From Teaching NVQ to L2
How I applied my knowledge of teaching hairdressing to teaching a second language
‘People will discover their preferred way of learning and use their brain capacity more fully. Leaning becomes more enjoyable, easier, more effective and faster for people who have discovered ‘accelerated learning’.
Open Learning Today magazine
I knew at nine years of age that I wanted to be a hairdresser and make people feel and look good. I journeyed the stages of learning to do just that. I loved it and because of that, I was brilliant at it. I loved learning the trade and working with people. Shortly after qualifying, I was aware that I had a passion for helping and teaching others. At 20 I was managing a floor of a busy salon and a team of 12 stylists, whilst training classes of after school kids in our training and recruitment club. Then I was training school-leavers in National Vocational Qualification 2 Hairdressing, whilst continuing to study myself, at college, then at university.
I quickly learned that I was teaching young people who had opted for a very visual, sociable and creative career; the style of methodology that applies in a class room was not going to hold their engagement. The students wanted to be ‘hands on’, and the majority did not have a large attention span, even though they had motivation. Simultaneously, I attended various courses on how to train hairdressing apprentices specifically and I incorporated kinaesthetic, communicative and visual teaching methods to my lesson plans to keep their interest and tame their high energy levels. I structured the lessons to include variety of distractions, such as music during the practical classes, icebreakers, small tasks or games after breaks, to focus concentration and break the monotony of longer study periods. They loved it and it never seemed like ‘working’ for them. We did lots of communicative role play and adapted to different characters to have fun but also to demonstrate action and consequence; highlighting right and wrong behaviour and practicing for the real life scenario in every context. In every aspect of the training process I presented, we all practiced and they produced; in both theory and practical aspects of the course. Soon, they were presented with the models and clients, and they were putting their own reflective learning models into action every day, helping many of them become very successful hairstylists.
I recently reached, what I felt, was the end of the road for my career in hairdressing after sixteen years. I was working in my own company with the people I had trained and I loved it. For me it was complete. However, I felt the time was right for me to take on new challenges and I recently sold my hairdressing salon business in the North of England to my business partner, fellow hairdresser and dear friend of many years, after coming to live in Barcelona. I changed my role from a company director and educator in hairdressing to TEFL qualified teacher of English as a second language and feel I have gained a lot of knowledge in teaching to help inspire and coach others.
I believe all teaching methodologies can be beneficial; I also think however that a combination of them is always required to a degree, depending on the student and the material being taught. However, what I have learned through teaching using these adaptations, is that the learning process should be fun because regardless on the motivation for learning, who doesn’t want to have fun and develop or a new skill at the same time? If the same variety and adaptation in teaching methods and resources can be applied in learning a second language, we can create a similar stimulating, yet relaxed environment; engaging our students with relevant, visual and interesting resources. In this way the student enjoys learning the new language and more likely to retain what they have learned, and most importantly, they will want to continue the process and have more confidence and motivation in the application of the language.
I also believe there’s nothing quite like experiencing the learning process to enable you to teach something. In my next blog, I will write about my first six months here in Barcelona and how I apply my experiences of learning a second language. My first hand depiction of working and immersing myself in a Spanish hairdressing salon where no one spoke English, after only two months of Spanish lessons....