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Dear teachers, you can write and publish!

Jeevan Karki

In my past nine years of association with ELT Choutari as a reviewer and editor, I reviewed and edited hundreds of manuscripts, and communicated with dozens of teachers to encourage them to write. Based on this experience, I argue that teachers are undoubtedly the right professionals to write and publish and every teacher (including schoolteachers) can do so.

ELT Choutari generally gives space to new and first-time authors, hence it encourages teachers and teacher educators to share their experiences through writing. While exploring the potential teachers to write and publish, I have come across different types of teachers. When I approach them, initially most of them show interest, gradually some of them drop with some excuses and a few of them try, nonetheless. Interestingly those who give it a try, majority of them produce publishable write-up when they are guided through a series of writing processes.

I would like to recall a case of a particular teacher here. He is a schoolteacher of English language having rich experiences of teaching English to speakers of other languages from a variety of backgrounds. He used to show interest in writing and publishing on ELT Choutari. Once I personally approached him and discussed the possible issues and areas to write following the call for articles. He was all set to go. The next week, when I followed up, he responded that he was going to start soon. Later, when I followed up, he said he had just begun writing something and would finish by the next week. The next week was the deadline but he didn’t respond. I told him that we could give a few days more if he wished to finish but he quit stating he would contribute in a future issue.

In the next issue, with multiple follow-ups and reinforcement, he submitted a write-up on teaching vocabulary. It was a well-organised write-up in about 2000 words. However, there were two major issues with it- structure and content. Structurally, it was heavily influenced by the format of research-based journal paper as he included even an abstract section for a blog piece. Talking about the contents, he went on giving an introduction to teaching vocabulary and explaining different methods and techniques of teaching vocabulary, which was followed by a few tips of his own. When I anlyased it, the majority of the content in it was merely the reproduction of what was already available. So, where is the voice of the author? He was only explaining and summarizing other’s ideas, which is readily available on Google.

Then I realised why teachers like him are anxious about writing and publication in Nepal. Instead of narrating his own real practices and experiences of teaching vocabulary, he went on explaining and summarizing others’ ideas, which can be challenging for first-time authors for two reasons. First, the ideas of others should be well reproduced and paraphrased to avoid plagiarism. Second, such a write-up is less likely to be published because it is commonly available on the Web. If I were him, I would compose the write-up on my first-hand experiences of trying out different methods and techniques. Sometimes teachers also devise their own techniques or strategies to fit in their context. Capturing the same experiences and practices would be fantastic content to write about as it would be easier to write one’s experiences, which would have enough space for the author’s voice.

Most of the Nepali English teachers are anxious about writing and publication and consider that it is not their cup of tea. One of the major reasons behind it is the lack of a culture of reflection and journaling. They have decades of teaching experience and they even teach their students how to write a good paragraph or an essay but paradoxically, they are unable to produce reflective writing themselves. They teach different language skills using multiple methods (including some local methods), but they rarely reflect upon their practices. Like, what’s working and what’s not working? What’s going good and what’s not? Which methods or strategies should I continue and which to drop? This culture of reflection and making notes would also develop writing habits and boost their confidence. However, they are simply following the teaching-learning principles and practices of their gurus, where there was rarely any scope of reflection and writing. Therefore, the present generation of teachers must break this tradition and should start the culture of reflection and documentation, which would enable them to write and publish with ease.

What to write and what not ?

There is a popular saying, which goes, “cut the coat according to the size of your cloth.” The same is true in the case of writing too. So rather than choosing a heavy topic or summarising others’ ideas, the easy way is to write what you do, see, face, or experience in your everyday classroom. Therefore, it is better to choose the issue or topic, in which you feel comfortable to write. In the above case, for example, the teacher could have focused on the challenges he was facing while teaching vocabulary and strategies he used to overcome the challenges. Or he could also have highlighted the methods and strategies, which were the best working in his context. Similarly, he could also have critically examined the popular teaching methods and strategies and their applicability in his context.

Writing issues and topics are right in your classroom, all you need is to reflect on your own practices and classroom phenomena. Please remember that classroom is a lab from where very powerful theories and practices have been developed. Therefore, the easy way of reflection is to ask questions like below to yourself:

  1. Why am I doing what am I doing?
  2. Why am I using this method instead of another?
  3. What if I try this over that?
  4. Is this method facilitating the learning of my students? If yes, why? If no, again why?
  5. Which methods and techniques do my students enjoy and learn from the most?
  6. Why don’t my students sometimes learn the way I want them to learn? What’s wrong with my process?
How to write?

First, we should remove the illusion that all writing and publication must be research-based and formal. Please remember, publishing papers in the journals could be your goal but initially, you can start with something as simple as a reflective narrative or a blog, which don’t necessarily require any research frame or literature review. Take this blog for instance. Is there any research frame or literature review in it? No, I’m just reflecting on my experiences, and adding my voice to it. So, you can also simply write about the good practices in your classroom, challenges, or striking moments in your professional life.

The simple way to write powerful writing is to choose simple but meaningful and relevant issues from our everyday practice and narrate it in a captivating way like the way you narrate something orally to someone. Choosing the right issue and narrating in the form of a story is one of the easiest ways of writing, which any teacher can do. Voice your ideas instead of summarizing others’ ideas. If your story is engaging and relevant, readers will read and enjoy it. I also started my writing journey with narrative reflections. For instance, see HERE.

Narrative reflections and blogs are the stepping stones in one’s writing journey. Our experiences serve as content in such writing and narration works as the writing style. And there is nothing right or wrong about the narration technique. Narrating is way easier than writing some formal academic composition. Reflective narrative and blogs are informal in styles, juicy to read and yet they can raise important issues. For instance here is one by Karna Rana , another here by Alban S. Holyoke, and here is another by Yashoda Bam. Once you are confident and comfortable on writing them, then you can gradually move towards other scholarly writing and research papers.

Concluding remarks

Writing can be as easy as narrating an interesting event to our friends and family. Therefore, choosing interesting practices, challenges, striking events, or observations from your classroom and putting them in the form of a story would produce a good write-up. Moreover, reading related literature also provides ideas and confidence in writing, so read a few blogs and guidelines HERE before starting your own. Write and show it to your colleague, who cares for writing. Hear his/her feedback, review, and finalise.

Dear teachers, writing and publication on the blogs and web magazine like ETL Choutari is not as hard as you think. Therefore, before wrapping up this piece, I would like to note the following:

  • Teachers have rich experiences and issues to write about. So why not to write?
  • Reading and writing are part of the teaching profession, so, let’s make it our professional practice.
  • If teachers don’t write, how can they expect their students to write?
  • Writing helps us to better understand and to be better understood.
  • You definitely have some good practices and success stories and if you document them, others will benefit, and you will develop a writing habit.

Now looking forward to reading your reflective narrative and blogs on future issues.

[Note: since you have come up to here reading it, please share your feeling, feedback, or any question related to it in the comment box below, which will encourage the author. Thank you!]

Can be cited as: Karki, J. (2021, April 20). Dear teachers, you can write and publish. [blog post]. Retrieved from: http://eltchoutari.com/2021/04/dear-teachers-you-can-write-and-publish/

The Author: Jeevan Karki is a freelance teacher trainer, researcher, and writer. He serves as an expert in designing materials and developing training for the literacy program at Room to Read. He has authored several op-eds and blogs including some national and international journal articles. He is also an editor of ELT Choutari and the Editor-in-Chief at MercoCreation.