Jesse Conway is currently working in Andijan as an ESN Coach to strengthen teacher-training practices and build local language teachers’ English skills and teaching competencies. We asked Jesse a few questions about his background, motivation for teaching, and interests in Uzbekistan. Jesse shared his insights, ideas, and opinions with us, highlighting his thinking and teaching philosophy.
“I value the opportunity to not only pass on my knowledge to teachers but to learn from their diverse experiences.” - Jesse Conway
Prior to coming to Uzbekistan, what educational teaching/teacher training experience(s) did you have abroad or in the United States?
I worked at primary and secondary schools in Japan from 2006 – 2014, an experience which formed many of my views about teaching and learning. I pursued my MA TESOL in 2014 – 16 which allowed me to work at Northern Arizona University’s Intensive English Program, where I helped international university students prepare for the academic English requirements of university study. This led to an English Language Fellowship through the U.S. Department of State in the Kingdom of Bahrain, where I split my time between teaching at Arabian Gulf University and developing teacher training workshops to deliver in Gulf Coast Countries (e.g., UAE, Qatar, Oman). After this experience, I led a Special Course in Academic Skills at Nagasaki University in Japan. This program prepared Japanese university students for studying abroad by teaching academic English, participating in exchange programs, and preparing entrance applications over the course of a year. I led a small team of teachers and administrative staff who were all devoted to helping our students achieve their goal of studying abroad.
What motivated you to work in education, either as a teacher or a teacher trainer?
Like many people, I didn’t initially set out to become a teacher – I was a web designer! However, after I began teaching and understanding the importance of setting good examples and guiding learners towards success, I fell in love with the job. It didn’t hurt that my job also allowed me to pursue another interest of mine – travel! Now as I continue my experience in teacher training, I value the opportunity to not only pass on my knowledge to teachers but to learn from their diverse experiences.
What do you think is the most important factor or skill for teachers to work toward in their professional development?
Just like students, I think that all teachers have different needs when it comes to learning, but personally, I find that reflection and a commitment to ongoing professional development have helped me through the years. Reflection, because each classroom is different, and reflecting on the successes and challenges of lessons helps us better understand how to approach the classroom day after day. A commitment to ongoing development, because we are surrounded by colleagues that are different than us – learning from them through conversations, reading articles, listening to webinars allows us to give our students a better experience.
What advice or recommendation would you make to young teachers who are just starting their careers?
Your experience with teachers has been as a student. However, being a teacher is going to show you a completely different side of the classroom! Remember that a good teacher creates opportunities for students to learn; they don’t just tell students everything they need to know. They understand what their students need to succeed, provide them with it, and then step back and let learning happen. If things get tough, remember that you’re not in it alone! You have a great number of resources right in front of you at school – your colleagues. Chances are they can help you with a challenging situation because they’ve faced it before too.
What curriculum, book, course, or resource would you recommend to English teachers in Uzbekistan to refine or strengthen their pedagogy?
My first recommendation would be a website – americanenglish.state.gov. It is an excellent resource for classroom activities, professional development, and research.
If you need a source for English language texts, I would also recommend 'Teaching Languages to Young Learners' by Lynne Cameron for primary and secondary school teachers. At the college/university level, I really like 'Teaching English to Second Language Learners in Academic Contexts', by Newton, Ferris, Goh, Grabe, Stoller, and Vandergrift.
What are your personal/professional goals that you hope to accomplish while you are an ESN Coach in Uzbekistan?
Professionally, I am excited at this chance to engage in long-term teaching and trainer training. My goal for my group in Andijan is to increase the awareness of communicative, learner-centered language teaching among teachers in the region and provide them with activities and resources they’ll use day after day. I also hope to create further connections between teachers in the region that will thrive after I’ve left. Personally, I hope I’ll learn enough Uzbek to get around comfortably and explore this exciting country!
What is the most interesting/surprising thing you have experienced or learned about Uzbekistan so far?
Dancing. All the dancing.
To learn more about ESN Coach Jesse Conway and his dynamic teaching background, his full bio may be found here: https://www.esn-teachers.org/users/jconway