10-Year Challenge

新春快乐    Happy Chinese New Year!

This is brief post to acknowledge the 10-year challenge that was doing the rounds at the beginning of this year.  By doing so, I am joining James TaylorSandy MillinLizzie Pinard, Tyson Seburn and David Dodgson in the blog ‘challenge’. So, I’m a little bit late to the ‘party’ but here is my list of 20 things I’ve done or experienced in the last decade.

For a more detailed summary of my experiences since 2006, with more of a focus on technology and filmmaking see this previous post.

Desktop (144)
At the Great Wall of China, 2010.
Final Lesson
At Central Academy of Fine Arts, Beijing, 2010.

1. In January 2010, I was living and working in Beijing for Bell International.  Chinese New Year did not fall until 14 February that particular year, however, when the year of the Tiger was ushered in.  I was using Blogger to write about my continued ELT adventures, after graduating from a travel blog.  Both of those were as much about my personal life as they were about teaching.  These were still the days of travelling and having adventures.

2. After a second hugely enjoyable summer on a young learner course in Cambridge, it was off to Saudi Arabia in late 2010 for an intensive 4 week stint, before returning the following year for another five months at KSU, Riyadh. It was here I met my good friend, Luke, who would later become my landlord, as well as Nik Peachey.

3. Prompted by fellow KSU teacher Paul Walsh, I applied for a Masters at Centre for Applied Linguistics, the University of Warwick.  My degree began in October 2011 and it was a fabulous year of professional development and learning a lot more about the theory of language teaching.

4. In March 2012, I attend my first ever IATEFL conference in Glasgow and joined the Learner Autonomy SIG and Learning Technologies SIG, as these had most bearing on my dissertation – for which I gained a dissertation – thanks, Russell! I have since attended the conferences in Liverpool (2013), Harrogate (2014),  Glasgow again (2017), Brighton (2018) and Liverpool again (2019).

5. I rewrote and performed Coldplay’s Paradise at The Chaplaincy, Uni of Warwick, as a song warning of the perils of not correctly referencing in academic essay writing.  I am incredible proud of this performance and how it turned out, despite nearly completely knocking over the lyrics at the beginning. #Paraphrase #Paraphrase #Paraphrase Note: I later performed this for Lander Hawes, an outgoing senior teacher at INTO UEA.

Paraphrase (original EAP parody) - thumbnail

6. I taught on my first Pre-sessional course at De Montfort University, in Leicester. I was not mentally well and only lasted five weeks. I thought I would never do another Pre-sessional and that I had burned all my bridges in that respect!

7. After three short-term contracts (English First, Cambridge in DMU and at Dalian Polytechnic Uni) in 2013, I began volunteering with an ESOL group in Norwich. This was for the mental health charity Mind along with local storyteller, Sarah Walker.  I later volunteered teaching refugees at another charity, New Routes, which led to future employment with Norfolk County Council.

8. In January 2014, I started this WordPress blog (January 2014) by writing about copyright free images, ELTpics and established a page dedicated to ELTchat summaries – I have now written sixteen for the weekly Twitter discussion.

9. Whilst going through a long period of underemployment, Gavin at The Consultants-e hired me for one month in 2015 to do some data entry work for a new course run by Laureate.  Fairly straightforward stuff, but handsomely rewarded, which I was very grateful for.  It was the only paid work I did in 2015!

10. In 2017, I finally plucked up the courage once more and put my adverse experiences of 2013 behind me. I found what turned out to be an ideal role – a summer pre-sessional at INTO UEA. The first summer was great and the second was even better – partnered with Melissa Geere – who moved to Brighton to do her own Masters – with Norwich full of hares!

Haremanities C
Summer of 2018 – The Best ever teaching experience

11. After joining the LTSIG as a sub-committee member and attending ELT Malta in October 2017, I returned with a stinking cold – I blame swimming in the sea off Comino – an had a successful interview for Norfolk County Council – I was given a new Driving Theory course, adapting materials written in Leeds, in which to teach learners who had arrived in the UK on the Syrian Resettlement Programme, but made up with other learners from New Routes.

12. Elected as newsletter editor of LTSIG (Dec 2017), where I produced a few e-newsletters, before switching to being webmaster (April 2018), a position I still hold.

13. A research idea that started with a conversation with Sarah Mercer in Malta, grew into a survey that was published in December 2017 and was widely shared.  This directly led to my first presentation at any ELT conference – Brighton (2018),  like James Taylor. This was based on my research and called Improving the mental health of language teachers.

Brazil-Tesol Mental Health SIG Webinar Featured Image

14. Further talks and workshops given on the mental health of teachers in London (Londosa, 2018, English UK, 2019), Malta (2018), a Braz-Tesol SIG Facebook group (2018) and for IATEFL – whilst England were playing a football game in a 2018 World Cup.

15. Gave a talk in Brussels at the Image Conference last October on my personal history of Filmmaking. This was my second time at this event, having been to the first one in Barcelona, 2013.

16. In 2011, when I returned from Saudi Arabia, I realisd that my Dad might have Parkinson’s disease. He was officially diagnosed later that year. I took part in two walks for Parkinson’s (2018, 2019) with him and made two almost identical short films about these.  My sister-in-law and neice joined me for the second one.

17. I have had two short spells in hospital. The first, at The Priory in Chelmsford, was immediately after I handed in my dissertation (2012) at Warwick. The second less enjoyable experience was in The Fermoy Unit in King’s Lynn (2013) where I spent my 42nd birthday.

18. Developed the Members’ Area of the LTSIG website and joined the web managers Slack group to discuss, amongst other things, how to migrate content to the new IATEFL website. I started the Archive Recording Series recently, where we shared previously unpublished recordings from presentations that were held in privately on Vimeo.

19. I told a story at True Stories Live about my experience of panic attacks.  The whole evening was signed for deaf people and three of the tellers were deaf themselves.  I have just produced a DVD about this, while the blog post is currently back in draft form. I will be telling a different story at Norwich Arts Centre on the theme of ‘Tilted’ this Sunday.

20. In January this year I took up Taiji Qigong at a school in Norwich, as a way to seek better balance, energy and calm.

Insta QIGong Bowl
Instagram Post – January 2020


    • Thanks, James. I did not want my post to be 20 fantastic things I’ve done. I wanted to show the ups and downs. Glad you picked up on that angle. I enjoyed reading yours too. We will always be able to share our mutual love of Brighton 2018!


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