Starting with this post, I'm beginning a new series within my blog. I plan to conduct interviews with some teachers whom I work with or whose materials I use. The first teacher I spoke with is Gardeniafly. You can read her comments at the bottom of each blog post.
Update - please visit my other reports as well. Jamie Miller is an excellent TOEFL teacher. Kate is an excellent American English teacher.
Hi, Gardeniafly! First of all, I would like to ask you, what does your nickname mean?
That’s actually a good question, and students often ask me this. The word ‘gardenia’ is the name of a flower and it’s my favorite flower. I think that this type of flower smells really nice. And then I just added the word fly because I find it sounds cool, and because the fly is a small insect which is kind of an annoying animal. Therefore they’re two opposites together. You have the nice gardenia and you have the annoying fly; I put them together creating my nickname.
So the word 'fly' is not from the verb 'to fly'?
Exactly! You could say the word fly also has the meaning of the verb 'to fly', but in my nickname it is the insect fly.
Then could you speak about your studies, including high school and college?
Well, I went to a fine arts high school. In my high school there were people from all over the world. This high school had a big mixture of people from different cultures, considering how small my city is. We created art together and it was really amazing there. I got to experiences different cultures at the same time I created art.
And what kind of art did you do?
When I was in high school, I used to do music. It was kind of my specialty. I played the cello and I also played the piano. I was better on cello than piano. Nowadays, I don’t really have much time to continue it as a hobby. In Japan, there was no possibility to play. Maybe, in the future, I’d like to have private lessons.
What about your college experience?
I went to University of Georgia and I started studying comparative literature, which is a field where you study the literature of different cultures and compare them to each other. You see the differences in the way that people write. Everything was translated into English. I read many different types of literature in English. I tried to include cultures in my college studies as well. Then I studied abroad in Japan and went to Kobe University. I was there about 10 months to study the Japanese language, and then I came back to America and finished my bachelor’s degree. That’s my education.
Can you speak Japanese?
I can speak a little bit of Japanese, but I’m not fluent. My level is enough for a basic conversation with another person.
You mentioned you learned literature. Who is you favorite author?
That's a really hard question. When I was a child, my favorite author was J. K. Rowling, the woman who wrote the Harry Potter series. This is because she sparked my imagination and I was able to create this fantasy world in my mind. It’ was kind of an escape when I had problems in my real life. I think J. K. Rowling is still my favorite author today.
Do you like the Harry Potter movies?
Well, I like movies as well, but I think a book allows you to imagine things more. When you see a movie, you can see the characters and there’s nothing left for your imagination. When you read, the author gives you a few descriptive words to describe the characters, but does not determine them like a movie does. I prefer reading because I can create the person in my head. It's like a movie in your head and it’s always better than the real movie on the screen. I'm always disappointed when I watch a movie, because it’s not the same as what I imagined.
When did you start to teach English?
I started to teach English in Japan, in person first actually. There is a website in Japan that helps teachers find students who are trying to learn English. I started to teach two students and this helped me to improve my teaching techniques. Then I decided to start teaching online through Italki. I signed up to be a community tutor on Italki. When I had completed 100 lessons, I started to become more popular. Now I’ve completed over 700 lessons.
Where do your students come from?
My students come from everywhere. I’ve had students from Japan, Korea, China, Russia, a lot of countries in Europe such as Italy and France, from South American countries such as Colombia and Brazil, and some people who are living here in the States as well. These people who are living here in the U.S. and are taking lessons from me are usually international students or business people who have come to live in America for either work or school. You can name a country, and I probably have had students from there.
Do you have any students who you teach in person now?
No, I don’t have students in person like I had in Japan.
What do you like about online teaching?
The thing I like the best about teaching is that it makes me feel helpful to people. I see these people that are struggling with learning English and I'm able to help them. As a native speaker, I can give them more opportunities to learn English in different ways that they haven’t thought of before.
Which is your best experience related to teaching?
I have a Japanese student. At first she was very shy about speaking English. I tried to encourage her to speak more during the lessons. As time went on, I saw she became more and more confident and she started to speak more and more. I realized she knew a lot, but she was just afraid of using English. It was very exciting for me to see her open up in a way that I’ve never seen before, and her English became so much better after about 10 lessons with me.
I like many aspects of teaching online. For example, I really enjoy having new students. It’s like a breath of fresh air. Of course I like my old students too, teaching them is fine, but sometimes it becomes a little tedious to teach the same people over and over. My days become more varied. It’s something interesting for me when a daily routine might become boring. It helps me to work even better with the old students.
Later, do you want to teach?
I think for the rest of my life I want to do some sort of teaching, but it’s not my main career, maybe as a part time job or something. Teaching on Italki took a lot of time, and there’s not much financial reward. So I began to work at another job a few days ago. I needed a job that can make me financially stable. Besides that job, I’d like to continue to teach on Italki because it's enjoyable, but my possibilities are limited in teaching. That’s why I can’t accept new students right now, but I'll try to continue to teach my former students. And I will continue to help you in editing this blog in the future as well.
Thank you very much!
Hi Gardeniafly! How did you feel during the interview? What do you think? Is it a good start in conducting new interviews with other teachers as well?
I think that this interview was great and it really got me to analyze what I've been doing as a teacher. You asked some really good questions about my experiences, and maybe this interview can help give other teachers insight as well as showing students things from the perspective of a teacher. This certainly is a good start to your interview series and I think it'll be interesting to compare my responses with other teachers' responses.
Thank you very much for your attention,