Olesya Sklyomina, Director of the language school “ЁNOT” makes parents feel surprised when they learn this young lady runs an educational business, which has more than 100 students and holds a high rating according to the Flamp statistics. But after a short talk loving mothers and fathers soon understand this young teacher is a highly qualified professional.
- Olesya, what made you come to this important decision to start up your own language school? And where did you get money for this project?
Most FFl students start working in their third year of studying. I am not an exception, and by the time I got my diploma I had already had some teaching experience which helped me to get a job at a good language school. First 2 years I saved money for mortgage. But then I got attracted to the idea of owning a school where you can create and introduce your new technologies and methods. My friend and colleague Ekaterina Minakova shared the same dream. And we made this decision. It is the hardest part to accept your dreams and make up your mind. We were not perfect, of course. We started in March, but a school year begins in September. As a matter of fact, we found such a lovely place that we fell in love with, so we couldn’t leave it. This period from March till September was empty, we were just making plans. But because we had our own money, not a loan, we decided to take a possible failure philosophically. In the end we made it, our school started working. Our first projects were launched in adult groups and in pre-school kid groups.
- Your school is 2 years old now. What’s it like?
In the beginning there were just two of us: Ekaterina and me. The following year we hired several other teachers. Now there are 9 of us, including me and Ekaterina who’s teaching via Skype because she’s currently in Leipzig (she’s participating in DAAD program). At present we have around 120 students, most of them are children and teenagers from our neighborhood. Because our groups are small we manage to give attention to each student. Moreover, we have an awesome place (the one that we fell in love with): two huge classrooms, 120 square meters in total, there are soft spaces with books and toys, divided in zones so that kids can walk around.
- Do students’ parents have any prejudice against your being so young?
At first, they do. Then you start talking to them, explaining the way we teach and the techniques we use, and the parents come down. The fact that we are NSPU teachers gives us more respect and trust. It seems to me, experience comes not only with time but also with practice and achievements. For these three years I’ve managed to teach each age-group, including kids with special needs, to write a book about teaching a foreign language to children with autistic disorder. I’m developing this topic in my post-graduate thesis, it’s difficult because there isn’t enough information.
- Please, tell us about your work in the English department.
I graduated in 2015 and the same year I started teaching. In the beginning I had only part-time students to teach, the second year I had one group of full time students, then I had fifty-fifty, this year my students are mostly full time students. And I have many lessons to teach: Practical Grammar, Practice of Oral and Written speech, a Second language as a foreign language, Speech interpretation (which I no longer teach). It is really nice for me as a potential employer to teach students in their final years, so I can choose best of the best for my school - in other words, it’s a real gold mine! (laughs). When I applied for my post-graduate course, I was dreaming to major in teaching languages, which was unusual for FFL, as our students are all linguists in their hearts. But I really like teaching. This year I have several hours in methodology to teach, and I’m really excited!
- Are many FFL students going to become teachers?
Well, first-year students are all deeply convinced that translators and interpreters are much better and more interesting jobs. But the first internship changes their view: even those who never consider teaching as a career are full of pedagogical excitement and encouragement. A teacher is not only an artistic and creative job, an education major can give you a financial support as well. A double diploma gives you at least two times more opportunities. So, final-year students tend to choose work at schools and try teaching privately.
- Have you ever worked as a tutor?
Yes, I have. But this is not my cup of tea. You lack discipline in this process: kids are often demotivated. In my opinion, classes with a tutor are only for children with special needs or gifted children or for those who are preparing for tests and exams. If kids have private lessons just to do their homework, it immediately turns into “Do my homework for me” or “Let’s just sit and waste time”. When there is a group, all students have to keep a steady pace of work, which you can’t maintain in your private lesson.
- Please, tell us about your course for adults.
We’ve created a very intensive course. As a matter of fact, I’ve had the same level of students and the same teaching material for several years. That usually takes 9 months to study. I thought it was too long, so I chose only those parts in textbooks that work and decided to make this course shorter: firstly, it took 6 months to study, then we taught the Elementary level for 3 months only. Then I added one more level and now we have 4 months for Elementary and pre-Intermediate levels all together! It seems to go well; we have excellent feedback. According to the Flamp statistics we are in top 20.
- What are your future plans?
This year we plan to open a second school and to become a certified International Examination Centre. My personal goal is to complete my post-graduate thesis and to get a senior teacher position. Moreover, I’m going to major in defectology at the Institute of Additional Education NSPU.
Prof. Ekaterina A. Kostina, Dean of the Faculty of Foreign Languages
The Faculty of Foreign languages was founded in 1945. It has won trust and authority over the decades of its existence. It has been training highly qualified specialists who now work in the field of education in Russia, near and far abroad. The faculty has created the necessary environment for professional training of students: leading Russian and foreign scientists are invited as teachers, the latest achievements of domestic and foreign science are used as well as distant learning technologies; students are involved in research and project activities and there is an opportunity for academic mobility and so on. It is important for our applicants to learn foreign languages, to participate in various Olympiads (regional, All-Russian, international), scientific and artistic contests, academic mobility programs; it is also paramount to be able to communicate with native speakers (for example, in speaking clubs and international internships).