In order to make smart decisions about your business and your students you need to be well-informed. So you think, well, I’ll just ask for help on Facebook or Google it. And what happens next? You either get tons of mixed answers that don’t usually work, and sometimes they make you even more lost than when you started. Why is that?
I believe seeking knowledge is of the utmost importance to any freelancer or teacher’s development. However, not all information may be beneficial to us as you must’ve realized. We’ll need to learn to separate the wheat from the chaff.
Yet, we have to know what’s going on around us so we understand what the market is looking for. We need to anticipate our clients’ needs and see the gaps in our market so we know what to offer. This knowledge will give us the advantage we need. This is the wheat.
So you need to stop wasting time with distracting information that is not useful to your current growth and development as a person, professional and teacher.
Here’s a quick guide with suggestions to help you through it.
Ask these questions before you say yes to all that comes to you every day.
Does this video/webinar have a catchy/interesting title but I have no idea what it’s really about?
If you have no idea what it’s about, there’s a chance you’ll be wasting your time (I’ve been there). I suggest you do a quick research on the speaker/host, their background, and subject discussed before you watch it.
Do I know how I can apply the knowledge to make my business or lessons better?
Once I signed up for a series of videos to find out I had no clue what the teacher was talking about. It was way beyond what I was prepared for. It was a humbling experience. I wasted time, but learned a valuable experience. With so much free content available it’s easy to lose track of where you are and where you need to go. It’s not really free if you’re giving away your time and getting nothing in return. After all, time is your most precious commodity!
Make sure you know what you’re choosing. Check the content, the subject, before you click “join”. Remember, it’s about whom and what you’re learning for.
Is it relevant to my learners, or my current career stage?
If the topic is something interesting, but not relevant, say one of your student needs help with his listening skills and you found a great article on writing skills. We teachers love reading, and we just can’t help ourselves, but it’s not what you need at the moment, is it? Easy! Save it and read it later. Time management is a must for freelancers. So, focus and move on!
Start with the books you already own.
This seems obvious, but before you start looking for ebooks or books to purchase or download, you should organize your bookshelves and your computer. I like to separate them by topics and how they’ll help my career, my business and my students.
This will save you a lot of time.
It’s the same idea as when you get ready to go grocery shopping. If you can’t see what’s in your fridge, you might buy or spend time looking for something you already had, but couldn’t see.
For example, let’s say you have your books separate into Business, Linguistics and ELT. You can further divide them into smaller categories, and then you can see what you need to buy according to your interests, your learners’ needs, and so on.
This way, if you need a book on writing skills for IELTS, you know if what you have is good enough or if you need to purchase something more specific. Like when a student asked me last week for a romance book to read. It’s filed under ‘ELT, ‘readers’, and her level B1. It took me a couple mins to find it.
Download free samples before you decide to buy a book.
One thing I do and recommend, is to download free samples to see if the content matches your expectations. You can try: Amazon and ibooks. More and more websites are offering free samples of chapters or pages. Check out if the book you want is available.
Last but not least → Create a study plan or CPD plan for yourself the same way you create a business plan.
The same way you invest in your business, you must invest in yourself. You have to study and be prepared for the challenges and changes in the market and in the world.
Start with a simple plan dividing your goals into areas in which you need to improve. Be specific. The more the better. Examples: Teaching listening skills lessons, Teaching pronunciation (connected speech), Assessing student’s progress in speaking lessons, Prospecting new students, Discussing money with my students, etc. Don’t worry about the language. Phrase it as you wish. Make it as simple as you want it to be.
When you are specific you can face what’s troubling you and tackle those issues, one by one. You’ll have more clarity. Find a system that works for you. You can use numbers, colors, or any rating scale you prefer. (I chose colors.) Now, its time you gave each item a grade.
eg. Teaching Listening skills lessons – RED
RED – Needs Attention
YELLOW – Improving
GREEN – Going Well
You can then go further, dig deeper, and ask yourself: what exactly is wrong about my teaching? Is it one of the stages of my lessons? Can it be a problem related to pronunciation and connected speech affecting my student’s comprehension? Is the task to difficult? Fire away the questions! Keep them coming!
Next, you’re ready to search for answers online, in books, webinars, or ask for help on how to improve it. You’ll be focused and ready to dive in and find the answer in this ocean of information because you’ll be better informed of what to look for.
Thanks for reading! Till next time!