ESL Teacher Interviews: Drew Badger

In Kaplan’s fourth “Interview with the Experts”, we talk to Drew Badger.

Drew is an English speaking confidence expert, author, entrepreneur and co-founder of English Anyone. English Anyone's YouTube channel recently passed one million views. Congratulations to Drew and the team!

What made you become an ESL teacher?

Ever since I was a kid, I’ve been a teacher or a coach in various capacities. I’ve always enjoyed the high of learning something and I’ll jump at any chance to help others experience it.

I began teaching English, specifically, because it was the only way I could get a visa to study traditional gardening in Japan. Not terribly romantic, I confess, but it transformed into a serious calling as I learned Japanese. I struggled so much on my own journey to fluency, and discovered so many insights about language learning, that helping others just became axiomatic.

How would you describe your teaching style?

I teach students aged 1 to 80+, so my style in any given lesson depends on the learners. But, in general, I’d describe myself as a Shakespearean fool. I’m often silly in lessons, but there’s always some method to the apparent madness.

What cultural insights can you get from teaching ESL?

The insights I’ve received have been many, but I’ve always been particularly fascinated with how the process of education (overall) is different from one culture to another. I often wonder how different I would be had I been born in Japan.

Have you experienced cultural difficulties from teaching ESL?

Difficulties I’ve experienced as a teacher have had much more to do with the language education system, itself, than anything cultural. Students, parents and individual teachers are usually fantastic.

Which other ESL teachers do you admire and why?

I spend pretty much all of my time in the trenches with students trying to figure out the most efficient ways to help people learn. But the few other individuals who I’ve been fortunate enough to cross paths with online through the videos and lessons I produce (Alec Roberts, Sylvia Guinan, Mau Buchler, Jason Levine, Aaron Campbell and AJ Hoge) are doing some very cool things and continue to give me hope for the future of our craft.

Whether you’re a teacher or not, be sure to spend time with educators in other fields. Two books I HIGHLY recommend: Hunters, Herders, and Hamburgers by Richard Bulliet & A People's History of the United States by Howard Zinn.

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

I encourage anyone who has the desire, but urge potential teachers to consider the following:

1. Knowing how to speak a language doesn’t qualify you to teach it.

2. Teaching is a great way to get out and see the world, but remember that you have a serious responsibility to do right by the students you’ll teach.

3. If you have dreams of making a living as an independent teacher, what do you know about sales and marketing?

What do you think is the future of ESL teaching?

I think the future of learning is in technology, but not in the way most people think. Methods of communication (Facebook, videos, online courses, etc.) will continue to help TONS of people to connect and learn online, but the real leaps will come from new learning tools that enable rapid self-teaching through experimentation and instant feedback. What’s been possible for me to do with video has been fantastic, but it’s nothing compared to what I’ll be doing in the near future with software.

Which superhero would you be and why?

I hope this doesn’t come off as anti-climactic, but my life would be sooooo much cooler if I could change traffic lights at will and see farts. :)

Huge thanks to Drew for taking part in this interview series.  I'm not sure Marvel would be keen on his superhero powers but there is some really great advice for anyone considering a future in ESL teaching. What do you think about Drew's answers? Do you share his vision of the future of ESL teaching? Let us know by leaving a comment below.

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