• Editorial



    Where have all the writers gone?


    Malcolm Venter


    Although editing and compiling Teaching English Today is always an interesting and challenging task, there is one thing that always bugs and frustrates me. And that is the reluctance of teachers and lecturers to write for a publication such as this.

    In this issue, we were fortunate to have submissions from a number of authors – for which we are grateful; but we need more.

    This situation contrasts sharply with publications one reads from many overseas countries. I envy an Australian friend of mine, Debra Byrdon, who edits a number of journals, including one for principals and one for more general consumption.  Each issue is jam-packed with article submitted by teachers, principals and academics. As for South Africa, when I page through old copies of CRUX, a journal for English teachers which was available for many years and was much appreciated by English teachers, I see such useful articles published by teachers and academics.

    Where have all the writers gone?

    Teachers will say that the don’t have the time. No one would dispute (certainly not myself – I know, I’ve been there) that teachers are very busy people, that they are overwhelmed by curriculum changes, admin loads, extra-murals, marking, marking, marking, and so on. But surely some of those who have been doing extra studies must have ideas gleaned there which they could share with others – possibly even just editing an interesting assignment? Surely teachers are not so busy that they can’t send in even a paragraph – e.g. a teaching tip; something they liked / disliked about the new curriculum; a humorous incident which happened in class? Or to respond – however briefly– to previous articles in TET?

    Or is it that our younger generation is so used to blogging – where they can post a two-to-three-line response?  If so, TET  allows for just that.

    Or is it that our teachers don’t believe that they can write? Firstly, I don’t believe that all feel that. Secondly, even if so, remember that we are there to edit if you feel that you are not a great writer.  Or maybe you could consider writing with someone else; or ask someone to read your offering and make suggestions for improvement. Or maybe a whole staff / subject department or phase could submit something.

    And what about our lecturers and academics – especially those who train English teachers?  One sees them contributing to ‘approved’ (or ‘peer-reviewed’) publications, but not to many others. Does this mean that they are only interested in pursuing their academic careers by earning points and kudos by writing for such publications only?  There are, of cause exceptions here, such as the prolific (and usually controversial) Professor Jonathan Jansen.

    The result of all of this is that the ‘editor’ becomes much more than an editor – more of a writer, compiler, borrower and beggar.

    Do teachers need incentives? Well, we offer  up to R400 per article, while the English Academy is contemplating a prize for the best article on teaching English written by a classroom teacher. Let’s hope that more will take advantage of these incentives; but, in the end, the satisfaction of having seen one’s work in print and the thought that one may have contributed even a little to making teachers more informed and competent should serve as its own reward.

    As Obama so famously said, ‘Yes, we can’. Yes, you can write. Let your fingers do the tapping on the computer keyboards!

    Categories: Volume 3