My English teaching journey began on a rumbling articulated icebox of a bus in the crystalline darkness that overtakes Northernmost China so early in the depths of winter. An improbably cheerful woman approached me with the novel proposition that I should teach evening classes for a group of genetic engineers.
It was astounding both that her constituency of scientists would entrust me with this task, and that she could tell me so with her face uncovered. I was wrapped to the eyeballs and still a fringe of icicles was forming on my brow. I was 22, and knew nothing about teaching.
I undertook the job with an earnest dedication suitable to the honour bestowed, but brought laughably little pedagogical skill to the task. In a movie, the dedicated lover and learner of language would turn out to be a brilliant natural. In real life, without a systematic approach or tools of the trade, my teaching efforts, though sincere, were haphazard at best. Having undertaken Mandarin, at least I recognized well-trodden pathways to language acquisition when I stumbled across them. Mostly, though, it just dawned quite quickly that being a native speaker of a language was neither necessary nor sufficient to being a good, or even adequate, teacher of that language.
The realization drove a commitment to improve. I didn’t want to gufu my students – though I have never been able to think of that group of amazing, brilliant, impervious-to-cold scientists who taught me so much as the ‘students’ in that scenario. They were not only patient with my lack of skill, they were welcoming, enthusiastic, eloquent, and funny — the experience was unforgettable. I was hooked. It was also quite clear that some proper training would be in order before another such undertaking.
Since then, I’ve had lots of training of many varieties, and in a few other professions along the way – but the commitment to improve – to do the very best for students who’ve entrusted me to accompany them on a portion of their learning journey — remains. I’ve been lucky enough to live and work in 23 countries and have taught English, English Literature, EAP, ESP, TOEFL, IELTS, SAT, AP, A-Level, & GCSE group and 1-1 classes in person and online. Besides designing and teaching academic and technical reading and writing workshops for students and professionals, I’ve editing and proofed materials across a wide spectrum of content areas for a variety of applications.
Now that data is such an essential part of ensuring needs-based course development, designing and managing student corpora databases is an ever-increasing part of my job. Likewise, as standardization has crossed borders, designing courses and developing materials to meet client IB, CEFR, and Key Stage standards has also become a critical component of my teaching repertoire, as has designing, implementing, and migrating websites and H5P assets, now that so many classes are online. And, of course, we work toward both evidence-based design and innovation, so researching ICALL, student e-learning UI/UX, and integrated corpora applications is front and centre, especially since the pandemic has kept us out of the classroom for so long. This long enforced hiatus led to writing three papers on these topics for presentation at international conferences during 2020-22. Sharing ideas and resources however we can has been critically important during the pandemic, and this website is an outgrowth of that process.
I maintain this site as an extension of my commitment to open source learning tools and the creative commons. The content and materials on the site are free to use and share with proper attribution, CC BY-SA, unless otherwise indicated.
Need help with a project, or just want to get in touch? You can contact me through my Cal page at https://cal.berkeley.edu/cecilyhurst, or fill out the contact form and I’ll get back to you.
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