What is it like to be a mentor?

Watch videos and read testimonials to learn first hand what it is like to be a mentor with the ELTDP.

This above video gives an overview of the English Language Teacher Development Project.

Being part of the ELTDP project is a once in a lifetime experience. The videos and testimonials are from mentors and others who have been part of the ELTDP. 

Learn more about the ELTDP with these videos:

Follow these links for individual stories of the ELTDP's mentoring work:
As part of the ELTDP's approach to promoting early literacy, we piloted a project called 'Power of Reading' in 2012-2013 to research the impact of flooding a school with high quality picture books designed for young learners.
The following video documents the work and progress of the pilot: The ELTDP Power of Reading sub-project
To view a video of our most recent ELTDP Symposium in March 2015, please click on the external link below.
The following videos are from the ELTDP Symposium in February 2013, documenting the 'teacher as researcher' theme and how the project teachers have reacted to our approach and came together to share their own classroom research and practice:

ELTDP Symposium, Teacher as Researcher, Closing Ceremony

Read about the ELTDP from these testimonials:

"My colleague and I have lived in Kapit for about nine months now and if I could sum it up in one sentence, I would say it has been an adventure.  From the first boat ride up the Rajang river past longhouses, fishing boats and impenetrable jungle, to the bustling wet market selling all kinds of critters to the wooden school buildings perched on the banks of streams, life in this rural Sarawak town may be quiet, but it’s far from ordinary.

Kapit is about three hours by boat from the nearest large town and, like many other posts in Sarawak, its population is unique.  Kapit’s people are predominantly Iban, an ethnic group for whom tattoos are a symbol of belonging and hunting and gathering in the jungle is often a way of life.  Life occurs on two levels for most Iban; there is the life in their town house with their immediate family and the life in their longhouse, with their enormously extended family of up to one hundred members.  Ask any Iban person about their life, and it will always come back to the longhouse, the people who inhabit it and the land that it sits on. Enter a longhouse and you will find the Iban sitting on the porch in a circle, the men drinking tuak, the local rice wine, and the women weaving back-baskets used in the jungle.  You get the feeling that a typical day in 2013 is much the same as it would have been 60 years ago.  Modern life has not yet encroached on the longhouses of Kapit, and in many ways this is a blessing. 

Having said that, the blessing is often cunningly disguised as power outages, intermittent phone signal and non-existent internet.  Life in the land where time stands still is not without its challenges, but it’s the staff and children in the schools who make it all worthwhile.  Your arrival at each school is always greeted by smiles and a chorus of “good morning sir”, no matter the time of day, or your gender.  You are offered tea, cakes, rice, anchovies… a veritable smorgasbord, especially if you visit more than one school in a day.  Building a relationship with teachers can also be a challenge, but sharing their feeling of satisfaction when their students are happy and engaged is the best thing about the job."



"Working on this project has been both immensely rewarding and extremely challenging.  The opportunity to work with teachers and to see them change from shy, quiet individuals to confident, outgoing, committed teachers, who put the children at the centre of their practice is the best reward. In addition, the children have gone from being wary of foreigners to seizing any and all opportunities to practice their English. It has also been my privilege to see parents become a part of school life, who are actively working to promote the value of education within their communities. 

It is challenging because of the remoteness and the daily frustrations of water, power and communication cuts. Appointments, cancelled at the last minute because “Something has come up...”. Time constraints and not getting things done can be a hindrance but, the rewards far outweigh the challenges."

(Sam, Nabawan)


"Travelling to a new country to teach English is always an exciting experience, but this job was offering a new challenge, that of mentoring Malaysian Primary School English Teachers.  I had no idea what this would entail and at first I imagined that we would be running training courses for teachers, but I was so wrong. 

Initially I got to know my core teachers, observed them during their lessons, and had face to face meetings with them and the other teachers as a group.  At first this was as much a new experience for them as it was for me, and it took a long time to understand their concerns and insecurities before I was able to create relationships of trust between us.

Mentoring is not teaching, or giving presentations, or an endless stream of workshops on different teaching skills.  It’s so much more than that.  It’s getting to know people, learning about their culture, their beliefs and ethics, and also creating a relationship and understanding between yourself and the mentees. 

Helping teachers to increase their confidence has been one of the rewards of this job, as has the pleasure teachers get from seeing their pupils enjoying English lessons and actually learning to speak it.  ‘My teachers’ tell me they will never go back to the old ineffective way of teaching.  Now pupils and teachers alike love English lessons.  I feel very privileged to have played a part in that transition."

