I studied at Birmingham University, unaware that it would later be the home of the prestigious Bank of English and one of the first places to carry out corpus-based research into the English language.
My subject was French, and when I graduated, I didn’t go straight into teaching. I did a post-graduate course at the Oxford College of F.E. and became a bilingual secretary on the Cote d’Azur in France.
I never wanted to make secretarial work my career, but the training has come in extremely useful. For instance, I’m one of the few writers I know who can touch type.
I got married in Vallauris, within sight of Picasso’s ‘Man and Goat’ statue, and my son William was born there too, giving him the double advantage of having a very glamorous place of birth (Cannes) and growing up bilingual.
We later moved to the French countryside, but after a few years I realised that I was living a Jean de Florette life come true, and I didn’t like it, so I moved to the nearest big city – Lyon.
This was where I started teaching English after the customary four-week TEFL course at IH in London. I loved Lyon and worked alongside people who went on to set up one of the most impressive and innovative schools I know – English International (www.better-english.com).
I did my Diploma in TEFL in Lyon and under the influence of my excellent tutors (Pearson Brown and Henry Daniels) I developed an interest in humanistic teaching techniques and the learner-centred approach which has underpinned my teaching and writing since then.
I came back to Oxford when I decided that I’d been in France long enough (ten years) and got a job at the Lake School of English (www.englishinoxford.com), a small private language school, situated nowhere near a lake, which was running as a teachers’ co-operative at the time.
I enjoyed the co-operative approach to running the school which meant that teachers also had a say in how the school operated. My son didn’t quite get it though – when he started a new school and had to write his autobiography, he put “My Mum works for the Co-op.*”
At the Lake School, I was involved in developing refresher courses for teachers and practical one-day workshops for teachers of other modern languages. I left the Lake after 18 years, but the refresher courses are still running successfully.
I was a single parent when I started writing – all resemblance to JK Rowlings ends there. I wrote the Reward Resource Packs, which didn’t turn me into an international publishing phenomenon, but did get my name on the ELT author map.
Then I met my co-author Vaughan Jones and we have spent the last ten years writing Inside Out and New Inside Out (www.insideout.net).
The Inside Out series is full of engaging topics, meaningful interaction and student-centred activities that we both believe in, because that’s what works for us in the classroom. Judging by feedback we've had, it works equally well for teachers all over the world.
*a chain of supermarkets