I am an ESOL teacher and occasional teacher trainer from the UK. I have been teaching for ten years or so in just about every conceivable context in this country, and a little bit abroad.

I am interested in teaching, obviously, but in particular in language teaching, teaching with technology, professional development for teachers and in professionalism in the lifelong learning sector generally.

In case my usually dispassionate and calm posts (ahem) ever veer towards the less appropriate, I’d like to make it absolutely clear that the views represented on these pages are mine and mine alone. They are in no way indicative of the opinions of my employer. Which means I get sole credit for the good stuff too.



  1. I hope this is for the correct person and you are the person I thought you were and worked at the Eastbourne School of English.

    This is a lovely message I received from former DoS Dave Russell

    A Eulogy
    So, what does it take for a small school in a seaside resort to become the best of its type in the world? You could put it down to luck – an established school, well situated to take advantage of the boom in language teaching in the 70s and 80s. You could suggest that it was the incomparable (and undisputed) genius of its teaching and welfare staff. You could point to some inspired and prescient leadership. All these things played their part, I’m sure, but none of them alone can explain why we were all part of the finest in the business. The answer, as always, is more complicated: it was the combination of factors that made Eastbourne School of English the best. Commitment to welfare, leadership, skill, enthusiasm – these all played their part – but at heart it was the people working together that made the school special to study at and special to work in. Nobody said it at the time but the feeling was always that we weren’t going to apologise for excellence and we weren’t going to compromise, either. You could look an avaricious agent or an anxious student straight in the eye when they asked why anyone should study here and simply say “Because we are better than all the others.” That is what made us the best – sheer, unrelenting bloody mindedness. And it was a pleasure.
    And what did we achieve together? Here’s a short list:
    We educated thousands of students
    We trained and developed hundreds of teachers
    We established a proper staff development scheme, giving people the chance to extend their skills and go on to glory elsewhere. Without ESoE, many people would be far less than they are today.
    We established the best staff welfare scheme in the industry in Britain – and it still wasn’t good enough
    We contributed hugely to the profession
    And we did it all without fuss, without a single slogan, without a management consultant in sight and without anybody’s help. We did it, too, in the teeth of competition from schools committed to profit not people and we wiped the floor with them. We did it by working together, by committing ourselves to being better. And it was fun.
    It was also an astonishing, barely credible achievement.
    So, if you are tempted to ask what went wrong – don’t. Nothing ‘went wrong’. It nearly all went astoundingly right and I for one am enormously proud to have played my part in the School’s success and grateful for the opportunity I had to work with so many fine people. You should be, too.
    So, I will raise a glass on this day not to lament the passing of the School but to celebrate its fantastic and unlikely history. I shall raise a glass, too, to all the people who enriched my life at ESoE and to all the students I learned from. And I shall remember Bertolt Brecht’s words:
    Because things are the way they are, things will not stay the way

    Dave Russell

  2. Just discovered your blog Sam and I love it. I can identify with so many of your comments. I too got into ESOL “by accident”, my words not yours. Don’t know how or why, but I love it, perhaps because of the wonderful students that I have had the pleasure of teaching. Certainly not because of the wonderfull people that I have worked for. All the best for the holiday period. Looking forward to your next posing.
    Chris Meads

  3. Hi Sam,
    Just to say thank you for this blog. I’ve been feeling a bit despondent about teaching recently but reading some of these posts has helped me remember how endlessly fascinating and wonderful esol teaching is.
    I came here looking for arguments against smart targets and ended up reflecting on my own classes and getting lots of ideas for lessons. Much more enjoyable and useful. Thank you!

  4. Hi Sam, I’ve been dipping into your blog for several years now, just started to subscribe, and everything you write chimes true. My own experience in teaching goes back over 40 years (summer schools for teenagers in Devon during university holidays) through to my current work with adult EU workers in Yorkshire, via France, Spain and Japan. Thank you for your sensible thoughts!

  5. Hi Sam
    I love your blog, always thought-provoking – thank you. I wanted to leave a comment on your most recent post about observations but it wouldn’t let me so I’m commenting here re schemes of work and embedding. (by the way I teach a bit – French – and observe quite a lot) I quite a agree that shoe-horning is nonsense. For me, this is where the scheme of work comes into its own as a really useful check (in much the same way as a group profile) that you have included all the embedded bits where when they are relevant at some point during a course. Normally, if I see a session that quite rightly doesn’t have embedded Prevent/Maths/employability (or whatever) I can glance at the scheme of work to reassure myself that it was covered at some point during the course. Our schemes of work have a brief intro section: explain your approach to Prevent/EDI/progression advice/Functional skills etc – and if a teacher writes in there something sensible, I trust that that is what they are doing. It also gives me something to discuss with tutors at the feedback stage (hopefully a proper developmental discussion!) as the embedded bits are sometimes what can make a good session into an outstanding one!

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