Connections and Influences – Barry

Shankly and Me – byBarry Jameson

Barry Jameson

“The socialism I believe in is everybody working for the same goal and everybody having a share in the rewards. It’s how I see football, it’s how I see life.”

BARRY IMAGE 1 shankly,_bill_1971_4b15108b8dc50845464549

The above quote is by the late, great manager of Liverpool Football Club, Bill Shankly.  Shankly was one of those special characters that transcended sport.  You can find websites dedicated, not only to his football achievements, but to his quotes.  Strangely, when I think about teaching, he is often the person I think of.  It is hard to have heroes in modern football.  It is full of overpaid prima donnas, cheating, diving, and commercialism.  Shankly reminds me of the purity of sport, the purity of human beings working together to achieve mutual goals.

His beliefs mirror my own about life.  Socialism without politics.  It is a way of life, working together.  Shankly used his beliefs to inform his approach to football.  His influence shapes my teaching.  I would simply change the last line to, ‘It’s how I see teaching, it’s how I see life.’  Few (if any) of us become teachers to become wealthy.  From my experience of connecting with teachers around the world, there are common traits.  A willingness to share, to help others reach their goals, whilst also trying to achieve our own.  It truly is a case of sharing the rewards.

Football and teaching are similar in many respects.  Teamwork, dedication, and commitment are needed to reach the heights.  When players step over the white line there is little the manager can do.  It is enough to support, to guide from the side-line, and hope that they do the job.  Teaching, for me, is similar.  Ultimately, the students are the ones who have to learn and develop by themselves.  All I can do is try to guide, support, facilitate and prepare to the best of my ability.  You try to give them the tools to succeed.  You train, coach, inspire as much as you can and hope that, in the end, it is enough.

When it works, the rewards truly are shared.  I am sure we have all felt the immense pride when we see a student reach their goal.  All the struggles, the blood, sweat, and tears to get to that point are briefly forgotten as you bask in their achievement.  The satisfaction for me comes from knowing that I gave everything to help them.  I can take no glory, as they are the ones who put in the real hard work, but I can feel satisfied that I may have played my own small part in their success.  Sometimes we make a deep connection with students.  Sometimes we don’t.  The important thing is that we act in an honest way and do our best for each and every one of them.

Another quote of Shankly that I often think of is:

“I’d like to think that I have put more into the game than I have taken out. And that I haven‘t cheated anybody, that I‘ve been working for people honestly all along the line…”

Barry Image 2

Reading the thoughts of Shankly changes how I approach teaching.  If I succeed, if I fail, at least I try.  I never cheat a student.  I try to go home each day knowing that I’ve given my best, even though my best is sometimes not good enough.  Work together, succeed together, fail together, and improve together.  These are the principles that I attempt to follow.It seems fitting to end on another quote from the great man:

“I’ve been a slave to football. It follows you home; it follows you everywhere and eats into your family life. But every working man misses out on some things because of his job.” 

This is how I see teaching, and I would have it no other way.  – Barry Jameson

Read more work from Barry Jameson on his always interesting blog All Things ELTand as Barry is an iTDi Mentor you can connect with him and other iTDi mentors from around the world by joining the iTDi Community. Sign Up For A Free iTDI Account to create your profile, connect with our community, and get immediate access to our social forums and a free trial lesson from both our English For Teachers and Teacher Development Courses. 



Voices from the iTDi Community 4 – Barry

Barry Jameson  – Korea

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 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 (  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.

Michael Griffin

Josette LeBlanc

I could go on but I better finish there, with a final comment to follow all the great bloggers on KELTChat –

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