(Sally, Labuan)


"I was on the project for seven months and chose a small Melanau town in Sarawak over a larger town. The mentors in the area are the only foreigners and people are naturally curious about us; my partner and I experienced the "celebrity effect" when going to the market or a restaurant a lot at first.  The novelty soon wore off and people in our community opened their houses and hearts to us. We resisted a little at first, but once you embrace the invitations and interest in your life (it is OK to set boundaries!), you get treated as one of them.  In smaller areas of Borneo, schools and the community are closely connected and that made it easy for me to build relationships with a wide range of people.  Great relationships is key when dealing with the professional and personal challenges of this job (motivation, isolation, logistical issues and lack of social life) and living in a small community makes it so much easier to meet people and integrate in the culture and society. Just like any other work and living environment, rural Borneo has its ups and downs; relatively low connectivity and the lack of certain luxuries such as hot water and favorite food items is a reality here; this job still beats a 9-5 office gig hands-down every time."

(Rhett, Dalat)


"I hope you decide to apply for this post in Borneo which offers a fantastic professional opportunity and the chance to have a memorable life experience. I moved to Malaysia in the beginning of 2011 and stayed in the project to date. I chose to stay until now because I love supporting other teachers in discovering their passion for teaching and their voice. 

This job gives me the freedom to tailor my approach it to suit my strengths. However, it is quite important that one is self-disciplined and well organized so that the focus in oneself and others is maintained. It is a good stepping stone if you are looking into a career in educational leadership."

(Eve, Sipitang)


"Do you enjoy “lifting” people? The best thing about working as a mentor on ELTDP has been seeing my teacher mentees develop and changes in attitude and behaviour. Softly, softly, by being a sounding board, “holding up a mirror” and answering their own questions, there have been alterations. It is not about telling or showing the mentees what to do or doing things for them, but by staying in the background, supporting and helping when asked. This takes time, patience, trust and care. I see the project more as a development one.

The fact that it is located in incredible Borneo is no bad thing either!"

(Lis, Limbang)


"My mornings are spent in schools working with Malaysian primary school English teachers and my afternoons are spent completing any paperwork or planning which is required. I have five schools to visit, and I work closely with ten teachers, normally two in each school. I meet with each teacher either before or after their lesson, which I nearly always observe, and we discuss the lesson or any other issues, with the teacher normally leading the discussion. The whole process is very relaxed and our discussions are pretty wide-ranging, since our main focus is self-reflection and also the use of the English language.

I love this job because I find everyone very welcoming and positive, from the school principals right down to the children in the classes. The children all beam with delight when they see me coming and they love to practice speaking English with me. Their favorite phrase at the moment is “Oh, my English!” which they pronounce with perfect stress and intonation.

Overall, I would say that if you are a sociable and friendly person who has experience working in other cultures and who loves being around children, then this is a job you will thoroughly enjoy."

(Alison, Beaufort)


"Joining a project is always taking a step into the unknown. I knew next to nothing about Borneo – there was some recollection of head-hunters buried in my memories. Living in Sarawak has been a truly enriching experience. It was a revelation to find out just how many different ethnic groups make up the population, all who have their own unique customs and lifestyles, and even dialects or languages. I was privileged to meet a local village chief and to be invited to Gawai Dayak, a Thanksgiving – like event celebrated at the Iban longhouses, and to be warmly received and included in the celebration. Each school has its own character, too, but my schools had one thing in common, warm, welcoming teachers who opened their doors and hearts to me. I’ll miss many things when I leave Sarawak, the fabulous tropical fruits and exotic vegetables, the laid-back lifestyle, but most of all, I’ll miss my teachers and friends."

(Nora, Miri)


"I am an ELTDP Mentor working in Sabah, East Malaysia.  This is a beautiful part of Malaysia which attracts tourists because of its extraordinary biodiversity but it is also a place that is changing and developing, particularly in the field of education.  Being a mentor is about working with teachers, schools and local communities to make the most of new developments and be a part of the change.   The job can be challenging but it is never boring.  You could be doing intensive one to one work with a teacher, spending time in a primary classroom, having a discussion with a Guru Besar (Principal) and helping teachers organise a parents’ workshop on storytelling, all in one day!   If you are looking for a worthwhile and rewarding post that is also an opportunity to really become part of a community, in a way no tourist or even ordinary expat ever could, this is for you."

(Maria, Papar)


"Living and working in Sarawak, East Malaysia has been an incredible experience for me, and one, which I don’t want to end. The place and the people are fantastic on first impression and this impression has only gotten stronger for me. There are times when I don’t feel like this, when I feel lonely or feel like nothing I do will ever make a difference but generally these down days pass and I’m forever reminded of how lucky I am to be doing work like this.

