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Once again this emerged from one of Willy Cardoso’s posts.  We’re clearly in the same zone somewhere….

I have just returned from an Academic Managers’ Conference and a couple of things in particular that were said have dripped down into some deep dark space in my head. The first came from one of those people that you just HAVE to like – articulate, funny, passionate, hard-working, sincere and just self-deprecating enough to be endearing. She was talking about her progress through the EFL world to where she is today – Academic Manager of a fairly well-known EFL school. She was saying that she got her CELTA – which she called a “backpack certificate” (and it’s not the first time I have heard it called that), in order to meander around the world in her own time and have something she could do to fund her on her travels. She admitted that she had no clue what she was doing, until she watched someone else do it and  – her words – WOW! She suddenly “saw” it.

The second was a question I was asked. I am Academic Manager of a very small Business English school. One of my colleagues at the conference asked, “How do you employ teachers? What do you look for?” I have no idea, is the simple answer. But here is what I am NOT looking for:

“This is so much fun…!!” No it isn’t.

“I have excellent references.” I don’t care.

“Can I use my NLP traning?” Ask your student.

“I’ve taught loads of these kinds of people before.” No you haven’t.

“Which course book do you use – I know them all?”  Bye….

I have been recruiting teachers for this school for 7 years. And after so long, I can smell a good candidate. It’s the way they hold themselves; it’s whether their eyes shine; it’s how they choose their words; it’s what they choose to say; it’s the length of their sentences, the tone of their voices, the gestures they use and their reaction to things. I look for passion and strength of character and skills that are not subject to exams and tick boxes, I want self-belief and belief in the value of what we do.

How do you measure, or grade, or test these things? The more I think about it, the more the world of teaching – good teaching: teaching that is inspirational, transformative and visionary – seems to me to be a mystery……


9 responses »

  1. I really think that a lot of people agree that it is a mystery, and that many more would like to agree but somehow cannot.
    It is very difficult for people to let out that deep down they know the reasons for their best choices are not scientifically grounded; it’s hard, not to believe in, but to reveal that our decisions are also based on intuition.
    Until we acknowledge the value of intuition in teaching and learning, we’ll be mainly beating around the bush with all of our ‘ought to’s’, boxes to tick, you name it.

    • Candy van Olst

      So true Willy – it goes back to my DELTA post – someone who hadn’t even BEEN PRESENT during the inspection gave us the accreditation, while I, who sweated through it all, “failed” on the box- tick count.
      I’m sticking with my nose and my gut-feelings!!

  2. Interesting post, this! It’s definitely something like ‘star quality’, and you can spot its presence or absence a mile off. So many people I know in ELT are ex or frustrated performers. In one small teacher training centre in Athens we had two ex-actors, one ex dancer, one ex-opera singer and one ex-actor-wannabe (me) and what they have in common, I reckon, is a sense of audience – not a show-offy amateur’s sense of audience but a real understanding of the audience’s reactions and expectations. It comes through in peer teaching on training courses and in interviews.

    By the way, blogger was down for 24 hours and your last comment on my blog has vanished – I didn’t delete it!

    • Candy van Olst

      Hi Steve
      Saw that blogger was misbehaving!
      I have often been asked by my students if I am/was an actress. Funnily – nope. I tried it once and was HORRIBLE at it. I danced quite well until I got old and fat, but I absolutely believe inthe “performer” bit about teaching – it’s rooted in some sort of confidence in and understanding of the needs of the audience. It requires very sensitive listening and a real feelfor what is working and what isn’t and where to go next.

      • I watched you on You Tube. Your students are right – there’s a definite touch of the Janet Suzmans there…

  3. Hi Candy, we make decisions, complicated ones at least, by listening to our emotions – how we feel abut something. The nucleus accumbens releases dopamine, which we perceive as pleasure. The more you get, the more you like something. This is not rational decision-making, which is what the prefrontal cortext is good at. But it can easily be overwhelmed and overloaded. So, as I said in my last post, a utopia where we all rationalise our way to the correct decision is not how we are made. The best way (I’m basing all of this on the book The Decisive Moment) is to look at something/one, distract yourself for a few minutes, then choose, based on which gave you the most postive emotions. Do I get the job??

  4. Luke Meddings

    This is a quote from The Story of Art by E H Gombrich. As you were posting ‘at’ Willy, Candy, and he quoted the same book in his workshop at Istek, and I nearly did but ran out of time, I thought I’d quote it here:

    ‘Nothing, perhaps, is more important than just this: that to enjoy these works we must have a fresh mind, one which is ready to catch every hint and to respond to every hidden harmony: a mind, most of all, not cluttered up with long high-sounding words and ready-made phrases.’

    In praise of intuition..


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