How can any sane teacher argue against that? It’s not about the book, it’s about how the book can complement the learning, how it helps the teacher plan the programme. The book is a sort of skeleton around and over which teacher and students add meaningful layers. And that’s why, even though I use the same textbook in many different classes, the lessons are never the same.
Yet having said that, not every book makes a good skeleton. Skeletons should be strong, healthy and resistant. They should keep the whole standing. They should provide the springboard to successful learning.
When I started in my current job five years ago, I had nobody to tell me what materials to use, how to plan my lessons or where exactly I should take my students. I started off, tried and tested, stumbled, fell, had a cry or two, got up again, refused to give up until one day I felt it wasn’t bad at all. I tried various textbooks and finally, by the end of the second year, made up my mind about which course books to use and I was really happy with the material. So were my students! When I asked them at the end of book 1, if we should continue with the same series, the answer was an overwhelming yes. So why change, right?!
However, this summer, a nagging thought started bothering me. The dialogue between the nagging thing and me went something like that,
“So, same old, same old…”
“Well, yeah, I love the book. And so do the students.”
“Comfortable choice! Starting to rest on our laurels, are we?”
“Not at all! But why change when it works so well?”
“Of course, of course, that’s what they all say! Why change when you’re SO comfortable? Why try something new? Why invent? Why be original? Why bother?”
“No! I just don’t see the point in changing it right now. And what’s more, the book’s fun, it’s easy to use, it’s incredibly well structured, it’s logical!”
” … till moss starts to grow … Soon you’ll be like some rusty and tired teacher simply opening the book and giving a yawn or two.”
And I changed. I changed the book. I asked for several sample copies from various publishers. I browsed, I studied them, I looked at the images, at the layout, at the summary. After, what I thought was a thorough analysis, I ordered the books and started teaching my new classes with the new books.
And I am extremely unhappy! I have now used these books for a whole semester and my verdict is – they make my life hell. When I was browsing them, they seemed to make perfect sense to me. They seemed to be interesting and well structured enough. Yet working with them in real classroom is a pain in the neck. So I guess it is almost impossible to know if a book is great or not unless we have given it a good try.
So here I am with my two classes and 36 brand new books. I don’t dare to change them as students have paid for their material. I simply look forward to the moment most of the book has been covered and I can order a new set of good old course books.
When I told this story to one of my colleagues, her instant reaction was, “That’s why I don’t use course books!” I almost stuttered when I answered because that was not the point of my story at all! I like course books! And a good course book makes everybody’s life easier! A good course book is a help for students and for the teacher!
What about you? Do you use course books? Who chooses them? Are you happy with your (their?) choice?