”
- If you weren’t a teacher, what might your profession be?
Before becoming a teacher, Lizzie did disability support work at Sheffield Hallam University, working with people with a whole range of disabilities. She was employed to go to lectures and take notes for the students. It was a great job, but paid by the hour, so that when the students went home there was no money coming in. Biology lectures were fun, but anything involving a lot of numbers, like Economics, Physics or Applied Mathematics where difficult when she didn’t understand what the lecturers were talking about. If you find yourself in the same situation, her advice is “Let the words go in at your ear and out at your hand – if you try to process them, they will melt your brain!”
If not doing that, Lizzie would like to be a writer or work in a library – anything with books really.
- What do you find most difficult about the teaching profession or what has been your most difficult class as a teacher?
Any of you who have read Lizzie’s summary and comments about the #eltchat on using coursebooks will already know that she has been having to teach under very strict constraints for the past year, with “a hefty coursebook, too-short courses and zero freedom to stray from the coursebook”. The students and my colleagues have been great though! She’s leaving next week, so hopefully this situation will change soon and she’ll be able to experiment with all of the things she’s learnt from her PLN over the last few months.
- What was the last book/movie you read/saw, and what have you seen/read too many times?
The last book Lizzie read was Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert. It was OK, but not earth-shattering, and the section set in Indonesia was interesting. At the moment she’s reading Tales from Firozsha Baag by Rohinton Mistry, which is a series of short stories about the inhabitants of an apartment block in Bombay [which I now want to read!]
The last film she saw was National Velvet with Elizabeth Taylor, which was being played on the plane as part of an Elizabeth Taylor tribute. Her comment: “a pleasant watch, good if you like horses”
The DVD extras
After I’d asked Lizzie the five questions for the challenge (with a blip in the middle when we lost the connection, and another as I accidently hung up!), we then carried on chatting for about half an hour. Two questions I really wanted to ask her were:
How did you end up in Indonesia?
I wanted to go there, saw that English First had lots of schools there, and decided it seemed like a safe bet, especially because you get a contract before you arrive in Indonesia, rather than having to do a demo lesson once you arrive with no guarantee of getting a job. I’ve got a new job at a different school for September, this time based in Jakarta. I’m in South Sumatra at the moment, so it’s going to be like going to a whole other world.
What was Botswana like when you were growing up?
Completely different to now! When we first arrived in the mid 1980s the capital city was not much bigger than a village. There was only a ridiculously small number of paved roads in the country! Botswana is the size of France and currently has around 2.4 million people living there, even fewer, much fewer, when we first went there! Now it’s more like a mini-Joburg. (Unfortunately with a crime rate to match! Well, not quite that bad, but heading in the wrong direction!)
We lived in a government house (which we nick named the matchbox) and memories of childhood include running around outside barefoot and climbing over the fence to play with the neighbours.
One Christmas when we were going to the UK, when I was still very young, we got to the airport and THEN my parents noticed my bare feet! Them: “Where are your shoes????!!!!” Me: “Er, in my bedroom…” (Where else would they be?! …did I mention I used to go barefoot a lot? :-p)
Eventually I had to go as there was a parade of masks in Brno that night, but I’m sure if I hadn’t we would still be talking now! We’re going to try and meet at some point in the summer when we’re both in the UK, and Lizzie is also trying to get a scholarship to take her to IATEFL next April, so we should meet there too (good luck!)
Thanks again Brad for challenging us to these interviews!