Barbara Hoskins Sakamoto

Is ELT a serious profession? Are you being taken seriously by your family, friends, and neighbours?

I suggest we debate over this over some sushi, on the beach, and after some snorkelling in the Pacific. Deal?

Today’s guest is Barbara Sakamoto, familiar to most of you, no doubt. Thanks, Barb, for taking time off to do this interview – it was a real pleasure talking to you.

If you have any questions you wish to direct to Barbara, post a comment, and I’m sure she’ll gladly answer them. All yours, Barb!


Barbara’s bio:

I came to Japan in 1985 to “teach for a couple of years” and have split my time between Japan and the U.S. ever since.  I believe in the benefit of belonging to professional teacher organizations, and I belong to JALT and ETJ (and TESOL and IATEFL). I’m best known as one of the co-authors of Let’s Go (published by Oxford University Press), but I also write columns for Teachers Learning with Children and ELT News. Teachers are my favorite people, and I enjoy having the chance to conduct teacher training workshops around the world. I learn at least as much from the teachers at my workshops as they do from me! Recently, I’ve also begun to co-moderate a Twitter chat every Wednesday for English language teachers, ELT Chat. My motto is “Always try new things”, so these days, when I’m not teaching, writing, or giving workshops, you’ll often find me online exploring the potential of social media for professional development. If you’d like to explore too, you can usually find me on my blog, Teaching Village, my wiki, on Twitter or Facebook. If I’m not online, I’m probably snorkeling and playing with my underwater camera. You can see my underwater photography efforts on Flickr. To get more information about Oxford’s All-Japan Summer Tour for Teachers, please visit the OUP website. For more information about the International Teacher Development Institute, please visit the iTDi website (it’s work in progress).

Barbara also has this to say about the recording:

I used Windows Live Movie Maker with an Elecom external mic. My one tip for anyone else is to go through mic set up, even if it’s a plug and play device.

Exclusive interview with Barbara Sakamoto on


About Chiew

A journey of a thousand miles must begin with a single step.

Posted on 16 June 2011, in Uncategorized and tagged . Bookmark the permalink. 24 Comments.

  1. Thanks, Chiew, for giving me this opportunity! Thanks also for the lovely intro 🙂

  2. Hi Chiew and Barb!

    Thanks so much Chiew for interviewing Barb – she is an amazing lady and teacher!

    Dear Barb,

    Thank you so much for telling us more about yourself – it was really nice to hear you and learn more about you! You are a winderful wonderful person and thanks so much for everything you do in education! Many thanks for giving me a place to blog at the Teaching Village, which has become a very big collection of amazing posts by equally amazing educators – and congratulations on the award as well, and the great place it got!

    Many thanks to both of you.

    Kindest regards,

    • She is, isn’t she? Thanks for the comment, Vicky. You’re missing from my list! Email me, plz!

    • Thanks for the very kind words, Vicky! Teaching Village wouldn’t be where it is without teachers like you, so I also appreciate your being willing to share as a guest author 🙂

      I always look forward to finding you online. Your optimism and generosity always make my day feel much brighter!

    • Thanks, Vicky, for the kind words, and your own generosity! You’re a valued member of my PLN as well 🙂

  3. Thanks for your advice to new teachers!

    Educators like you and Vicky Loras have been very inspiring new teachers like me that are looking to teach abroad. I’m so grateful to have access to such a great online PLN! 🙂

    • Thanks, Andrea! I’m glad you found it useful. You’re already ahead of the game, because you’re starting out with access to an amazing group of mentor teachers–online! I look forward to getting to know you better 🙂

  4. Great interview Chiew, lovely to find out more about Barbara my wonderful #eltchat co-moderator. Some super advice here.

  5. I feel the same about you too Barb! Thanks so much for your kind words : ) A great honour for me to write on your blog!

  6. Wonderful. I’ve told you before, Barb, but it’s always a pleasure hearing your voice… such a sweetness behind it. I might just have to ask a question… are you a singer too ? 😉

    My 2 favorite quotes:

    “Be able to laugh at yourself”

    “If I had a choice, I’d be underwater” (out-of-context it’s even better) LOL

    and thanks to Chiew for helping us get to know Barbara a bit better !!!

