ELTABBer of the Month: Louise McCloy

  • Why are you a language teacher?

Although I enjoyed playing ‘teacher’ as a young child, it is not something I really imagined myself becoming as an adult. However, when I first moved to Berlin many years ago, I realised that teaching English was a viable way of making a living in a country in which English is a foreign language. This ‘way of making a living’ actually developed into a blossoming career, and I found it to be a very rewarding form of work. Now, when I reflect on my job, I am actually very grateful that I am able to do something which feels so meaningful to me and that I am able to help my students find their voice and speak up about things which they feel passionate about.

  • Describe your ‘teacher personality’ in three words.

Reflective, attentive and caring (at least that’s how I hope I am perceived!)

  • How would you describe your teaching approach?

I think self-reflection is an important part of being both a learner and a teacher. I try to practise this myself, always looking back on lessons taught and considering what went well and what I would like to have done differently. I also encourage my students to engage in a similar process, getting to know their own strengths and weaknesses and work on them accordingly, and I try to point them towards tools and strategies they might find helpful. I also set up activities in such a way that they allow students the flexibility to focus on those areas which are most interesting and relevant to them.

  • Louise, you are a very experienced teacher, how has your teaching changed over the years?

I think that over the course of time I have come to see the ‘bigger picture’ better. When I first started teaching, I focussed more on the individual activities and tasks and sometimes couldn’t see the wood for the trees. Now I think I tend to look ahead more and have the broader learning objectives more in mind. I also see my role a little differently now: I no longer try to be the ‘expert’ but see myself more as an experienced mentor who helps to guide students along their individual learning paths.

  • What do you think you are still learning from teaching?

Lots! I think that is the beauty of this job, that you never actually stop learning. By reflecting on my own teaching practice, as well as the fruitful exchanges I have with my colleagues, I am always finding new perspectives and different things to focus on in my teaching.

  • What can a teacher never do / have enough of? 


What advice would you give to an English teacher who wants to work at a German university?

I think that there are many aspects of teaching business English or even English for general purposes which can also be found in the university setting. One big difference for me at least when I first started teaching at a university was the focus on writing. I initially found it quite challenging both to give students feedback on their writing and also to teach them the necessary writing skills. So maybe this is something that could possibly be developed some more in order to be better prepared for an academic environment. Also, these days it can be helpful to hold a Master’s degree if aiming for a permanent position at a university.

What was the biggest challenge in moving from face-to-face teaching to online teaching last semester?

I think since this was a new situation for all concerned, it was quite challenging that both the students and myself were simultaneously struggling to come to grips with the technology. However, this actually had the pleasant side effect of uniting us all, and now that I look back on it, I feel that it really was quite a special semester and I somehow felt closer to my students. Maybe this is also because we spent the semester not only sharing our screens but also a little part of our lives. I think those courses will end up being among the most memorable ones I have taught to date.

  • What is your take- home message from the online semester?

I was initially quite sceptical about converting my courses into online ones, but it actually worked out quite well, and I am rather pleased with the new concept and the learning outcomes it resulted in. So I suppose this online semester has taught me that what might seem to be a difficult challenge can actually result in a positive outcome. And I think that is a good life lesson!

What do you miss about face-to-face teaching?

The students! Although we have regular Webex meetings, the contact with the students is considerably less than it would be in a classroom setting. And although I have come to see the benefits of teaching online and feel that I have learned a lot in this short space of time, I don’t think it can ever really replace the physical experience of teaching face-to-face.

Edited by Kit Flemons