The eve of IATEFL

‘Twas the night before IATEFL, and all through the house…

Don’t worry, I’ll stop there!

As I write this, I am sat at the dining room table of my Air BnB host in Birmingham, Edgars. I got up at 4.30 this morning to be able to Park & Ride to work (in Oxford) to enable me to leave at 3.30pm to try and beat the Oxford and Birmingham traffic. I think it largely worked out, because I was outside the hotel where Edgars works just before 6pm, after some fairly traumatic city driving through Birmingham in the heaving rain. All good driving experience though!

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To IATEFL or not to IATEFL?

 

[Writing this post began in late March 2016]

Thanks to reminiscing apps like TimeHop and Facebook’s ‘memory’ feature, I know that it was about this time last year that I was really finding my feet in the wonderful online world of ELT. I was coming to the end of just over a year working as a Digital Product Manager at Routledge/Taylor & Francis (an academic publishing company) and was therefore tying up lots of loose ends with projects and handover documentation for my successor. I was spending a lot of my free time reading books about ELT in preparation for my CELTA, as well as working through the pre-course material I’d been sent from the Berlin School of English. (Posts about which can be found on my Berlingo blog here.) I had also discovered #ELTchat and was trying to participate every week in these fascinating Twitter chats about topics I often barely understood at the beginning. I was even brave enough to suggest my own topic once, and we ended up talking about how newbie teachers can best prepare themselves for life in the ELT classroom.

Needless to say, I was learning an awful lot about this brave new world I was about to enter.

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New ways of working for new ways of learning – MaWSIG conference, 20th February 2016

On a drizzly Saturday 20th February, I hopped on a rather painfully early train to London to attend the IATEFL Materials Writing Special Interest Group (MaWSIG) conference entitled ‘New ways of working for new ways of learning’. Some friends and colleagues teased me for undertaking work-related activities voluntarily on a Saturday, but I had booked and paid for the conference back when I was still a teacher in Berlin hoping to land a job back in publishing. Now I (somehow!) have said job in publishing, it’s even more relevant so I was really looking forward to a day of interesting talks about English Language Teaching (ELT) and publishing, as well as to meeting some of the many lovely people I have met online over the past year.

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How to survive a new publishing job

Unbelievably, I have now been at OUP for four weeks. I am slowly getting to grips with the 25 or so projects I’ll be managing (more about those in another post…to come soon I hope!) and everyone has been incredibly patient and kind with me as I find my feet. I love the company so far: the atmosphere is great, the workload seems manageable and, most importantly, the cafeteria is miles ahead of the cafe on the business park where I used to work!

But, onto more serious matters! This is now my third ‘proper’ publishing job, so I feel I’m just about qualified to share some of my tips on how to survive a new role in this wonderful industry. Hopefully the tips will be relevant across other industries too, and I’d love to hear yours!

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The new girl again: Week 1 at OUP

I’m writing this on the Sunday (24th January) after my first full week at work and already I can’t believe that five full days have passed.

I felt like a nervous schoolgirl on the day before term started last Sunday night: I polished my new shiny black ‘work shoes’, I packed my lunch things and I swapped all my things into my ‘work handbag’ (ie. more or less the same as my normal handbag, but with more space for my book for the commute!)

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Early morning in the OUP quad

The 5.45am alarm was pretty painful on Monday morning, but I didn’t want to miss the start of my Induction under any circumstances. As is my wont as a previous resident in Germany, I was embarrassingly early, so I went and checked out the amazingly cheap coffee bar and flicked through all the paperwork I’d been sent, to make sure I hadn’t forgotten anything.

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New job, new blog

Hello, world 🙂

It’s funny, I don’t really know where to start now…

Some of you will know a lot, and some of you will know very little about me, so I’ll start at the beginning – but I promise to try and keep it brief. (Don’t get used to it though, I’ve never been known for my brevity!)

So, my name is Rachel, I’m in my mid-20s and I live in England. I did a languages degree and I always wanted to work with education, but not in education. In order to get some inspiration about where this vague idea could take me, I attended a wonderful event called London Languages Show Live in October 2011 at the start of my final year of university, and met a wonderful lady called Andrea.

Andrea was the publisher on the Language Learning list at Routledge / Taylor and Francis academic publishing house, and she was kind enough to offer me work experience after I graduated. June 2012 raced around, and I graduated with a degree in German, Spanish and a bit of Italian, and then worked for 4 weeks at the London Olympics. No matter what happens in the the rest of my life, I think those four weeks will remain four of the most surreal weeks of my life.

I then began my internship at Routledge, initially just doing all the simple office admin tasks that Andrea’s team didn’t have time for. Two weeks turned into four, which due to some lucky circumstances then turned into six, and in the sixth week a job opening came up for a role on the team that worked on the same desk, or ‘pod’ as we called them, as Andrea’s team.

I then became the Editorial Assistant on the English Language and Linguistics list, working with an incredibly talented Editor called Nadia who taught me an endless amount about the publishing industry, as well as about myself. I helped publish over 80 books about English and linguistics and was able to communicate with some of the scholars I’d quoted at university, which geeky old me rather enjoyed! After 18 months in that fantastic job I got itchy feet and started applying for other publishing jobs at other companies where I could perhaps use my languages more.

I won’t go into details of that job-hunting process, except to mention one key interview which shaped the course of my career. I got an interview to be a Senior Editor on the Secondary Italy list within the English Language Teaching division at Oxford University Press, which would have been around March 2014. I didn’t get the job, but the lady who interviewed me was kind enough to send me some feedback, which essentially said they’d really liked me and my publishing experience, but that I needed more extensive English teaching experience to get a job in the English teaching division.

