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My IELTS Writing Coach Story

My journey from creative writer to IELTS Writing Coach

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Season 1, episode 1
13 min / Published

My IELTS Writing Coach Story covers the specifics of my coaching journey from creative writer to IELTS Writing Coach.

It is not unique, it's not even that special.

It's straightforward and uncomplicated IELTS writing value-share for whoever needs to hear it.

It breaks down the make-up and  basics of the IELTS writing tasks - simply and logically

Enjoy

Show notes

Hi my name is Anfred & welcome to my IELTS Writing Podcast – The IELTS Writing Coach  

I am a certified ESL instructor and an IELTS accredited writing coach. I hold Bachelors in creative writing and a PGCE (Postgraduate in Education). But above all, I have sat for the IELTS before and I have done so as a non-native English speaker.  The reason I mention this is that I want my potential listeners to understand that I feel a language-learning connection with you/them.  

As a non-mother-tongue-speaker of English, I too have to create opportunities where I can speak and write English.  I do not speak it at home, while socializing or at family gatherings. Granted I enjoy the benefit of near-native fluency, but I still dream, laugh, scream or think in another language. 

However, I do love English. I appreciate all its oddities, exceptions, exclusions and ambiguities.  To be able to speak it has helped me in many instances of my personal and professional life. Being able to write it however, and write it well, energizes me. 

I worked as an advertising copywriter for many years and if there is one thing that copywriting taught me, it is that people love a story! Everything you write has to follow a recipe, develop along a plan and conclude in a justification. Writing an essay can seem like the most effortless exercise until you sit down and try to do it, and do it well. It takes preparation and formulation. It needs a central topic. It requires support statements, evaluations and strong motivations. 

If it lacks these aspects, your IELTS Writing tasks can seriously damage all the hard work you have put into the three other/remaining disciplines. However, more on that a little later… 

This is an introduction episode and I thought it a good idea to follow my own advice and share with you the story of how I came to be where I am. 

I have been involved in some form of teaching or coaching all my life. I taught at primary school, middle school, college level. I conducted copywriting internship training, worked in sports coaching and finally settled in online tutoring. I’ve always felt most at home instructing or guiding others and I get great pleasure from the results this tuition achieves. 

The online space especially afforded me (and many others) the opportunity to continue doing what we loved, even in the face of the pandemic. It seemed effortless to walk from my bed to my laptop, turn on the screen and within seconds be connected to a student thousands of miles away.  

I have been fortunate to meet many amazing people from a variety of cultures and countries. I have been trained by some of the most skilled tutors and tried to learn from these individuals as much as I could. Unfortunately, the structures within the ESL agencies have always been very rigid and the curriculums I taught were always very restricting – with good reason, I suspect, but still I wanted to put my own mark on my tutoring. 

I started investigating whether I had what was required to develop my own teaching methodology and incorporate more of my own unique style into my coaching. I met a brilliant man by the name of James Liu who I sincerely hope to feature on this podcast sometime soon. I started reading his literature, buying into his formula and adopting his mind-set. 

Through James’ program, I started rubbing shoulders with more fascinating folks who all formed part of his extensive network I started believing that I was worth more than the few dollars I earned as a dependable resource of an ESL agency.  Suddenly, my likeable personality, passion for teaching and results-driven attitude opened up opportunities I never realized existed. 

Content creation, and creative writing specifically, became part of my repertoire and I loved discovering where these aspects might lead. I became interested in the journey and not merely the result or destination of proceedings. Once I became comfortable with trusting my instincts, the creative juices flowed endlessly. I started realizing that the need for coaching creative writing could have an entirely different outcome. I could actually help change lives – as corny or extravagant as that might sound. 

As a regular speaker of English, I was oblivious to the struggles of students who battle with the language. Battles that often could make or break their dreams and aspirations. I came to appreciate that (for these individuals) the ability to speak English well enough was a most cherished goal. A life-altering opportunity to better themselves personally and professionally. 

The IELTS exam became a most intriguing reality for me and the more I understood about the process, the clearer my role became. I studied the exam, I prepared for the exam and I looked forward to testing my (overheard) hypothesis… I achieved an 8.5 and I was very happy. Naturally, a NINE would have been much more satisfying, but trying to ace the exam was never the focus… The goal was to see where students lose marks and why.

