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A quick coffee with… Duncan Foord (Oxford TEFL Director)

A company is only as good as its people, as the saying goes. Here at Oxford TEFL, we couldn’t agree more. Our team of dedicated professionals is what allows us to stay passionate and continue providing high quality teacher training. Indeed, without them, there’s no way we could have continued to grow and thrive since our establishment way back in 1998.

With this in mind, we have decided to introduce this new series of blog posts. In them, we’ll help you to learn a bit more about the Oxford TEFL squad. Over a coffee in a quiet corner, I have asked our key people some burning questions. Whether you’d like to know about their professional journey and motivations or are here for some off-the-wall trivia, you won’t be disappointed!

Name: Duncan Foord

Nationality: British

Role: Oxford TEFL Founder and Director

Who is Duncan Foord?

duncan foord oxford tefl
Duncan with his cat, Sunny

It seemed only fitting to kick off my interviews with Oxford TEFL founder and Director, Duncan Foord. As well as the two I’ve already mentioned,

Duncan has a multitude of job titles. Teacher, trainer, coach, leader, author, singer – the list really does go on. Many of you have undoubtedly crossed paths with Duncan over the years. Maybe you started your career in TEFL by taking a Cambridge CELTA or Trinity CertTESOL with him back in the early days? Perhaps you’ve attended the InnovateELT conference and enjoyed one of his workshops or webinars?

Lots of us – myself included – will remember him as your tutor on Oxford TEFL’s Trinity DipTESOL course. You might even recognise his name from your staff room (or home!) bookshelf. His The Developing Teacher continues to be a must-read for anyone looking to take their TEFL career to the next level.

To many, then, this is a man who needs no introduction. However, whether you know him well or are only now realising that there’s such a name as ‘Foord’ with two o’s, my interview with Duncan is bound to contain a few surprises. So, sit back (perhaps with a coffee of your own) and read on to find out what makes Mr Foord tick.

1) Why did you decide to set up Oxford TEFL?

I had been working in different schools in Barcelona for about 6 years and wasn’t very happy with the way they were being run. Too many unhappy staff and students! Typical me, I thought I could do better and fortunately two of my colleagues had a similar idea, so we decided to start our own school. I also managed to get financial support from a school in London where I had contacts and who liked our idea. I don’t think we could have done it otherwise.

2) What are the biggest lessons you have learnt over the years?

A business is like a football club. You need the right combination of players and management to succeed. Work can be a lot of fun. A lot of us humans are at our best when we are working, but sometimes it takes time and help to find your place.

Another one that comes to mind is that if you want to start a conversation in class, never ask your students ‘What did you do at the weekend?’. In my experience, they always say they spent it sleeping!

duncan foord oxford tefl barcelona
Duncan in a management meeting back in 2001

3) What does a typical working day look like for you?

The first two hours with a coffee at my laptop in my pyjamas. (don’t worry I get dressed if I have a zoom call!). My work includes individual meetings with the management team, observing classes, planning talks and workshops and involvement in selected projects in the school.

Breakfast at 11 and then some days I go into the school after that to meet people in person and work from the office there. I am lucky I have a flexible timetable, so some days I go for a walk or play squash in the morning and work in the evening.

4) What advice would you give someone looking to become a leader in TEFL?

Most importantly, take the Oxford TEFL Leadership in ELT course with me! It will change your life.

Failing that, take some time to think about what role in ELT you aspire to and why you think it would suit you. Talk to someone about this. Anyone. You’ll be surprised how saying things out loud can help you see them more clearly. If you have a clear idea after this, make some plans and commitments about how you can get to where you want to be. Believe in yourself!

There are bound to be bumps in the road, but if you focus on your goals, you will get there eventually. And really do think about that Leadership course – I will provide individual, personalised support every step of the way. One of my favourite parts of my job is supporting future leaders and giving them the benefit of what I’ve learnt over the years.

5) Where would you like to see Oxford TEFL in ten years’ time?

I expect it to be recognised as the best teacher training provider in the world for online and face-to-face training and support for language teachers. We are already making great progress towards that goal.

