Dr. Lin Lougheed: Biography"Aren't you a little young to write a book?" I was asked that question in 1973 when I told someone how I was passing my time. Now 30-plus years later, I'm asking myself the same question. How much experience, training and knowledge do I need to write a book? How old do I have to be?
My path to the seniority credential to write a book began at UCLA (1964-68). During my senior year, I learned that I was accepted to the Peace Corps to teach EFL in Turkey. I thought I had better learn what EFL was all about. Under the guidance of the late Russ Campbell, one of the pioneers of TESOL, I was placed in a special studies course with Professor Earl Rand, one of the most inventive people in our field. Professor Rand and I both had this passion for technology at a time when even the smallest mainframe computer took up a whole room. He wanted to create a computer-aided instruction course and gave me the job of punching and sorting key cards which, for those of you under 40, is the way information was input into a mainframe. It was very tedious and made me lose my passion for technology.
For the next four years, I lived in places far removed from mainframes and computer-assisted language learning. As a Peace Corps Volunteer in Turkey, I was assigned for one year to a middle school in a village in the Taurus Mountains, an eight-hour bus and sugar beet truck ride from the capital. There were a hundred students in each class and I had seven classes a day. No technology here. In fact, during the day there was no electricity.The method was audio-lingual. Listen and yell after me. Teachers in neighbouring classrooms requested I follow the grammar translation method.
Having gained experience with large classes, I moved to Istanbul. I spent my second year at an elite school where all subjects but hard sciences were taught in English. I taught English literature. Why not? I'd read a book or two.
After Turkey, I took up residence in the Dominican Republic where I taught English for business during the day and general adult English at night. Part of my job was to go to the famed University of Michigan English Language Institute for two weeks to see how they taught English. I was then to come back and reshape the curriculum. (Nobody in the Dominican Republic asked, "Aren't you a little young to shape a curriculum?")
However, a professor at the University of Michigan did say, "You aren't going to get anywhere without an advanced degree." Who cared? I had been going everywhere (Turkey, the Dominican Republic) without an advanced degree. But I knew he was right. I saw on a bulletin board an announcement, "Where will you be in the year 1350?" The University of Illinois was offering an MA program giving degree candidates the opportunity to teach and study in Tehran, Iran for one year and then finish their studies and MA at the University of Illinois.
That didn't seem like going to school so I applied, was accepted, and spent the next year of my life (1971-72) teaching English at the School of Agriculture at the University of Teheran. (Are you keeping track? Teaching basic skills, large classes, English literature, English for business, adult education, English for agriculture. Too young? We're only four years into a lifetime career here!)
The next year of my life (1972-73) was spent in Urbana, Illinois studying for my Masters in TEFL. After graduation, I received a Fulbright Scholarship to Sri Lanka. There, even armed with the piece of paper attesting to the much touted "Advanced Degree" not to mention Fulbright Scholarship, I was cut down to size by that casual question, "Aren't you a little young...."
Always one to overcompensate, I returned to the US, enrolled in Teacher's College and the School of International Affairs, Columbia University, (1974-77) where I graduated with a doctorate in International Educational Development. On my thesis committee was the venerable John Fanselow. He also was my supervisor in my teaching training courses. When I complained that I didn't think a student teacher was doing a good job, he said, "Why? Isn't she doing it your way?" I'm still having difficulty with people not doing things my way.
For the next two years (1977-79), I worked with the Educational Development Center in Newton, Massachusetts. EDC had a grant from the Algerian government to staff two English-speaking universities: one in electrical engineering and the other in polymer chemistry. My specific tasks were to hire teachers and oversee the development of an ESP curriculum.
When the contract expired in 1979, I was offered another Fulbright grant in Tunisia where I worked with the Ministry of Education to create an ESP book for the entry-level science classes in the university system. (My training so far: masters, doctorate, two Fulbrights. My experience so far: teaching basic skills, large classes, English literature, English for business, adult education, English for agriculture, teacher training, curriculum design, English for electrical engineers, English for polymer chemists, specific English for general science.)
In 1980, I began a very short, but very fabulous career as US Foreign Service Officer. In my two-year stint, I had two jobs: one as a materials writer and one as a teacher trainer. As a materials writer, my favorite project was The Great Preposition Mystery, a mystery story cum preposition workbook. This book is still in print and is still being sold or given away in most every country of the world.
As an Foreign Service Office and teacher-trainer, I would be sent off to the Sudan, to Saudia Arabia, to Columbia, to Guatemala, to Haiti, to Morocco, to Thailand. I would be gone for a two-week seminar, come back, do my laundry, and head out again. I loved it.
At the same time, I became active in the international organization TESOL. I was elected to the Board of Directors, elected Chair of the Materials Writers Interest Section, and asked to be a member of the Publications Committee. I was even nominated and ran for President twice. I lost both times, but that's because I was too young.
My first book published by a major publisher was Listening Between The Lines, Addison Wesley, 1983. Michael Rost, the famous listening specialist said it was a book ahead of its time. What he meant was, "You're too young to write a book."
The rest of my more or less youthful publications can be found on my website (www.lougheed.com).
My experience with Macmillan started with Macmillan Language House in Tokyo. I served as the series editor for several TOEIC and TOEFL preparatory books and wrote the cleverly titled TOEIC on the Train. The book was small enough that students could hold it in one hand while holding onto a train strap with the other and study as they commuted to work. The title, now TOEIC in Five Minutes, got lost in translation.
Macmillan Hong Kong and the Beijing Foreign Language and Teaching Research Press co-published the listening and reading books that accompanied my daily radio show in China, Time for Your Meeting. Unfortunately, the titles of the books (Ask me a Thousand Questions and I'll Give you the Answer) were also lost in translation so the eleven million listeners looking for Time for Your Meeting had a tough time in the bookstores.
As a remedy, Macmillan and the Beijing Foreign Language and Teaching Research Press put out a CD-ROM version that incorporates the audio from the radio show with the text from the books. The CD-ROM is really first rate - maybe because I had nothing to do with it. I don't know what the title is.
Learning to Listen, a three-level listening series, was my next project for Macmillan Education. Even today the series makes me laugh when I think about it.
In 2003, I closed my office in Washington, DC where I had been getting older for 20-years and moved it to Miami Beach, Florida. I felt a textbook writer must always be searching for new experiences. To practice what I preach, I took a Russian icebreaker to the North Pole and went swimming with the crew in an ice hole at 90 degree latitude. I slept on the ice for three weeks with Emperor Penguins in Antarctica, culminating with a three-day storm that left me buried in my tent and waiting to be rescued. Back in the U.S., I went to see every local production of Nilo Cruz's Anna in the Tropics.
In Florida, I've become even more specialized in ESP: English for adventurers, English for young artists, English for art museums and English for gardens. I still pay my dues for the Explorers Club . I started the Yard@CasaLin, a space for young artists to exhibit their work. I resigned from the Board of the Miami Art Museum when they changed the name, but I continue to support art exhibits by students in the New World School of the Arts, Miami.
I carried the Explorers Club flag to Madagascar to commemorate the botanists of Fairchild who discovered a new palm. I continue to support plant exploration projects with Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden and Montgomery Botanic Center, both in Coral Gables Florida.
I founded the Plants and People program to give people with Alzheimer’s and their caregivers an opportunity to spend a day at the Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden. I encouraged Teachers College to bring its innovative nutrition program to the 250,000 students served by the Fairchild Challenge. I also worked to involve Teachers College with the South Florida Art Center on new arts education projects.
Sadly, none of these experiences have added to my qualifications to write an EFL book. I'm still too young.