Olga is one of those extremely positive and open-minded people you just love to be around. She sees teaching online as one more chance to try something new and develop new professional skills. And here at Online Class, we are more than happy to welcome teachers who are both experienced professionals and self-critical perfectionists all at once.
Olga, why did you decide to become a teacher?
At school I had an amazing teacher of English. She brought so much energy and creativity into the classroom that we never knew what to expect next. It could be a brand-new interactive task, a game or an engaging story about Britain and the British. She made grammar rules easy and applicable with relevant examples. Those classes have definitely influenced my choice of profession and that teaching style is exemplary for me now. Getting students to love your subject is an essential part of a teacher’s job.
How long have you been teaching English? Where have you worked before?
I’ve been a teacher of English for over 7 years. I became a school teacher in my 4th year at university, I kept working there for 2 years after graduation, and then I worked at a language school. So I have experience of working with both kids and adults now, and I’ve learned to find the right approach to different students. Outside of Online Class, I’m also a private tutor.
Do you like working at Online Class?
I really mean it when I say I love everything here. I had to spend some time adjusting to the new format of work but that’s normal. That was a challenge of kinds, and I love challenges. They make us grow. Working online is great! Both me and the students feel relaxed in the comfort of our own homes. As for my colleagues here, they are not just extremely friendly but also super professional and passionate about what they do.
What kind of teacher are you and how are your classes special?
I believe the essential part of teaching is being genuinely interested and supportive towards your students. They should feel comfortable in class, comfortable enough both to speak up in discussion and to make mistakes. Otherwise we’d have no conversation and talking is the only way to learn a language. So I build my classes around that. I don’t believe in learning rules and topics by heart so I bring relevant and interactive study files that are easy to discuss and learn from.
Is your teaching style changing with time?
It’s definitely improving in terms of skills. Another side to that is every student is unique so it changes from student to student too.
Do you have any success stories of your students to share?
I have a student who told me in our very first class that he just couldn’t stand English but had to learn it for work. Most of what he knew he remembered from school, he was pretty shy to speak out and, as most people, he was not comfortable with making mistakes. Now he is virtually fluent and happy to discuss stuff in English. And most importantly, he likes this language and the process of learning it. I consider that to be my biggest victory.
Do you stay in touch with students outside classes?
Yes, absolutely. They know they can contact me anytime asking for a translation, an explanation or advice about something in English. I think feeling such support from a teacher is very important for students, and it also keeps them motivated.
What’s your go-to trick for motivating students?
Sometimes all I have to do is remind them of all the opportunities available to those who speak a foreign language. They freely communicate and study abroad, they get to understand their favorite songs and jokes in TV shows that may otherwise be lost in translation.
What if students keep losing interest?
It’s especially common among those who start learning a language from scratch because the progress may at first be not so obvious and painfully slow. I praise my students and show them how much they’ve already learned. Playing games and having a relaxed discussion is also important to keep up motivation. So with my students we organize informal meetups and tea parties like that. For example, just recently we’ve had a great conversation with a guy from Japan. We compared our countries and discussed their traditions and peculiarities in English.
Why do you think so many people still don’t speak English?
Most likely, they don’t know why they need it. It’s really hard to learn something you don’t deem relevant. Those who learn a foreign language diligently usually have a clear understanding of why they do it, be it work, study, travel, or self-development. I am convinced that you can’t make anyone, much less yourself, learn something just because it’s kind of obligatory. Such motivation doesn’t last long. You should have a clear goal in mind and be prepared to work hard for it. In that case the learning part is easy or at least not scary when it’s difficult.
Where have you learned English?
When I was 5, my parents found me an English teacher. Learning a different language for me was discovering a whole new world, like Narnia. I loved it. At school we began learning English in our 5th form, and I got the same teacher that had taught me back when I was little. I also took up folk dancing at school, and our group travelled around Europe giving performances. I was the only person who could speak English so I helped many people out with communicating. My English was far from perfect but I loved being an interpreter, and it was extra motivation for me to learn English better.
Did you study English at university as well?
Yes, I graduated from Gomel Fr. Scaryna State University with a degree in English and French. I was lucky to have great teachers there too. They really loved teaching and could do it exceptionally well. But of course mastering a language is not only about having classes with teachers. I always tried to get native speaker content from movies and TV shows. And with one of my groupmates, we had a tradition of having an English-speaking day once a week. It was super useful because in day-to-day life we discuss a bunch of totally different things and can practice vocabulary from many different spheres.
How do you keep up your level now? Have you been to English-speaking countries?
I keep watching movies and reading my favorite books in English. So far I haven’t been to any English-speaking countries, that’s something to look forward to. But I already have many English-speaking friends from all over the world, and it really helps me keep up speech fluency. There are numerous websites and apps nowadays where you can introduce yourself to native speakers of basically any language on the planet, and you both get to practice speaking a foreign language.
Do you think it’s important to study not just a language but also the culture and traditions of the people who speak it?
I think it goes without saying. It’s as if you are reading a book while also knowing the author’s biography, the background story. It helps you understand certain things a lot better. Many things become much more obvious. To quote Ludwig Wittgenstein, “the limits of my language means the limits of my world”. People who study foreign languages and cultures are those able to go beyond their limits and be open-minded. Those people can open up to the world and see the world open up to them.
What other languages do you know or would like to learn?
I studied English and French at university. I would also like to learn Italian but that’s just a plan so far :)
We hope this interview gives justice to what kind of person and teacher Olga is. It’s a teacher who takes genuine interest in her subject and in her students. It’s a person who strives for constant personal and professional development. If you are also ready to learn, improve and reach for more, sign up for your very first free lesson of English with Online Class.