Liam was born in Vienna, but spent most of his life in the UK. Following a BSc in psychology, Liam went on to achieve his PGCE and Qualified Teacher Status from UCL’s Institute of Education. He began his career in education working as a school teacher in central London, before recently deciding to move to Berlin. He’s still relatively new to private language tutoring and coaching, but is relishing the change of pace. Liam’s currently on something of a tutoring hiatus whilst he waits for his freelance residence permit, but he’s looking forward to once more captivating students and sharing his love of languages.
Liam likes to think of himself as an amateur historian and a bit of a linguist, and in his spare time (which is currently more abundant than ever) he enjoys ice-skating, reading, and writing.
Considering you were born in Vienna, why did you decide to move to Berlin?
The main motivation for the move was really just a desire to try something new. Me and my partner were both quite eager to broaden our horizons and experience something different to what we had become used to in the UK. I was also hoping to study a Master’s in history out here, but that’s taking a back seat at the moment whilst I find my feet.
This being said, I actually lived in Berlin once before, back in 2017, so I suppose I was motivated by a desire to try something slightly new-ish.
As for being born in Vienna, I’m not really sure how far that influenced my motivation. We left Vienna whilst I was still quite young, and my parents are both Brits, but I like to imagine that the very brief time I spent there as an infant instilled in my developing brain a yearning for high-quality baked goods, orderliness, and doing absolutely nothing on Sundays – a yearning that can only be quenched in a German-speaking country.
How did you discover ELTABB and what do you hope to get from your membership?
Back in the UK I was blessed to teach at a school with an incredibly supportive network. I was surrounded by colleagues that I felt I could always turn to for encouragement and support.
Making the jump to freelancing, this was the number one thing that I missed. I found out about ELTABB whilst searching for communities of teachers in Berlin, and already I’ve felt incredibly welcomed by every member that I’ve spoken with. Ideally, what I’m hoping to get from my membership is this continued sense of community, which can often be hard to find when working for yourself.
- What made you switch from studying psychology to going into teaching?
When I first started studying psychology, I intended to go into a career in psychiatry. As I progressed through my studies, I learnt a lot about the value of prevention over “cures” when it comes to mental health, and the massive influence one’s early years have on development.
I had a lot of grand and perhaps sometimes naive ideas about how to make the world I lived in a better, happier, healthier place, and I resolved that the best way to do this might be to start with relatively “blank” slates.
I figured that as a primary teacher, I could hopefully have a positive effect on masses of young people, and provide them with an excellent start in life, along with the added benefit of introducing them to the joy of learning. I like to think that I was right. It’s a cliche, but I genuinely came to feel that every smile in that classroom was a massive success.
Obviously that motivation isn’t quite as pertinent now that I also teach adults, but I still believe that (regardless of one’s age) self-improvement, education, and discovery have massively beneficial impacts on our own health, and the health of society en masse.
Could you tell us a bit about teaching in schools in London? What subject(s) and age groups did you teach, and what did you take away from this experience?
Gladly! I was a primary teacher, so I taught a class of 30 young children almost every subject the schools offered. You name it; Maths, English, Science, Spanish, History, and everything in between. I mostly taught Year 4, which is children aged 8 and 9.
The most practical take-away from my time in schools was the ability to tailor my teaching to a massively wide variety of needs, interests and abilities.
I also learnt a great deal about patience, and the benefits of genuinely caring about the people you teach. Forgive me another cliche, but every student has their own story, and being able to learn that story, and even be but a tiny part of it, is an immense privilege.
I know you mentioned that you’re waiting on your freelance visa to kick in before being able to teach in Berlin. Have you started yet? If so, what kind of classes are you teaching? (If not, what kind of classes do you hope to teach?)
I have started, I actually got my work permit just last week!
I’m currently teaching mostly in-company business English and some in-school classes for young learners, along with a few online 1:1s mainly looking at IELTS prep and conversation skills.
Moving forward, I’d ideally like to focus on private 1:1s, as I feel students can get a lot out of that professional relationship, and that level of close attention. Whilst my experience is in working with young people, I’m relishing the variety that comes with freelancing, so I’m trying not to box myself into any niche just yet.
Oh no! You’ve been asked to teach a lesson in 5 minutes! What’s your go-to activity?
One of my favourite things about teaching is learning about your students, and I find the most exciting challenge with teaching to be thinking on your feet. So my go-to activity would balance these two.
I’d start by getting to know the student(s) and finding out about how they use English in their day-to-day lives. From there, we can break down a scenario that’s relevant to the class and their needs, and move on to some tasks and role plays to prepare them for such a scenario.
I also produce a lot of my own resources (activities, tasks, materials) so if all else fails, I’ve always got one of these in my back pocket.
You mentioned that you like to write. What do you write? Have you got anything in the pipeline?
I mostly write fantasy. I find creating worlds with their own peoples and histories a really interesting mental exercise, and the fantasy genre naturally lends itself to that.
I’ve always been particularly fascinated with philosophy, religion, and psychology, and these are themes I try to explore in my fiction. I like looking at the emotions and challenges that people face in our modern world through the lens of unusual and unfamiliar fantasy settings.
I’ve only recently started sharing my writing with others (posting pieces online, submitting short stories to magazines), but I’ve been working on a novel for about a year now. It looks at the ability of individuals to influence their own lives and environments, even when such influence or change seems hopeless – but it’s all dressed in classic high fantasy trappings.
I also write the occasional non-fiction piece on history!
What’s your favourite thing to do on a beautiful day in Berlin?
You can’t beat a nice walk in the park – my favourite’s Gleisdreieck (I love watching the trains go past).
I’m waiting on my rollerblades to get shipped over from the UK right now – but when they arrive, no doubt that’ll be my go-to for a summer’s day!
We’d love to know what you like about ELTABB and what you’d like to see more of. Two stars and a wish: ready, steady, go!
First and foremost it’s the community, for me. As I mentioned, I’ve thus far found everyone to be so friendly and supportive, and that’s been a massive help whilst starting a new adventure. Secondly, the journal is filled with brilliant advice on professional development, and that’s been another real asset.
As for a wish, that’s much harder to answer – I suppose I can only wish for more of the same!
How do you maintain a healthy work-life balance?
I’m trying to remind myself of the importance of taking restful breaks and unwinding when I have a spare moment.
I’ve always found teaching to be a job in which it’s very easy to always find “just one last thing” that needs to be done, so I’m hoping to work on that mindset.
Edited by Eleanor Johnston