ESL Teacher Interviews: Chiew Pang

Kaplan are delighted to talk to Chiew Pang. Chiew is an EFL teacher who is passionate about getting others to use social networks for professional development. He was one of the organizers of the recent Reform Symposium Free Online Conference (RSCON), an online global event highlighting “wow” moments in teaching and learning.

What made you become an ESL teacher?

It began as a necessity. I was at a turning point in my life and came to Spain and jobs were not easy to come by. It started as sporadic part-time work but eventually became not only more full-time, but an obsession.

Looking back, I guess it was something like an ungerminated seed that was deep inside me, and the lack of self-confidence had kept it in that state. I’d previously thought that teachers need to know everything about their subject – how else could they teach? Only when I realised the “untruth” of this that I began to believe I could do it.

How would you describe your teaching style?

Eclectic? Intuitive? Teaching for me is more an art than a science. The main piece of the lesson jigsaw is the students, or should I say “pieces” because each student is different, with their own learning styles, with their own baggage of history. That is one of the reasons for my fondness of the Dogme approach.

But I’m not a fanatic. Language acquisition is a complicated process, especially in adults. There are times when other approaches are called for. There are times when coursebooks can be a blessing. There are times when the “objective of the day” needs to be forgotten. There are times when a different “hat” is needed.

What cultural insights can you get from teaching ESL?

Same as teaching any other subjects if you listen and observe your students as you should. Perhaps ESL gives you more opportunities because of the nature of the discipline.

In discussing a multitude of topics, one can learn anything from personal idiosyncrasies to regional and national habits and beliefs. Of course, if you’re lucky to have a class of multicultural students, it can be a rich and colourful well of resources to tap into.

Have you experienced cultural difficulties from teaching ESL?

I don’t think so. If anything, it’s quite the contrary. By learning about each other’s cultures we learn to be more knowledgeable and we learn to be more tolerant with each other. We learn about false friends and kind enemies…

Which other ESL teachers do you admire and why?

The mushrooming of the Internet has opened up the possibility of getting to know hundreds of so many other teachers who are dedicated and passionate, who are tireless in their pursuit of improving themselves and others, who are unselfish in their desire to share their knowledge and experience. There are too many names. There are so many truly amazing educators out there.

What would you say to someone who was considering becoming an ESL teacher?

Do it! Learn a new language. It’s quite a revelation how much one can learn from observing teaching first-hand. What works and what doesn't? Does the same thing work well for you as for your classmates?

Also, soon as you can, build up a PLN. They will be your round-the-clock staff room. They are likely to give you more support than your colleagues.

What do you think is the future of ESL teaching?

With the increasing use of the Internet, English has become even more global than before. In spite of advances of automatic translators and online teaching, I believe that the demand for face-to-face classes will stay high. The demand for voice-to-voice teaching (as in telephone or video lessons) will become more significant as web-conferencing becomes ever more important.

Which superhero would you be and why?

No idea! Is there a superhero who reads minds, someone who can understand exactly the whys and wherefores of all actions and reactions? It may be interesting to be able to tell what students are thinking, to be able to help them achieve what they need to achieve in the quickest time possible…

Many thanks to Chiew for taking part in this interview. Do you agree with his answers? Please leave a comment below with your feedback.

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