I think the key to this job is knowing when to let go, knowing when and where to explore the many facets that make a teacher and a classroom, and to be comfortable knowing that you don’t know. You need to be open, patient, supportive and be able to build great rapport. Then you’ll find that the teachers are willing to develop meaningfully and something really special can be cultivated.

This is an incredibly rewarding job but don’t expect instant results and a classroom that functions in a way that you understand. It goes without saying that things are different here, even after nearly 3 years I’m still trying to fathom things out, but that’s exactly what makes this job special. Every day is different with the ebb and flow of rural school life with many things outside of your control and whilst this makes for an incredible experience and teaching/learning opportunity, it isn’t for everybody."

(Martin, Serian)


"My name is Christine. I am living in Sabah in a small town called Beaufort which is around 96kms south of Kota Kinabalu. I have been on the project for nine months now and have found it a very rewarding experience working with the mentees in my sub-cluster. I find the job exciting as we work together towards improving teaching and learning in the classroom. I believe we all benefit from the project and I have also learnt a lot.

Living in a small town can be rather isolating but I keep myself active by meeting up with other mentors both in Beaufort and surrounding areas and have also joined zumba classes three times a week which enables me to feel a part of the local community. The local people make me feel very welcome. Because I live relatively close to Kota Kinabalu, I make a day trip every weekend and attend a gym there and also go for private dancing lessons which I love. As there is no cinema, swimming pool and the gym is for men only, yes, living in a small town can be rather isolating but I believe it is important to make the most of one's situation. After having lived in Hong Kong for six years, I feel that I have done well and am very happy living in Beaufort."

(Christine, Beaufort)


"The ELTDP has enabled me to bridge my two professional interests, language teaching and development.  Working with teachers in the field and facilitating their professional development has allowed me to play a role transforming English language education in under-performing primary schools in Kuching district.  I am especially pleased to work on a project which stresses local teacher-led initiatives over top-down interventions.  This working culture has made me feel that much of the work I am doing will be sustained beyond the life of the project."

(Tom, Kuching)


"I have been working with the ELTDP project in Sabah for the past 18 months. This was a new opportunity for me as I previously had been teaching in international schools around Asia. Working with a handful of schools and their English teachers enabled me to develop my own practical skills as well as sharing my experiences and knowledge. It has been a great experience to be part of a community and to enhance my understanding of the Malay culture. Mentoring has its challenges, however, I have found it to be very rewarding and positive changes have been made"

(Vicki, Kuala Penyu)


"Mentoring on the ELTDP has been an extremely rewarding role, in which I have both shared and learned a variety of skills.  Mentoring itself has been a very unique and interesting skill to learn and this is an excellent placement in terms of professional development opportunities.  I feel that I have been able to help make a real difference by inspiring a desire and willingness for self-discovery, reflective teaching practice and, ultimately, change; not only in terms of the English teachers’ teaching practices, but also within entire school teams.

A large part of the job has been about communication, engaging all kinds of people from all backgrounds and walks of life; from students, parents and teachers to Education Ministers.   I usually visit one school a day (most school days are from 0720-1310) and sometimes facilitate at afternoon workshops. 

I have my own very comfortable, affordable flat and a reliable car which was easy to organize with a little help from the agent.  The people are an eclectic mix of races, religions and cultures but, for the most part, they live harmoniously, side by side and are very accepting, respectful and welcoming people.  The rural placements are very peaceful places to live, where nobody locks their door.  Living as a single female, I have felt perfectly safe living here.   Being the only mentor in a rural placement meant that I became ‘famous’ overnight, which has its drawbacks, as well as its advantages.  People were quite shy and wary of me at first, so I had to make an effort to establish relationships.  However, once people got to know me, they were wholeheartedly welcoming and invited me to join in everything, including cultural and religious festivals, boat races, weddings, dinners, etc.  It didn’t take me long to become part of the community and call Borneo ‘home’."

(Chloe, Marudi)


"I've worked for the British Council for a few years and have been lucky enough to have travelled to some interesting places through my job, but living and working in Borneo has been one of the most unique and amazing experiences yet.

Job wise, I can probably say it's the best I've ever had. Watching the teachers grow, develop and get excited about projects that they themselves have chosen to work on, in the way in which they wish to work, is very rewarding to see, and the fact that each school and group of teachers are so different makes the work very varied and means there's never a dull moment. Because there's such variety in the work, it's hard to describe a 'typical day at work', but the massive range of situations I've had to deal with since being here, from talking over lessons with new teachers to facilitating workshops for head teachers has helped me to develop a lot professionally as well.

Of course there are times when living in a small town, perhaps with just one other colleague can be challenging, but the variety of ways that people have found to keep themselves occupied is quite impressive, and for outdoor enthusiasts there are no end of adventures to be had!"

(Rachel, Sipitang)