Barry Jameson is originally from Ireland but currently lives and works in Jeonju, South Korea. He’s an active member of #KELTChat and KOTESOL and quite a presence in the ELT Blogosphere. Barry blogs on All Things ELT at http://barryjameson.wordpress.com/ and can be found on Twitter as @BarryJamesonELT
What are you passionate about, Barry?
It may seem an obvious answer for a teacher, but I am passionate about teaching. I wake up every day and consider myself fortunate to do what I love for a living. I am relatively new to teaching but it has turned my whole life around. When I worked in financial services I always envied co-workers who came to work with a smile on their face. I never felt any passion for my previous work. Quite simply, I feel like I belong in the classroom.
How and why did you become a teacher?
I could say I always wanted to be a teacher, but that would be a lie. I was bored of my old job and life. I had worked in banking for almost six years but never enjoyed it. I had always dreamed of travelling. I was 33 and felt if I didn’t make the move then, I never would. I didn’t become a teacher because it was a calling. I became a teacher simply because it allowed me to travel and still pay my bills. It was a very practical decision, and I had no idea whether I would enjoy it or not.
I handed in my resignation in my old job, did a simple 100 hour TEFL certificate and applied to work in Korea. I took the first job that was offered and left it to fate. Luckily, after a shaky first few weeks, I started to really enjoy being in the classroom. Then, I simply fell in love with the job. Now, I don’t see myself doing anything for the rest of my career other than teaching.
What are you most interested in right now?
I find Reflective Practice a really interesting part of my development. I first became interested in it through reading Dale Coulter’s blog (http://languagemoments.wordpress.com/). Here was this young guy, not teaching very long, and he is writing an absolutely fantastic blog. He was certainly an early inspiration. This year I’ve really started enjoying reading Michael Griffin and Josette LeBlanc’s blog posts on Reflective Practice. The other thing I have a real interest in is motivation. I think this stems from of my own lack of motivation when I was in school, I was a poor student, mainly because the course work didn’t engage me. I was bored and shut down. As a teacher, I love the challenge of reaching students who seemingly have no interest in studying. It’s hard to describe the satisfaction I feel when they start to open up and become involved and interested in learning.
What things do you do to help you get better at being a teacher, Barry?
I’m lucky to have a fantastic PLN on twitter. This has been huge in helping me improve. When I first joined twitter I was surprised at how open and welcoming the ELT community was. There seemed to be no competitiveness. Everyone was pulling together, helping each other. That impressed me and has been a constant source of information and inspiration. However, because I’m less experienced and less qualified than them, it can feel intimidating at times. This drives me to want to improve every aspect of my teaching. In addition, I have a plan to visit and observe some wonderful teachers soon in their workplaces. I always feel I can learn something from every teacher, whether they have been teaching 10 weeks or ten years. You always see something that makes you re-evaluate your own approach and tweak it in an attempt to improve. The chance to view and learn from other teachers is very exciting for me I have also been trying to attend as many webinars as possible. Of course, iTDi is one of the best out there at the moment providing some great presentations so far. I don’t know why but I could just watch teachers talk all day. I also watch lots of videos on YouTube.
What’s the biggest challenge you face as a teacher?
The biggest challenge for me is a not having the amount of control over my teaching as I want. There is always a danger that your own teaching philosophy doesn’t fit the school you work for. I have been very fortunate to work for a wonderful school at this early stage of my career but in Korea, the course book is king. My beliefs stem more from the Dogme point of view, so it can be frustrating to try to cover material which doesn’t engage the students, but also having little opportunity to change it. It can be frustrating when parents see course book completion as a definitive sign of learning progress, when it is rarely is.
Barry, what advice would you give to a teacher just starting out on a journey of professional development?
Find what works for you. There are many different ways to develop. I love twitter and it has been fantastic for me. Other teachers haven’t found it useful. Try everything, keep doing what works, and discard what doesn’t. Always keep an open mind. Also, make sure you take professional development seriously, but also make sure it’s enjoyable.
Is there any blog or online link you’d like to recommend?
Where do I start? There are so many fantastic blogs, I’ll have to apologise in advance for leaving anyone out. If I was to give you the full list of blogs I enjoy, you would see a list as long as my arm. With that in mind I’ll list the blogs that I happened to discover when I needed them most..
First up, the first teacher I discovered at the very beginning of my professional development journey. The legend, Scott Thornbury.
Next up, a fantastic teacher trainer, Anthony Gaughan.
A blog that got me interested in Etymology as well as ELT, step up Brad Patterson.
Next is a great guy and a blogging machine. I love his style of writing and impressed by his knowledge, Phil Wade.
A teacher who has infectious enthusiasm and a brilliant blog, Chia Suan Chong.
The master of interviews, Chiew Pang.
Two great teachers working in Korea that I mentioned earlier. I’m glad I discovered them on twitter.
I could go on but I better finish there, with a final comment to follow all the great bloggers on KELTChat – http://keltchat.wordpress.com/
What’s your favorite quote about being a teacher?
I’ll go with my fellow countryman on this:
“Education is not filling a pail, but the lighting of a fire.” William Butler Yeats