Eltabber of the month: Phoebe Blackburn

1. Question from Rob: how has doing the Neurolanguage Coach training has changed the way you teach English?

A great deal. I used to tell a lot more, talk more; now I listen more, facilitate the learning process, sensing how my student/s are feeling, what ‘mode’ their brain is in, how they like to learn. I’m sure many experienced teachers do this intuitively anyhow, but the coaching course put labels on things, gave me pointers and guidelines, and some more scientific grounding, followed by practice with and on others, which has really changed what I do. Coaching grammar, which I also learnt, is a lot more interesting than teaching it, especially for someone like me who never really liked grammar. It gets both the student and I to get much more into the nitty gritty of learning

2. What is the biggest hurdle that some people have to overcome when they’re training to be public speakers?

I would say many people simply don’t like their own voice, perhaps more so in English/a foreign language. They feel squirmy about it, don’t enjoy having to use it in public and would much rather avoid the ordeal. Overcoming that hurdle is important.

3. What advice do you think your successful public speaking trainees would give to shy English students or others looking at becoming better presenters?

First practice talking about something you care about, something that really gets to you or you’re passionate about (negative or positive). This really helps to forget shyness and also that they are speaking English, and this momentum and approach can then be transposed to presenting something less fun/less important to the student.

4. TEDx is a very specific style of presenting. What aspects of that kind of style are transferable to, for example, business English students giving presentations at work?

It is a bit of a clich√© nowadays, as well as being very widely practiced, but one focus point which typifies the TED talk approach is storytelling. Including a personal element and some kind of relevant story helps to appeal to the emotions of your audience. This can really help – even with business students and content – as long as you bring your key points back to the business messages, whatever they may be. They’ll most likely be more memorable and impacting if you use storytelling.

5. What have been your most useful methods for acquiring clients, for any of your many projects?

I’m afraid word of mouth still works the best. Contacts of contacts… I need to do more active marketing, and try to partner up with other freelancers or organisations more too.

6. What type of coaching certification do you have and how do you use coaching in your classes?

I have the TEFL certificate I did in Barcelona at International House in 2013, which was a month-long full-time course and the coaching is an accredited neurolanguage coaching course done over just under one year, with 3 days of class and a lot of online coaching and assessments.

7. What sparked your interest in neurolanguage coaching?

I just want to teach and coach in the best way there is, with all the tools out there which I thought could give me an edge in a very competitive market. Neuroscience is currently changing a lot of things in the way we work, live, do business, market goods and services, learn, approach the ageing process… The coaching helps me in all my other work too, also as a consultant.

8. Having lived in several countries, how important is it to include intercultural competence training in your classes?

Very. Although the differences between teaching English here in Berlin and in Paris are much less than when I taught for a month in Hanoi, for instance. There the cultural gap was huge and it took me a week to adjust my training for the daily class I gave at an NGO. The students were incredibly shy, the women in particular, they all had a very low level of oral English, it was back to basics and quite a culture shock for me.

9. Why do you want to get the FTBE certificate?

As above, I like to keep improving, learning new tools and approaches. Given the work I do on sustainability, I feel that the business world is where the most impact is to be had. Businesses wield huge power today, often more than governments, and if we can teach and coach well there, helping managers and employees to feel good about communicating in a global ever speedy and digitalised world, tant mieux/um so besser!

10. You are also a sustainability consultant at consultancy Sustainable Natives: how can sustainability and English teaching go together?

Climate change is the biggest challenge to humankind today, as I see it. As teachers, we have a privileged position which I think many of us are not aware of. We touch many people with our teaching, the content of our teaching, but also with our personalities, some of our own lifestyle habits too, and people notice them, especially if they like us (few teachers are unlikeable in my experience!). Both in the content and in how and who we are, we can impact those we teach – without being preachy or dogmatic of course. I try to coach/teach in the field of business and sustainability, for instance coaching a manager at WWF, but actually I probably have more impact in my ‘non’ sustainability field, teaching other ‘normal’ ‘not so green’ people not in that field, or in my Volkshochschule classes for instance. Students take an interest in my work, my trash can exhibition, want to know more,how I live, what I stand for. That’s how we touch people and can influence them to adopt’ greener’ lifestyles.

11. Who would you like to nominate as Eltabber of the month and what question would you like to ask them?

I’d like to nominate Nick Munby and ask him how he brings his theatre background into the classroom.

Edited by Mandy Welfare