243. A Life-Changing Teaching Experience in Ghana

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Hello and welcome to another episode of Luke’s English Podcast! In this episode I’m going to interview my friend Mike Bruce about his recent teaching experience in Ghana in West Africa. Mike is an old friend and colleague of mine, he’s originally from Scotland, although he doesn’t have a particularly strong accent, and he has lived and worked in places all over the world. I’ve known him for about 13 years and he was one of the first people I ever worked with as a language teacher in Japan. Mike has an amazing CV. He’s taught in lots of countries around the world. He’s very highly qualified, and as well as teaching students of English as a second language he also teaches teachers how to teach. So, he’s pretty much a Jedi Master of English teaching in my opinion.

Mike recently came back from a teaching mission in Ghana, and judging by the Facebook photos and statuses, it was quite an epic experience for him. I thought it would be interesting to talk to him about it on Luke’s English Podcast. My aim for this interview is to have a bit of a chat with Mike, just a bit of a chat, introduce him to the LEPsters? LEPans? LEPians?LEPenese? LEPlanders? LEPish? LEPaholics? and then find out about his African teaching experience.

Below you’ll see questions and notes I used during the interview, and a slide show of Mike’s pictures.

Click here to read more about the Ghana Education Project.

How do we know each other?
What do you remember about that time in our lives?

Mike’s CV
How did you get into teaching in the first place?
How long have you been teaching?
Where have you worked/lived in the past?
Which place was memorable it you? (And why)
What do you do professionally these days?

Tell me about the Ghana experience.
Why did you go?
What was the mission? What did you expect?
What were you concerned about or looking forward to?
What were your first impressions?
What were the challenges?
What were the great things?
What did you learn from the experience?
Has it changed you as a teacher? And as a person?

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  • Ayaka

    Hi, Luke :) Greetings from Japan! I’m Ayaka, who is one of current active members among Skype LEP fan group hosted by Guillaume. As Japanese, I become really really happy each time you mention when you stayed in Japan like this episode. (Needless say, my favorite episode is “The Flatmate in Japan.”) I wish I could have met you in here.

    This episode with Mike was awesome. I think there are a lot of comments about English Education related to this episode, so I’m going to tell you something different. Well, actually, I always admire you when you had interviews with your old friends, because you stay in touch with your them very well beyond time and distance. Besides, you have known each other over ten years in most cases. I’m sure you’re a great teacher for students and a great friend for your friends at same time. What do you think the most important key to keep in touch with friends? For me, connecting with people is always my concern. I’d like to hear your opinion about connection with others in today’s society mainly controlled by smart phones on your podcast in the future if you’d like. I hope you’re interested in this topic too.

    I know it was late to leave a comment even though it wasn’t my first listening to your podcast, and I’m active on talk2learn and Skype fan group. But, you know, you’re a wonderful teacher for students around the world and published episodes over 240. I….hesitated to do it a little bit because I assumed you’re distant and far away. But after seeing your cheerful comments and knowing that you even joined chatcast, I found out that you’re really trying to be close to us every time. Thank you so much for all of effort to teach us English! I’d like to leave comments a lot from now on like other fans =) Thank you for reading my long long message too^^ Take care!

    • Hello Ayaka! Thank you for finally leaving a message. I always love hearing from Japanese listeners because Japan means a lot to me. I’m glad you’re taking part in the talk2learn chatcasts and that there is a Japanese voice being heard.
      About keeping in touch with friends – for me it is about telling people how you really feel. If you like people and you value their friendship, tell them!
      Other than that, it’s a bit of a mystery really.
      Thanks for the comment!

  • Paul

    More cockney Luke, please!

    There is one, on BBC Radio 2, we need to understand what he says: London taxi driver and star of A Cabbie Abroad, Mason McQueen, talks to Jeremy Vine about the compassion and empathy of the humans he met on his travels all over the world.

    Please, please!

    • Anonymous


  • handsome guy

    luke i kn u r the best teacher in the world nd my fvt too but it doesnt mean u can avoid my message…..plzzz do one podcast of over 2 hour with ur self made movie as u hv it in u to play various character nd ur imagination nd weaving story skill is extraordinary

  • Belmaria de Lima

    Absolutly amazing teacher Mike’s experience I think he came back richer for culture.
    I would like to be in his place. Listening this episode was very intresting, Thank you Luke,

  • Well said Patricia. I always thought that the efficiency and general success of my lessons directly depend on how well I prepare the lessons (how much effort and time I spend on preparations) but countless times in my lessons have I been proven wrong.
    Oftentimes, it is not about how well I prepare the classes, it is about my frame of mind. If I am tired (having to teach too many lessons, after sleepless night or something like that), I will often fail to deliver interesting lessons to my students. On the contrary, if I feel physically as well as mentally alright, I can do (I hope that is how I am perceived) engaging and entertaining lessons out of nothing. Just by my general attitude towards my students – which is slightly mischievous, but also supportive and always enthusiastic, I daresay I am able to conduct decent lessons even without technology or books.
    For me it is the way you present the stuff – because that can in my humble opinion motivate, catch the attention and make students fall in love in language. This is who I am as a teacher. This is how I can make up for my imperfect English. Content is not as important, although it should definitely not be neglected.

    • Very interesting comments indeed.
      What I meant by ‘presentation’ was the way the material looks. I’ve spent lots of time in the past producing photocopiable materials, and have spent hours and hours choosing the right page layout, fonts, images and so on. Then I wonder if it makes any difference at all to the students’ learning or appreciation of the classes. It’s probably more important to remember your students names immediately, or to have a shave before class. Sometimes it’s hard to tell which details are important and which are superfluous.
      Sounds like you’re a very passionate and motivating teacher Zdenek.

      • Well, I think the stuff you are describing may actually matter to visual students. I have always claimed that owning to my horrific handwriting and general inability to produce something orthographically viable (my board is usually full of chaos, sometimes meaningful chaos, but still chaos), the visual learners are slightly disadvantaged. They never complain or anything, but I think it is just out of politeness.
        As for your last point, I try Luke. And sometimes I cunningly put in some aspects in order to enjoy these lessons myself. A bit selfish but good prevention from burnout, which we all teachers fear, don’t we?

      • Absolutely. You have to enjoy your job, and you might not realise it but that could give you am edge.

  • Patricia

    Great topic, I like so much!

    From my personal experience being student of English, I think that the quality of the material and the presentation is important but for me it’s just a way of catching student’s attention. One of my favourites English teachers didn’t use any kind of technology or anything attractive in his lessons but he made his classes the great ones. How? I think that his best point was the variety and utility of all the activities, the control of the class time and the capacity to keep a good balance between boring tasks (grammar, for example) and the funny ones (speaking).