Wednesday, 16 November 2016

A Textbook FAQ: Catholic Christianity for Edexcel [OUP]

I had a book launch at Westminster Cathedral Hall on Wednesday 16th November 2016. Here was my short talk about the book:

I’d like to do a little FAQ before I head into my thank yous..

How did you end up writing a textbook?

I organised something called The London RE Hub in 2015 and lead a session on the Catholic Eucharist with a Norbertine called Brother Pius. Ant Towey then pops up… “I’ve got a PhD in this and…”. During the day he then must have been chatting to our main sponsor, Oxford University Press as a few weeks later we all had dinner and agreed to write a textbook.

Did you write it all yourself?

No - thankfully not! We had a wonderful author team, some of whom are here tonight. Paul Rowan, Cathy Hobday and Cavan Wood. I did write just over half of it though!

How did you find the time as a full-time teacher?

I don’t know. Essentially writing it as my first child was born and all that went with it was tough at times. Thankfully I was not alone as Ant became a dad to Bethany in the July, Tommy came long in the October. Our conversations were about both babies and textbooks. 

Did you already know all this stuff?

No - and thank you to Philip Robinson for making corrections and not pointing out my heresys too often. If you want your subject knowledge and ability to share that subject knowledge in an accessible and student friendly way pushed to the limits, write a text book. I have learnt so much over the last 18 months.

What was it like?

Incredibly tough. For those who didn’t know, Edexcel was not accredited until the middle of June. Somehow, in no small thanks to Julia Naughton, and the team at OUP, the book went to the printers at the start of August. This meant I had been writing a textbook for an unaccredited spec for nearly a year. I’d like to thank Ant, Philip and Peter Ward for their words of counsel during this period. I also totally underestimated the technical side of writing a GCSE textbook with focus on exam criteria.

The wider RE community who have been under incredible stress and pressure with the exam reforms came to me for help and advice. There was a great expectation that as a textbook writer you had all the inside info from the exam boards - I wish! It has been great working with so many RE teachers and I hope the spirit of collaboration will continue going forward.

Would I write another?

I have actually completed a Judaism Key Stage 3 textbook which was a real joy as I had complete freedom on the content - available May 2017 for those interested!

There was a great sense of accomplishment when I held the textbook in my hands for the first time, and it has been a real privilege delivering inset and helping other teachers prepare for teaching the GCSE. At a time when lots of teachers are writing books about pedagogy, planning, leadership and so on, I can’t imagine better professional affirmation than taking out a set of textbooks with your class thinking, “I wrote that” - on top of the fact, thousands of other students are also using it on daily basis.

Do schools even use textbooks anymore?

Michael Gove, for all his failures, has ensured far greater academic rigour into the new GCSEs. This, I believe, is a positive challenge for teachers. A PowerPoint with a few pictures and bullet points is no longer enough, students need to be reading. Our OUP book also has an online version which our students love. There is a great need for high quality textbooks - and am I proud to have been able to be part of the team who have delivered one such book.

My Thank Yous

Lois and Minh-Ha from OUP have been real pleasure to work with. The whole team from OUP have been amazing and I really think our book looks stunning. Julie Naughton who worked so hard bringing the project together, and all those who helped with the editing, reading, suggestions… including Andy McMilan, and Ant and Philip. You may have worked out, they can’t say no to anyone! 

Thanks to Pauline my inspirational head of department at Sacred Heart of Mary in Upminster and all the team from the school who supported my writing. Thanks to my new team at St Bonaventure’s in Forest Gate who have welcomed “the bloke who wrote the textbook” into the school community.

Thank to my family and friends, many who have come along here tonight to join the celebrations. It my mum who kept me informed of the delays to the book as she kept getting her updates from her Amazon pre-order!

Last, but certainly not least, I have to thank my wife Emily and my son Tommy. There were lots of late nights, and sitting Tommy on the table in his bouncer chair, as I was writing. Hopefully they both think it’s been worth it.

Thanks for coming, thanks for listening.

Listen to all the presentations <here>
Forward to 9min 30secs to hear mine

No comments:

Post a Comment