Tuesday, 17 April 2012

A Year in a Book


We are moving into a spanking new custom designed new building in a couple of weeks. Glossy it may be, but bigger it isn’t, and so my boss has had to purge all of our out of date and no longer used resources.

When I arrived at work tonight, the back of my classroom was lined with five or six green crates, all of which were stuffed with student books, teacher books and cassettes going free to a good home.  I’m normally a fairly ruthless purger myself, but there was something sad about this huge pile of past their sell- by- date publications. It might be because I’ve been working on the same sixty minute course book spread for over a week, and I can only imagine the hours of mental exertion and toil which go into producing an entire volume.

I have a pile of rescued books strewn across my table as I write, and if you look beyond the casual sexism, perms and a-line skirts of one of the really ancient ones, there are some pretty neat ideas in there. And, while I can see why Reward Intermediate 2002 has to go (it contains references to the Spice Girls, Oasis and Macaulay Culkin) I realise (too late) what an excellent book it is. Wouldn’t course books last a whole lot longer if they avoided such ephemeral cultural references? Or am I missing the money spinning point of the whole industry?

On a happy note – I rescued a dog eared Headway elementary (1993) from the pile: the first course book I ever used. It was through this book that I learned (along with my class) about the difference between the present simple and continuous and when to use an apostrophe with its.  Flicking through the tattered pages vividly evokes moments from my first year in teaching English:  my class of army officers, the bridge over the Tisza, purple plum trees and long hot afternoons by the pool. Happy days: a proustian madeleine worth finding space for on my own bookshelf.

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