eBooks are good: Self-publishing as professional development
How are your plans for professional development going for this year? Do you remember what you promised yourself you would do at the beginning of the year to keep improving as a teacher? Were you going to observe classes? Go to a conference? Lead workshops? I hope you have been able to keep some of your promises to yourself, if you even made them in the first place.
(Un)fortunately, I have been teaching English for over 20 years now. This means that it can be difficult to find new and interesting challenges to overcome. I’ve done the training courses, attended the workshops, given presentations. At times it can feel like I’ve heard it all before, been there, done that and got the hat.
Now that I teach privately I no longer have other teachers to help or motivate. There are no burning questions in the teachers’ room, nobody to share stories with or be shown different ways to do the same thing.
Teaching can be a lonely business.
It is up to me to find ways of challenging myself and preventing myself from falling into a rut. I believe we have to constantly learn and adapt, but it can be a challenge in itself to find reasons to do this.
Fortunately, there is this thing called the internet which allows me the opportunity to get together with other teachers from around the world and find opportunities that, in other circumstances, wouldn’t present themselves.
One such opportunity arrived with the Online Language Centre. Originally, I got my first shot at teaching online with this company, run by the insanely optimistic Rob Howard. This collaboration quickly led onto the amazingly inventive EFL Talks, which was nominated for ELTON.
And, most recently, it has led to Rob and I writing and self-publishing an ebook. Entitled ‘How to Make Study a Habit: Students’ Success Stories’ it came from discussions in a Facebook group called English Students which tries to facilitate discussion between teachers and students and between students themselves. One of conversations in that group was about how students can study more effectively. We gathered their ideas, and the ideas of other teachers, and organised them into categories. Rob and I then wrote a commentary for each of the sections to guide students to ways to study more efficiently.
We aren’t expecting to retire of the proceeds of this ebook. This was never the plan. Instead, it was an exercise in listening to students, to their needs and fears, and trying to put together a guide to help them. In doing so, I have had to revisit some of my own fossilised ideas about teaching and learning. I have forced myself to write about some of the things I have come to take for granted and try to present them to an audience that doesn’t necessarily share the same views that I have.
As well as these effects on my teaching, I have learned about the publishing business, made some great new contacts in the fast-growing area of self-publishing and experimented with ways of publicising my work.
In short, it has been one of the best forms of professional development that I have embarked on in the last few years and one I hope to repeat in the very near future.