ESL Teacher Interviews: Nik Peachey

In our latest addition to the “Interview with the Experts” series, Kaplan are delighted to get the chance to speak to Nik Peachey. Nik has been involved in ELT since 1992 and has worked all over the world as a language teacher, teacher trainer, technology trainer and consultant.

Last year Nik won a British Council ELTon for Excellence in Course Innovation for a Blended Learning in ELT course he designed. You can discover more about Nik here.

What made you become an ESL teacher?

Strangely enough it was initially money! I had just finished a degree in music and I intended to get a teaching certificate (I’d been teaching the guitar in a local prison and had enjoyed that), go to Japan and earn lots of money and come back and do a Masters in composition.

To my surprise I soon discovered that I enjoyed teaching a lot, probably thanks to some marvellous trainers and students I had in Cairo where I did my training course and after working at it for a while decided that i was actually a better teacher than musician/ composer. On reflection I think it really was the right decision for me (and possibly for the world of music).

How would you describe your teaching style?

I like to think of myself as unconventional. I like to play with students’ curiosity. I hate the idea of telling them what they are going to learn and putting up those class goals / lesson aims at the beginning of the lesson. I always do my best to avoid giving out timetables and schedules for the courses I teach.

For me it’s a bit like telling someone what their present is before the unwrap it. Learning should be a process of discovering for yourself and each person's discoveries will be unique to themselves. You shouldn’t be told what to discover.

What cultural insights can you get from teaching ESL?

I lived and taught in 8 different countries before moving back to the UK and since becoming a freelance technology trainer I’ve worked in at least another 10 - 20.

I can’t begin to explain how much that has enriched my life and how much I’ve learned from it, but I think one of the most valuable insights I’ve gained is not into what makes each place and culture unique and different, but into what is so similar about people all over the world regardless of race, religion, culture and gender.

Basically, the majority of people all over the world want the same things. A decent standard of living, opportunities for themselves and their kids to grow up in a safe and hygienic environment a degree of freedom to be who and what they are.

Have you experienced cultural difficulties from teaching ESL?

Yes, some places have been more difficult than others to work in, but as long as you make yourself aware of and respect the culture in which you live and work you can’t go too far wrong. You have to be aware that however bizarre other people’s beliefs may be, they still have the right to those beliefs and you have to respect that.

Which other ESL teachers do you admire and why?

I’ve always enjoyed the ideas and works of Mario Rinvolucri. They are so far away from what I do with technology, but I try to draw in his kind of humanism to what I do when I’m teaching and training.

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

This is difficult. I’d be tempted to say ‘Don’t do it!’ Or only do it if it’s something you really want to do for the rest of your working life. I hate that people do teaching as a kind of escape from other stuff or as a means to an end.

If you teach you have a debt to your students to give them the very best of what you have. You shouldn’t do it half-heartedly. That’s rather hypocritical of me considering how I got in to teaching, isn’t it?

What do you think is the future of ESL teaching?

These days I work almost exclusively with teachers helping them to use technology. I’m really excited about the potential that technology holds for education generally and I think this must be one of the most exciting periods in history to be involved in education.

Things are changing more quickly and more radically than ever before. I think technology will continue to impact on that and that a lot more teaching will be taking place online and that even more learning and autonomous learning will be happening online.

Which superhero would you be and why?

I think I’d be the Silver Surfer. He doesn’t have to worry about clothes, appearance or ageing and can go surfing wherever and whenever he wants to.

Huge thanks to Nik for taking part in this series. If you want to learn a bit more about Nik, you can find his free Web 2.0 Tools for Teachers book here and E-Portfolio here. Twitter users can follow his account here.

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