Recollections from the Editors of the IH Journal

Recollections from the Editors of the IH Journal

As with most things in the life of International House, the IH Journal has been through its fair share of changes.

To mark its 50th Edition, we hear from six editors charting its history from the beginnings in 1996 to the current day.

Charles Lowe, founding editor 1996

The true inspiration for the phenomenon that is International House was John Haycraft. It was he who, in 1953, had the idea to start teaching English. He was in Cordoba at the time, and with his wife Brita and a two-roomed space above a cafe, he started his tiny school.

Later, they came to London, Endell Street in Covent Garden, and soon after moved into a sprawling labyrinth inside the upper floors of an old Victorian central-city location, 40 Shaftesbury Avenue.

Apart from later becoming a thorn in the side of august and ageing institutions like the British Council and the Royal Society of Arts, John was first and foremost a hive of energy and ideas and ambition. This was why he was an inspiration to so many, and why he seduced so many young people overseas to join his young endeavour. From Portugal to Argentina, from Egypt to Japan, International House welcomed them all into the family. In 1958, to satisfy the new demand for teachers that his organisation had created, he started his super-practical two-week teacher-training courses, which as we know later morphed into four-week courses, becoming the model for the Cambridge CELTA courses and for training courses in many other sectors.

I joined the ship in 1975, and by 1978 I was training on what was then called the RSA Diploma courses. By 1979, John had had the idea that a lot of teachers overseas actually wanted to upgrade their skills by correspondence, which would avoid them having to attend a burdensome 8-week course in London. It was as a result of this that the RSA Diploma by Distance Learning, the ‘Correspondence Course’, was born – my first IH ‘baby’.

The IH Journal

The International House Journal for Education and Development, to give it its full title, was my second IH baby, and as Director of the IH London school I co-edited the first edition with Matthew Barnard. He then took over the whole thing himself, and the quality of the early editions were much more thanks to him.

The original idea was actually my own, but I confess I was inspired by John Haycraft’s enthusiasm and ‘can-do’ attitude towards almost everything. It seemed to me that the IH organisation needed a mouthpiece, but also needed to provide a conduit for the profession, both native-speakers and non-native speakers, to be able to talk about anything to do with teaching or training or running a school. Sure, there was the English Language Teaching Journal (ELTJ), and TESOL Quarterly, and Applied Linguistics, and there was Modern English Teacher (MET), and there had been some attempts by other organisations, notably Bell, to set up their own journals. But the ELTJ and TESOL Quarterly were too academic, and the MET was the only practical journal around (later, English Teaching Professional – eTP – emerged, which was a welcome addition, though it is notable that eTP has now merged with MET).

International House was, and still is, a byword for practical language teaching. But in the 1980s, it began to become more confident to talk about academic things. Many of its teachers embarked on MA courses in ELT or Applied Linguistics. My own MA in 1980 made me a much better teacher. I understood better how to evaluate ideas, theories, and research. I understood better how to adapt (or to choose not to apply) these to my classroom realities. I understood better how to discuss new concepts, and how to introduce rigour into my arguments. I understood better how to watch and learn from my students, and above all from my peers.

International House was also a crucible of ideas for managing schools and, particularly in the fields of marketing and human resources, was ripe for development.

So I felt we needed (i) a forum to discuss both the practice and the theory of teaching and learning, and (ii) a forum for the discussion of ideas about good management.
Hence, the full name of the new journal.

The practicalities? Format – A4, and about 40 pages’ length; two editions per year, and if memory serves, November was chosen as the date for each (academic) year-start, because new teachers abroad would be installed by then (having started in September or October) and be able to ‘relax’ and read the articles and get back to us with their thoughts before moving on. The second edition would come out in May, while teachers abroad were still in post. Distribution – we printed the Journal off at our IH London in-house printing facility and sent two free copies to each school in the IH World Organisation. A bit expensive, but it was worth it. IH schools were a captive audience, but to the outside world, we also made the Journal available, and in those early years, we charged a small nominal fee to cover costs. Editing – authors were pretty good at writing, so as few changes to the submitted text as possible were implemented. The articles were mainly practical to begin with, but as more people became used to writing about academic topics, this changed. However, the general view was always that ‘the author knows what they want to say, so let them say it’.

Once Matthew assumed the role of main editor, the Journal really took off, both because of Matthew’s judgement and because of IH’s huge pool of potential contributors.

I am honoured and privileged to have worked with Matthew, and to pass on to him the mantle he came to wear so well. We had many, many great colleagues and authors in those early years. And as the scope and reach of the Journal grew wider, and its article-writers came from more diverse backgrounds, and its reputation became more established, I feel it made a valuable contribution to professional discussion around the world.

