October Teacher Interview – Marjorie Rosenberg

Marjorie Rosenberg: Biography

Marjorie Rosenberg teaches general and business English as well as a CAE preparation course at the Language Institute of the University of Graz and ESP at the University of Teacher Education. She has been teaching at the adult level for over 30 years and at the tertiary level for the past 20. She is an active teacher trainer and her interests include NLP for the classroom, learning styles, cooperative learning, and multiple intelligences. 

Her publications include the text book series ‘Friends’ for lower secondary English classes in Austrian schools (Veritas Verlag 2002 –2005), ‘BizCon’ and ‘TechCon’, a text book series for commercial and technical high schools (Hölder-Tempsky-Pichler Verlag 2006 – 2009, ‘Communicative Business Activities’ (Austrian National Publishing Company 2001), ‘In Business’: Cambridge University Press 2005) the ‘Personal Study Books for Business Advantage Intermediate and Advanced’ (Cambridge University Press 2012), and ‘English for Banking and Finance 2’ (Pearson 2012). Marjorie also worked on the revision of ‘Pass Cambridge BEC Vantage Second Edition’ (National Geographic-Cengage Learning 2012) and has written worksheets for the teachers’ books of ‘In Company’ Intermediate and Upper- Intermediate and ‘Gateway B1’ (Macmillan 2009-2011). She also contributes to English Teaching Professional, The ELT News, and the new online ELTMag.

Marjorie is currently the coordinator of IATEFL BESIG, a special interest group for Business English trainers, writers and material developers. 

  • Tell me a bit about yourself and how you got into teaching.
I came to Graz, Austria in 1981 looking for a job as an opera singer after finishing a Master’s in Performance (MFA) in the States. I had spent the last six years before moving here in New York City holding down a day job in an advertising agency as a media buyer and co-running a small opera company with a friend in NYC. When I arrived, I started auditioning but needed to pay the bills and got into adult education (ELT of course) at the Chamber of Commerce. As I had always loved English, this began to take over more and more and I branched out into business English and then into other aspects of teaching and methodology. I started taking classes on suggestopedia which led to doing my Practitioner, Master Practitioner and Trainer certificates in Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP) with Robert Dilts in California. I also attended a course by Michael Grinder on NLP in the classroom and there met April Bowie from Seattle who got me interested in learning styles.
  • You have been working on a book set to be published later this year by DELTA Publishing.  Tell me more about this book.
It is called Spotlight on Learning Styles and is the book I have been wanting to write for years. April and I worked intensively giving training courses for teachers both in Europe and North America until her untimely death in 2006. It belongs to the Delta Teacher Development series and therefore is set up in three sections. The first gives the background of three different models as well as checklists for the classroom, characteristics of learners and teachers, tips and strategies; the second is filled with a large variety of activities designed to appeal to particular learning styles with explanations of how to expand them to reach other learner types; and the third section gives the rationale for the models chosen, provides information on other models and is set up to be self-reflection for the teacher as well as an encouragement to continue exploration in the field.  It should be coming out at the end of this year or the beginning of next year.
  • You appear to have extensive experience in ELT and have also published various books.  What advice would you give other teachers about getting into writing or publishing teacher related materials?
I began writing articles for the local teaching organisation (TEA: Teachers of English in Austria) on a variety of teaching-related subjects. I joined IATEFL in 1995 and submitted articles as well for SIG (Special Interest Group) newsletters and for the IATEFL newsletter, Voices. My first book, Communicative Business Activities, was published by an Austrian publisher who I had met at various conferences. It was a compilation of materials I had developed for class and used successfully with students. I had sent off the manuscript to a number of international publishers who all turned it down so I was lucky to have a person to talk to personally. Today there are several websites to help people get started and to give them professional advice. We at IATEFL BESIG also offer a lesson plan competition to all those interested in submitting and the winner is published on both the Cambridge University Press website and on the IATEFL BESIG one. This is also a good way to get your name out there. But I would absolutely recommend going to conferences and presenting, which is how I got to know the editors at the major UK publishers. Then when projects came up, they had my name and could contact me. Another possibility nowadays is to take advantage of the workshops offered by some of the new websites on how to start writing.  
  • You are a coordinator for IATEFL BESIG.  What sort of responsibilities and activities are you involved?
IATEFL BESIG is the Business English Special Interest Group for IATEFL (the International Association of Teachers of English as a Foreign Language) which is based in Canterbury in the UK. There are a total of 14 special interest groups (all run by volunteers) and BESIG, with about 700 members world-wide, is the largest. We have been holding our own conferences in different locations in Europe for the past 24 years and are coming up to number 25 which will be in Stuttgart, Germany from 16 – 18 November 2012. This will be my 14th annual conference. I have been the coordinator of BESIG for almost three years and oversee a committee of dedicated and hard-working members. Due to the possibility of advanced technology today we are able to run weekend online workshops, webinars, simulcasts of conferences which tie in with satellite events around the world, an active website with blogs, a Twitter feed, etc (see www.besig.org). In addition to our annual autumn conference, we have held a number of spring events and Pre-Conference Events at the annual IATEFL conference. We also publish a newsletter, give scholarships for an online CertIBET course and began a BESIG Facilitators Scholarship to bring a business English teacher to the IATEFL conference. So far we have awarded this scholarship to colleagues from Uruguay, Argentina and India.
  • Being a lecturer at the University of Graz, one of your educational interests include learning styles.  How important is learning styles in language teaching and acquisition?
Good question. We are actually starting a research project on this topic next week. The hypothesis is that if students are aware of their styles and the related strengths and weaknesses, then they can develop learning strategies in order to suit their personal learning goals and the affect this has on learner autonomy. We will be giving the questionnaires to two groups and asking for learner diaries to see how the students have responded to the questions and which, if any, actions they themselves have taken. A third group will not take the learning style survey but will be included in the interviews at the end. These results will then be published and made available, most likely through the LASIG (Learner Autonomy SIG) newsletter as well as other sources.
  • How would you go about promoting autonomous learning in the classroom?
Not sure if I answered this above.  I think that students need to realise that they are ultimately responsible for their own learning and our job is to help them with tips and ideas to reach this. We also need to give them feedback on whether they have been successful in doing this.
  • What’s the most memorable or unexpected thing that has occurred in the classroom?
That is a tough one after over 30 years of teaching.  I think one situation I remember well was a young man who wasn’t sure if he should take the final exam because he had just suffered a personal problem which had caused him to have a sleepness night and he felt he was not at his best.  I told him to try the exam and I would let him know his grade after I got home so that he could decide if he wanted to retake it. He passed with an average grade but he said he was perfectly satisfied with it and preferred not to do another exam. He showed up in the next class with chocolates and told me that he had never had such understanding from a teacher and that he appreciated greatly being treated like a person and ‘not just a number’.

