“Life begins when you start living it” – How it feels to finally be the fly on Chuck Sandy’s wall












When I found out about the challenge from Brad Patterson (@Brad5patterson) on interviewing fellow PLN, I was very keen on taking the bait to get to know more on people I usually only meet during #ELTChat or Twitterland. And of course as I had been interviewd by Lizzie Pinard (@Lizziepinard) I have to pass on the task.

And My choice of Interviewing Chuck Sandy (@Chucksandy) comes with many reasons. As he is always been my personal hero, he’s also the only one of people on #ELTChat that I had actually met! Well, meeting is probably an over statement as when I saw him giving great presentation during Cambridge day here in Jakarta, I was only given like 1-2 minutes to interact with him. The rest of it was very difficult as so many people wanted a little piece of him too ^^ .But I got lucky since Chuck and I are involved in the same social movement which is Design For Change Challenge ( www.dfcworld.com ) where as my mentor I get to interact more with him through messenger ,skype or mails as he helped me set up DFC Indonesia. But of course as me ( and I’m sure many people too) would love to know more about him, I asked him if I could have his time to perform the interview. And he was kind enough to let me do it though he was still tired after coming home from one of his amazing presentation in Korea. So, here goes……

1 . If your students were to describe you in 3 adjectives, what would they be?

“Unpredictable,  funny, and easy going. I’ve become a very unplugged teacher and in my classes we do lots of projects. I never know quite how to do them, so when students ask how we should do something I ask them “I’m not sure, how do you think we should do this? And I’m famous for coming into class with a big bag full of markers and crayons and huge pieces of paper… so we can create things “

(Ok , I so wanna be his student now!)








                      My Teacher, the coolest ever!


Chuck then told me that he loves the fact that his students challenge him every day and  it’s never hard to get them to participate,” Every student is different … and some are quieter than others but we work in groups and all students support each other “ He said

Chuck also believes that everyone on his classroom inspires him. And as for many educators who are inspired by him he said that he feels humble for that but it also makes him more conscious. “I don’t think I’m a great teacher. I’m just a teacher trying to do his best every day and it doesn’t always go as planned.  I’m learning something new every day in the classroom. Sometimes my classes are a big mess, so … I feel a little uncomfortable when people say they want to learn from me. I’m more comfortable when people say they’d like to learn with me. I love that spirit of collaboration”

And as for Dogme teaching he said that he has always been practicing it even before he knew what it meant. He believes it work well for teachers who have good, open and trusting relationship with their students. That’s the most important thing, establishing a good relationship and a fun, comfortable class atmosphere

( Hmmmm, sounds simple, but I think I need to be in his classroom, observing and learning from him to practice that on my own )

Chuck now works in Humanities Department at Chubu Universitys well as an ELT author for Cambridge university press, a motivational speaker , a program director at iTDi (The International Teacher Development Institute (http://tdinstitute.com/) and a non-secret Agent for Change ^^ .That sure are plenty for a person, but he does all so well that we might begin he has a clone somewhere!

2 . What would we find in your fridge right now?

“Well, at the moment a lot of kimchee because I just got back from a trip to Korea ^^  But usually there’s also a lot of yogurt and fruits and wheat germ and flax seeds and all kinds of things to make smoothies.”

Chuck explains that he has big smoothies every morning for energy, and learnt the recipe from Mark Kulek (@gifumark). As he loves gardening too, he puts some berries or anything fresh out of his own garden to his blend of energy smoothies.

I then ask what we would find him doing in the kitchen first thing in the morning and late at night where he then illustrates his morning ritual which as “grinding coffee beans and making my morning coffee ^^ . And while the coffee is brewing, I’m usually standing by the kitchen door reading email on my iPhone ^^” . But as Chuck isn’t a snack person, he usually stays away from the kitchen after dinner.

( No wonder he has all the energy he needs, I mean with the healthy smoothies ,coffee and no snacks, you can’t go wrong)

3 . If you weren’t an educator and everything that you do now, what might your profession be?

