Career Discombobulation

23 Oct

DISCLAIMER: If you’re looking for useful ELT content, look no further.  Seriously, stop reading now.


Stewing in the stew

Some big changes are on the horizon in my own little ELT world, so I thought this would be a good opportunity to write a blog post, have a quick self-indulgent reflection, and start thinking about the future.  First, I’d like to quickly say that this will likely be my last post on ELT Stew.  I know that this will come as a shock to the many who already assumed the blog was defunct, but for those few of you who still enjoy my bi-annual posts, thank you for reading and commenting over the past few years – joining the online ELT community here has made a huge difference to my professional development, teaching, and overall career satisfaction.  How else would I have met @Michaelegriffin, @Scott Thornbury, or learnt about intestinal-distress-based learning?

I should also say that this blog, along with many of my ELT endeavours, was a direct result chris-beer-hatof my friendship with one teacher, so it’s only fitting I mention him here.  In fact, I think it’s fair to say that my begrudging admiration for (and envy of) @ChrisOzog’s enthusiasm, motivation, and general geekery have been a driving force across a few different continents now.  Whether starting a blog, getting involved with Dogme research, or planning imaginary Panamanian schools, I’m not sure I’d be where I am without his random decision to come to Costa Rica.  In return, I taught him how to lose gracefully at pool (guided-discovery) and forced him to be a Calgary Flames fan – hardly seems a fair trade.  Yep, that’s him with his erudition on display.


Let’s blow this popsicle stand[1]

More important than leaving this neglected blog, at the end of the year I am also leaving International House where I’ve been for the last 10 years.  Although stops in Dubai and Vancouver have been great in completely different ways, the mainstay of my IH experience was at IH Costa Rica, aka the Instituto Británico.  During those 6.5 years, I went from a confused and flailing 24-year-old to a slightly less-confused 30-year-old with a wife, dogs, and amazing friends.  I couldn’t find a pithy pic that included everyone (can a pic be pithy?), so instead here is the greatest garden in the history of language schools, where I somehow met Andrea, Jon, Ana, Mark, Bernardo, Chris, Carlos, and so many others.  RIP el Instituto.  Also, a gif of me jumping into the Costa Rican abyss – seemed fitting somehow.



Back to school

So why am I leaving the comforting confines of IH considering all they have given me?  Well for one, I have been lucky so far never to have suffered from teacher burnout.  Fed up at times, sure, perplexed by humans, often, but I’ve never felt the urge to leave ELT.  And I’d like to keep it that way, before CELTA-saturation occurs (I can feel twinges already).  Also, even if I do make millions in ELT (joke), this is what 2.4 million dollars can buy you in Vancouver these days (not a joke), so it might be time for a move.

Now there are lots of directions I could go which would add some variety, including teaching more, writing more, Delta-ing more, etc.  But, given that I am a genuine geek and spend my commute reading articles about corpora and listening to podcasts about the etymology of ‘discombobulate’, I thought a bit of academia might suit me.  Plus I hear the dental benefits for professors are better than for freelance teachers.

Ten PhD applications, dozens of cringe-worthy personal essays, and several hundred dollars later, I’ve done everything I can do and am sitting patiently by my phone (an idiom that makes very little literal sense anymore).  Of course, on the highly likely chance that no reputable university jumps to give me an amazing funding package, I’ll be hitting the streets to rustle up some interesting ELT work.  Feel free to send me overly-generous offers.  Seriously.


Baby steps and Thank-yous

To distract you from the horror of the noun phrase above, I present you with my daughter doing her best impression of my new career – part curious, part nervous, and relying heavily on my wife’s support (pics of cute babies and beautiful women = blogging 101!).

Mia and Andre.jpg

As for my own first steps into the world of academia, I’m very happy to share that I have an article in an upcoming volume of English Language Teaching Journal (ELT-J)With the totally un-mysterious title of ‘Integrating Corpus Tools on Intensive CELTA Courses’, it doesn’t need much description here, but it is available online now and in print in July.  Do please check it out if you get a chance.

Since there is no space in the journal to acknowledge anyone, I’d just like to quickly say a massive thank you to everyone who contributed in some way, especially the trainees for volunteering to take part, my co-tutors Tillat Khalid and Michael Newby for taking fieldnotes, professor Nur Kurtoglu-Hooton for encouraging me to pursue this research, and my insanely talented editing team of Chris Ożóg, Nick Wimshurst, Martyn Williams, and the anonymous reviewers at ELT-J.  No financial compensation for any of you I’m afraid, but I’m happy to pay in gratitude and beer.

Ok, with all that said, the official countdown is on, so if anyone has any feedback, suggestions or general life advice for 2017, I could really use it about now (especially if you happen to be a university dean, journal editor, or wealthy linguistics-minded philanthropist).  Who knows, if I’m lucky, maybe I’ll get to start another blog about my new PhD struggles.  More likely, it will be an anonymous homage to English Droid – Rinvoludicrous lives!


[1] No connotations of disrespect intended, I just love out-of-date slang.

5 Responses to “Career Discombobulation”

  1. Sandy Millin October 29, 2016 at 2:32 pm #

    Good luck Ben, and sorry to see you (hopefully temporarily!) leave the blogosphere. I’m sure you’ll do excellently in whatever you pursue!

    • Ben Naismith October 30, 2016 at 3:51 am #

      Thanks Sandy. I’ve always been incredibly impressed by your consistent output and blogging – I have no idea how you keep it up as well as all your other work.

      • Sandy Millin October 31, 2016 at 6:40 pm #

        Mostly through having no significant other, and no children 🙂 Though now I’ve bought a flat, that may change…
        Touch typing helps too 😉
        Good luck with the career in academia!

  2. mcneilmahon October 31, 2016 at 6:18 pm #

    Will be sorry to see you leave IH, Ben, it was great to meet you in Costa Rica all those years ago and follow you and your career through ELT Stew. Best of luck in Academia, will be keeping an eye on you!

    • Ben Naismith October 31, 2016 at 6:35 pm #

      Thanks Neil, I appreciate it. Still hoping to be able to make it Argentina one of these days.

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