Tuesday 8 June 2010

Writing English teaching materials

My job is like being liquid paper that keeps cracking and crumbling off. The more you recoat it, the more rough it becomes and you feel like just getting a clean piece of paper and writing the whole thing again from scratch. As many of you know, I write English teaching materials for a living. I haven't spoken much about it here because it's what consumes my day; it's what I want to escape.

Yes, my job sounds wonderful. *cringe* Even I think I'm lucky most of the time. *cringe again* I get to work the hours I want (well not really because when I'm working for the company in the UK, I need to be at my computer 9-5 so that we can communicate in real time), I can take holidays whenever I want because I'm my own boss and I dictate when I work and what jobs I want to take (well not really because remember that dry month? The month where I didn't get commissioned any work and I spent all my savings on the bills? Yes, that means I can't afford a holiday. It also means I can't be choosey about jobs. I take what I can get.), I get to make a living writing, it's what I love (well not really, writing vocabulary and grammar exercises is not what I love. There are only so many different ways one can teach them, and the Teacher's Books are the worst, monotonous as hell: "Tell the students to open their books at page 10. Ask them what they can see in the pictures (a bear and an elaphant). Ask them if they can remember what they are called in English ..." You get the drift?) Yes, English language teachers are lazy in this country. They have to have everything spelled out. I sometimes wonder why we don't include something like this: "Before students finish the exercise, take the time to go to the toilet to relieve yourself of all the coffee you drank before class."

When I tell people in Australia that I’m a writer/editor, they automatically think magazine, newspaper, fiction. Whoah! I wish. Then, I have to explain that there is no possibility whatsoever of landing a writing/editing position as such in Greece, unless I can fluently read and write Greek. They then ask me how I’m doing my job now if I can’t fluently read and write Greek. And without trying to sound condescending I emphasize the words Ennnglish Lannnguage Teeeaching, and wonder if I should offer them a free tutorial.

Anyhoo, back to the drawing board for me today (well writing board). Today I'm writing a ... drum roll ... Teacher's Book (Ugh), for a blah blah book. I won't say for what book or for what company because I actually have to sign a confidentiality agreement. Isn't that weird? I guess they don't want other companies stealing ideas. Hahahaha ... as I said earlier, there are only so many ways one can teach English ...

So, the things that I LIKE about my job (time to get positive here) is that I don't have anyone looking over my shoulder when I'm working. I can nip over to your blogs every 30 minutes or so (Ok, so I lied, more like every 5), and relieve my boredom. AND I also have my name on SOMETHING (see photo). I used to get a little kick outta seeing my name on a cover of an ELT book. Now I don't even bat an eyelid. I want my name on MY OWN book. I want my novels to be published. I want to never write another teacher's book again ... Ah, dreams ... please come true ...

So what do YOU do? What do you LIKE and DISLIKE about your job?


  1. Do you do that, too? Nip across to check out other people's blogs when you're bored?

    What did we do in the days before email and blogging?

    We used the telephone more I imagine, and we used to write and read letters.

  2. Getting paid to write at all does seem wonderful, but I'm sure it's not as glamorous as it sounds.

  3. I am retired so have no job, when I did work I had a vatiety of jobs.When I was 16 I worked in a record shop.....my dream job could listen to music all day.Had all the new releases when they first came into the shops , what joy, Later on in life I worked as a warden in an elderly person's dwelling which I found most rewarding, Helping the aged and providing entertainment nights for them was great fun, The we moved to the South coast of England and didn't work, When my husband passed away four years later I moved to N.Ireland but kept being vandalised so sold up and went to Spain closeby to my youngest son,
    I had a good life, travelled to America, then I moved back to the UK, made another trip to the States this time California was very impressed. I love my poetry and music and family which to me is all I want.

    Have a lovely day.

  4. I work as a bilingual journalist/translator...

    No, I don't do reports about fun things in exotic places.

    No, I don't translate poetry or novels (I wish).

    The company I work for does corporate communications. Think of a big name global company and chances are my company does (or got tapped and then turned down) their french intranet site, or does the Eng site of big french companies.