I was sad not to have got that job, and a few other language-related Editorial roles I applied for, but then a job came up within the recently created Digital Publishing and Development team at Routledge and I was encouraged to apply for it.

I got the job and became a Digital Product Manager, looking after Taylor and Francis’ main eBook site for universities and being in charge of 55,000 titles’ worth of content. I got to do a lot of cool things in that job, and meet a lot of fascinating publishing people. I also expanded my knowledge of the publishing industry on the digital side as I was given the responsibility for things like Open Access, MARC records and metadata tagging – which may or may not mean anything to you! What’s important, however, is that my love of the publishing industry grew stronger as I continued to meet more and more interesting people and expand my knowledge further and further.

However, six months into the role I started to get itchy feet. Some things about the job frustrated me and I couldn’t stop thinking about the more language-focused jobs I had come so close to getting.

Then I had a brainwave. I’d come very close to moving to Berlin after I graduated from Durham, but I didn’t due to a number of reasons and I was fine with that. But the desire to live in my favourite city was growing ever stronger and I knew if I didn’t give into my gut feeling soon, then I’d never go and regret it forever. I applied for some publishing roles and internships, but kept being rejected for my non-native Germanness.

So that’s how I ended up handing my notice in for my Digital Product Manager job in March 2015 and moving to Berlin (with a naughty trip to Kuala Lumpur to visit my best friend in between!) in April. I decided it was the perfect way to get the ‘Berlin thing’ out my system, as well as gaining the necessary teaching experience to end up back in publishing at some point.

I packed one (admittedly giant) suitcase, LOTS of books about English Language Teaching and moved into an apartment owned by the Berlin School of English to complete their four-week long CELTA course to become a qualified teacher of English to adults.

I passed the CELTA and somehow ended up being offered a job at that same school, which was a fantastic place for a new teacher to work due to all the support I received from colleagues and the Directors of Studies.

Living in Berlin was the real dream for me though; it was just lucky that teaching English was also helping me work towards the next step in my career at the same time. I loved it so much that I wanted to document it, so I started a blog in advance of going to share my experiences of becoming a teacher and getting to grips with an entirely new profession.

I’d tried the blogging thing before, but it had always come with some kind of promise to  myself: that I had to write about every single day of my year abroad when I lived in Germany and Spain for my third year of university, or when I wanted to document every adventure in my final year to record it for posterity. That inevitably ended in failure, so I decided my third attempt would be different: I would only write if I had something to say. And somehow, I amassed over 70 posts in just over a year on berlingo18.wordpress.com: a few posts in the build-up to moving abroad and preparing for the CELTA, and the majority of posts whilst I was away.

I’m a generally positive person, but my teaching experience wasn’t always smiles and roses, which I think you’ll have noticed if you read a few of my posts. I left my boyfriend of three and a half years behind in England in pursuit of my Berlin dream, which was pretty tough, and I worked some slightly insane hours on occasion. Nevertheless, I always enjoyed blogging; it functioned like a stress buster for me and I found my fingers just rattled across the keyboard until I was finished, and then I was really proud of myself for letting my thoughts out somehow, rather than just bottling them up. Hopefully some of the posts on my blog will also be useful to people considering doing something similar, whether in Berlin or elsewhere in the world.

So, as you have probably guessed from the title of this blog and its URL, I am now no longer a teacher. At the very end of November last year I noticed a job advert in one of the many publishing emails I’ve been receiving ever since I started working in the profession. I saw the words ‘ELT’ and ‘digital’ and thought I’d read some more. It turned out to fit my skills and qualifications quite well and, after one very last-minute and incredibly expensive trip back to England for an interview in Oxford (HUGE thanks to my parents for the financial help there!), I got the job!

Consequently, I no longer live in Berlin, and I am no longer a teacher. I moved (most of!) my stuff home in mid-January and I am now a Digital Project Manager in the Digital Delivery team of the English Language Teaching division of Oxford University Press. In this role, I am tasked with helping to make some of the digital resources that have helped make OUP so successful in the ELT market recently.

I am writing this blog post on Sunday the 24th January and have so far only worked five days of my new job, but after writing this blog post on my Berlingo blog last week and receiving so many lovely comments and tweets about how I should keep writing, I decided to do exactly that.

So there you have it: an explanation, as rambling and long as I promised at the start, to help explain the vague method behind my madness of starting a new blog. I still need to jazz it up; I need to decide what exactly I want to do with it, but so far, all I really care about is the fact that I made the decision to create a new one, and I still have an outlet for my scribblings. Some of the wonderful English teacher friends that I’ve made through the #ELT and #ELTchat communities mentioned that they’d be interested in understanding how ELT publishing works, so some of my focus will be there, but I added the ‘pondering’ so I can write about other things, too.

And, on that note, I have to say a HUGE thanks to Anthony Ash of @ashowski fame who questioned the fact that my blog was originally called ‘Publishing and Pontificating’ – I thought he was questioning my use of the word, so I checked it in a dictionary and it turns out its meaning is not what I first thought! I had always thought it was just a funny word for ‘thinking’ but it has a connotation of thinking ‘pompously or self-righteously’, and I’d like to think my writing is neither of those things, so thank you Anthony for alerting me to my linguistic faux pas in time for me to correct all the links and Tweets! That could have been embarrassing…! I suppose it just proves that every day is a school day, even for former English teachers 🙂

I’m sad to no longer be Berlingo, but as someone pointed out on my last post on Berlingo, that wouldn’t be right now I’m back in England. A new country, a new job, and a new start. Let’s see what happens!

Rachel, January 2016