What I discovered is that the THREE tasks where students usually excel were READING, SPEAKING and LISTENING. However, they lost marks almost regularly where the WRITING tasks were concerned. My suspicion was confirmed – the writing tasks (often considered the most technical part) played a huge part in reducing students’ overall band score. Naturally, this formed the focus of my coaching strategy. I then made it my mission to find out which parts of the writing proved the most difficult to comprehend and master. 

I was genuinely surprised to find no glaring errors present in my students' low-scoring attempts. What’s more, the improvements I suggested were relatively straightforward and simple to grasp.  The key was/is to not overcomplicate an already daunting task, work with the resources/skills at the student’s disposal and guide them in terms of the best practice principles. 

My aim was not to reinvent the wheel. I was more interested in making that wheel roadworthy, pleasing to the eye and able to withstand the entire journey. I devised an approach which concentrated on both Writing Task 1 & 2 independently and which enhancements applied where – and why. Comprehension became a vital component of my coaching. I stressed to my students how important it is to understand why their essays would be better received when incorporating the upgrades. 

I start with the seemingly trivial aspects and work my way up to the intricate parts. All the time being very aware of the progression as well as the accumulation of more skills and a more balanced final product. In the process, the students become empowered and started investing thought in their progression. Often to the point of challenging myself and my material, with counter suggestions. I started learning more about who my target market was, where I could hone my skill even more and how I could make my offering a tad more versatile.

Unsurprisingly, I started coming across students who preferred not to invest in my program wholesale, where their time and effort was concerned. They were mostly retaking the IELTS exam and only wished to be assisted in terms of fine tuning I started asking myself how I could offer support in these cases as well. I fell into my own trap – I over-complicated the issue... I became preoccupied with trying to figure out how I would structure my website to accommodate uploading of essays. And then it hit me – KISS (Keep It Simple Stupid). Set up a simple e-mail address and give students the opportunity to write a complete essay or task ONE script, and submit this to me for evaluation and feedback.  Via E-MAIL...This process was/is very simple, warranting nothing more than a simple conversation and document exchange on e-mail. 

Up until very recently, I had been very fortunate to find clients relatively easily. I didn't need that many to begin with anyway. But as my experience grew and my program started morphing into the “real deal” with all the initial wrinkles ironed out, my aspirations changed...I became more concerned with adding genuine value by creating more relevant content.

I spoke to an acquaintance of mine, Kristian de Groot, a Cambridge English Exam Coach about his content distribution, and the topic of a podcast came up. Now If there's one thing I love more than writing, it's talking about my love for writing. The idea immediately appealed to me and I set my mind to podcast-research mode... This all happened about three weeks ago, and here we are 75% of the way through my first podcast episode...

I decided to write a transcript of the entire episode mainly because I had so much to say and I didn't want to leave anything to chance. I was going to time myself reading through the document – I needed only about 15 minutes worth of content. I have to admit when I came up to the end of my 4th A4 (typed, single-spaced) page, and the timer said “8min”, I became a little worried.

Not so much that I didn't have any more to say, but I realized that if I planned to put out an episode once a week, this exercise has the potential to become more than a bit time consuming. I allowed myself to wallow in worry for a minute or two and then pulled myself together. This is a labour of love, a form of my own unique expression. I wanted to help change lives, for goodness sakes. This type of commitment, comes with, well commitment...

So to sum up, it took me a fair while to understand that my knowledge, experience and passion is only of value when I share it. It is through this content sharing that I grow and hopefully help others to do the same. My hope is that the recipients of this information utilizes it in the essence it was intended.

So in keeping with the spirit of value-add and unearthing IELTS Writing tips, hacks, suggestions, dos, don’t s and definitely-nots, I will be sharing a weekly podcast for your listening pleasure.

We'll keep it simple, relevant, manageable and most importantly valuable. I hope you get from it what you need or share it with someone that needs to hear it. Thanks for listening and PLEASE join me again next week, when the real work starts.

Cheers.

 

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