    Yes that means I spend 7.5hours in an office every week day translating stuff that no one cares about.

    On the bright side I get to play with words on a computer and listen to music all day long, dress however I want, come in at 11am (provided I pull my hours), and... and... get paid. That's the main reason I do it.

    I reckon we do what we have to do to secure the basics. : j

  5. Well, at least it pays the bills! It would be nice to be able to have that freedom, but I know for a fact I couldn't write for someone else for a living. I'm too me. ;-)

    And what do I do? I manage! I boss people around all day! It's fun and entertaining! Oh, it's not near that exciting, but that's what I do.


  6. I guess writing and teaching always sounds fun and creative, but we never see the hard work that goes into it.

  7. I love to write, but being TOLD what to write sucks all the fun out, doesn't it?

    I'm an administrative assistant to a financial advisor. It's just the boss and me so I get the phones and all the paperwork duties.

    I LOVE our clients. They are the nicest bunch of people ever. I also love the way my boss does business. He's not the stuffy suit-and-tie investment guy who can't remember your name or talks over your head with jargon and nonsense.

    What I don't love is the monotony of it sometimes. I've been opening a lot of 529 accounts lately. Like 6 to 8 at once. Each account has roughly 13 pages of paperwork. (doing the math?)

  8. I thought your job sounded cool until I read your views on it. I used to be a drug rep. The benefits were, like you said, no one was looking over my shoulder . . . most of the time. Except for when my manager (or some like individual) came on territory with me. I hated the long drives (I covered a large rural territory). It meant I'd have to spend most of my evenings catching up on paper work. And who has time for kids, reading, or writing when you work 45 + hours a week?

    Nope, I don't miss it one bit. :D

  9. I work as an editor and writer but the pay is horrible so it's not that wonderful either. Yet I love the work, just not the pay! I made more working at the Costco food court. Is there really such a thing as the perfect job?

  10. I can bet those books would get tedious after awhile... but hey, it's a living, right? Kudos to you for working away at it, I'm not sure I'd be able to. I'm horribly inconstant about some things. *sigh*
    Although, I would get a bit of a thrill seeing my name on the cover of a(ny) book. :)

  11. I think what you do is cool. I think every job gets routine and mundane at times, but you're creating something that matters to someone, and your name is on it-bonus.

  12. I teach high school English and writing, and I know a lot of young teachers who rely upon quality teaching materials - you rock! :-)

  13. Wow, you have a great job! And Greece is such a beautiful place to live.

    Thanks for stopping by my blog. I'm following yours :)

  14. Ah, the day job. While it pays the bills and I quite like it, what I wouldn't give to stay home and write full time.

  15. I do website design... I love the creativity of it, making the graphics and layout. What I hate is when a client doesn't take my advice, which is pretty often. I had one project a few years ago that was so bad I wanted to take my name off it so no one would know I did it.... all because the client insisted on things that ruined the whole project!

  16. I know how you feel (but I have to say that, personally, writing ELT books sounds fun! Bet it wouldn't be after you've done a few, though). It's really hard to be happy about a job, however many cool things there are about it, when it's not the one you're dreaming of!

    I've half-convinced myself that there are many jobs I could enjoy, and that as long as I was able to pay rent and bills and such, I'd be happy with any job - but really, I can't help telling myself that the Best Thing Ever would be to get my books published!

  17. How did I not KNOW this!? Maybe I have something you've written (probably not since most of my teaching materials come from a french publication) but the funniest part is that the schools I work for are too cheap to order workbooks for my students so I create most of my worksheets, games, tests and excercises for my classes myself on the computer, using graphics I find here and there. This is getting kind of weird Jess.

  18. My first thought upon seeing that picture was wondering why any teacher would need a guide to Cinderella. Because, well, it's Cinderella.

    What takes up my time is my family. Which is good. I love them, and I'm so glad I get to be with them 24/7.

