Sandy Millin first popped onto my radar as one of the most enthusiastic participants each week on ELT Chat, and I’m thrilled to have an excuse to get to know her better as part of Brad Patterson’s brilliant blog challenge:
If you haven’t heard of it yet, the premise is simple. Ask your favorite PLN person 5 standard questions, which you’ll see below, and from there, get to know them in ways that you might not otherwise have the chance to on twitter or other social media.
Sandy embraces opportunities with everything in her being. A fairly typical example is her involvement on Twitter. I was surprised to learn that Sandy has only been active on Twitter since December of 2010. Shaun Wilden (ELT Chat moderator extraordinaire) visited International House Brno (where Sandy works) toward the end of last year. During his visit, he mentioned Twitter. Sandy not only listened but dove into the deep end of the social media pool. She wrote her first chat summaries after participating in one ELT Chat. She is also an enthusiastic member of ELT pics (which collects photos for ELT teachers, on Twitter). And an enthusiastic blogger, and blog challenge participant, and teacher. I’ll bet you can guess one of the adjectives Sandy’s students used to describe her
An auspicious beginning
Sandy hails from Wolverhampton, England. Her grandfather was in the Merchant Navy, and Sandy thinks that some of her love of travel and languages comes the postcards he sent her from around the world, and the collection of foreign words he brought back home.
Sandy loves languages, and currently speaks six (English, French, German, Spanish, some Czech and a little Modern Greek). One of her earliest memories is of trying to teach herself French at 8 or 9 years old.
1) If your students were to label you with 3 adjectives, what might they be?
Sandy was able to come up with the first two without hesitation: enthusiastic, and helpful. She took a bit more time thinking of the third. Supportive? (she’s usually available for students) Clumsy? (she just recently sprained and cut her ankle) Finally, she settled on passionate, which I think is the perfect choice.
I’d add ambitious to the list. Remember the way she maximized the opportunities social media (like Twitter) offered? She does the same with everything she tries, where learning a language (she’s already thinking of the next one), or blogging (she has participated in nearly every blog challenge I’m aware of) , or professional development (after our interview she was off to finish the final three assignments for her current class–and she’s always taking a class! Or two.
2) What would we find in your refrigerator right now?
Not much, because Sandy is getting ready to move to Newcastle for a year. Usually, she has orange juice and milk because she always has cereal (with the milk) and orange juice for breakfast. She also usually has yogurt, apples, leeks and mushrooms. If she can get it, she has cheddar cheese in the fridge, and having access to “good” cheddar is one of the things she’s most looking forward to upon her return to England. Apparently, while the Czech Republic has many great things going for it, cheese isn’t one of them.
3) If you weren’t a teacher, what might your profession be?
Sandy says that at 15, she panicked, wondering what she would do with her life. She made a list of all the things she didn’t want to be—doctor, journalist, door-to-door salesperson, but didn’t think of teacher right away. She knew that she did want to travel, but figured she’d save money from her “real” job and travel during vacations.
Before she went to university, she was planning to combine business with French and German, until she discovered she could study a third language instead. Then, at some point, she realized that if she taught English, people would pay her to live in various countries, and she never looked back.
4) What do you find most difficult about the teaching profession, or What has been your most difficult class as a teacher?
The biggest problem Sandy has found is that others don’t see ELT as a “real” profession. She frequently hears: “When are you going to get a ‘proper’ job?” “So, after you finish over there, you’re going to come and teach in a secondary school?” and “So, you’re not a real teacher, right?” Sandy passionately (and enthusiastically) educates others as to the real-ness of ELT as a profession.
I also asked Sandy what she thought was the best thing about being an ELT teacher. She said that it was meeting people and getting inside cultures in a way she couldn’t if she were visiting on holiday. Many of her best friends have come about from her teaching experiences around the world. She also likes the freedom she has to experiment with different ways of teaching.
5) What was the last book/movie you read/saw, and what have you seen/read way too many times?
Another of the many things the Czech Republic has going for it are cheap (legal) DVDs, so Sandy watches a lot of movies, and has dramatically increased her DVD movie collection during her time in Brno. Most recently, she enjoyed Hotshots (a spoof of Top Gun) and Source Code (a thriller). She rarely reads books more than once, because she sends them along to others via Bookcrossing. Currently, she’s reading Inkdeath (the 3rd book in the Inkheart trilogy) in German, and The Unbearable Lightness of Being in Aberystwyth in English.
One book she has read more than once, and recommends is Good Omens: The Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter, Witch (by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett), and loves watching movies that make her respond (whether laughing or crying). Her go-to holiday movies are Love Actually and The Holiday.
My extra “being nosy” questions
Of all the many things you do online, what are you most proud of?
Sandy is proud of being part of ELT Pics, although she’s quick to point out that it wasn’t her idea. She considers herself an ELT Pics evangelist. She also loves her collaborative teaching ideas blog, (Almost) Infinite ELT Ideas and is very proud of being selected as one of TEFL.net’s TEFL Site of the Month for May.
What language do you want to learn next?
Maybe Korean, because someone told Sandy that Korean is the only Asian language that has circles in its writing system.
What do you want for Christmas?
Membership in IATEFL.
What do you want for your birthday?
The money to pay for registration, travel, and living expenses for the IATEFL Conference next year in Glasgow.
Fingers crossed! After our not-so-brief chat on Skype, I really, really hope to meet Sandy face to face!