For instance, we have become the world’s largest provider of the 100% Online CELTA course. Not only that, but we are constantly updating the range of courses on offer in response to the changing ELT landscape and graduate feedback.

Of course, sustainability is increasingly important too. We’ve already implemented a paper-free policy and have plenty of other ideas in the pipeline. In short, the sky’s the limit!

6) What are your favourite book, film, and song?

  • Book: Middlemarch, by George Ellliot
  • Film: The Dead, directed by John Houston
  • Song: Life on Mars, David Bowie

7) What’s a spot in Barcelona that you’d tell visitors not to miss?

The Sagrada Familia. You can’t miss it! It’s that very large church with the pointy towers.

8) What’s something we might not know about you?

You might not know that my ex-wife once kissed the actor Hugh Grant.

9) Any plans for the rest of the day?

Yes, I have a meeting later with the Organiser of this year’s InnovateELT conference. We are both delighted with the schedule that’s just been published and have some fine details to work through. After that, I’ll probably start thinking about dinner. In this hot weather (it’s 35 degrees today), I feel like something fresh – maybe grilled fish or a salad.

So, what have we learnt about the founder and Director of Oxford TEFL?

Well, there’s a question! The first stand-out for me (Hollywood lip locking aside) is Duncan’s suggestion that would-be Directors of Studies or Academic Managers take Oxford TEFL’s Leadership in ELT course. Yes, he may be engaging in a little shameless self-promotion, but there are a range of benefits to the course which make it well worth a look. For example:

  • It’s flexible: you can start any Friday of the year and complete the 30-hour course over 3 or 6 weeks to suit you. There’s a mixture of self-study and live tutorials providing individualised support from the man himself.
  • It’s adaptable: tell Duncan about your goals as a leader, and he will be able to draw upon his experience and cater his advice to your needs.
  • It’s high-quality: Duncan and our team have refined the course in response to trainee feedback over the years. We are confident that it provides everything you need to get you started on your leadership journey.
  • It’s proven: the course now has dozens of graduates. Leadership in ELT has helped many former trainees to begin managing a team and working as Training Managers, Academic Coordinators, Directors and much more.
  • The certificate: how do potential employers know you’re serious about becoming a leader? The digital certificate you’ll be provided with after your Development Course will show them you mean business.

I hope you’ve enjoyed learning a bit more about Duncan! Check out my next ‘A quick coffee with…’ very soon…

What’s next?

Certainly it doesn’t seem that Duncan would make much of a tour guide. Luckily, however, he does a far better job of leading the team at Oxford TEFL. If he has inspired you to follow in his footsteps and launch or develop your career in TEFL, there are a number of things you can do:

  • First thing’s first, get qualified. The CELTA course is ideal for anyone looking to get started in TEFL. You can read more about it here and here.
  • Join a community. If you’re new to teaching and lacking support, something like Oxford TEFL Connect will suit you well. With workshops, webinars, resources and more, it’s a great way to get flexible help as you move through those tricky early days.
  • Take a Teacher Development Course. From Young Learners to IELTS, Business English to Teaching Online, there’s something for everyone. As we’ve seen, these courses are flexible and a great way to show to employers that you take your development seriously.
  • Sign up for a Specialised Workshop. No time for a 30-hour course? Our 4-hour workshops help you build your skills in Teaching Young Learners, Teaching Cambridge Exam Classes and/ or Teaching Business English.
  • Attend a conference. This year’s InnovateELT conference from Oxford TEFL is online on 30th September and in Barcelona on 1st October. As always, it promises to be a great way to pick up new ideas and network with professionals from all over the world. Naturally, it’s also a great chance to meet Duncan in the flesh!
  • Take the DipTESOL. This Level 7 course will open up opportunities in materials writing, academic management, teacher training and much more.
One of Europe's leading TEFL conferences.
InnovateELT is a highlight of the TEFL calendar.

More information

To find out more about in-person and online CELTA courses, follow the respective links.

For our full range of Teacher Development Courses, click here.

If you’re interested in DipTESOL, check out this link.

Oxford TEFL’s Leadership in ELT course.

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