By David Giles and Andrew Cohen, IB English Guys, Bangkok, Thailand
It all started with a late-night phone call. I woke up with a start.
“What is it this time, Andrew?”
“Dave, this is it! I know what our project is going to be, what we’ve been dreaming of creating together.”
“Let’s hear it.”
“There’s nothing on YouTube for IB English students. Nada. You and I are going to create YouTube videos with advice on how to master IB English.”
“Good night, Andrew.”
The next morning, I woke up, realizing my teaching partner and good friend Andrew Cohen was onto something. Little did I know what this phone call would lead to–a collaborative project that would reach students and teachers all over the world and become the most rewarding professional experience of my career. Andrew later told me that his desire stemmed from his experience as an IB examiner listening to kids give their individual oral. “These kids need some help, Dave,” Andrew would tell me. “We can help them.”
Let me back up a bit. Andrew and I have been teaching IB English courses together for over ten years and our collaboration has evolved to include unit planning, writing exemplars for students, co-teaching, and focusing on the skills to help kids become better writers and thinkers. Thankfully, our school has created a culture and a schedule that has allowed us to flourish as teaching partners. I soon learned with Andrew that collaboration and true team teaching makes both teachers so much better. The days of lone wolf or silo teaching are over for me.
For years Andrew and I had been wanting to create a project or present at a conference or do something creative to share our ideas with other educators and students. It was hard to find the courage or the time, especially considering Andrew’s aversion to speaking publicly in front of large groups. It’s funny to think that pasting our faces on YouTube would somehow seem less scary than speaking at a meeting in front of colleagues!
We began our YouTube project with a simple goal – to create short and free videos that broke down the various skills required for one of the more challenging IB English assessments, the individual oral (the IO for short). The day after Andrew’s late-night call, I began to write scripts for various videos that I would imagine in my head: Top Ten Tips for the IO; Nuts and Bolts for the IO; How to Structure the IO. It was so fun to think of topics that would help not only our students but also any students that happened to see our channel.
Andrew and I met up in the library’s film studio the following Saturday and began filming a series of videos. With all the raw footage and the seemingly insurmountable video editing in front of us, the project seemed doomed. Fortunately, our tech friend Chris Bell suggested we outsource the editing and, after posting the editing job on www.upwork.com, we found John Billy in the Philippines. John Billy took our raw footage and turned our work into something we were proud to put on YouTube.
The IB English Guys were born.
The excitement and energy Andrew and I felt from producing videos continued throughout the year and with each filming, we began to find ways to improve our delivery and improve the content. With some help from Lisa Foran, our meticulous English department colleague, we refined our “scripts” and created clear handouts to accompany each video. Andrew reached out to a website builder, and we soon created a logo to give our project a professional look.
Toward the end of the 2021-22 school year, YouTube analytics suggested that teachers – not students – were making up a significant portion of our viewership. Andrew and I thus began creating materials for teachers to use in their classrooms. We produced “resource packs” for all the IB assessments which included graphic organizers, teaching strategies, and student models with examiner comments. We then created fully developed teaching units for all our non-literary texts with learning objectives, curated materials, skill work, and assessments with student models and examiner comments.
This school year, our IB English Guys project has continued to grow and has enhanced our professional careers in so many ways. Andrew and I have given multiple online workshops where we have shared our ideas and collaborated with teachers from all over the globe. What’s more, our own students benefit from our fine-tuned unit plans and our videos and handouts. The project has taught us about taking risks, sharing our work with others, and linking up with specialists like our video editor and website designer. Most of all, we have shown our students and colleagues that we are willing to take a leap and be creators and learners.
Andrew and I each work to our strengths. Andrew is the idea man, the web designer, and the visionary. He keeps a working journal with new ideas and the late-night calls have continued with new visions and new plans. I am the writer, the organizer, and the one to answer the questions on YouTube.
Our “work” takes place on weekends and in evenings, but it never feels like work. It’s hard to believe that we maintain full time jobs with nearly 100 students each in a very high-powered school. The material we create as IB English Guys, however, compliments and improves our teaching and I wouldn’t have it any other way. I’m appreciative of my school for establishing frameworks which support us in our endeavors. I’m appreciative of colleagues like Lisa and Chris for their advice and support along the way. But most of all, I’m appreciative of my friend Andrew and his desire to level the playing field and offer high-quality resources and materials to all IB students who need it.
The next time the phone rings late at night, I’ll be sure to pick up.
Andrew Cohen has been an IBDP Language and Literature teacher at International School Bangkok for the past 17 years. He delivers workshops for teachers globally and is dedicated to helping educators and students on YouTube for free. In addition to his multiple roles as IB Examiner, he is also the co-founder of the popular online website and YouTube channel, IB English Guys. He has lived in Ohio, Florida, Japan, and now Thailand. Andrew can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Dave Giles is an IBDP English Literature and English Language and Literature teacher with nearly 30 years of teaching experience, including eight years as a public school teacher in Seattle and 20 years in international schools. A former Peace Corps Volunteer, Dave has taught in Japan, Tanzania, and China and has worked at International School Bangkok for 11 years. With over 15 years as IB Examiner and Team Leader, Dave is also the co-founder of the popular online website and YouTube channel, IB English Guys. David can be reached at email@example.com
Editor's note: This story was featured in our 2023 ICTE spring newsletter. Click here to see the entire issue.