Mark Bartholomew is the Director and Co-Founder at ReadListenLearn Ltd. Find out why Mark believes that reading is the most important activity in developing language skills and why he partnered with Simon Dalton to develop their website.
Can you start off by telling us where you teach?
At the moment, I am teaching part time in Istanbul, Turkey. It is a city I know quite well and have taught in before. Most of my work is private lessons.
How long have you been teaching?
Nearly thirty years.
Can you describe a typical teaching day?
I don’t really have a typical teaching day as it depends on the needs of my students and their schedules. Some days I leave home before 8 in the morning and get back at 11 at night, having travelled to many different parts of the city. On other days, I get up at the same time and develop my website www.readlistenlearn.net or try to promote it on social media. There is no weekend either as social media has a very short shelf life and a couple of days absence from Facebook means that any post is history.
What do you do in your spare time to relax?
I read a lot. I have to because I am always on the lookout for short stories that I can adapt to the needs of learners on www.readlistenlearn.net
You took on the tremendous task of developing a website called Read Listen Learn. Can you talk about it?
The idea for the website came about when I was teaching beginners in Saudi Arabia. The lads were all in their early twenties but had very, very little English. Once they had some skills in the language, it was really hard to find culturally sensitive materials that were appropriate to their interests. Cinderella and Aladdin were simply too infantile. They wanted articles on football, desert life and so on. So, I sat down and wrote simple texts for them. But then the lads lost the handouts or equated the printed page with boring exercises and so I developed a user-friendly website with simple (sometimes pictorial) definitions of words next to where they occurred in the texts. It didn’t take long for me to add audio recordings to this.
However, I am a technological dinosaur and so much of the work making the site devolved onto my UK-based partner, Simon Dalton. He is not an EFL person and we rarely see each other but this relationship conducted at a distance works well for us. We have clear ideas about our division of labour. I edit short stories or write articles, source the images and write Q&A and he transforms these into the products you can see on the site and develops new services like the app we are making. We share the marketing effort.
It’s a passion for us both and, while we know there are many areas for improvement, we are very proud of the site.
I think it is important to be realistic in terms of our skills. Having Simon Dalton as a partner with his technical skills make complete sense. How long did it take you to get your website up and running?
Simon and I have been working on developing the site for four years now. The development of the volume of written/digital content that we have is very time consuming. Progress has also been uneven though as I have had jobs that required long working days and so had little time to devote to www.readlistenlearn.net Now that I am working in Istanbul, I hope to have more time to concentrate on developing it.
Where can teachers and students access your website?
Go to http://www.readlistenlearn.net/ At the moment, the site is free and most of the products will remain so for individual users. We have given BRAC, the largest NGO in the world, a commitment to donating our services free of charge to the ultra-poor kids they school as well. We do not want to compromise on this but we will charge some users for the app and institutional memberships. We plan to start doing this from mid-2017.
Are you working on any other projects at the moment?
If we can generate income, we would like to create a sister site for younger kids.
How do you promote or market your website?
Frankly, we have not been great at doing this. Time constraints and lack of funding have hampered our efforts but we are now working hard to generate interest through social media.
Where can people find you on social media?
Facebook - https://www.facebook.com/readlistenlearn
Twitter - https://twitter.com/readlistenlearn
I am also on LinkedIn https://bd.linkedin.com/in/mark-bartholomew-9a729a11a and post articles on reading and listening there too.
What skills did you gain from classroom teaching that have allowed you to excel as a teacherpreneur?
I am not sure that we ‘excel’ as such but my beliefs about learning have underpinned the philosophy of the site. Learners need to take responsibility for their language acquisition. That’s axiomatic, of course. Teachers might inspire them to do so but the knowledge that we can pass on is of secondary importance to the effort that any student of a language must make. Guidance and encouragement are key but we are not miracle workers and cannot transmit knowledge of a language through the laying on of hands.
I also sincerely believe that reading is the most important activity in developing language skills. It helps with writing style, vocabulary acquisition, grammatical accuracy, even speaking. And the more one reads, the faster the improvement. However, the way that reading is typically approached in the classroom doesn’t promote much enjoyment in reading: answering tricky question like what ‘them’ refers to in line 13 is not designed to make reading fun.
What advice would you give to teachers who are considering developing a website or other products/resources?
Be realistic, as you say about how much time and effort you can devote to the project. Only do it if you believe in it. And persevere!
I talk to many teachers about their fear or doubt in trying something new or "putting themselves out there". What advice would you give to these teachers?
Take it slowly. Don’t give up the day job, as the saying goes, until you are sure that you can make your project work. Remember there’s a lot of competition out there. But if you are passionate about the project, what a shame if you let it flounder for want of a bit of confidence in its worth!
Thank you Mark. Best of luck to you and Simon.
Interested in learning more about transitioning from a teacher to teacherpreneur but don’t know how to get started? Here are some ways to get started:
1. Read more teacherpreneur interviews at www.teacherpreneur.ca/blog
2. Check out my Teacher to Teacherpreneur Toolkit at http://www.teacherpreneur.ca
3. Sign up for my 4 week online course with iTDi.pro - Teacher to Teacherpreneur http://itdi.pro/itdihome/teacherpreneur.php
4. Download 10 Tips to Transition from Teacher to Teacherpreneur https://www.teacherpreneur.ca/p/10-tips-to-transition-from-teacher-to-teachepreneur
5. Connect with other teacherpreneurs by joining my LinkedIn group https://www.linkedin.com/groups/7060976
6. 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.
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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