GoAbroad Interview

Duncan Foord - Co-Founder & Director of Teacher Training

Duncan Foord - Oxford TEFL Co-Founder & Director of Teacher Training

Duncan has been teaching and training teachers in Europe for 25 years. Aside from his role as Director of Teacher Training for Oxford TEFL, he also works as a CertTESOL moderator for Trinity College, London. Duncan also holds a Trinity DipTESOL and MEd in TESOL. He has co-authored two books (with another on the way), and is a regular presenter on teacher development and leadership at a variety of conferences.

What prompted you to start Oxford TEFL in 1998?

I was working as a Director of Teacher Training in a School in Barcelona. I didn’t like the way it was being run and two of my colleagues agreed with me. We thought we could do better. Not 100 percent pure idealism though. We also thought it would be better to be in control of our own fate/jobs so there was a practical reason too.

Founder of Oxford TEFL with students in Kerala, India

Duncan Foord with Oxford TEFL trainees in Kerala, India.

Were you always interested in a career in TEFL? What do you think you would be doing now if you hadn’t started Oxford TEFL?

I would like to think I would be a rock star now, if I hadn’t been distracted by TEFL. That’s probably optimistic. The band I was playing in in London when I was in my early and mid twenties had a fairly niche following I have to admit. I’m not sure even my parents knew about it. I had always been vaguely interested in teaching, but TEFL happened somewhat by accident. I started teaching a little after finishing University to earn money, then started to like it and get qualified and, well, one thing lead to another…

You’ve written two books, The Language Teacher’s Survival Handbook and The Developing Teacher. Your second books focuses on the development of teachers. What is the hardest lesson a new teacher learns in their first year of teaching?

On a Cert. TESOL or CELTA course, a little knowledge gets you a long way. Novice teachers get a great grounding in the basics and it makes them feel very confident, which is great. The hardest thing in your first year after the course I think, is gradually realizing how little you know and how much you still have to learn. To learn about people I might add, not grammar, which is often cited as a weakness of novice teachers. The grammar tends to worry teachers more than their students, and can be sorted out in a year or two as you gain experience teaching different points. The people know-how on the other hand takes your whole life and even then never really gets resolved!

Oxford TEFL building in Barcelona, Spain

Oxford TEFL, Barcelona.

Are you working on any new publications? If so, what do they focus on?

Actually I have just published a third book this year. I am co-author with Dan Barber of “From English Teacher to Learner Coach” which was published as an e-book through the Round publications. You can find it on Amazon. It’s about how teachers can help their students focus on their goals and motivate them to commit more time outside class to improving their English.

After 25 years of teaching and training all over Europe, what has been your biggest accomplishment?

Teaching English and training teachers brings lots of little accomplishments that stack up to make something big I suppose, adding together all the moments of learning and seeing students progress. I think my biggest accomplishment is setting up and growing OxfordTEFL. We started 16 years ago with almost nothing and now we have a flourishing international Teacher Training company (OxfordTEFL) and language Schools (Oxford House) in Barcelona and Prague. I feel privileged to have worked with so many fantastic people who have made that possible and proud, because what we have achieved has made a positive difference to the lives of many teachers and language learners.

You have presented at several conferences covering a variety of topics, what part of teaching are you most passionate about?

I have gone through a few romances. I suppose I am a bit restless. Pronunciation was my first big passion, then Teacher Development and Leadership. Lately coaching has grabbed me, the idea of getting to grips with what makes students tick faster.

What are three characteristics teachers gain in your TEFL programs that help them to be most successful in the classroom?

Knowledge, Skills and Attitude. Knowledge about how English works, the nuts and bolts of grammar, vocabulary, and pronunciation. Skills that will help them in the classroom like managing and motivating learners, communicating effectively, and using materials appropriately. Finally, and perhaps most important of all, they develop attitudes like positive thinking, respect, patience, listening, resilience, and empathy, qualities that will sustain them beyond the honeymoon, and help them become the best teacher they can be.

What makes your TEFL programs stand out from the many other programs out there?

I think the majority of course providers are caring and enthusiastic. We add to that foundation the wisdom, experience, and expertise of professionally qualified trainers and support staff, and we set our courses in schools which provide not only great facilities but an international, diverse, and dynamic community of language teachers and learners. I think this gives our trainee teachers a very rich learning experience.

What is your favorite memory from your time with Oxford TEFL?

Our tenth anniversary party in Prague. Barcelona’s was good too, but the beer just isn’t the same.

If you could give a budding TEFL teacher one piece of advice to last the rest of their career, what would it be?

When you stop enjoying it, give up!

What is on the horizon for Oxford TEFL? Any new and exciting projects we should know about?

We added Kerala in India and Malaga in Spain to our list of OxfordTEFL Trinity CertTESOL destinations recently. Watch out for some more!