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Alistair Walker - My personal journey

Alistair Walker - My personal journey

I have always had a ‘travel bug’ – a strong wish to travel overseas to experience different cultures and languages.  I lived and travelled overseas for 12 years continuously.  Compared to my home country everything seemed exotic and different.    Cultural norms are built up over centuries and generations, and always for good reasons to do with geography/topography, climate and beliefs. They work very well in the environments that created them and do not easily translate or transfer to other parts of the world.  After a while I realised that nothing was really ‘better or worse’ – just different.  However, that didn’t stop me having personal preferences.  Travelling opens the mind and helps to eliminate prejudices.   I tried take the best of everywhere and right now I can honestly say that I have an international outlook and do not strongly identify with any one particular culture - even the one I grew up in!  

So it was a natural step for me to eventually become an English Language teacher – a passport to the world.  Language teaching was initially a way to earn enough money to survive before moving on to the next destination.  However, I very quickly became passionate about the way languages are learnt – the language learning process itself.  I became very experimental in terms of teaching methods.  This was not always appreciated by some of the schools where I worked.  They wanted me to follow a course book and do things their own way.  However, I could see that it simply didn’t work.  The teaching was ineffective and the learning didn’t happen.

Teaching versus Learning.  A teacher cannot learn for the student.  They can only help to create the optimum conditions for the learning to take place.  Learning is a mix of processes involving psychology, sociology, knowledge, self- motivation, self-exploration, group dynamics, self-discipline and many more.  In the classroom, this is equally true for both the student and the teacher.  As a teacher I had to leave the classroom at the end of the lesson feeling I had learned something about my ‘craft’.

This passion of mine led up to a Master’s degree.  My dissertation was on the ‘Dynamics of small learning groups’.  When the opportunity came to manage and run my own language school in 1994, I felt as if my twin passions of language learning and international environments could come together and I would be able to create the best of both worlds – at least to the best of my ability.

That was 22 years ago.  The school has come a long way in that time.  I started with the vision that I would like to create a school ‘where I myself would have loved to have been a new teacher’.  Teachers generally need a lot of support and the freedom to find their own way.  If a teacher stops developing their craft and themselves as professionals, then there is no joy and sense of achievement anymore – and students can sense that!

So this is ethos at the Lewis School of English.  We are not perfect but we strive to bring high standards and a freshness to the learning process.  We simply ask for everyone’s ‘personal best’ here – including from our students.


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