Sandy has a real job, thank you very much!

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 Millin

Sandy in Brno and Barb in Kitakyushu

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.

Lady Wulfruna

Lady Wulfruna, the namesake for Sandy’s home town

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.

The international fireworks festival in Brno

One of the great things Brno has going for it is the annual International Fireworks Competition (by Jiří Nedorost)

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’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!

gift box


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22 Responses

  1. Sandy Millin says:

    Thanks for posting this Barbara. I really enjoyed ‘meeting’ you and I’m looking forward to meeting you for real next year! Yet again, thanks very much to Brad for suggesting the idea!

    • Barbara says:

      I had so much fun talking to you, and also appreciate Brad for starting this series!

  2. DavidD says:

    Hi Barbara and Sandy,

    A great interview – thanks for doing it. :)

    I’m impressed by the number of languages Sandy knows – puts me to shame with just Turkish and fully dormant, mostly forgotten French.

    I’ve added the post to the ever growing collection on Scoop:

    Let me know if I’ve missed any others!


    • Barbara says:

      Thank you for keeping track of all these, David! It’s great to have a central location like Scoop It, in addition to Brad’s blog.

    • DavidD says:

      Sorry, forgot to add that I whole-heartedly agree about the ‘real’ job thing. Even with me now doing an MA in TESOL, my family still ask if it will qualify me to work in ‘real education’!

    • Sandy Millin says:

      Hi Dave,
      I really like since Shaun first showed it to us for eltchat last week. A great way to keep them all in one place!
      And I’m jealous of your Turkish – we had a lot of Turkish kids at summer school for the last three years and I couldn’t understand a word of it. That said, I did manage to scare one of the kids by giving her a pen when she’d asked one of the others in the group for one in Turkish – it’s all about context!

  3. Hi Sandy, Barbara and Dave

    What a fantastic interview this is! I learned so much more about you Sandy, in just a short time. You are a real shining light in ELT, and your enthusiasm to embrace all these new things is amazing. Thanks for this interview!!


    PS I noted that we have all the languages you mentioned in common!

  4. Barbara – it’s absolutely lovely to “get to know” people who were just names :-) – that’s often both the interviewer as well as the interviewee.
    I’ve only ever used my blog as a storage space to direct students to, but now woken up my Posterous again in order to join in this fun challenge :-)
    You’re right about the IATEFL conf Sandy …. definitely worth a visit, even though it’s great online too !

    • Sandy Millin says:

      Hi Elizabeth,
      I’m really looking forward to IATEFL, especially since I didn’t even get to follow it online this year (I was on a bus from the Czech Republic to the UK at the time!) I’ve downloaded all the talks…and at some point I plan to watch at least one of them!

  5. Leannepri says:

    Sandy, you truly are an inspiration. I’ve only just recently joined twitter and one of the first things I noticed was how active you were in all things – eltpics, eltchat, infiniteideas etc. So I was surprised to read in this interview that you too are relatively new to the world of twitter. You’ve encouraged me to get more involved.

    Barbara, you too are an inspiration. Thanks for doing this interview and giving us all the chance to get to know a little more about Sandy.

    • Sandy Millin says:

      Hi Leanne,
      Thanks very much for the compliments. I have to admit that I lurked for about 6 months, and had only written about 100 tweets in that time, then took part in my first #eltchat in December and the rest is history! (have just topped 5000 tweets…)
      I love helping people get involved in new things, both on and offline. See you on Twitter!

  6. Barbara!
    You said:
    “Sandy embraces opportunities with everything in her being”
    So true! You can feel Sandy’s enthusiasm and energy “coming through the screen”!
    Great interview with one of our PLN STARS!

    Sandy – I LOVE the book Good Omens too! I hope the IATEFL works out for you!

  7. Hi Sandy

    I can’t say that I speak Czech at all, really, as I studied it in East Germany so many years ago and it was all done in German. It was a very old-fashioned method of teaching, I have to say but it was effective back then. I loved Prague when I visited it -it’s such a beautiful city!

    I hope IATEFL Glasgow works out for you! I don’t think I’ll be able to make it next year, but the IATEFL Online will certainly be something to look forward to :-)


    • Sandy Millin says:

      Hi Janet,
      Thanks for your comment.
      Brno is just as beautiful as Prague, but much less well-known! Wizzair have just started a flight from Rome to Brno, so it should be easier than ever for you to visit – I would highly recommend it, as there are a LOT fewer tourists than there are in Prague! I like the capital too, but I could never live there! Watch my blog over the next couple of weeks for some posts about Brno – I’m leaving on the 26th June :( after three years here, so there’s a lot of reminiscing to do!

  8. Howdy Barb and Sandy-

    WOW… 6 languages. I’m impressed ! It’s cool to see that you’ve only been on twitter as long as I have, Sandy. I feel like we’ve both jumped headfirst into a whole new world. So much to share and learn.

    Cheers, brad

    • Sandy Millin says:

      Hi Brad,
      I was surprised when I saw 6 languages :) I think of it as 4 (for a long time I forgot to include English and always said 3!), with bits of the others, although I sometimes tell my students it’s 4.4.1 ;) approximately. I agree that it’s a whole new world…in fact that’s what I called the presentation I did on blogs and twitter at our school conference in March (and I made an Overstream video to go with it called ‘A Whole New World of ELT’) – here is the post, and the video link is in it I love being here, and challenges like this just make me want to keep exploring!
      Thanks again,

  9. Great interview! I had a lovely time being interviewed by Sandy a few weeks ago and it’s lovely to read more about her here. Am hoping to meet her sometime in September, since we’ll both be in the UK–fingers crossed! :)

    Nice work, both of you! :)

  10. Sue Annan says:

    Just catching up with all the interviews I missed when on holiday. Thank you Barbara for taking the time to introduce Sandy to us. Its lovely to get to know everyone better through this challenge. Thanks Brad for coming up with the idea. :-)

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