Something I learned as well was in a group where two of my favourite students chatted non-stop. I tried to stop them but was not successful. I then got marked down on the evaluations by some of the other students. Now I take problem students aside and tell them that I understand chatting is important but to please go out as I may get bad evaluations because of it.  They apologise profusely and the problem seems to have been solved. (This is university level however. Not sure it would work in every classroom).
  • Do you have any plans to continue your research or publishing?
The research question was answered above.  I am finishing up the second edition of a book for high schools for engineering subjects here in Austria with a group of other teacher/authors. I write regularly for the Cambridge University Press website Professional English Online (http://peo.cambridge.org/) and am currently working on a project for Oxford University Press. What the future will bring, still remains to be seen although I have been cutting back on teaching hours to devote more time to writing.
  • Finally, what advice would you give another teacher that has just started teaching?
Wow, what can I say?  Make sure you love it and that you do the things you are comfortable doing. Don’t take on methods just because someone else does them and they work, make them your own and develop what works best for you. Never forget that your students are people and remember what it was/is like to learn something new. And probably the best advice I got from Michael Grinder is to learn to disassociate from the negative things by reviewing in the third person ‘Today a student told the teacher that …’ and associate for the positive and future ‘Tomorrow I am going to …’ Continue to look at every class as an adventure. They are always different so keep your curiosity alive. And above all, don’t forget that WE should never stop learning. 

Additional Links/Reading

Thank you Marjorie for taking the time to answer my questions.  It has been a pleasure to include you on my blog.  Anyone wishing to participate with next month’s Teacher Interview, please contact me.

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