An Interview with Chuck Sandy (Part 2)

Chuck Sandy at KOTESOL 2015

Chuck Sandy presenting at KOTESOL 2015

For the second part of my interview I wanted to talk to Chuck Sandy about ITDI, the teacher development organisation he helped found and is a spokesperson for. I won’t say too much here because I think Chuck says it much better than I could:


What would you say if you had to explain what makes it special to someone who hadn’t heard of it?

First of all it’s a really horizontal organization. There are no famous people involved: nobody is more famous than anybody else. We have a set of principles. There are four founders. Barbara Sakamoto, myself, Steven Herder and Scott Thornbury. We worked together on some principles that we all agree on and one of them is that every teacher matters. if you’re working as a teacher, it doesn’t matter where you’re from, what your language background is or where you’ve been trained. A teacher from a village high school in Indonesia is just as important as Scott Thornbury or Chuck Sandy. Every teacher can become better. Everybody gets better by working together. That’s one thing.

Another thing is that we have a great community. We believe that teachers are called to be leaders and that everybody can be one. We have got a lot of great stories about a teacher form a village in Indonesia, for example, who has never given a presentation or written a blog post and they say “Can I…” and we say “Of course you can!” and they start doing it and now they’re presenting at international conferences and people want to come and see her presentation because she’s great.

On the one hand our mission is to empower teachers and to reach out, not primarily, to teachers who don’t have an opportunity for professional development. It’s not just in the developing world, it’s working class people. By working class I mean people, often women, who are teaching. They need to make money and get training. They’ve got kids at home and they can’t get to conferences or go to courses. They can’t leave their family for a month to do a CELTA or whatever.

I thought it was interesting [in your talk] this morning you were showing pictures of teachers around the world. One of the pictures was a teacher in Syria and I thought ‘whoah, that put’s it into perspective’ when I’m stressed because of my schedule or work environment or something like that.

I had another picture I could have used of that same picture when this school was bombed and I don’t know how many students they lost. He moved his whole school – it was a school he owned – and he took it to a refugee center and was teaching in a basement. It’s not like there is a Syria ELT conference going on right now, you know? We work a lot with teachers in places like Iraq or Morroco. And it’s not just a matter of conflict, there is no money or resources for these teachers and yet they’re hungry for professional development. We wanted to create a structure online that’s not flashy so that you can access ITDI courses from a 90’s Windows computer. We believe that as education gets better, the world gets better. That’s what’s special about ITDI!

I had all these questions written down and you’ve answered all of them! What’s your big goal for ITDI for the next few years?

This is going to sound really crass, but we want to convince people who can pay for things to pay for things, so we can give more stuff away to people who can’t. We now give 70% or more of our stuff away. We have a scholarship form and anyone who asks can get one. One of the things we run are called advanced skills courses by people like Penny Ur, Luke Meddings or Scott Thornbury and we offer them for $59, or you can do an advanced course for $89. The question we’re trying to figure out is why aren’t people who have a lot of ability to pay for this paying for it. How can we get them to pay? How can we convince people to give something back.

If you, for example, are doing a course with ITDI and you pay $89 for it, we’re able to give a scholarship to a guy in Syria who doesn’t have $89. We would like to be as philanthropic as we can be, but we do have operating costs. ITDI is run out of Barbara Hoskins Skatamoto and my pocket a lot of times. We’ve just launched a certificate course. We have two courses, one is just a teacher training 120 hour course. And the other is called a ‘language development program’ for people who are teaching but who would like to work on their language skills at the same time. We’re hoping to sell more of that stuff to people who can pay. We’re very bad at selling stuff, but we’re really good at giving stuff away.

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