The Teacher Empowering Textbook

At the moment I’m writing a statement of belief about ELT. I’m going to be using it for a project I’ve been working on that I can’t talk much about yet. This is a section that I thought was interesting, maybe controversial, and that I felt very ‘in the zone’ about when I was writing it. It’s part of a first draft, so I’d love to get some feedback if you have any ideas or thoughts.

If your first teaching experience was anything like mine, you weren’t ready at all. After a day of watching videos about the syllabus, I was thrown into the classroom with a textbook. In the first month of teaching, that textbook felt like a life raft that I was very happy to have. As time went on I started to have problems with the textbook. I felt like I was on rails and that not all of the activities were particularly well suited to my classes. My students were always happy when they finished their book work and got to do something else, I started to think ‘Why not skip the book work entirely?’


Textbooks are too often a surrogate for proper teacher training. A look at any popular ELT jobs website will find a smorgasbord of jobs that require little or no training or experience. ELT textbooks allow for this by being a life raft that can be thrown to these teachers, but they disempower teachers at the same time. They take away the autonomy, creativity, and connection with students that make English language teaching such a joy.
What would an empowering ELT textbook look like? It would be flexible. Teachers should be able to pick and choose activities for their classes without feeling compelled to use the rest of the book. They should be adaptable; every class is different, so the resources in a textbook shouldn’t only be usable in one way. Some types of activities* can be very time consuming to produce, the empowering ELT textbook would help to give time back to teachers. Finally, ELT textbooks should inspire teachers to try new things and teach in different ways.

*I love Task Based Learning, but whenever I plan a TBL class, I spend about 2 hours building a 20-30 minute activity.