I am writing today about something I STRONGLY feel. Not stepping on anyone’s toes in particular but forgive my own passion in advance. Today, I’d like to publicly advocate my detest with textbooks and in particular, the gross deficit of thought, creativity, respect for learners, price gouging, addiction and lack of reality that most, if not all, are stamped with.
I’ve been around the block.
I’ll say it again, I’ve been around the block. I’ve used most kinds of textbooks and I’ve even participated in the making of my fair share. I teach curriculum development courses and know a thing or two about learners and language, syllabi and silly byes. With this experience I think comes a certain need for leadership and especially cheerleading teachers to wean themselves away from bad practices (like the use of a textbook) if at all possible.
I’m not against a book.
I’ll say it again. I’m not against a book. Books are wonderful things. You can take ’em anywhere almost, you can get them wet, drop them down a rabbit hole, read them in the toilet or tram. They are a revelation and all teachers should use books in abundance. Teach a love of books and you’ve done more than just teach English. You’ve touched eternity.
No, I’m not against books – just textbooks. I don’t care which way you rub it, how you rub against it — at the end of the day, no teacher or learner salivates in remembrance of fond passages or fascinating facts from “their old textbook”. The textbook is forgotten. Why? Because no matter how you sugar coat it – they aren’t REAL, they aren’t created by “authors” in love with their work (I’m ready for the debate on this – let’s go!!!). They are mere pay as you go, proverbial pinpoints on a map to nowhere….. They don’t touch the soul, they don’t shine nor may I say – get to the heart of what language learning is, “connecting like to like”.
I’ll skip over the fact that they horribly de-train teachers and create dependence (not to mention the dependence of learners too). That’s another subject.
So where to now?
Well, in my courses I always emphasize how the curriculum should be built upon reality. The student’s reality. Best if it comes from the student – their choice of books, interests etc…. I also mention how if I had my druthers, I’d teach any level of learner by using and designing materials around “The Guinness Book of World Records”. As wonderful a text as they come. See the attached article below for a nice description of how it can be used as a teaching material. Despite the price, it could be used for the whole of a student’s English learning and is also available FREE online. Teachers can also see some materials HERE.
Kieran Egan’s recent plenary about engaging the imaginative powers of students got me again thinking about this “amazing ” book. (see his Educated Mind – a seminal and must book for educators). He mentions it and the puzzling fact that so little attention in TESOL is devoted to the passion of young learners to “collect” and piece together the world through an interest in the esoteric and extreme. Why hasn’t this book — so well known and with such intrinsic motivation, been used as an authentic text “book”? I’m putting out a call to arms and hoping against hope that someone will step up and help me get a leveled syllabus created. It would sell like hotcakes, I’m more than sure.
Not only could you teach every possible language element and function – you could also get students participating in their own dreams and passions. You could inspire – which is the end of all teaching and all books (and which our English textbooks NEVER do). I know its power. You see, I set several Guinness World records and had the privilege of visiting schools and speaking with students about my record. I even made a worksheet from one of the magazine articles, which I used with students! I saw how student’s eyes lit up, how engaged they were – all by this magical notion of “the possible”. Why would we ever let our students sleep in a textbook’s soft keep – knowing the dreams and revelry possible in the magical Guinness Book of World Records???????
Think about all I’ve said. I’m not asking for any textbook burning parties nor making any fantastic “dogme” / nazi nor manifesto like statements. But I’d just like earnest, hard working, passionate educators to think more, think more about how we might be subversive and upend the use of the textbook in our schools – quietly, like the best of all revolutions. Let’s set a record!