WizIQ Featured Teacher- Shanthi Cumaraswamy Streat
How loud is your voice in the teaching world?
I am not referring to the voice you use to talk to your students but rather that which you use to reach out and connect with learners all over the world, immortalizing lessons and conversations, irrespective of physical distance. This is the voice of blogging.
Through her award-winning blog, English with a Twist, WizIQ featured teacher, Shanthi Cumaraswamy Streat, uses this voice to engage students and motivate them to continue their journey as life-long learners. Be sure to join her upcoming webinar on WizIQ, “Reach out to Language Learners through Blogging” hosted by Jason R. Levine, where she will share knowledge on how teachers can follow in her footsteps.
Shanthi opens up about her love for teaching, blogging, and the English language in an interview with WizIQ.
You have worked in various fields and come from a finance background. How did you first get into teaching? What was your inspiration for this career change?
It was purely by accident. I was about to be made redundant for the third time in my 20-year career in finance and thought to myself that enough was enough. I had just returned to work after 18 months of cancer treatment and thought to myself that I didn’t want to go back to a world in which I had lost interest. However, I really didn’t know what I could possibly do.
I had always loved languages and literature, in particular English. My colleagues said that I would be excellent as an English Language teacher – probably because I was always correcting their grammar and spelling!
So the need to introduce a meaningful change in my career and my love of the English Language triggered things off.
What kind of teaching practices do you use? Could you share experiences that motivated you to use technology for teaching?
I suppose you could say that I use the “unplugged” approach. I am a firm believer that any lesson should centre around the learner and that all the teaching materials you could ever need comes from the learner.
The more I find out about my student the more material I get from them. For example, a discussion about Spanish cinema could lead to a discussion about favourite directors, actors which in turn could lead to a discussion about the differences between film and theatre and so on. The language that comes out from this is simply wonderful and engaging as the student is often the one who started the conversation and is therefore motivated and fully focused on learning.
This encouraged me to use technology more and more in my lessons.
How did the idea of using blogging for teaching come to you? How effective has it been in your teaching?
I have to say that I started blogging as a way to market my online courses and to build my online profile. At the beginning, I wasn’t sure anyone would be interested to hear what I had to say and to be honest, I wasn’t too sure what I would write about.
All I wanted to do at the beginning was to share my love of the English Language and literature with my readers. I wanted to introduce aspects of the English Language other than grammar exercises and vocabulary lists. I wanted to talk about literary figures, my daily life, the quirkiness of the English Language and share my moments of my lessons with my readers.
As I got going with blogging, I soon realised how much I loved writing – a real revelation. I also found myself constantly thinking of ways I could use certain episodes or events that occurred around me and blog about them.
The act of researching, clarifying one’s thoughts, organising one’s ideas and putting these ideas onto paper has, I believe, made be a better teacher. Not only have I learned so much about the English Language, the discipline of putting pen to paper has helped me become a better communicator which is what I feel a good teacher should be.
There’s power in the written word. How do you plan to help teachers around the world harness and benefit from this power?
I don’t purport to be an expert in blogging for teaching. However, what I do have is a real love and enthusiasm for blogging about the English Language. Enthusiasm is not enough, though. You need to think about how you could channel this enthusiasm in a way that is meaningful to learners. For that, you need to have a methodology.
What I would like to do is to help teachers create their own methodology to be successful bloggers.
Join Shanthi for her upcoming free webinar, “Reach out to Language Learners through Blogging” on Oct 17th at 12:00 pm EST.