11 things

Marisa Constantinides suggested to Rachael Roberts suggested to Carol Goody suggested to Tyson Seburn suggested to Josh Round who suggested to me that this would be a fun blog.  All good people! Sharing 11 random facts – and I must say I really enjoyed reading the others, just for motives of curiosity. I want to know what Carol did at Interpol (cool!) and where is Ireland she was raised, I want Rachael to suggest nice Polish food for me to buy and ask her if she too has to prompt people to remember the second ‘a’ in her name, I want to ask Marisa if she thinks she will get around to learning German and what her favourite pasta recipe is, to ask Josh if his Spanish is now better than his French and German, and to ask Tyson what first took him to Seoul.  TEFL does attract an interesting bunch of people, it’s  a very good job area to be in if you want to be fascinated by people.

Anyway, here  are my 11 ‘things’ though I am heading towards mostly professional facts, so not that random.

1. I  live by the sea with my daughter. Very fortunate and thankful for both of those facts.


2. I got into TEFL because I studied something relevant (not a common route!) and I wanted to travel and learn the languages I wasn’t confident enough to learn in my teens.  I didn’t have the cash nor connections of most other graduate friends of mine, so I did a mini TEFL course and got a job in Stuttgart (my uni flatmate Rebecca had lived there and had a great time).  Having always been drawn to the German language, I was very excited to learn it and always always felt that excitement when I spoke it.  I still do:-)

3. The relevant thing I studied was Linguistics.  I studied linguistics because I read The Mother Tongue by Bill Bryson when I was doing my A-Level English Language back in Middlesbrough, and loved it.  Something about how fundamental language is to humans and to everything, and how it draws in loads of different subjects.  Despite having no idea how I would do it, I knew early on I would go on and study Linguistics further.  And I did.  I completed my MPhil in Applied Linguistics at Innsbruck University with a great professor, Ivo Hajnal, about the wonderful dolomite, hiking heaven that is South Tyrol.  It’s a bilingual area of Italy and I researched language policy in the schools there.  It helped me get my next studying gig, the PhD, with the incredible David Little, researching language policy for migrants in schools in Dublin. I thanked Bill Bryson in the acknowledgements and will meet him one day to thank him in person.

4. I also studied Italian at uni, from scratch as I only got a C for A-Level Spanish so they wouldn’t give me a place on that course – am forever grateful for how that turned out! I love Spanish but Italian was always a dream. My surname is Italian after bisnonno Antonio (we’re from Montecassino and it means Catapult!).  No one speaks Italian in my family as he was a POW after settling in England (apparently he liked the pubs in Middlesbrough) and so the family didn’t pass that side of the culture down while trying to fit in.  I did my Erasmus year in Siena and used to sit in Piazza Gramsci at the Irish pub there.  I then came to Ireland to study Gramsci (the underlying theoretical basis for my PhD), following in the footsteps of the Irish side of my family, who were Irish Travellers only 2 generations ago. Gramsci is of Arbëreshë descent, a very small minority of Albanian refugees in Italy.  So are the Fiondas.


5. Carol and Janice are my biggest TEFL influences.  When I started as a lecturer at Innsbruck University they took me under their wings and encouraged me in my career.  They took me to the IATEFL conference for the first time, introduced me to interesting people in the field, taught me the importance of always challenging yourself within the job and to look for outside influences and training as much as possible. I can’t thank them enough!

6. One goal I have as a DOS is to contribute to Ireland’s TEFL industry as much as possible.  It’s a bit different here to in the UK, for a few reasons, and we don’t have as many external support groups or conferences.  It is essential teachers start creating this for themselves with support but not involvement of their managers, that ELT managers get together and share (we’re in it together!) and that we all have a voice.  I’m proud of what I have achieved at Swan (with the support of the brilliant directors Michael and Oliver) and think Ireland’s EFL schools in general deserve more recognition and external support. EFL teachers deserve better too, some of them really put their heart into it.  Which leads me to the next point.

7. I like Joseph Campbell’s very practical philosophies.  Follow your bliss is a good one.  You can’t really be in this industry unless you are doing that – and believe me, I have seen teachers who have tried but are not following their passion.  It really shows and badly affects their colleagues.  It’s a great job – you get to meet people from all over the world, you can easily travel, it is flexible and not 9-5, you have levels of autonomy and there are loads of TD opportunities if you want them. But, you have to want them. We currently have the best teaching team we’ve ever had at Swan and we can hardly keep up with student demand.  Means we can give the teachers more back too.

8. Moving from teacher to manager was something I was fortunately very unprepared for.  If I had been, I doubt I would have said yes to the job!  My philosophy is simple and rests on giving students respect, autonomy and a great service (some save for years to be here) and giving the same to the teachers.  We offer lots of TD opportunities, and we listen to the teachers to work with their strengths.  It is working.

9. My next blog with be about technology in the classroom.  It’s an important part of the whole, and should never be at the forefront.  The students and the teaching should be there.  But it can do some great things to support learning, to support teachers and bring more fun into the classroom. And we absolutely should be using it with our students.

10. My next goals as a DOS include things I’ve mentioned above, such as helping to raise standards as a whole in Ireland, and to continue offering our students and teachers the best possible service.

11.  I can’t be a DOS forever, and schools do benefit from fresh ideas and leadership.  What I see myself doing is outdoor courses for children, which do nothing other than help connect them to nature and help raise self-esteem (I went here as a ten year old and never forgot it).  There, I’ve put it out there!  The huge learning curve I have had as a DOS and big challenges I have learned from will be put to good use.
Who to tag next:
Laura Patsko