Anne's Adventures at Penn

Getting to Know You – John


My interviewee for this week is John.  John is a really cool human being.  And incredibly insightful.  He’s in both my Teaching L2 Writing and Approaches to Teaching English courses, and I have found his contributions really interesting food for thought.  I’ve really enjoyed getting to know him over the course of this semester, and I hope you all enjoy reading about him below!

What’s your name? I’m John.

What’s your hometown?  I grew up in Ithaca, NY, but I spent most of the next decade in North Carolina, so I now claim both/either, as suits purposes.

Where did you go to undergrad?  I went to the University of North Carolina at Asheville, and majored in journalism and philosophy (in retrospect, mostly language-related; overall favorite = Emmanuel Levinas). I tried to major in two things and minor in two more things, but in 2003 they told me that was silly and that I should graduate and go away.

Have you ever taught English before?  So after college I worked for animal welfare organizations for three years. I considered M.P.H. programs with an eye to continuing to work in this area, but got discouraged/burned out by the work. Then, I taught at a language school and a migrant vocational education center in Thailand for a couple years. After eventually returning to the U.S., I taught in a volunteer capacity at Lutheran Family Services Refugee Services in North Carolina, then at Nationalities Service Center here in Philly. I realized how much I missed teaching, and started teaching English full time again two years ago.

Why did you decide to get a Master’s in TESOL?  Teaching intensive classes to diverse groups of students from all over the world the last two years has been a kind of crash course in finding what works in the classroom, and I quickly gained a lot of knowledge about how to help my students succeed. That being said, the more I learned in a hands-on way, the more I wanted to know about the concepts behind language learning and the structures behind languages. A graduate education is helping me put theory and practice together.

John with some of his students.

What made you want to come to GSE?  I have worked with quite a few people who have graduated from GSE or are currently there, and all speak highly of it. In addition, I wanted to stay here in Philadelphia.

What do you want to do after you graduate?  Ideally, I plan to teach overseas for a few years. I have been interested in the Middle East for some time and would like to teach there. Eventually, I’ll probably end up back here.

Enough about school, tell me something fun you like to do outside of class!  When I’m outside of class as a student, I’m often in the classroom as a teacher. However, I also love cycling and get my best thinking done on long trips. I like to explore abandoned buildings and places outside the city on my bike. I make music with banjo, accordion, guitar, and electronic bleep/bloops whenever whenever I can. I think a lot about ways to put sounds and meanings together.

What do you think of Philadelphia?  I love it. I’ve lived here for almost five years and at this point, I want this to me be my home when living in the U.S. I also think the roast pork sandwich should supersede the overrated cheesesteak as its ambassadorial sandwich.

Do you have any advice/comments/words of wisdom for prospective students?  Hmm. Definitely talk to people who are involved and visit campus, come to events, observe if possible, etc, before counting in or out a program. Get a bike. Get to know the city. That’s all I have now, I’m still figuring it out myself.

Thanks so much, John!  You’re approximately the millionth person who has suggested getting a bike.  I think I might have to break down soon and get one…