    • Conditional type II 😉
      Glad you enjoyed it, Brad. You know, I said more-or-less the same though not quite as smooth as you, buddy. 🙂
      I said everyone will be wanting to jump at the screen and give her a big cuddle!

  7. Great interview, Chiew! It’s an honour for me to have Barb in my PLN. She’s a really generous person. She’s one of the members of my PLN who sent me a present to my house! The other one is Vicky Loras.
    Hugs from Argentina!

    • Thanks Marisa! It was real easy with her, after putting her through a couple of retakes ;), but don’t remind her! Haha. No, honestly, I’m thrilled to have had the chance to interview teachers like her. Vicky’s will be soon! And how about you? I think you deserve one, too! Email me!

  8. You’re wonderful, Marisa! Hope that I can visit you someday, rather than just sending a package 🙂

  9. The low-tech set-up over here makes watching the video impossible and there’s no transcript but the questions Chiew asks in the printed intro are just too interesting and too urgent for me to pass over.

    You ask if we feel we are being taken seriously. What would it mean, though, for the profession to be a serious one? Let me suggest that the profession would have to be also a vocation – a calling, with an inspiringly serious end. Over on Barbara’s Teaching Village blog Yitzha recently wrote an interesting post implying that when it comes to the ends of our teaching, the phenomenon of globalisation (in which we are all entangled) presents us with a fundamental choice: either we allow ourselves to be ambassadors of the current form of globalisation or we feel inspired to help our students resist it and question it and see that there are alternatives – that there must be an alternative.

    Of course there are a thousand other ways of construing the ends of our work, but to be persuasive they need to arise out of a description – an interpretation – of the situation we find ourselves in, the dangers that it presents and the challenges that face us as teachers of what is, for the time being, the international language (the language of Hollywood, Wall Street, the Pentagon, Monsanto and Apple). If there is something serious about the work that we do, it can only be because at this point in history, in the situation that we are in, there is something serious that we feel called upon to do.

    • Torn Halves, is it so bad? What if you tried to download it via You Tube (I’d made it public) even if it took several hours? It is indeed a shame as there are some very interesting interviewees here 🙂
      Teaching as a profession has long been deemed a serious one, but somehow, the EFL teacher is very often not seen as one, not least by people close to us, e.g. family. How often have you heard of an Aunt May asking, ‘So, Teddy boy, when are you going to get a real job?’
      The backpacker image of an EFL teacher still abounds, unfortunately. The constant movement of a lot of these teachers helps fuel the image. I think among peers, there is little danger of the profession being taken lightly – it’s the non-teaching sector that is the issue.

      • I imagine you and Barbara talked a lot about Teddy and Aunt May, but did you discuss the schools, because in my book there ain’t no real jobs without real organisations to work for? Here in Greece Teddy would most likely end up working for a very small neighbourhood school, and working alongside (and I am not being sexist here – just telling it like it is) mostly local wives who are working to supplement the family income (and employers the world over and notorious for seeing that as an opportunity to ratchet wages down ever so slightly). The schools are often on the lookout for backpacking teachers like Teddy, believing them to be cheaper and more malleable (and believing that they might not mind it if national insurance contributions don’t get paid). Like the rest of the teachers they will be on a short-term contract running from September to the following June (if there is a contract). So if a real job is a permanent job for the family breadwinner who can see opportunities for promotion ahead and a path of professional development, then this ain’t it, and it doesn’t make any difference whether Teddy has a backpack or a deluxe set of Samsonite suitcases.

        • Sounds so bleak, made worse by the global crisis. If it’s any consolation, the same scenario plays itself in many other countries, not only Greece, which just adds more potency to the question.
          Thanks for joining in the discussion!

  1. Pingback: My guest interview on Iasku – Teaching Village

  2. Pingback: Barbara Hoskins Sakamoto | Quality Video Interviews with Teachers Who Dare to be Different! |

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