Teaching as author;Modern languages;Interview;Teresa Huntley

18th June 1999 at 01:00
Continuing our series on teachers who write textbooks

Teresa Huntley teaches French and Spanish at Oaklands School in York. Her publications include 'French to GCSE:Bonne Chance' (OUP); 'Essor' a sixth-form French course (OUP, co author); 'Ciao!' for GCSE students (Nelson, co-author); and 'Auto' a French course for 11 to 14-year-olds (Collins)

I was in my first teaching post at a secondary school in Kent when a former tutor, who was visiting a student on teaching practice, asked if I knew Nelson was looking for people to write Italian materials.

I'd trained in French and Italian, but there were no Italian materials at the time, and we were having to make do with books for adults. I had liked making my own resource materials at school. So I was interested in the job - which meant being based at York University for a year. They were really looking for teachers to be seconded, but there was no money in Kent, so when I was offered the job, I decided to leave the school.

Moving to York and working with Michael Buckby, director of the language teaching centre there, was exciting. We worked as a team of four, on the later stages of the Nelson GCSE course Ciao! After that, I was project leader, for three years at York, on the Collins key stage 3 French course Auto. I was working with writers who were school-based, and by the end of the project, I knew I wanted to be back in school myself. I loved the writing at the time, but it did begin to make me aware of how easy it is to forget what it's like in the day-to-day melee of the classroom.

I got a job at a school in York, and it was terrific being back in front of children. I remember coming home and saying I'd forgotten how much I enjoyed it. Now I teach and write - I prefer it like that. You can get other people to try things out for you, although there's nothing like trying it out yourself; being in the classroom makes you aware of the dynamics of a lesson. As a teacher, I need an awareness of life outside schools, and I find the contacts with publishers rejuvenating.

My most recent writing project was a sixth-form French course, Essor, for OUP. That was immensely challenging, because the sixth-form level of language is much more rigorous.

It's good as a linguist to get beyond buying train tickets - which you can feel a bit stuck with at GCSE - and to havethe opportunity to write at greater depth.

I'm interested now in producing flexible materials to supplement textbooks. I'm working on Thematique, for Stanley Thornes, an annual publication for sixth-form study of up-to-the-minute, photocopiable materials.

There's no such thing as the perfect textbook - and this hit me very hard when I started writing. You quickly realise the difference between writing materials for children you know, and for the countless, nameless students you don't.

My students are intrigued by using books I've published, and they ask me if it pays. It's nice when a cheque arrives, but you'd have to write the best-selling course book on the planet for it to really make a difference financially.

Teresa Huntley was talking to Diana Hinds

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