ESL Teacher Interviews: Kenneth Beare
In Kaplan's latest addition to the “Interview with the Experts” series, we to speak to Kenneth Beare. Kenneth is an ESL teacher, trainer, content developer and industry strategist.
He has taught general English and English for Specific Purposes in Germany, New York, and Italy. You can discover more about Kenneth here.
What made you become an ESL teacher?
I became an ESL teacher due to my interest in foreign language learning. During my college years, I studied a number of years of Italian, German and French. Subsequently, I moved to Germany, and married an Italian woman. Teaching English as a second or foreign language seemed to be a logical choice based on the opportunities and my love of languages.
How would you describe your teaching style?
I do my utmost to facilitate the use of English, so I’m a great believer in the communicative approach. However, I can, at times, be rather old school if required. Sometimes, rote learning has a place in the classroom in a limited manner. The best way of describing this approach might be called principled eclecticism - choosing from whatever techniques seem to work best for a particular teaching objective.
Finally, I try to empower students’ own learning through raising their awareness of the vast array of learning opportunities online. That’s become quite central to my approach over these past ten years.
What cultural insights can you get from teaching ESL?
I've enjoyed a kaleidoscope of points of view teaching students from various nations. Just when I think I’ve heard it all, someone will come up with an opinion or comment based on a certain cultural point of view that surprises me. That’s what keeps the profession interesting for me. I’d say as teachers we’re in the privileged position helping others use English as a means of cultural exploration in general.
That’s the best perk of the profession in my opinion. However, despite all these differences, the similarities and shared interests seem to be at the root of conversation in class. This ability to come together and find common ground gets played out in the classroom every day. It’s very encouraging -even more so in consideration of the inability of many of our leaders to do the same.
Have you experienced cultural difficulties from teaching ESL?
I've certainly come across challenges concerning certain points of view. In fact, I've been cautioned about certain cultural taboos that I had taken too lightly in class. So, while it’s true that culture in class is generally open game, it’s still important to sense when it’s time to tread lightly.
Which other ESL teachers do you admire and why?
I’m very impressed by the work of Nik Peachey. His insights into using bleeding edge technology in the classroom are enlightening and shows a deep understanding of how the classroom is rapidly changing. Jennifer Lebedev has also done an impressive job of taking advantage of the communicative opportunities online.
What would you say to someone who was considering becoming an ESL teacher?
Are you financially independent? Seriously, the profession is underpaid and under appreciated, so I’d certainly give a warning word or two about the realities of the profession. On the flip side, I’d point to the advantages of cultural exploration that the profession opens up.
What do you think is the future of ESL teaching?
I think blended learning is the future of ESL teaching. Online resources and solutions are becoming increasingly popular, but there’s nothing to replace dedicated - and engaged - time spent in the classroom.
Which superhero would you be and why?
Tough one... my daughter tells me Batman because he has to use his own intelligence to succeed in the superhero game. That appeals to me.
Thanks to Kenneth for taking part in our interview series. Do you have any thoughts on what Kenneth had to say? If so, please leave a comment below!