Dana Poklepovic interviews Taona Knight
MY FIRST EXPERIENCE AS AN INTERNATIONAL SPEAKER
Hello Besigers! In our last post of the year, we welcome Taona Knights who was a first-time speaker at 28th BESIG Annual Conference.
Hi Taona, it’s nice to have you with us today. Could you tell our readers a little about your background?
Hello Dana. Well, I was born in Cornwall (Truro) but moved to France when I was 8. I grew up speaking both French and English.
Where are you based now?
I live in Vancouver, Canada where I am a Director of studies at EC Vancouver.
You have visited and lived in places as different and distant as Europe, Vietnam and now Canada, what has been your experience as a traveler teacher?
I used to believe that all students are very different; that they have vast cultural and learning styles and while that is true, you can still regroup them into small categories and draw a strategy from these differences. It was very much the topic of our talk (with Pete Rutherford). All students come to class for a reason and the teacher must gain trust and quickly show and enable them to get there. Students have different learning facilities and backgrounds, but a good teacher can draw on all they have seen and help them get there faster.
If you had to choose, what would be “the one thing” that marked you as a teacher in each place you worked?
Vietnam: Encouraging. You have to be a bit gentler and hedge more with a softer voice. They feel you are being unkind otherwise. “No” is not a word they hear or use.
Germany: Displaying your knowledge as a teacher. Germans have to be able to trust that you know your subject matter.
France: Patience. Grammar accuracy was very important as with our German friends. They spend a lot of time learning French grammar and want the English to ‘match’ that. Also, they are worried about sounding silly and won’t try.
In November, you presented at BESIG Conference in Barcelona. Congratulations! What was your talk about?
Pete Rutherford and I were interested in what makes a good or a better teacher. We tried to narrow down from student feedback and teacher feedback what the core characteristics or a ‘better teacher’ are.
In your opinion, what makes a good teacher?
Empathy: seeing where students are, recognizing their strengths and challenges and helping them to get past them. A teacher should also be a facilitator. They should teach how to do and not lecture on how to do. In a nutshell, I believe those are two main keys and the rest can be taught.
As Director of Studies, you lead the team of teachers at your school, what are their most frequent concerns?
Well, I think they are mostly concerned with students’ motivation. Teachers feel that it can be hard to keep the energy up for the whole lesson or the whole week.
Could you share with our readers your experience as a First Time Speaker?
I was quite nervous at first but everyone was so supportive in all the talks I had attended before my own that the nerves died down. The most challenging part was managing the online audience and the audience in the room. I wanted to make sure they both felt equally present.
How did you and Pete deal with the process of setting up a joint presentation?
Preparing the talk was a little challenging as we had 9 hour time difference and were not able to meet up to discuss and plan it out together but with emails, Skype and drop boxes we did well.
We discussed it a lot and sent each other drafts back and forth, the talk gradually got more and more precise and work was then divided up. The Friday before the talk we met up and smoothed over any remaining questions and decided who would say what.
Would you recommend this experience to fellow teachers who think of presenting some day?
Of course! It was a great experience and I would do it again.
Did you get to know BESIG members at the Conference?
Yes, I met a lot of great people and exchanged business cards. However being in Vancouver limits the crossover but it was great to meet new people and maybe some will come over to our BC Teal conference in April 2016.
What are your professional plans for the future?
I am planning to stay on as a DOS. I enjoy the contact with our students and the teachers. We are a growing center and there are always a lot of innovations and changes in our company. We are starting an online learning platform and recently have redone our entire curriculum.
What do you do in your free time?
I love to scuba dive but not in cold water. So I end up doing what everyone does: dinner and drinks with friends as we plan our next holidays J
Thank you Taona!
You can contact Taona at firstname.lastname@example.org