A few days after presenting a workshop at Seven Idiomas, Jeremy Harmer kindly gave me this interview through email, while he was on an airplane, flying back to UK. (That's why we love technology!)
Teacher, teacher trainer and author of more than 20 books for both teachers and students of English as a foreing or second language, Jeremy also loves music and, more recently, he's become a fan of the sites Twitter and Second Life.
In your opinion, what makes an excellent teacher?
Jeremy - I think an excellent teacher is someone who is interested in developing themselves, has a love of teaching and knows how to listen to students.
What should a teacher do to grow in their career?
Jeremy - The most important things that teachers can do to develop in their careers is to talk to each other, ask questions about why things happen as they do, experiment, go to conferences, read journals etc etc. All of these things are about us (teachers) being interested in not just what we do in our lessons but in why we do it and what effect it has. It is only when we get involved in this way that teaching really becomes the all-engrossing, interesting, human activity that can inspire, engage and challenge us..
What's more important in your opinion for a teacher: linguistic skills, good knowledge about methologies or rapport with the students?
Jeremy - All of the issues you ask about are important. But if a teacher cannot establish rapport with students he or she will never be able to teach them successfully. So rapport comes out as number 1 for me!
How do you see the future of ELT? How should teachers get prepared for these changes, if there are any?
Jeremy - I can’t really predict the future of ELT. Of course it will be more and more prevalent, and many new technologies will replace the online and/or second life models that are available today. But at the same time, the real basics of teaching – rapport, engagement, motivation etc will never change. If I fould return in 50 years, some of the things that were being used might surprise me. But the basic principles of teaching would, I suggest, be the same.
Briefly, what's the process of writing a book like? How does it differ to write a coursebook and a fiction book, such as a reader?
Jeremy - All writing is similar. A blank page (or screen); some ideas. They don’t work. Some more ideas. Depression, excitement, tearing things up. Starting again. Suddenly knowing that you are on to something. Triumph! Disaster! It’s wonderful. It’s terrible.
Tell us briefly about your graduation and experience, and the main books you've written.
Jeremy - After graduation I spent some time writing songs and singing in clubs in London. But then I trained to be a teacher and went to work in Mexico. There I made a record of language teaching songs and started writing. Back in the UK I co-wrote Advanced Writing Skills and Advanced Speaking Skills and then, after going back, again, to Mexico, The Practice of English Language Teaching. More courses have followed - Meridian, Coast to Coast, Touchdown, Frontrunner, Just Right. But it is the area of methodology (including How to Teach English, How to teach Writing) that I feel most comfortable.
Was this the first time you came to Brazil? How many times have you been here? What do you think of Brazil?
Jeremy - I love Brazil – from the sun-drenched palms of Fortaleza to the cool sophistication of Porto Alegre! I have been to Brazil many times and have loved every single minute of it.