What’s your WHY? (blogging challenge)

James Egerton shared a video by Simon Sinek called ‘Start with why’:

He used this is a prompt to examine his own WHY of teaching and to start a blog challenge. Here’s what he said:

Thus, welcome a series of ‘What’s your WHY?’ guest blogs from dear ELT colleagues from around the world, detailing their WHY-HOW-WHAT. You can read my own thoughts here, which I read semi-regularly and edit to make sure my ship is still pointing where I want it to go. Everyone’s will be different; it’s always interesting to get perspectives from other educators, and you might even be able to borrow an idea or two. Sharing is caring, so let me know if you’d like to contribute too.

Here are my responses to WHY-HOW-WHAT for teaching, training and being a Director of Studies.


To enable others to communicate.

To help to spread professionalism through English language teaching.


By ensuring that students feel comfortable experimenting with language in my classroom.

By finding ways to boost the confidence of students and teachers.

By being mental health aware.

By being as professional as I can be in everything I do (leading by example).

By investing time in my own development and that of the teachers I work with.

By sharing ideas for development online and face-to-face.


Experiment with methods of language learning myself.

Pass on the things that work to the students.

Try out different ways of approaching teaching to see which ones my students respond to, for example task-based learning.

Create a relaxed environment in the classroom, for example by playing music (if students want it) when they are talking in pairs.

Make sure I know all of the students’/trainees’ names, and that they know each other’s names.

Point out students’ successes in class.

Point out teachers’ successes.

Ask questions that remind teachers of the positive things that happened in their classrooms, not just the negative things.

Focus on a maximum of three things for teachers to improve on in their own teaching at any one time – any more than that can be overwhelming.

Show teachers Emma Johnston‘s talk:

Have an open-door policy.

Tell teachers about the things that I’m working on as a teacher, DoS and trainer.

Ask them questions about what they’re working on.

Record my own lessons for teachers at our school to watch as peer observations.

Encourage teachers to record their lessons and see themselves in action.

Continue working on staying calm, even when things are frustrating me. Displaying this calm through an even tone of voice, a normal or quiet volume, and neutral body language.

Write this blog.

Write ebooks that give guidance for reflection through structured tasks and questions.

ELT Playbook 1 cover

Contribute to journals.

Always explain things clearly – don’t assume that people already know what a term means for example. Use terminology when it helps, and avoid it when it will make something less clear.

Go to conferences.

Present at conferences.

Watch webinars.

Present webinars.

Read blogs.

Help other people to set up their own blogs or social media presence, but only if they want to.

Listen to teaching- and language-related podcasts.

Share links in general through social media and this blog. Send specific links to specific people who I know might benefit from them.

Participate in #ELTchat.

7 thoughts on “What’s your WHY? (blogging challenge)

  1. So many of the things I would say have been covered by Sandy’s excellent comments and thoughts on this subject. Here are mine which relate to business English which is the field I work in now.

    My learners need to communicate with other speakers of English (both first- and second-language speakers) to do their jobs. My goal is to enable them to do this with as little stress as possible, encourage them to look forward to these encounters and to support them through the process of making it easier to get their message across.

    We discuss relevant topics to the learners, talk about their jobs (to the extent that we can without breaking any confidentiality rules) and rehash situations in which they needed English and how the conversations went. We build on their self-confidence over and over. I correspond with them outside class when there is a question and this is always in English. The class I have has become an ongoing team-building opportunity as well as an English lesson.

    We sometimes translate policies or information they will need for a discussion. We choose topics and I let them speak with each other and give them notes afterwards. We find specific points about their job or the company or companies in general to debate. We work on vocabulary and grammar as it comes up in class. We find ways to laugh together and maintain rapport throughout. I send them interesting videos or other information I find which is relevant to their jobs.


    1. Hi Zhenya,
      Thanks for the link. I don’t think I’d seen that post of yours before, but reading it now it strikes me that you are meeting a lot of those 25 aims/goals/points (?) I’d be interested to read the follow-up!
      Happy New Year,


  2. This is a really cool post! Here’s my 2 cents worth:

    Why: Not only do my learners need English to communicate, they also need English to pass exams (IELTS/TOEFL and school exams) so that they can go onto higher education, or in some cases be able to move to another country.

    How: Finding, or in some cases creating learning materials needed to help meet the learners needs. Also encouraging the students to be independent learner by getting them to make use of resources outside of the classroom, such as visiting websites the British Council’s Learn English page.

    What: Track learners progress, for example for speaking I recond my learner at each class and every couple of weeks we review the recording so that the learners can hear how they have incorporated the teaching points that we have in class in their speaking. That certainly helps boost their confidence. Like you and the others have mentioned, I will try new ideas in my lessons. Talk to colleagues and share ideas. Observe other teachers and review ideas from different ELT web-sites.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hello Les. I was wondering if you’d mind me reposting your words in the series on my blog site? I think it’s really important that educators consider their core motivations and then act them out in a meaningful way for students to get the best possible education, and also see their teacher as a put-together person they can use as a model. I hope your words will help more teachers consider their WHY 🙂 Thank you. https://jamesegerton.wordpress.com/category/whats-your-why/
      Please email me if you don’t mind me reposting:


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