This month we launched something new for BrightRED, our new podcast Textbook Stuff. It will shine a light on our Study Guides and offer the inside story on our books. We have interviewed our expert teacher authors who have spent many months (and sometimes years) writing our Course Books and Study Guides.
Below you will find snippets from the discussion we had with our English author, Dr Chris Nicol. We discussed his frustrations at school and university, his journey to becoming an English teacher, advice for the English course and its exam and finally his career advice that has carried him through his impressive career.
You can find the full transcript here.
Could you tell us a little bit about yourself?
Well, I went to a very good Scottish high school up in Arbroath many many years ago. I enjoyed school but I often got very frustrated by my teachers who were very intelligent men and women. But I often got exasperated by the fact that so many of their nuggets of wisdom were clouded in language that was very opaque which was difficult to get through for a 12- or 13-year-old, so my little hand was always going up in class and there was a lot of sighing from my friends, and the teachers, by asking questions like, ‘Oh what do you mean there? What are you saying?’ It was quite an exasperating process. This frustrating process went on all the way through my education.
Can you tell us about how you transitioned into a teaching career?
I had this idea that teaching might be of interest to me, but I wasn’t going to be a teacher like the ones I’d had at school. So, I took myself off and did a teacher training course and found myself a job in a girl’s public school. I immediately put to work what I learned at my own school that I wasn’t going to be that kind of teacher. I made my lessons directly constructed to talk to the students rather than talk at them and I really enjoyed the process very much.
What is the process of going back and editing your work like?
I think it’s a very very useful device to have someone whose judgement you trust listen to yourself reading it. And be prepared for much more critical comment than you would get if you just handed them a text and asked for their opinion.
How would you suggest students could improve their portfolio writing?
I think also you’ve been picking up a lot of writing skills without knowing it by your work for reading, for understanding, analysis and evaluation. All these techniques you’re pinpointing for the examiners, minor sentences, inversion, figurative language, word choice, parallel structures. You’re ready to talk about them in an exam, so why not make them work for you in your own writing? A lot of students just completely overlooked that they have wonderful techniques in their grasp which they could use to great effect for in their own writing.
And for school leavers what advice do you have if they are unsure what career path they want to take?
I think career wise nothing is set in stone and my own career such as it is, has been a path of serendipity. Really, I’ve always been in the right place at the right time. I have picked up knowledge from all kinds of areas. I haven’t been frightened to change career path when I felt I was getting bored or exhausted by a process. I think the world has many, many opportunities for young people and every job has something to teach you.
Thank you to Chris for taking the time to speak to us and we hope you are looking forward to our podcast guest for next month!
New Edition Higher English Study Guide: https://www.brightredpublishing.co.uk/shop/cfe-higher-english
Other Books in the BrightRED English range:
BGE Level 3 English Course book (Publishing March 2023): https://www.brightredpublishing.co.uk/shop/bge-level-3-english
National 4 English Study Guide: https://www.brightredpublishing.co.uk/shop/n4-english
National 5 English Course Book: https://www.brightredpublishing.co.uk/shop/national-5-english-course-book
National 5 English Study Guide: https://www.brightredpublishing.co.uk/shop/n5-english
Advanced Higher English Study Guide: https://www.brightredpublishing.co.uk/shop/cfe-advanced-higher-english