Unless you're part of a language school or teaching team, English teaching can be a lonely business. Sourcing resources, building collections, planning lessons, managing difficult students or situations, not to mention sourcing clients and maintaining long-lasting relationships: all these activities plus the daily administration are handled alone. And then there's the driving. Last year I was hitting in excess of 550km (over 342 miles) per week getting to clients. And somewhere in-between, you've got to live. Enjoy moments with your family. Be you, the individual, not just you, the teacher.
You love the independence, setting your own schedule, your price, your conditions. But when you sit down to plan a lesson you find yourself wanting to talk to someone about it, to bounce ideas around.
There are so many of us English trainers dotted around the world, and many of us experience this same sense of loneliness (for want of a better word), of struggling to keep all the balls in the air, or worry lest one fall.
So with this in mind, I thought I'd share the strategies I use to connect, talk, listen, learn and feel part of our global community.
- Reach out to other locally based ESL trainers, even if you feel they might be competition. You'd be surprised how much you have in common with your "competition" in terms of teaching concerns and - possible - lifestyle, and how beneficial having a relationship with them can be. For example, you can refer clients to one another when your calendar is full (I've done this, and it has worked in both directions). You can each identify your own (teaching) strengths and weaknesses, and during regular catch-ups have informal mentoring sessions.
- Reach out to a virtual community, such as on Facebook. As with the dot point above, you can share teaching problems and ask for ideas, share useful resources or Pinterest boards, and explore other possibilities of connecting professionally.
- Write a blog about your experiences, and connect with a global tribe of like-minded trainers. Make technology work for you… much as I am today!
- Connect with representatives from publishing companies (for example, in my geographical context they are from Cornelsen Verlag, OUP, Macmillan, Klett Verlag and CUP). Your publishing reps can give you details of trade fairs, training days (provided when new material is released), and can also catch up with you over a coffee when they're in the area to talk shop, methods and material.
- Attend those training days provided by the publishing companies. I attended a Cornelsen training day when they released their Key series, and benefitted from meeting other teachers from a ca. 100 km radius as well as getting tips on how to use the material as intended by the authors.
Reaching out in the virtual and real worlds increases a sense of connection with a greater whole, decreases that gnawing sense of isolation, and helps to maintain your motivation and passion for your chosen career.
So, what steps are you going to take today?
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