This month, we interviewed Jo Day, an Australian-raised ELTABBer. Read her bio below, followed by our interview:
I’m Jo. I was born in the UK and raised in Australia. I studied creative writing at RMIT in Melbourne and moved to Berlin in 2015. After self-publishing my own book in 2017, I started to realise that maybe I wouldn’t earn enough from creative writing to support myself and decided to find something else language-based to pay the bills, as I was sick of working in hospitality. I’m new to English teaching – I got my CELTA at the start of this year – but I’ve been lucky enough to find some good teaching jobs (mostly thanks to ELTABB!). I’m teaching a few business English classes, a general language class, a conversation class and I have a tutoring job.
And I’m on the lookout for a teaching mentor, so if anyone has any time or any suggestions I’d be happy to hear from you!
- When did you join ELTABB and what do you hope to get out of your membership?
I joined straight after I finished my CELTA course in February. I joined to get advice from other teachers, as well as possible job offers, and I also like the workshops and the social events.
- How has doing the CELTA impacted your teaching?
I hadn’t really done much teaching prior to doing the course so I can’t comment on any difference it’s made. The CELTA course helped a lot with lesson planning and classroom management, although the month was so intense that I had to go through all the material again afterwards to remember everything!
- What do you see as the biggest differences between serving people in hospitality and serving people who want to learn a language? Are there experiences from hospitality that have helped you in your role as a teacher?
In my experience so far, the people who want to learn a language are much friendlier! The biggest difference has been how engaged I need to be – with hospitality I was able to just work like a machine, without much thought, whereas teaching requires full attention. I’m not sure how many experiences from hospitality helped me with teaching – I think being friendly while also being firm was a tactic that was necessary in hospitality, and this is something that helps a lot with classroom management.
- It’s so impressive that you’ve had a novel published! How has this experience influenced your teaching?
Thanks! But I’m not sure it has, to be honest. I’m writing a new book now and I always thought that it was better to have a job as different from writing as possible, so I don’t get stuck sitting at a desk the whole day, but now I actually like doing the two things. Teaching can be quite creative but there’s a formula to it, whereas when I write there’s total freedom.
- What’s your favourite thing to do in the classroom?
I like the end of the class when the students have freer speaking activities and I hear them practising what they’ve learned in the lesson. Although not strictly an activity, I like hearing about the learners’ lives, so I like to ask as many questions as possible, and have a lot of speaking activities where learners talk about themselves (I always give them the option to lie though, in case there are any shy people).
- What does your tutoring job involve? Who do you work with and what are their goals/requirements? What materials do you use to help them?
I only work with one ten-year-old. We go through his homework and play games (like guessing the animal). He’s ten and isn’t motivated to learn English so I find it a bit tough to tutor him. To be honest, it doesn’t pay well either, so it’s probably not something I’ll continue doing, nor something I want to do in the future.
- How do you keep your sessions fun and interesting while maintaining a level of professionalism suitable for your Business English clients? Have you encountered any resistance to using games or other fun activities?
I do a lot of role playing and problem solving activities. I haven’t introduced games themselves outside of this. (If anyone has any successful examples of games they’ve played, let me know!) I find this breaks up the lessons and keeps things interesting, while providing good examples of real-life scenarios. (Even if the role-playing games aren’t so realistic, the language that comes out of it is always useful.)
- How much of an intercultural focus do you bring to your classes?
While not having a strict focus, I try to make sure that in every lesson I’m aware of cultural differences. I try to use textbooks that are more diverse, and have listening exercises with different accents instead of just British/North American. It’s also important to me that the LGBTQIA+ members of the class feel safer, which occasionally means adapting material.
- What have been your greatest challenges in teaching EFL to date?
The first few weeks after the CELTA course were definitely tricky – it took/still takes me quite a while to plan lessons, so I was spending a lot of time doing this! I’ve managed to whittle it down a bit, but a bit of guidance definitely wouldn’t go astray! I also find it a bit difficult in one of my business classes, as the learners have said they don’t want to do so many tasks and just want ‘to talk’ – ad-libbing for me is still an issue!
- Where do you see yourself (or hope to see yourself) in 10 years?
Oh, this question! Ideally I would be writing fiction (while making some money from it) and would be teaching part-time. I’d like to have some mixed teaching jobs – a mix of Business English jobs and some General English as well.
- Have you ever had any difficulties due to your ‘alternative’ look in the classroom? (Speaking as someone who had encountered occasional problems themselves, back when I worked in the UK.)
Not yet! I expect I could have issues somewhere outside of Berlin, but as every second person here seems to be tattooed, it hasn’t been a problem yet. I dress professionally and my tattoos are nice to look at (if I do say so myself), so there haven’t been any comments so far – except from younger students asking where I got them from because they want some!
Edited by Eleanor Johnston