Transforming from a teacher to coach! How is it done? Interview by George Kokolas
Jasmina, I am aware that you were a fully employed ELT teacher, teaching, let’s say, “the conventional way”…Was there an epiphany moment that made you realize that you should look for alternatives and if yes, when did this epiphany come?
Yes, that is true. I had been teaching for over fifteen years when I felt I needed to change my approach. I spent 13 years in a well-established private ELT school in Belgrade, Serbia and utterly enjoyed working there. I profiled myself as a Business English teacher very early and worked exclusively with adult learners. However, at one point I realized I needed a change. I felt that group classes based on conventional textbooks and lesson structure did not actually match the learners’ needs. I quit in 2013 and started my teaching and translation business.
The first step was to move away from teaching groups and focus on one-to-one sessions. I experimented in terms of customizing the material and method of knowledge transfer. The key for me was to find out what learning style would be most effective for each learner.
Why did you opt for Neurolanguage Coaching and followed that path until the end? I am asking this because I think you are also a licensed professional NLCoach, which means that you have been profoundly trained in this field.
When I started with individual clients, I tried really hard to find out how they wanted to learn, and asked them very openly how they imagined our sessions. I would have a very detailed opening session and take notes about all their needs, expectations and ideas. This helped me tailor the sessions to match their needs as much as possible.
I was looking for some interesting material or articles on new, innovative teaching methods when I came across Rachel Paling’s video clip on Neurolanguage Coaching in my LinkedIn feed. I watched it, and what I heard resonated with my vision of teaching English to adults. I realized that I had been intuitively navigating towards that. It felt natural for me to transition from a conventional teacher to a Neurolanguage Coach. I contacted her and later enrolled in a NLC course to become a Professional NLC and a Licensed Trainer.
How receptive are your students to the NLC methods? Did you encounter any reluctance/scepticism from their end, maybe during the first sessions and if yes, how did you deal with that?
Honestly, at the beginning I was not sure how clients would respond to some of the NLC methods and techniques, mostly because they were not used to being asked what they wanted to learn, how they wanted to learn, and what material they wanted to use.
A lot of people have no idea what it means to define mastery or mechanical goals in language learning, or to figure out what motivates them and to what extent.
However, after some time and practice, I became more proficient at explaining the process. Normally, when you explain complex things in a simple way and give people time to grasp them, they will soon see the benefits.
Do you blend NLC with other methods during your sessions or do you strictly rely on the coaching model/scheme?
I would say that I do blend it with some more traditional approaches, especially when it comes to using books. Although NLC is practically based on coaching conversations, I still use books, especially with lower-level learners, mostly at their request. This gives them structure and certainty as to what we cover in every session. Yet, I always point out that the textbook is there just for guidance, and that it is up to us to decide what works best for them.
Would you like to share an anecdote or an incident stuck in your mind from your NLC sessions. Maybe a moment that a student did feel that NLC can really work for him/her and have a completely new learning path opened?
Every time I have a new client, I set out on a new learning journey. The initial session is really key to finding out about their current situation, language level and needs, motivation, fears, insecurities, and expectations.
Learners usually realize NLC works for them when they see practical results after a relatively short period of time. Explaining how the brain likes to learn, and keeping their limbic system calm makes them realize that learning a new language does not necessarily have to be a source of stress.
My clients come from all walks of life, from experienced business people, university professors, PhD students, to young budding professionals.
I have recently started to work with a young electrician who says he will get promoted to the technical supervisor position at an international technical project if he improves his English.
When he came to my office, he was both scared and tremendously motivated. During our first session I realized he visualizes everything he learns as a set of electrical fittings and installations. So, I asked him if I could use this as a frame for explaining grammar, for example the sentence structure. I compared it to the electrical cabinet where each cable has a proper place, and what happens if you put the wrong cables in the wrong places. The same goes for the word order in the sentence where every word has a defined position. He was surprised how easy it was for him to remember the sentence structure after that.
Let’s assume that I am a new, freshly graduated or licensed ELT teacher. Would you encourage me to enroll at an NLC course now or maybe later?
I would encourage teachers of any foreign language to enrol in an NLC course. I believe that any training that challenges your current way of working, in whatever industry, is good for you. As teachers we run the risk of holding on to the same, old, petrified ways of doing things as we always have. The NLC course breaks this mould. It is certainly innovative, creative and makes you leave your comfort zone. It equips you with methods and techniques that can significantly raise the effectiveness of your clients’ learning.
Jasmina Radivojša is a Professional Neurolangauge Coach and Licenced Trainer. She has been working as a Business English teacher and technical English-Serbian translator for 25 years. In 2014 she set up EnglishWise Beograd (www.englishwise.rs) which provides Business English training and translation services for individuals and corporate clients. Her vision is to apply NLC in language training and bring the Neurolanguage Coaching course to teachers in Serbia and the Balkans region.