Today we’re chatting to the wonderful Agnieszka Sękiewicz-Magoń – an English teacher, EFL content writer and author for Preston Publishing.
Agnieszka, it’s great to have you here with us! First off, could you tell us a bit about what you do?
Well, where do I start? For so many years I would always answer this question with “I’m an English teacher”, but since I have always been a restless soul drawn by anything requiring creativity: and development (for example, I am the Odyssey of the Mind instructor), at some moment in my life I got interested in DOS ELTea Teacher Trainer Academy and finished it with an extra skill of being a teacher trainer. That, quite unexpectedly, lead to me becoming an author, making a huge change in my life and now working for Preston Publishing full time, creating various language content.
What are the steps between thinking about writing a book and seeing it printed on the shelves in shops?
I will probably surprise you by saying that I have never dreamt of writing my own book! It just happened totally unplanned! My mentors contacted me with the publishing company and I got an offer to write a grammar book. It so happens that I LOVE teaching grammar so it seemed like a good idea to give it a go.
But the road from the idea to the physical book on the shelf may be long and sometimes bumpy. I don’t know if it was easier for me, because I had an order for a concrete book, with specific content in the chapters, so I didn’t have to think up the whole structure of the book, just the exercises. Writing them was much more difficult than I’d thought!
Generally, when the material for the book is ready, it goes through several proofreading sessions, some of them by native speakers, some of them by other Polish teachers, finally some by the Polish language experts. That stage was the hardest for me, because it not only required reading hundreds of comments (sometimes even more than a thousand!) referring to things which I then thought were not important (like which type of inverted commas I have used), but also replying to each and every of them, sometimes fighting for your initial ideas or proving that you are right. All that with deadlines! Once this was over, everything else was easy: accepting the illustrations or the colour of the cover and greenlighting the final version for printing.
Could you tell us a bit more about your books?
So far, I have written three books, all of them in the same series of “Angielski Trening”, B1, B2 and C1 (currently in the process of being published). I have also started writing the forth, C2 part, but its publication will be next year. My books can be used individually, as a source of grammar practice for specific grammar issues, or as a supplementary material for the series “Angielski w Tłumaczeniach. Gramatyka”, as it follows the same order of chapters and grammar problems. The books are meant for anybody wanting to practise grammar, but I know that they may also be an extra help for teachers, especially those preparing students for exams like matura.
What do you say to students who don’t like learning grammar?
I tell them that grammar is not something separate from the language, you can’t just learn only vocabulary, only grammar or only functions, because they are intertwined with each other. I’ve also noticed that my passion for grammar is infectious and a lot of students actually warm up to grammar after some practice with me, so maybe it’s a case of changing your negative attitude towards it?
Do you have a fool-proof activity for teaching or revising grammar?
Yes, my go-to activity has always been games! They help students forget that they are actually learning or practising the language, if a game is well-structured and fun, students get so involved in it that they don’t want to stop! I can recommend the Bored? Games! series published by Preston Publishing, I’ve tested the games and they have never failed to make my students interested and active.
Apart from teaching and writing, you also speak at conferences and give workshops. How does it all help you grow as a teacher?
This is my way of leaving the comfort zone. I don’t like being in the spotlight, but sharing my experience with other teachers gives me joy, even though preparing and starting a session is nerve-wrecking for me. It also helps me develop professionally, as I can’t imagine doing it without reading professional literature on teacher development.
What do you do to relax?
I may surprise you again: if I want to forget about work and the world around me, I paint porcelain or create 3D embroidery. It’s something that I taught myself to do because I wanted to make an unusual gift for my artistic sister, and it also satisfies my drive to create. After years of learning various stitches I perfected the three-dimensional embroidery and the Norwegian Hardanger embroidery most, and I’m proud to say that I have even taught two generations of students how to make such beautiful things!