The Importance of Role Models
Jane Godwin Coury

For as long as I can remember I have loved reading and writing. One of my first memories of reading books and remembering stories coming alive in my head was when my Uncle Malcolm used to bring our family boxes full of all sorts of goodies. He used to work for a publisher and would often give my siblings and I all kinds of fiction and non-fiction books to read.

I was brought up in small village in the UK and once a week a mobile library stopped at the bottom of the High Street. This was the thrill of the week for me. As soon as I saw the van arriving, I rushed down the road and chose my allowance of eight books per week. I devoured them. I remember the librarian helping us to choose something we liked.

At Junior school, I had a fantastic teacher called Mrs Sawyer. I believe she was ahead of her time. After reading about the growth mindset approach developed by Professor Carol Dweck, whereby teachers appreciate student’s work, but also push them that little bit further so they can thrive on challenges and setbacks when learning, I think that Mrs Sawyer was an advocate of this approach. In our everyday lessons, she used to give us increasingly difficult spelling tests, she required neat handwriting and took us on nature walks to learn about wildlife and conservation.

My role model at Secondary school was my music teacher. There were only a handful of us in the class as only a few people had chosen music for their options. I remember the first class very clearly. We were asked to listen to Pink Floyd´s song Us and Them and then discuss the lyrics. In the second class, we had to follow the score of Tchaikovsky´s Romeo and Juliet overture while listening to a recording of it. The contrast of the two different styles of music motivated me to get to class early to find out what the next surprise would be.

Later on at university, I studied Modern Languages and European Studies. The teacher that influenced me most was my History teacher. She was extremely knowledgeable and managed to transmit a huge amount of information to us in an organised way. Her lessons were divided into clear topics, she recycled the content the following week and helped us immensely just before exam time. I became interested especially in Russian history so much so that I am currently learning the language as I have a great affection for it.

In the next stage of my life, I began teaching English in the UK and then France. I did a short teacher training course, but I don´t remember it being anything to write home about. When I started actually conversing with students and explaining vocabulary, grammar points and other things to them, I fell in love with the profession. I stayed up late to prepare lessons and really tried to get to grips with the more challenging parts of teaching, which at that point for me was grammar. In the school I worked for in Bordeaux, France, there were 3 coursebooks on the shelf: Headway Beginner, Intermediate and Advanced. The books taught me a lot about classroom management, creative activities and things I had never heard of, for example inversion!

In 1994, I moved to Brazil and taught at Cultura Inglesa for almost 10 years. I was then co-owner of a school called The Four in São Carlos. An important role model in Brazil for me was Anna Szabó, who was then the director of Cultura Inglesa. Anna gave me the tools to be a professional teacher. We had teacher training sessions every week and tackled different topics in groups and individually. She gave us tips about how to improve based on lesson observation and encouraged us to do peer observation. Together with my partners (who had all been taught by Anna), we multiplied her knowledge to other teachers in a new setting at The Four. Around this time, I discovered a book called "In your hands" by Jane Revell and Susan Norman and consequently I immersed myself in the world of Neuro Linguistic Programming. I later became friends with Jane and did a course with her. She gave me the confidence I needed to believe in my work as a writer and now I have evolved into an ELT materials writer.

I believe we cannot underestimate the role models that pass through our journey in life. They serve as examples for our personal growth, they affect us in some way and perhaps due to meeting them we morph into a stronger version of ourselves. As teachers, we cannot forget that we influence other people´s lives and perhaps we don´t even realise it.

I have worked in the English Language Teaching area for over 30 years in one way or another. I now found myself wearing different hats as I am a writer, which had always been my dream since my uncle showed me the magic of books. I am also a proofreader and translator helping mostly post graduate students and university lecturers write academic papers. I love my work and would like to thank all the people I mentioned above, as well as all the other role models that have had an impact on me in one way or another. I am very grateful.

If you are interested, I have an ELT blog for English language teachers at janeeltblog.com.br. I also write posts for Blog Disal on a monthly basis at blogdisal.com.br. You can also find out more about my work as a proofreader and translator at nativeenglish.com.



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