Rliberni's Blog – Radical language

June 8, 2011

Who’s in my PLN? My very enlightening interview

In May Brad Patterson threw down a challenge to members of our PLN (Professional Learning Network) – choose someone from your PLNand try to get to know them better. He provided us with 5 questions and we could add extras if we wanted. This has inspired a number of interesting posts which can all be seen on Brad’s blog.

Quite often with these challenges I realise they are out there and get geared up to participate just as they are coming to a close! Fortunately this one came across my radar quite early on, but it was Eva Büyüksimkeşyan asking to interview me that finally gave me the push I needed to get on board with this challenge!

My choice is Shaun Wilden. Shaun and I moderate #eltchat together (along with other members of this team; Barbara Sakamoto, Marisa Constantinides, and Shelly Terrell), we meet on various online events and have even met face to face at IATEFL but I realised that I don’t really know much about him at all other than he supports a football team in a rival county to mine and, I think, likes marmite (could be wrong there – it may have been a joke!)

He is a great member of my PLN always cheerful, very patient, a very hard worker and always seems to know how to do everything – especially tech-wise. As such we are very fortunate to have him on the #eltchat team. He also has a wicked sense of humour (more of this below)

I put Brad’s 5 questions to him and then added a couple extra.

So here it is! Everything you wanted to know about Shaun Wilden – and more!

1) If your students were to label you with 3 adjectives, what might they be?

Without a doubt they would say energetic (unless they knew the word hyperactive).  Ex-students have told me that they were exhausted at the end of lesson with me. I am forever moving about and can’t sit still.  I’d hope they would say funny, I do like to tell a joke and am very sarcastic, which most of my Czech students cottoned onto.  As a third one, I’d think they’d say crazy – if I can make a lesson out of something, I will.

2) What would we find in your refrigerator right now?

Hmm, let me think, top shelf will have yoghurts, berries and some home made jams and chutneys. Second shelf has lots different cheeses, eggs and probably some cold meat. Next is the wine rack, which is full of white wine chilling, and then finally there is some defrosting turkey mince, which I shall be using to make tonight’s dinner.

3) If you weren’t a teacher, what might your profession be?

I would to be a chef.  It’s my dream to have a small restaurant cooking good rustic food. I love cooking, it is my number one hobby and I’ve been told I’m quite good at it.  Since moving back to the UK a year ago, I have also started growing my own vegetables and would be more than happy to spend my days growing and then cooking food.

4) What do you find most difficult about the teaching profession, or What has been your most difficult class as a teacher?

I think one of the hardest things about our profession is it being taken seriously.  I still not sure that my family fully comprehend what I do or what I was doing for 20 years abroad and just the other day a UK TV programme used the TEFL industry as an example of way to see the world and have a fun (in a disparaging way – in fact our profession is fun but not in the ‘this is not a serious job ‘ way).  For such a vast industry things such as the fact it is poorly paid, and that it can treat teachers badly constantly amazes me.  Likewise, perhaps naively, I am astounded when teachers who have nothing more than a 4-week cert fail to see the need for developing themselves. 

5) What was the last book/movie you read/saw, and what have you seen/read way too many times?

I am not a great book or film person. I spend too much time online so read more blogs etc than books. I do have the odd book on the go on my ipad as I spend a fair amount travelling.  Currently I’m reading ‘Reelin’ in the Years: The Soundtrack of a Northern Life by Mark Radcliffe.’ He is a radio DJ and in this book he has chosen a song for every year of his life and writes about the memories of each year.  As an ex-dj the idea of a song for each year really appeals to me. As for films, I’d rather have a good dvd boxset. As a committed Whovian you’d probably find me watching old episodes of the series though you can never watch them too many times.

Extra questions

6) What are your top 3 tips for successful language learning?

I’ve probably said to my students on numerous occasions – ‘don’t worry about how you say just say it’ and I think that is an important factor in learning language. Taking a few risks builds confidence. Certainly in my experience of learning Czech (a very accurate language), I was put off on more than one occasion by the teacher’s correcting every little thing.  Secondly, be interested in your learning.  Far too many of my students learned English, well tried to learn, by coming to a once a week class expecting to learn everything by attending class once a week for forty weeks.  Those that did best, invested time outside to learn, be it watching something in English, finding times to study and so on. My most ‘successful’ student went from A2 to C2 in a couple of years by working out he could learn on his daily commute – he recorded our lessons and played them back in the car. Thirdly, have a good teacher, be it at the end of an email to help or in the classroom a good language teacher can inspire, guide and advise. As far as we have gone down the path of technology and self-study there is still no substitute for a good teacher.

7) What is your greatest memory?