    But, on the negative side...I'm with them 24/7. :)

  19. Writing as work and working in your own schedule sound amazing, but after having written my own Chemistry reference book, I know it's not that glamorous. I'm a student, so what I dislike most are the difficult weeks where I don't have a single bit of free time. On the up side, there are also easy weeks. :)

  20. I'm sort of envious! I'm on the blog every 5 minutes and it too is because I'm bored out of my mind but for a more lame job... but it's a job and it's what pays the bills.

    I like to see your name on disney princess stuff... that's cool!! Hehe!

  21. Doing something writing-related isn't the same. I hope it gets you some connections. It worked for Marsha Moore/Talli Roland.

    I'm a substitute teachers, so I'm sure I don't need to list the negatives. There are few positives. Especially at today's job. An hour ago, I girl pushed a boy off the desk and he landed on his face.

  22. --> "And without trying to sound condescending I emphasize the words Ennnglish Lannnguage Teeeaching"

    Ha!-Ha! :o)
    Very nicely said, AlliAllo.
    Er... "very nicely WRITTEN", I meant to say... uhm... I mean, I meant to WRITE.

    ~ "Lonesome Dogg" McD-Fens

  23. I'm a stay-at-home mom with six kids. I homeschool the four older...my youngest are 2 and under.

    It is a huge commitment, especially with my middle schooler, but its a lot of fun also. I had a tea party with them for lunch yesterday because we are studying England right now.

    I like that I can write during the day. They do independent work, have break times, and work on projects so there are hours here and there to steal for writing.

    I dislike that I get sidetracked by distractions, glue mishaps, and sibling quarrels. I also feel lacking in the glamour area...but thats okay. I get my kicks through my characters.

    Overall I feel supremely blessed.

  24. At the risk of sounding trite, I guess there is the good and the bad in every job.
    I would never be able to do your job - just not disciplined enough for it. Will end up doing nothing all day long and wonder where the day went. Would rather wait for someone to send me stuff to review as I am doing now!!!

  25. I like that I can write during the day. They do independent work, have break times, and work on projects so there are hours here and there to steal for writing.

  26. I like the creativity and artistic opportunities, but it can get monotonous. And it's tough to work on a computer all day and then want to stare at it at night as well.

  27. hi miss jessica. i dont have a for real job. im doing pet sitting mostly for dogs at our house for this summer. its a neat job cause you get paid for playing with the dogs and giving them food and water. the not so fun part is you gotta clean up a lot of poop. ...hugs from lenny

  28. what i like about my job is that it lets me work from home

    what i don't like about my job is that it's, you know, a job...

  29. Haha, I can see why you think it's a bit blah sometimes! I'm a student, so I'm pretty much content, except for being poor:)

  30. I taught high school English for many years. Beginning teachers need those guides you write because they haven't yet learned there are only so many ways to teach English grammar. So, write on, girl!

    I gave you and others a shout-out on my blog.

  31. As a teacher, I have to admit I never use the manuals or guides. Ever. Sorry! But I won't tell anyone :)

    The best part of my job is the kids. Love them!! The worst part is the time it takes. I average at least 50 hours a week on the job - last week was well over 60. I'm exhausted all the time. *sigh*

  32. My best--almost perfect--job was when I managed a touring theatrical road company in the 80s. Lots of travel and opportunity for fun, and the work was interesting and fun.
    Right now unemployed and if I could get a good paycheck just doing what I'm doing I'd love it, but I really need an interesting job.

    Tossing It Out

  33. Aaaah- how interesting to hear from someone who writes books like the ones I teach from. You said that the teachers have to have everything spelled out for them. I couln't agree more; we are just as bad as the students we complain about. Probably worse.

  34. Hey its thanks to good folks like yourself that I now manage to write a 300 fantasy MS in english, so, way to go Allo!

    I know sometimes our jobs suck, I understand you 100%, I used to be a controller in Brasil, but then got married and changed lands(switzerland).
    Now Im facing the same problem: Writting a book in german could be much easier then in english, but then again, my german sucks...oh well!
    Glad to know I´m not alone on this!

  35. ooops! The fourth link mess-up. I'm posting in a few days and will include the oopsies and corrections at the beginning of the post. Thanks for stopping by!!!


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