I hope it continues in the same vein. It has had wonderful editors over the years, and its vision statement, though unwritten, remains the same – reasoned debate for experienced professionals. It is not a ‘tips-for-teachers’ booklet, or a ‘teach-this-lesson-on-Monday’ website (much as those documents can be helpful). It is a serious journal, which both seeks to open our minds to possibilities (in language education and school management), and keeps us firmly rooted to the ground.

Susanna Dammann and Rachel Clark, 2000 to 2004

After a brief hiatus in the late 1990s, a new management team decided to relaunch the IH Journal. Michael Carrier, then the first CEO of IH World, and others, felt the Journal should be reinstated as a way of providing and demonstrating its continuing support to teachers and managers in IH schools worldwide. Discussions with IH London resulted in Susanna and Rachel offering to act as joint editors - a new editorial team for a new millennium! Both teachers at IH London, Rachel’s expertise in teacher training and Susanna’s in business English complimented each other perfectly.

In the early days contributions of articles were predominantly from the staff at IH London. But leaning on the ever-expanding pool of ideas from International House schools around the world, Rachel and Susanna’s mission was to bring other IH schools into the conversation. Articles from teachers at IH Lviv and IH Viseu were in their early editions. Even back in the early noughties, there was growing awareness in the ELT industry of the native and non-native teacher debate, so the Journal’s editors were pleased to air that discussion with contributions about the experiences of non-native speaking teachers. This was very much in keeping with Charles Lowe’s original aim to provide a conduit for both native-speakers and non-native speakers in the profession.

It wasn’t just the two editors involved but an editorial board of Pippa Bumstead, Michael Carrier, Roger Hunt, Jeremy Page, and Scott Thornbury, joined soon after by Nigel Beanland (the IH London librarian). This team was assisted by Rachel Day then Emma Bailey and Ruth Marriott as subscriptions managers.

The Journal continued to be freely available to all teachers in IH London and sent to IH affiliated schools around the world. There was a cover price of £5 for anybody externally wanting to purchase it, but the readership was predominantly within IH schools. Rachel recalls the genuine excitement in the staffroom when a box arrived from the publishers and brand-new copies were ready for eager teachers to peruse.

Brita Haycraft had a keen interest in pronunciation and contributed a series of articles starting with “Proof of the Pron Pudding” in 2000 and finishing with “Final Look at the Pron Pudding” in 2022. Rachel and Susanna recall what fun it was to work with her and also how fascinating it was, as she was such an important part of IH history, and the emphasis on pronunciation was a fairly new concept when she and John started their school. They also reflected on their sense of privilege of being the first people to read new articles and learn from the great wealth of CPD contained within.

In the early 2000s the vast majority of language teaching in IH schools was to adults. Teaching to young learners was increasing, and to support those teachers Rachel and Susanna tried to encourage articles from specialists working in that area. The early leaders of YL teaching from around the network contributed articles, as they still do now. The developmental ideas in the journal have undoubtedly helped YL teachers perfect their skills in IH schools around the world.

Issues 8-13 continued in the existing format of grey covers but in 2003 an outbreak of creativity saw a new purple cover and coloured logo for issues 14 and 15. Light blue followed for issues 16 and 17, yellow for issues 18 and 19, and issue 20 was dark blue.

Demonstrating IH’s ability to move with the times, Susanna embodied an early example of remote working when she continued as editor while on secondment to IH Shanghai for six months.

In 2005 Rachel and Susanna were pleased to pass the editorial baton to Ian Berry, based in Portugal. This was another first for the Journal, being edited by somebody outside London.

The lasting legacy of Rachel and Susanna’s term – a substantial body of work, successful foundations to move on from, and a lasting friendship. All true IH values!

Ian Berry, 2005 to 2006

I was IH Journal Editor from Issue 18 (Spring 2005) to 21 (Autumn 2006) – just four issues.

Susanna Dammann and Rachel Clark were very supportive during the transitional period.

At the time the Journal was a biannual publication, in the spring and autumn of each year, and was 36 pages in length. I seem to remember that we were sadly directed to downsize the publication – Issue 14 had contained no fewer than 48 pages!

I was assisted during my time by Alex Monk, who handled advertising, and, for the first issue, Helena Ramalho, who looked after subscriptions. However, by issue 19 (Autumn 2005) Ania Ciesla had joined the team in Helena’s place and would assist me during my tenure as editor.