My greatest memory – well this one’s a little tricky.  I’ll share with you the story I often use as a live listening. I’m not sure it qualifies as greatest memory but it’s one helluva story.  At university I learned to fire breathe (well it beats the geography degree I was supposed to be doing) and one night while at a house party in Athens (where I started my career), I met a juggler who was keen to learn to fire breathe.  ‘Oh I’ll show you’ and off we head to the balcony. Now when breathing fire you should always check the wind direction and never, ever use petrol, as it is too flammable. Being full of bravado (no I wasn’t drunk) I took a mouthful of the liquid the juggler had for his fire clubs, lit a club and went outside to breath it out and duly impress the crowd.  I ‘spit’ out the liquid in front of the flame and there is a whoosh – the whoosh being the sound of the petrol (for that is what it was) igniting and the wind blowing it back in my face.  Oh no ‘I’ve set fire’ to my hair I thought but no not quite – I had set fire to my face. Luckily I was surrounded by EFL teachers who always know what to do and one had some excellent burn cream. They smeared it all over my face and took me outside to get a taxi to the hospital (far quicker than waiting for an ambulance).  We saw lots of our Greek friends outside – it was carnival season and the cream looked like clown whitener so they thought I’d dressed up for carnival…anyway seven days in Greek intensive care followed but am glad to say all worked out well though of course it put an end to my super model days. Oh well modeling’s loss was EFL’s gain.

Thank you Shaun looks like we might be all visiting your restaurant one day sounds awesome!


  1. Hey Berni and Shaun-

    THAT fire-breathing story had me giggling… oh… never thought something like that would be turned over in these interviews.

    “don’t worry about how you say just say it” is a great piece of advice by which I’ve lived by as a learner and a teacher. What is FLUency is hard to “quantify” but if you were to qualify it, it is certainly FLUid. I’ve often been more impressed with students with a more limited vocabulary but just throw it out there confidently. Plus, I think that courage really makes the learning process speed up that much more.

    Nice to learn a bit more about you Shaun, and yes, I too would love to spend more time in the kitchen and above all with homegrown veggies !

    Comment by Brad Patterson — June 8, 2011 @ 7:03 pm | Reply

    • Thanks Brad – this is a great challenge and I’m glad I didn’t miss it! I couldn’t believe the fire-breathing, who’d ‘ve thought! Loved all the other interviews too. 🙂

      Comment by rliberni — June 13, 2011 @ 12:14 pm | Reply

  2. A lovely read. =)

    Comment by seburnt — June 8, 2011 @ 11:33 pm | Reply

    • Thanks Tyson amazing what we’re finding out about all these PLN members!

      Comment by rliberni — June 13, 2011 @ 12:14 pm | Reply

  3. What a great interview, Berni and Shaun. I am inspired after reading the responses that I am not alone in thinking that as an EFL teacher I am not crazy to be enjoying this profession, though I can understand the frustrations at not being taken seriously. Also, Shaun’s fire breathing adventure cracked me up!

    Comment by Connie Fessler — June 9, 2011 @ 1:44 am | Reply

    • Thanks Connie I was amazed at the story too. Would never have guessed anything like this – I belive there’s more to it too! We should get him to make a digital story I think 🙂

      Comment by rliberni — June 13, 2011 @ 12:16 pm | Reply

  4. Great interview and great to learn more about our esteemed @shaunwilden! 🙂


    Comment by lizziepinard — June 9, 2011 @ 2:09 am | Reply

    • Thanks Lizzie – a bit of a dark horse and multi-talented too!

      Comment by rliberni — June 13, 2011 @ 12:16 pm | Reply

  5. @shaunwilden…who is not a South African biker rock star dude, that would be the other Shaun to whom I sent the link for one of my summaries accidentally… 😉

    Comment by lizziepinard — June 9, 2011 @ 2:12 am | Reply

  6. Great interview! It just sizzles. Maybe we should organize a ELT cook-off with Shaun at the helm. Good questions too.

    Comment by Bethany Cagnol — June 9, 2011 @ 7:50 am | Reply

    • Thanks Bethany – cook-off sounds good! Virtual? 🙂

      Comment by rliberni — June 13, 2011 @ 12:28 pm | Reply

  7. Great interview – thanks for taking the time to do it, Berni & Shaun!

    I so agree with Shaun’s comments about the TEFL industry – it can be so disheartening at times when people associate what you do solely with students on a gap year and think, therefore, that it’s something anyone can do as a way to see the world!

    Comment by Andrea — June 9, 2011 @ 8:02 am | Reply

    • Thank you for your comment Andrea – twas ever thus I think. For such a huge industry we are very invisible in the world!

      Comment by rliberni — June 13, 2011 @ 12:29 pm | Reply

  8. Hi

    I’m really enjoying this Challenge it’s making the P in PLN much more P!



    Comment by Leahn — June 9, 2011 @ 9:21 pm | Reply

    • It’s a great Challenge – big thanks to Brad for the idea. It’s nice to see other sides to people we know so well online 🙂

      Comment by rliberni — June 13, 2011 @ 12:30 pm | Reply

  9. Great interview! I love the idea behind the book you’re reading, Shaun. I must read it! And, I must think of my own soundtrack.

    Comment by Tara Benwell — June 22, 2011 @ 1:07 pm | Reply

    • Hi Tara, thank you – it was certainly an eye-opening interview!

      Comment by rliberni — June 22, 2011 @ 1:57 pm | Reply

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