An Interview with our Director of Studies, Kerry Davies
Our Director of Studies Kerry Davies celebrates his twentieth year teaching business English at Trebinshun House.
by Claire Jaynes
So Kerry, twenty years: how has that (experience) been for you?
It's been interesting, it's been very varied. The business has changed a lot, the technology has changed. But the core clients have stayed the same - the business community. Students’ expectations have developed more over the last 20 years. It's a changing business world and the expectations have changed with that.
In what way have things changed since you started?
A lot of our students have become more international. Twenty years ago, companies were preparing to be international, whereas people coming here now are in positions where they already are international. It’s more of a challenge for the more mature learners who come here. We get a lot of people who are between 25 and 55 and the younger ones maybe are more prepared and the older ones are having to catch up a bit. That's a challenge for them and for the school.
Bearing in mind the changing needs of the business world, what do you think the school offers in general?
I think it's about how we can make the transition for our students into these new roles a bit easier. The point is, how can we make it as stress free as possible. So, being in a comfortable environment, both physically and mentally, is important. Also important is creating an atmosphere where people can relax and develop themselves at the same time. People come here from a high pressured job and we try and take that pressure away to allow them to develop.
What do you do in the classroom to fit those changing needs?
It's important to treat people as professionals. Their professional skills are already first rate so our job is not to teach presentation skills, for example, but to bring out the best in them and guide them in expressing their own ideas.
What do you enjoy about teaching here?
The fact that I learn as well - that's why I ask a lot of questions. In turn, it gives the students the chance to practise. We learn from them and that gives them the confidence that they're able to explain. Over 20 years, I've met so many people from so many professions, ranging from military to IT to politicians to lecturers from university. You can also take that on to the next lesson. When the next person comes from the automotive sector, you take that with you and you build on your knowledge.
What do you enjoy about working with the students who return year after year?
You can hit the ground running. There's a German student coming in April and the last time he came he said, "It's been one year but it seems like only yesterday we had this conversation." You see the progress - or you don't and you ask them why! There's no quick fix to learning of course and that's why people come back and continue improving.
What is the key to being a good teacher?
Empathy. Having tried to learn Spanish in Spain, I can understand. When people make mistakes and apologise, I say, 'Don't apologise, you're actually learning something and mistakes are a part of it.' Also, I think that being a good teacher means enjoying learning something yourself. It's why I've been here so long because it's fresh every time. Really listening to people is key, being interested in people and remembering details. Not forgetting fun - fun is important too.
Tell us something about you that we don't know!
I suppose how I became an English teacher... I started out in industrial finance as a cost accountant but got made redundant. I started my own business selling paintings and prints in an estate agent and then I got into life insurance. After a couple of years, I realised my heart wasn't in it and made this crazy phone call to my uncle in Spain. He was an English teacher and invited me to go out and stay with him and do my teaching training course. Next thing I knew, I was working in Spain and then my first summer back, I taught on a summer course in Trebinshun and I've never looked back. So in a funny way, being made redundant was the best and worst thing that happened to me. If I hadn't been made redundant, I would probably be head accountant by now.