“I can’t imagine not being a teacher really but if i were to do something different I would be a farmer. I’d love to be able to grow enough for my needs and be self-sufficient. But I think I would do that half time the other half of the time I would concentrate on writing and maybe book-binding. I love the idea of making hand-made books and printing them myself”

(Wow! What a contrary from a traveler to a home basis kind of person ^^)





Chuck’s lovely garden (and he’s showing us his photographic skills too ^^)

But Chuck also added that as he is a poet himself, he’d like to have more time concentrating to his poetry. And creates his own books for friends, just like his friend John Martone who makes beautiful small books and give them to his friend. Chuck also gives us a glimpse on why he’s in Kasugai-shi, Aichi, Japan now “I started out in Japan as a poet and it was my love of poetry that brought me here first”

But then again Chuck also said that he wanted to do so many things too ; a photographer, a chef, and a travel writer! That’s just he is never bored, there is always something he wants to do or learn.

(Okay, I Hope
he would never intend to learn to teach babies and toddlers or I’ll be out of job soon! Lol. But seeing his many pictures in his FB, I can tell he has that talent on being a photographer and travel writer. Don’t know about the cooking yet though 😉 )

When I asked whether he believes that life begins at 40, he said that he isn’t one of the people living on that dogma. Instead he believes that Life begins when we start living it, and that’s what he has always been.

( What a saying! And again, I truly believe that he is that kind of person with all that he does)

4 . What do you find most difficult about the teaching profession, or What has been your most difficult class as a teacher?  

“Colleagues ^^ . Seriously….I don’t like having to deal with university politics at all, so that’s the most difficult thing for me. Teaching is a joy and if I could do that without having to deal with department issues and problems, then it would be the perfect job ^^”

( Oh well, I think we all could relate to that one J )

But as for the most difficult class Chuck explains , “All my classes are challenging but I’ve never had one that was difficult. The thing is….I am no different in class than I am out of class, and I always treat my students with respect. They understand that I am a person trying to do something good with them. I don’t have a lot of rules in my classroom, just two:

1) Let me know if you have some problem and can’t come to class for whatever the reason might be

2) Be nice to everyone and treat them the way you want to be treated”

And as I know how this man has done so many things , I asked him on how hard it is for him to change hats for all that he does and this is his answer to that :

“I’m a pretty social person.It’s just me being me. I realized a few years ago that people listen to me so I decided that I had better use that for good & that’s one of the reasons I got involved with Kiran Bir Sethi and Design For Change ( www.dfcworld.com) . I realized I could use whatever position I  have in ELT to be a force for good in this world and when I did that, great things started to happen everything came together; the teaching, the writing, the presenting … it all became the same thing. So it’s not a matter of changing hats, it’s natural in me, but I feel an obligation too as in using my position for spreading good”






Remarkable people: Chuck with Curtis Kelly,Mick Stout, Barbara Sakamoto and Kiran Bir Sethi


In the past 18 months, Chuck has promoted DFC movements in more than 12 countries. The latest now is starting small DFC movements in Iran and Iraq, with a couple of teachers He met at TESOL Arabia . He is working on Brunei now and Syria too.

But that’s not all of course ! He has more in stores.

“My mission, if I can say, is to change education for the better  one teacher, one classroom, one school at a time .And the only way to do that is to get people working and learning together in a community. That’s what iTDi  (http://tdinstitute.com/#) is: a community of teachers who all believe that we can learn from each other and change the world be being better teachers .And I’m hoping that a lot of teachers around the world will get involved as writers, investors, and supporters”

( Well Mr.Sandy. I’m sure many of us would love to get involved with it)

5 . What was the last book/movie you read/saw, and what have you seen/read way too many times?  

“The last book I read was Flow-Psychology Experience by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi and Smart Swarm-Understanding Colonies communicating. And my most recent movie is called ‘Happy’ (www.thehappymovie.com) . These days I’m really interested in happiness. The movie has a fantastic message which I want to spread .It sounds a little corny, but I really think that our most important job in life is to be happy and to make other people happy.” 

Chuck also added that for leisure time he likes reading, gardening and walking with Eclaire, his dog. Though he couldn’t decide which books or movies he’s watched too many as he has not time to do so.




As for my last question for this agitator for good, I asked what would he want people to remember him by if they hear his name and his answer is simply ,”A good listener ^^”

Well, I’ve learnt a lot thanks to Chuck Sandy and thanks to Brad Patterson too, for giving me a reason to finally pop some of the questions I’ve been meaning to ask to this Inspiring Man!



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