Re-reading my first editorial, it’s clear to me now that what I lacked in journalistic knowledge and academic prowess I tried to compensate for with humour and hard work!

Conspicuous by its absence from Issue 18 was ‘Book Reviews’ and I recall that coercing colleagues near and far to write reviews was one of my biggest challenges. However, by Issue 19 they had made a return with no fewer than three of my IH Lisbon colleagues weighing in with contributions!

I must admit that being editor of such a prestigious publication did wonders for my self-esteem! However, I really enjoyed the contact I had with colleagues from around the globe. Variety was also key for me, as was the commitment to encourage younger, less experienced teachers to contribute to the Journal, whilst also drawing on some ‘names’ in the organisation and big hitters such as the academic Mark Lowe, Cultural Training specialist Barry Tomalin, and Roger Hunt, who was Director of Education at IH Barcelona at the time.

Flicking through the pages of the issues I was responsible for, I also clearly drew on the talent that was closest to home, and therefore more readily accessible, which for me was IH Lisbon.

When I first took the helm, I stuck to the tried and trusted format, with sections titled Classroom Matters, Learners’ Matters, Language Matters, Worldwide Matters and, just for some variety Teacher Training.

For better or worse, Issue 19 had a different format. Colin Macmillan, my director at IH Lisbon and somebody who had been with International House from its infancy under the direction of John Haycraft, always liked to draw on the experience that teachers had gained before coming into EFL and that inspired me to set up a regular section: Life Before EFL – How I Became an EFL Teacher. In addition to this I also added Life After EFL – to highlight some of the career paths available to those who wanted to move on from teaching, one being written by my predecessor Susanna Dammann.

As mentioned above, I tried to draw on the talented youngsters who were joining the IH family at the time and provide them with a platform to voice their ideas, and I like to think that in some small way I helped them evolve professionally.

Being at the helm for the 10th anniversary issue also brought me great pleasure. Charles Lowe, the first editor, wrote our introduction and in my editorial, I noted: I was immensely satisfied to discover that what we are doing with the Journal today remains true to Charles Lowe’s credo when putting Issue 1 together:

“The International House Journal of Educational Development was conceived as an in-house educational forum for International House teachers throughout the World Organisation, coming out twice a year. It is written by teachers for teachers. Anyone and everyone can have their say. It will contain articles on action research (i.e classroom investigation) projects, conference papers, practical ideas, news items, and work in progress from leading thinkers within the organisation. We want to encourage debate, give people a platform, create new ideas, debunk myths and generate a new sense of adventure.”

Elizabeth Arbuthnott, 2011 to 2014

When I started as the editor the IH Journal was still in print format, but the major innovation that we took was to change to digital format. This reduced production and postage costs around the world and opened it up to a wider readership. This also allowed the possibility of more editions and we were able to increase to four editions a year.

When I started, I thought it would be a challenge to find contributors but that was never an issue as there was always a wealth of interesting articles from within and outside the IH network. I always held firm to the ethos of “by teachers, for teachers”, and sometimes it was a challenge to make sure the subject matter would appeal and be of interest to all readers. One of the ways of doing this was to maintain a good mix of articles from IH contributors and from external writers, as we wanted to reflect innovations in the whole ELT industry.

One of the most enjoyable things was seeing each edition of the Journal evolving from researching possible article topics, to editing, to publishing the final result online. I also really enjoyed the contact with all the different contributors, advertisers, and the special interest authors.

Christopher Walker, 2023-

After another hiatus in the early 2020 due to pressures of the COVID pandemic, Christopher Walker was appointed in 2023 as the new editor to evolve the Journal alongside International House as it celebrates its 70th Anniversary and looks to the future.

Christopher says, “I am truly delighted to continue the fine work of my predecessors. With this fiftieth issue, I am proud to see the traditions of the IH Journal continue. The French expression plus ça change immediately springs to mind as I contemplate the Journal in its current guise compared to how the Journal looked in Charles Lowe’s conception. We are now a digital-only publication, open access and available to anyone with an Internet connection. The articles are arranged in categories whose names are different to those employed in earlier issues, but their sense remains the same. Contributions are drawn from far and wide, from experienced teachers as well as novices, from previously-published writers to those seeing their name in print for the very first time, from those within the IH network to those without, and, in keeping with Mr Lowe’s stated aim, drawing no distinction between native and non-native speakers. And above all, seeing the resurgence of the Journal after this brief hiatus fills me with optimism both about the state of writing about teaching and the state of teaching itself; I hope that the Journal continues to be a credit to the International House name, and continues to inspire its readers to be the best teachers they can be.”