[Hannah Bicknell | Features Editor]
Image: Hannah Bicknell
Humanities lecturer Dr Gwnyeth James gave me an insight into the life behind the PowerPoint slides. Having been teaching for 15 years, I spoke to Gwyneth to get an insight on her role as a Senior Lecturer in TESOL (Teaching English to Speakers of other languages), English Language Teaching, and Programme tutor for master students in TESOL.
What do you do in your role for TESOL?
In the programme tutor role I have overall responsibility for managing the master’s programme. I deal with any queries students have and issues that may arise. I am admissions tutor for the master’s programme as well, so I’m still trying to find my feet with it all.
How have you found working here and coming into your roles?
In terms of my role as MA programme tutor, I was external examiner for the master programme so I had a good overview of it, but I hadn’t taught it before, so the teaching was very different. In terms of lecturing, I have a lot of teaching experience so in that sense it’s not different, but the students are different and the university culture is certainly different. What has really impressed me is that Herts is very efficient and I can get a lot of things done because of it.
How did you decide that teaching English was the route you wanted to take?
After my degree finished, I went to South East Asia for the first time. While there I taught the cello, a lot of the teachers had left, and I happened to be there. While I was there, I got to know an American lecturer who was teaching English at one of the universities. She helped train me at a university in Cambodia. I then taught English as a Foreign Language, I then moved into universities and taught there.
What kind of strategies did you use to succeed at university all the way to your Masters?
I’d say I wouldn’t recommend working because it was exhausting and at the end of the day you have to be absolutely focused. You’ve got to prioritise like nothing on earth and you’ve got to be very careful that you don’t say no to family and friends. I think at the end of the day organisation is just crucial. Setting yourself deadlines, being motivated are also big ones.
Could you describe a typical working day?
My teaching falls on Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays and although the teaching falls on different times in the day I always come in around 9am just so I can prepare for the day ahead. Once I get in, I check my inbox for recent emails, I chat with my colleagues and I make sure that I have all the preparation for my classes complete. Most of my time is taken up by preparing for the levels separately.
What is the best and worst part of teaching for you?
The best for me is the actual teaching – it’s my favourite bit, because of the students. Their enthusiasm for their learning, in turn, makes me more energetic and enthusiastic about my teaching.The worst thing is all the admin. There is a lot of paperwork and a lot of hoops to jump through.
Have you ever published anything i.e. textbooks, articles, papers etc.?
I’m what they call an early career researcher. I have written two articles, I’ve published one on ‘Narrative Inquiry’, but the other is still pending. I do frequently go to conferences in London and give presentations on what I’m currently researching which are the transitional experiences and learning experiences of international students.