Interview with Feruz Akobirov, PhD – Bridge Graduate and University InstructorBy Bridge
March 8, 2018
Feruz Akobirov is a Bridge Online TEFL course graduate from Uzbekistan, who has been teaching since 2003. Interestingly, Feruz was already a qualified professor teaching at Bukhara State University when he took his TEFL certification course with us this year. In fact, Feruz has two bachelor’s degrees, as well as a Master’s in English Linguistics, and a Ph.D. in Education!
I was curious to know more about the very-qualified Feruz and his motivation for getting TEFL certified, so I recently interviewed him.
Feruz, could you start by telling us a bit about yourself and your background?
I am originally from Bukhara City, Uzbekistan. I have my BA in English from Bukhara State University, Uzbekistan and a second BA in Journalism and Political Science from the University of Mysore, India. I also hold an MA in English Linguistics from Bukhara State University and a Ph.D. in Education (Educational Technology in Teaching English language) from the University of Kansas in the U.S.
I have been teaching since 2003 and I currently teach English-related courses at Bukhara State University here in Uzbekistan. I also write academic articles and textbooks. Currently, I have 36 published articles and 4 published textbooks. (Read Feruz’s most recent published article in the Nepal English Language Teachers’ Association Forum: A new generation of English learners: Telegram app users.)
You’re already so qualified– why did you decide to get TEFL certified, too?
The reason I got TEFL certified is that I teach English online and on-campus and need it as one of the requirements for my job and for my professional development. I think it’s beneficial to be certified because each and every certificate shows how well you have mastered a particular course. Professional development is what each English instructor must strive for, especially to stay updated in his or her field.
So, you have two teaching jobs– you are a university instructor and also an online English tutor. Could you tell us more about each one?
I teach English for Special Purposes (ESP), English for Academic Purposes (EAP) and English as a Foreign Language (EFL) at Bukhara State University in Uzbekistan. I have also been teaching English online for the Taiwanese company, TutorABC, since 2016.
At Bukhara State University, I teach adult students, aged 19-23, but at my online job, I mostly teach kids (6 to 13-year-olds). My students’ levels vary. At the university, their level is a B1 (intermediate) or B2 (high intermediate) level on the CEFR scale (Common European Framework of Reference) and the children I teach online are usually a B1 (intermediate) or B2 (high intermediate) CEFR level.
Comparing teaching online and teaching in the classroom, what is one advantage each one has over the other? One disadvantage?
I love both of my jobs, because each of them is challenging and requires lots of homework and concentration. Online teaching heavily depends on the Internet and other related resources. While teaching in the classroom you don’t worry about the Wi-Fi signal, the power may still be turned off or you may have any sort of other technology issues.
I like offline teaching, because as Bill Gates once mentioned, “There is something magic that happens when a teacher communicates face to face with the student.” I always remember these words. However, I like online teaching because it pays more than my university classes.
English is not your first language. How has that shaped the way you teach?
I am originally a Tajik native, and we are born trilingual. When we learn a language, we compare its grammar with the grammar of one of the languages we speak. Currently, I speak seven languages. It’s always better when a non-native English speaking person teaches a non-native speaker, because a non-native teacher knows the weaker sides of a non-native English learner.
What’s a typical workday like for you?
My typical day starts at 5:00 a.m., because I teach online classes from 5:30 to 7:30 or 8:30 a.m. Then I drop my kids off at school and go to my university. I teach there until 3:00 p.m. Afterwards, I take my kids and go to my parents’ house and inquire if they need anything. I stay there for some time and come home and get ready for my AE E-Teacher Online Course, on using Ed Tech in teaching the English language. Around 8:00 p.m., I write articles and textbooks. (My day ends around 10:00 p.m., but I make sure I check my Jayhawks basketball! I am a big fan of KU basketball and I also watch some NFL – Go Pats!)
You are taking classes, too? What exactly is the AE E-Teach Online course?
The AE E-Teacher Online Course is a program that offers a variety of university-level online classes and professional development programs for teachers. The program is open to non-U.S. citizens living outside of the United States and participants must be nominated. I have been nominated by the US Embassy in our capital city, Tashkent, to take this course and it has been helping me a lot with my lesson plans, syllabi and other aspects of teaching English using Educational Technology.
Can you share a classroom or teaching tip that you’ve learned along the way as a teacher?
I’ve learned that paying attention to speaking rather than grammar or reading will increase your students’ chances to learn the language better. Students feel bored when you ask them to read out loud or teach grammar. It’s much better to just talk in English in class and learn the grammar along the way.
Have you had a particular experience in your teaching career when you felt like you made a difference in a student’s life?
It was when I heard my student congratulating me on my birthday after I had come back from the U.S. after 6 years. I thought no one would care, but when she congratulated me by coming to my office, I felt that I had made a difference in her life that she still remembered me.
What are your future career goals?
This may seem funny, but I want to get my second Ph.D. in Instructional technology. I feel that my place is on campus, at the library, around instructors, and in the general university atmosphere.
Finish this sentence: If I weren’t a teacher, I’d be a…
… doctor. I like what they do and how they treat patients, especially those doctors who perform various risky surgeries, BUT, teaching is my CREDO and l love it. I would probably be a good doctor, but I am one of the best EFL/ESL and ESP teachers!