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Six things we wish we’d known

Six things

Well-known ELT authors Hugh Dellar and Andrew Walkley have opened a language school – what have they learned along the way?

1. Discipline

We hesitate to simply say it’s important to work hard, because so much of what we do with both our writing and our school is massively enjoyable. That said, there are some aspects of the job that can be a bit tedious, but which are essential. In writing, this might be getting the rubrics right, writing your review units or checking and re-checking work, while with the school it may be admin and finance or arranging and dealing with extras beyond the class. What you have to realise is that all these things need to be done – and done well!

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Trinity builds on its strengths


Melanie Butler asks Andrew Freeman, Trinity College London director of Europe, about his professional background, the impact of Brexit and his plans for Trinity’s suite of exams

Your professional experience is in publishing, particularly educational publishing. Now you are director of Europe for exam board Trinity College London, responsible for ELT both for students and teacher trainees, as well as music and drama. As I understand it, your interest in these areas and your passion for travelling comes from your family. Your father taught EFL?

Yes, my father did teach EFL but quite late in life. He was actually a vicar while I was growing up, but he and my mother had lived abroad doing missionary work and have lots of tales to tell of this. He then taught English for a time in various places, including quite a long period in Turkey. This love of travel has definitely rubbed off, and I have travelled pretty widely, including with Collins Learning in my last role as associate publisher and with the arts publisher Thames & Hudson. In fact, my very first day at work with Thames & Hudson was in Istanbul, and ended with a very pleasant but slightly surreal dinner with my brand new boss, my dad and me.

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A purposeful academic


Melanie Butler asks Andy Otaqui, International Science Foundation co-ordinator at King’s College London, about the challenges ahead

You are an unusual beast in EFL – a science graduate who became a language teacher. What made you make this change and what was your biggest challenge when you did?

Actually, I didn’t ‘graduate’ in science but started a medical/physiology degree when I was eighteen. I decided to switch focus and got into English teaching, like a lot of people, with the idea of being able to travel with it. Over time, I did the obvious Celta, Delta and eventually an MA Tesol, which was about the time I switched from EFL to EAP teaching.

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Six things I wish I’d known ...

Susan M. Sandover on a Tefl career as a trailing partner, losing everything when evacuated from Libya, sharia law disinheritance and ‘risk-insurance strategies’

Susan M. Sandover was married to Bashir, a Libyan career diplomat, for 33 years. Dissatisfied with being just a travelling spouse, Sandover began her journey in the world of EFL 36 years ago. As she recalls in her memoir, ‘Teaching EFL gave me independence but there were unforeseen risks. It has been my breadwinner, my sanity and one of endless rewards, but also one of risks, some of which I have been able to overcome but the final one has proved insurmountable’ – sharia family inheritance law.

After experiencing with her husband ‘the traumas, difficulties and frankly terrifying experiences associated with the Gaddafi regime and US and Nato bombings, coups, a revolution and a blasphemy case’, the couple were evacuated from Libya to the UK. After Bashir’s death, Sandover was on the receiving end of the full force of sharia family law – she was entitled to inherit only one quarter of his property, despite three years of fighting in the courts.

With her memoir Libya. A Love Lived, A Life Betrayed – 9/36 (Susan M. Sandover, Troubador, www.troubador.co.uk/book_info.asp?bookid=4113) to be published in November, the Gazette asked Sandover for her practical top tips and risk-insurance strategies for Teflers contemplating a long-term career teaching in a developing country (particularly as a trailing partner). Based on her own experiences and things ‘I wish I had known and done before it was too late’, we list below Sandover’s advice on the ‘drill’ when you face being evacuated home at a moment’s notice, possible ways to mitigate family law in other legal systems, and how to land on your feet and pick up your career again on arriving back in the country you left long ago.

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Consistently Positive

Melanie Butler asks Kaplan’s Maria Duhan the secret behind the consistent success of their UK schools at British Council inspections

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You started out by running your own school. How did that prepare you for the job you are doing now?

When you run your own business, you are responsible for all aspects – from sales and marketing to HR and finance. You quickly learn what it takes to be successful because you have to be in order to stay in business. You need to move constantly with a changing environment, which is very exhilarating.

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