Joanna Róg-Ilnicka about sociology and teaching English.

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Interviews with English teachers

Joanna, welcome to Twofold! We’re so happy to have you here today. Thank you for taking some time out of your busy schedule to talk to us.

Thank you very much for that lovely invitation. 

So first of all, could you tell us a bit about what you do? Where can we find you online?

First of all, I am a teacher – sociology teacher, English teacher – I’ve been teaching, and training for over twenty years now and it still feels like I’ve only just started. There is always something to learn about education, especially adult education. I am also a business coach.

 I teach about qualitative social research – I have just started training other social scientists on how to properly conduct the social research process. I used to teach social sciences at university. Nowadays I run my own company where I teach English, conduct social research, teach about social sciences, provide tutoring processes with my tutees (getting the “flow” feeling, achieving their intellectual goals, personal development) and lately I’ve started my podcast titled ZAOBSERWOWANE. You can find me on Spotify. I also have an Instagram profile autentica.joannailnicka and a website:, but the website is still in progress. 

Wow, Joanna, sounds like you’re really busy! We’d like to know more about sociology. How does it benefit you as a teacher?

Well… To be honest I have never thought about it before… It’s so natural to me – to use all the ideas about social processes in my teaching. For example, sociology gives you knowledge about groups, their members and behaviours. I used to teach English at school and being able to organise groups to teach them effectively was (and still is) my biggest asset. I am very aware of the group mechanisms and I can manage them productively.

Besides, when I teach English 1:1 I ask my students (teens and adults) about their lifestyles and thanks to that, I can broaden their intellectual perspectives (by critical thinking which is the most important tool for a social scientist). I ask them difficult questions, they need to think them over, and they need to put the answers in the social context. Naturally, that helps to extend their English speaking. Sociology is the art of asking questions about people around us. I teach my students to ask these questions – in English of course. Sociology is also a science about diversity – people, groups, nations, and social categories. I have a great need to give them the chance to build various, sometimes unusual, perspectives on different topics. And thanks to that my students become citizens of the world – language and intellectual skills in one.

You have such an extensive and varied array of skills. What tips and advice would you give teachers that they would probably never hear in a teaching college?

Yes, that is true! I am a multipotential (comprehensive) person and I am really proud of it.

First of all – observe. This is such a powerful skill and so neglected at the same time. Observing your students gives you sometimes more than a perfectly prepared lesson script. Thanks to that you can react to their needs quickly and get their feedback, hence you can teach them better. It is all about the students, not the teacher. 

Next thing – ask them questions, not only to practise grammar but also to allow them to get to know each other. By asking questions, by encouraging to ask questions to other people you build the basis of their curiosity. Without curiosity, they won’t be able to evolve intellectually. And doing it during an English lesson you also can give them a boost in learning English.

When teachers think about professional development, usually it’s about new teaching methods and ideas. What other skills do you think are important for a teacher to work on?

For literally every teacher – learn how to rest, and give yourself some personal space to relax. Nowadays I think it is also the need for professional feedback, the one done properly. Not criticism. Something like teachers’ meetings where we can openly talk about the ups and downs of our everyday work. So try to organise one in your area, thanks to that you can learn effective listening and giving feedback. Your students, and you, of course, will gain from that!

That sounds like a truly great idea. We could learn a lot from each other. And Joanna, what do you do for your own professional development?

I honestly don’t know where to begin… For running my business I take commercial courses. I have been constantly learning how to be a productive (and rich…) business owner. Secondly, I’m still improving my English skills – nowadays in a group of wonderful women where our tutor helps us to extend our language skills on sociological, psychological and cultural topics. And the most important thing – I read a lot, I mean, there is loads of reading about people, about companies, about teaching, about encouraging people. I also learnt how to cut and edit the episodes of my podcast! The technical part of running a company is also important to me. But the more I learn, the easier this knowledge comes to me. You know, my, I could say, inquisitiveness keeps me on the right track of professional development.

And finally, a question we ask everyone: what do you do to relax? 🙂

Frankly speaking, I am a movie freak! This is the best way for me to relax. Especially sci-fi movies and series. Besides, I love long walks and my surroundings aid that. I love meeting people, long and profound conversations give me the highest level of relaxation. I do sing, I am an amateur singer and it helps to develop my vocal skills and, as you may know, it is extremely helpful in teaching.

Yes, I know what you mean! We’ve all lost our voice at least once! Joanna, thank you so much once again for agreeing to talk to us today! It was a pleasure.

Lesson resources ELT