'You don't have to be a long-established member of IATEFL to contribute' by Adam Malster

4th January 2021

I have only been a member of IATEFL since November of this year, but I have been encouraged to write this blog post by my colleague Gerhard Erasmus to show that you do not have to be a long-established member of the IATEFL community, or an expert in any area, to contribute to the discussion.

While I am only a recent member of IATEFL, I am not new to teaching. My journey started quite a while ago and has led me to a place I never really expected to be, but I guess that many lives and careers start out that way.

I began my teaching career in 1995 with a CELTA in my home city of Nottingham in the UK. This quickly led to a very brief contract as a teacher in a language school in the Czech Republic. The Czech Republic in 1996 was great, but I am not sure I could necessarily say the same for the quality of my teaching at the time.

After the Czech Republic, I returned to Nottingham and did a PGCE. This was when I really started to realise what it meant to be a professional and that teaching was the career for me. Between 2000 and 2002 I worked as an English teacher in a secondary school in the UK. Nevertheless, I still had a hankering for travel and so when a chance came up to work in Taiwan, I grabbed it.

In Taiwan I worked for a few schools before landing at the British Council as a part-time teacher in 2007. Throughout my career in Taiwan, I have tried to be as versatile as possible and have taken on all kinds of classes, from young children, to teens and Adults, Business classes, IELTS, ESP, you name it. This is something I advise my younger colleagues to try and do too, not least because it is interesting (you might find out you really like something that you initially did not think you would) but being versatile means, you are more employable. Being able to get work has always been important, but perhaps never quite so important as in the COVID-19 world. While I have specialised a little recently with focusing on Adult teaching, I do think that ethos of versatility has carried over and helped this year with many of our courses going online in some way. I have been really impressed by how my colleagues in Taiwan and other British Council teachers have seized the opportunity to teach online to help people continue their learning and also develop their own teaching skills.

It has taken me quite a few years to get around to joining IATEFL, so the question is, why now? I have joined mostly because I am looking to join a community which is going to help me to develop other teachers. Over the past few years, teacher development has become a big part of what I do every day (as well as being Senior Teacher, I am also a teacher trainer) and so I am often in the need of discussions and resources to help me do this the best I can. Even before teacher development became a more formal part of my work though, as I became more experienced, I could feel it becoming something I was naturally inclined to do as I helped less experienced colleagues. I have often reflected on how much help and advice I have received in the past and have striven to be able to help others as well.

A big part of my work now is developing our Business English courses. That is why I have joined BeSIG to help me develop and support our teachers. One contrast I am aware of with our Business English teachers to other types of Adult teachers is that because they are often busy in different locations around Taipei, it can be quite difficult for them to share good practice and develop a team ethos. BeSIG has already been helpful over the past month or so by making me aware of teaching strategies we can discuss and employ together in an online group so we can increase the quality of what we offer to our students while also increasing interest for our teachers.

I am enthusiastic about getting more involved and sharing ideas with the community. At the moment I am engaged in Action Research on student motivation and autonomy. It is so easy for Adults to give up on their learning journey and it is my mission to keep people engaged, moving forward, and increasing the quality of their lives. I will certainly be looking to see how IATEFL can help me with this research and I will be looking to contribute when I have completed it.

About Adam

Adam Malster is an academic manager and teacher trainer. He has been living in Taiwan since 2002 where he has been working at the British Council since 2007. His interest is student autonomy. In his free time, Adam plays guitar and struggles with Mandarin Chinese.

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