A few words with Marta Bujakowska

TimeApril 14, 2019 by ELT forum

Marta Bujakowska, is a free-lance teacher of English, originally from Poland, with a strong intercultural focus, and interest in creative methodology, reflective teaching and learner autonomy. She passionately believes that teaching must be subordinate to learning, and that education must be student-centred.

Marta originally wanted to study Polish literature and theatre, but it was after spending a couple of months in London that she fell in love with the English language and decided to teach it. Marta studied English at Silesian University Poland, and attained an MA in Teaching from the School for International Training in Vermont.

How did your time working for Pilgrims shape your work?

I started working for Pilgrims a few years ago even though I had been there twice before. Once I was asked by a colleague and friend who was working there at the time, in 1996, to run a session or two on teaching children. Seeing this as an opportunity, I took part in some afternoon workshops. One was run by Mario Rinvolucri and the other by Christina Frank, if I remember correctly. I felt I was in heaven. Never did I think I would be able to return to Pilgrims; then to my disbelief, I won a ticket to attend Pilgrims 30th Anniversary Conference in 2004. The theme of the conference was ‘Humanising Teaching in the 21st century.”

Now, when I work as part of a great team of Pilgrims trainers and we share our lives for a couple of weeks in the summer, it all comes back. Only the feeling is stronger. I am in my element when I am surrounded by people especially in a learning environment.

I fit in easily because I have shared the same philosophy of teaching. I moved from teaching into teacher training with the same attitude of respecting learners as humans no matter if they are pre-school learners or teachers. I have just gone deeper and deeper into humanistic language teaching through the years.

Are you thinking of writing another book? If so what angle might it take?

I don’t think of writing as my strength, at least not yet. 😊 I prefer face to face contact with people. However, my Independent Professional Project, which was a part of an MA course I took at the School for International Training in Vermont, in the US was published in book form. Perhaps when I am inspired enough or decide to stay put in one place for a time, I would think about writing.

What do you think are the vital qualities needed to be an EFL teacher?

The only word that comes to my mind is WOW! What a broad question. I will try to put it in a nutshell though. A teacher needs to be human, knowledgeable, and ready to the best of their abilities to help students’ learning. A teacher should always stand at the learners’ side

 What are the main mistakes that teachers make?

 Some teachers do not see the learner; they just teach whether or not anybody learns from them. It is the beginning of a sad story. Learning should always come first. Teaching is subordinate to learning. It is difficult for some teachers to understand this and hence, the troubles begin.

How could the EFL industry be changed for the better?

Another broad topic and a very hot one. I wish I could see some major changes before I leave this world. My remedy is always the same, whether we are talking about public or state education: small schools and well-paid teachers who are passionate about their students and their learning. Can this be achieved soon? Is this Utopia?

I realise this does not quite answer the question, but I am an educationalist rather than a business person who works in an industry. I appreciate however, all the people who work hard to make the EFL industry better and a friendlier place to work. I do benefit from their work.

Has the rise in ICT led to an improvement in student learning over all?

Generally, yes it has, even though when we think globally, ICT made the gap between the well-off and the needy even bigger. It is altogether a different topic I do not want to delve into now. On the whole, I think not only ICT but also using other electronic devices has improved learning. I believe listening to music, for example, stimulates our brains and makes learning various things easier. Actually, while writing this, I am listening to some beautiful music, Sona Jobarteh & Band – Kora Music from West Africa, and my writing flows smoothly. Also using all kinds of communication technologies, such as playing games internationally, has been really motivating for learners. ICT is one of the 21st century teaching aids as well.

author: Tom Fisher, teacher at the Bridge

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