To PhD’s-I Know Something You Don’t Know…

What originally started out as a plan to create a text just for my students, evolved into a concept for a work that can hopefully also help others.  After reading message board after message board and having discussions with many other teachers that teach the same course that I do, I found that they all have the same problem, there isn’t one textbook that can do it all.

Perhaps it is some sort of joke that the three largest book publishers of my course play, knowing that if one were to include everything, then everyone else’s ship would sink (I am convinced that Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon all play a similar game). Maybe there is some unwritten professional, good-old-boys club rule. Of the three big publishers, I would say that High School teachers prefer to use only three of the seven texts that are written.

As a high school teacher, I am looking for a book that has good readability for my students, a plethora of vocabulary terms, engaging images, and perhaps good supplemental materials.  The text that I am creating will have three of those four to start, as supplemental materials I plan to include on my text’s website in the form of lesson plans and perhaps self-tests so that kids can find out their weak areas.

I realize that when my text is ready to go, that I can not take it to a big publisher and expect them to scoop it up. I do not have the credentials, nor did I go through the two-thousand hoops that someone probably must go through just to get their book on store shelves. Aside from other high school teachers and a few other professors that I hope will proof it for free, It was clear from the beginning that I would have to do this all myself.

While I do have my master’s degree in the subject area and a good number of teaching years experience, I realize that publishers and teachers alike will have their hesitations. After all, I am not an academic that is driving the field of geography and I do not conduct research. I understand all of the reasons why I would not be chosen to have a book published. Would a parent or school board want a text that was created from a high school teacher, who has not gone through a PhD program? Frankly, I am not sure if there is an answer to that just yet. I don’t think a lot of school boards, principals, department chairs, or teacher have ever been confronted with that question. While I don’t doubt my ability to be able to complete a PhD in my field even for one second, the fact of the matter is, I don’t have time or necessity to complete one.

Then why do I think that I can create this? What credentials do I have?  Actually, I have more than I originally thought. In the world of the internet and with some amazing professional journals and resources already at my fingertips, I already have access to all of the information (not to mention seven separate textbook examples).  After a healthy number of years, I am also privy to something that the big PhD’s are not, I know what I want my kids to learn, and how they learn. You see, I know that every time my students fall onto a page of one of their text books that appears to be an extra enriching story that is supposed to help close the gap between the curriculum and real world, that my kids won’t read it. I know that when there is a page that has a different background color than the others, some of my kids think that it is “optional.” I know that kids hate reading captions to amazing pictures. I know that if you give supplemental reading worksheets for the textbook, that kids will only look for the answers, and perhaps worse yet, copy it from a friend having not read the textbook at all.  It is shocking what Twitter and Facebook student groups will do these days.  These things are frustrating for a teacher, but they can also help us understand how kids learn and how I want them to read the text that I am creating.

Story: At a teaching conference that I was just at, I roomed with a young PhD that teaches at a large SEC school. She confided that she is frustrated that her students just did not read and that she did not understand why.  Her answer was to pick a different book, that the first was just simply not engaging enough. Perhaps this is the answer, but something tells me that the problem isn’t that the books are boring, it is that reading has become a time-suck chore.

It is my hope that my illustrated text will have dialogue that makes the reading more engaging and where the illustrations and pictures are part of the text, therefore eliminating captions that go unread. I still see value in students being able to read a traditional piece of writing (i.e. academic journal article) and be able to annotate it. It is my goal to supplement my text with other key pieces of writing and news pieces to enrich the content, something that I do already.

In the end, people might not choose to buy the text because I don’t have a title in front of my name.  But, I do know what teenagers would prefer to read, and if my words and images jump off the page enough, something tells me that they might want to pick it up.

In the meantime, happy writing.

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