Chris is an experienced EFL teacher and a very talented and creative writer. Read how Chris wrote 150 "Richard" stories for his students based on his own life. Look for another interview in the future once the "Richard" stories are published, along with lesson ideas and templates for teachers and students to write their own stories.
Can you start off by telling us where you teach?
I teach at the University of Maine (in the USA) where I’m Director of the Intensive English Institute.
How long have you been teaching?
Although I feel very youthful and zesty, I have been teaching for 37 years.
Can you describe a typical teaching day?
I get up early and write for an hour or so. I like to get in to work early, around 7:15 am, before anyone else and deal with the fiddly stuff of administration. I teach three classes, two called ‘Personal Writing’, where students work individually on their writing and I work with each student on their writing. The focus is on fluency. I take care of spelling and grammar and we work on organization, punctuation, etc. The class meets four times a week and students improve at a great rate as the classes are small. The other class I teach is called Special Topics, which is an elective class. I read stories that I have written based on a character, Richard, who is actually myself. We then read the stories together. They deal with the type of things that happen to all of us: first days, best friends, being a child, having siblings, awkward moments, trying new things, etc. Again the class meets four days a week. Both the Personal Writing and Special Topics classes are great fun to teach.
What do you do in your spare time to relax?
I write, read, walk my dog, cook, play the guitar, and I’m very active. I play squash, paddle canoes, sea-kayak, cycle, camp, hike, ski, snowboard, snowshoe … actually, I do a lot and am lucky enough to live in Maine where I can do all of these things.
You have written several books. Can you tell us about them?
Back in the 90s, when I lived in Japan I wrote and published several course books and skills based books with my friend, Steve Gershon. They did reasonably well but not as well as we hoped. In the last couple of years I have written two books, ‘50 Ways to be a Better Teacher’, and ’50 Ways to Be a Better Administrator’, both for Wayzgoose Press. Currently I’m working on my ‘Richard’ series.
Can you talk a bit about the Richard series?
I have 150 Richard stories, all of which are just over two pages long and are designed to be taught in a 50 minute period. They are all based on my life from my childhood, through to now. I have used them in class and they have been very popular among my students. Other teachers have used them, too. For teaching purposes I start with a schema raising activity, followed by a story, followed by discussion. I’ve used the stories at all levels and cover topics ranging from ‘First Day’ (at elementary school), to ‘Happiness’ (what is it? how do we attain it?).
I love the idea of writing short stories based on your own life. How long did it take you to write the Richard stories?
I have produced the 150 stories over the last two years. Now I am organizing them. The next phase will be to make them available for teachers and students through a blog and possibly a podcast. This is where the entrepreneurship comes in. ur article on teachepreneurship on the iTDi Blog http://itdi.pro/blog/2016/06/08/teacher-to-teacherpreneur gave me the idea, so I really have you to thank. Thanks.
I am glad that my blog post inspired you! Where can teachers and students purchase your books?
I hope to start the blog over the break and work with my friend and publisher Dorothy Zemach, to have the stories published by Wayzgoose Press http://wayzgoosepress.comin the next year. For now I would happily send stories to interested teachers or students for feedback. The UMaine Intensive English Institute Facebook page has a clip of me recently reading a story to a group of Mexican students.
Do you have any plans for a second book or other resources?
Yes, I plan to keep the Richard stories going and to also provide lesson ideas for how to use them and also a template for teachers and students to write their own.
Are you working on any other projects at the moment?
I am currently working on editing a four novel series featuring the character, ‘Wolf’. He is ex-military and a former Buddhist monk. His adventures occur in Key West, Thailand, Maine, and France. The first two will be published by Wayzgoose Press next year. My plan is to write! And make myself available online as a teacher and teacher trainer.
What skills did you gain from classroom teaching that have allowed you to excel as a teacherpreneur?
Classroom teaching has been a pleasure and a passion for me and through it I have learnt to connect and to hold an audience and to find ways to reach people in an authentic and empathetic way. This has allowed me to develop my story telling as well as my teaching and teacher training skills. All of this has informed my writing and it is this that I hope will enable me to excel as a teacherpreneur. Though really, the trail being blazed my teaching friends are what inspires me.
What have you had to do outside of your comfort zone as a teacherpreneur?
Being English, in that self-effacing English way, I find it hard to promote myself. I can push my ideas, but when it's something I've written and want to sell, even though I believe in what I do, I find that difficult. That definitely takes me out of my comfort zone. Though really, it shouldn't.
What advice would you give to teachers who are considering writing a book or resource?
Do it. Make your writing a practice and discipline. It has to be something you live and breathe first. Then stick at it. Reach out to others. Present. Write blog posts. Surround yourself with the energy of others who are doing similar things.
Is there anything that you would like to add?
A big thanks to all those wonderful teachers and students out there who have inspired me and many others to do what we do. Thanks Patrice.
Thank you Chris. I look forward to another interview once you have the Richard series published.
Interested in learning more about transitioning from a teacher to teacherpreneur but don’t know how to get started? Here are some ways:
1. Read more teacherpreneur interviews at www.teacherpreneur.ca/blog
2. Check out my Teacher to Teacherpreneur Toolkit at http://www.teacherpreneur.ca
3. If you are a TESL Ontario member, watch my free webinar at https://tutela.ca/GroupFiles?organicgroup=8594&cat=518
4. Sign up for my 4 week online course with iTDi.pro - Teacher to Teacherpreneur http://itdi.pro/itdihome/teacherpreneur.php
5. Download 10 Tips to Transition from Teacher to Teacherpreneur https://www.teacherpreneur.ca/p/10-tips-to-transition-from-teacher-to-teachepreneur
6. Connect with other teacherpreneurs by joining my LinkedIn group https://www.linkedin.com/groups/7060976
7. Set up a private coaching call with me https://www.teacherpreneur.ca/pages/book-a-coaching-session-with-me
Connect with me on social media. Teacherpreneurs must be on social media!
Who am I?
My name is Patrice Palmer, M.Ed., M.A., TESL and I reside in Canada. I have 20 years’ experience as an ESL Teacher, TESL Trainer, and Writer including 7 amazing years in Hong Kong. I have taught students from 8 to 80 years in a variety of programs such as ESP, EAP, Business English, and language programs for new immigrants in Canada. I'm now a teacherpreneur doing the things that I love such as writing courses, blogging, sharing teaching materials, instructional coaching for new teachers and coaching teacherpreneurs. Having a flexible schedule allows me to conduct short-term training around the world at any time of the year.
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