Jo Budden is one of our Trinity DipTESOL graduates. She is the content manager of the British Council’s global websites: LearnEnglish Kids, LearnEnglish Teens and LearnEnglish.
She has worked for the British Council since 1999 as a teacher, teacher trainer and materials writer. She has taught young learners and adults in Hong Kong, Egypt and Brazil, but mainly in Spain where she currently lives.
She’s also the author of Teen World and co-author of the secondary course book Interactive, published by Cambridge University Press.
In this article, Joanna tell us about his journey from Teacher to Content Manager and how the DipTESOL course opened the doors for her.
What were you doing before you decided you needed to develop your skills in ELT?
I arrived in Barcelona in the summer of 1999 after having spent a year in Brazil as a language assistant for the British Council. I was teaching part-time in what was the British Council’s Young Learner centre and after a few years, I decided that it would be good to get the Trinity DipTESOL under my belt.
I would see adverts for coordinator roles within the British Council teaching centre and some were asking for diploma-qualified teachers, so I decided that it would be a good stepping stone. Also, I’d become interested in knowing more about how languages are learnt. My CELTA course felt like a long time ago, and by 2004, I was ready to learn more about teaching.
What attracted you to the Trinity DipTESOL as opposed to the Cambridge Delta?
Most of my teaching experience had been with young learners – mainly teenagers, so I wanted to do a diploma course that would allow me to focus on Young Learners in my project work and also to be observed teaching Young Learners for the teaching practice.
Why did you choose Oxford TEFL as your course provider?
I’d heard good things about the Oxford TEFL course from colleagues at the British Council. But mainly I chose it for the fact that my teaching experience with young learners would be valued.
What was your experience on the Trinity DipTESOL course like?
Amazing! I have really good memories of the course. Our group got on really well with each other – and I made a few friends that I’m still in contact with today. A few study groups sprung out of the course and we used to meet up at exam time to help each other along and revise together. Sunday afternoons in someone’s flat with our books, notes and a bottle of wine seemed to motivate us all to keep going and get the revision done!
What was the teaching practice in Barcelona like?
I chose to do this in Barcelona. I had classes two mornings a week. I don’t think I’ve ever learned so much in such a short space of time! I remember having quite a few ‘light bulb moments’ where I realised that the theory backed up what I’d naturally been doing in the classroom – and vice versa – sometimes it threw up ideas and suggestions of how I could change my teaching.
Having taught for five years or so without the diploma studies, I felt it was just the right time for me to start reflecting on my practice.
How did the tutors support you throughout the Trinity DipTESOL course?
The tutors were really accessible and willing to go the extra mile to help us through the mission of passing the course! I remember one morning in particular when we arrived to find ourselves at an imaginary conference! We’d been asked to read up about different language experts the week before for homework – I was Jennifer Jenkins, so I’d read all about her work before the class.
On arrival at the school, I was given a name badge (of Jennifer Jenkins, of course) and we were at a conference. Other language experts like David Crystal were also there (in spirit, at least) talking about their work. Coffee and cakes were served and all the ‘language experts’ mingled and talked in role. I remember that our tutor, Duncan Foord, was on coffee-serving duty for us and Lindsay Clandfield hosted the event. It was a brilliant way to bring the class to life and it really made it memorable.
The observed classes during the 4-week phase involved Lindsay coming up to the British Council’s young learner centre and observing my classes.
I was really pleased that the tutors and the external examiner were willing to do that. For them, it was obviously more of an effort but I really appreciated that I was able to be observed in my natural teaching environment.
All the feedback from the observed classes was really useful and definitely helped me to become a more effective teacher. The other assessments … well, it wasn’t the assessments themselves that helped it was the knowledge I gained beforehand that helped me to become a better teacher. The more you know about the learning process and the language, the better.
What have you done since you gained the Trinity DipTESOL qualification?
I graduated in 2005. During the course and just afterwards, I co-wrote a few articles and audio series for OneStopEnglish and the classic Its and Bits magazines, with Lindsay Clandfield, who’d been my main tutor on the Trinity DipTESOL course. He’d spotted that I was keen on materials creation and he encouraged me to snap up any opportunities that came along to publish anything I could. By this time Lindsay was doing a lot of writing and it was great for me to be able to see this – suddenly course book writers weren’t just names on books I used – it somehow made it more believable that I could possibly become one, one day too!
Then, one of the senior teachers at the British Council who had been my line manager returned to the UK and started working for Cambridge University Press. She invited me to put forward a few samples for some supplementary activities, workbooks etc. I wrote DVD activity books, workbooks, resource books and online worksheets for English in Mind and a few other courses.
By this time I’d had an idea for a photocopiable resource book for teachers on teenagers and by chance, it was just what CUP were looking for, for their Copy Collection. I presented a few sample units and was given the job of writing the book. I found a dog-eared copy of Teen World in the staffroom at the British Council last week, so it’s still being put to good use.
Teen World was published in 2008 and by then I was working for a few hours per week as a coordinator on the British Council’s LearnEnglish Kids website. I’d seen the advert and it required a diploma-qualified teacher, which by this time I was! So, I started working on the LearnEnglish Kids site part-time.
At the same time, I was offered the chance to write a sample unit for a secondary coursebook for Cambridge University Press. I really didn’t think I’d get it – it was a lot harder than I thought to put together coherent units – but I was taken on as the third author on a series for secondary learners – Interactive.
It was a really good experience writing the books – I learned so much in a short space of time, especially about how the ELT publishing industry works. I’d always been quite critical of coursebooks but when you get to look a little behind the scenes and see how it all works it gives you an understanding of why coursebooks can be limited in their scope.
As I was working on the final level of Interactive – the British Council LearnEnglish team announced it was going to create a new self-access learner website for teenagers and they were looking for an editor to work on it full-time as a two-year project.
This was a great opportunity. It felt like perfect timing as I’d gained valuable writing experience with CUP. So, in 2011 I started working on the new LearnEnglish Teens website and it was launched in 2012.
After just over five years of managing the LearnEnglish Teens site, our team was reorganised and I applied for a new role as the content manager for the three LearnEnglish websites (see here, here and here). I’ve been in that role since 2017 and am enjoying the new challenges it has presented.
I’ve also had the chance to speak at conferences about the websites and also about digital literacy and online safety which is an area I’m really interested in. I’ve given plenary talks at several conferences now – which is something I never imagined myself doing, but I took the leap a few years ago and I don’t regret it.
Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
That’s a tricky question … but for now I can say I’m quite happy in my role, although I actually do miss teaching and training. You can’t have everything though. For now, I’m really happy to have a job that’s flexible and creative and where I know that the content we produce is reaching learners around the world who really need it.
What advice would you give to someone thinking about taking the Trinity DipTESOL course?
I would say – go for it! I think if a teacher is planning to stay in the ELT world for a while it’s well worth getting the Trinity DipTESOL under your belt as it really does open up new opportunities.
There’s a lot going on in the world of ELT – with digital learning, product development and materials … so having the Diploma on your CV can only be a positive.