Business, ELT, Entrepreneurialship, Freelancing

Big plans _ Where to start?

Photo by Johannes Plenio on Pexels.com

New year. Time to reflect on what we did, and what we can do. It’s also time to define our priorities and review our goals.

I was talking to my sister, who’s a clinical psychologist, about goals and how to reach them. She said we may get anxious or lost sometimes when we have a goal or a project that requires a lot of work because we’re looking at the bigger picture. She added that our first reaction is to feel overwhelmed and even doubt our ideas and ourselves, and this is because we only focus on the final results we’re hoping to get.

It’s like this big mountain below. We want to climb it, to conquer it, but it looks absolutely daunting at first.

Photo by Stephan Seeber on Pexels.com

What do we do then?

She said we should break that major goal into smaller goals, so then each time we conquer one, we’ll feel good about ourselves which in turn will motivate us to go on to the next one.

Looking back to 2019, it didn’t seem like I had done much for my career, but when I went over the pictures on my phone, I was actually surprised! I didn’t plan much for what I saw in those pictures, I have to say. Opportunities came up and I took them. Then I wondered… If I were able to do all that without a well-thought-out road map to guide me, imagine what I can accomplish if I do have a plan?

My advice

My advice to you, dear reader, is to carefully think about what you want to achieve. Look back at what you’ve done so far. See what needs to be improved, changed, or left behind. (Yes, sometimes we must give something up and move on). Write down all that you want to conquer this year. Set that aside and start breaking up your goals into smaller, more tangible ones.

For instance, say you want to read more this year. (I do). You already have lots of books that you haven’t opened, and you’re overwhelmed because you’ll need to read some titles for work, while others are on your not-so-important list, but you bought them because you liked the author or the topic. (You know how that goes). Now, you ask yourself, what do I need to do to be able to read more? You can start by setting a time to read and silence your phone and notifications. You can also read what you like first, and ditch the books you’re not enjoying and don’t need. Sell or donate them. They’re just taking up space and collecting dust on your shelves. Now that ultimate goal is getting more realistic and attainable. (These ideas about reading more I found here)

Final Confession

I have to say I’m not great at this. I’m used to just going with the flow. What I can tell you is that this is not a good way to get what you really want. We waste time and energy. I now realize that. So, if you’re up for it, join me this year in this new challenge: planning and taking one bite at a time. If you’re already doing it, though, it’d be great to hear your thoughts and ideas.

As always, thanks for reading and Happy New Year!

Photo by VisionPic .net on Pexels.com
1:1, CPD, ELT, Freelancing, Learning, Online Teaching

Foundations for Private Teachers – a CPD opportunity

“Can you recommend a (course) book I can use, preferably one with a teacher’s guide so I can follow?”

“Does anyone know of websites where I can find resources for this business class I have to teach?”

“I’d like to know how you prepare your (online) lessons. Do you prepare presentations? Do you use apps?”

“Can you give me a few tips on how to prepare conversation lessons for an upper intermediate student?”

If you follow social media groups for teachers like I do, chances are you have seen (heard) these types of questions quite often.

After talking about it with a dear friend of mine, Beth Mattei, a teacher with decades of experience in the classroom and as a private tutor, we decided to collaborate on a project.

We’ll be carrying out a series of online classes starting June 27th, aimed at teachers who are thinking about going solo, and for those who do not have much experience, but do have a lot of questions.

This post is to proudly announce this collaboration.

In order to answer the questions we’ve most frequently heard, we’ve prepared a quick and flexible foundations course to give teachers the tools to prepare for this new environment.

The course consists of 6 modules that can be taken separately or together, and it’ll be carried out 100% online.

Module 1Teaching one-to-one: problems & solutions
Module  2Needs analysis/ Placement tests: defining your learner’s level
Module  3Assessment (Testing your learner’s progress) &
Communication (Using Google apps)  
Module  4Choosing your class materials (course books & beyond) –
How to choose materials for online lessons  
Module  5Planning a lesson – Part I (Different approaches)  
Module  6Planning a lesson –  Part II – What to do when all fails (Alternative ideas)

For more information: https://bit.ly/2XgHrKc

To register: https://bit.ly/2JGGO9H

Thanks for reading!

‘Til next time!

1:1, CPD, ELT, Freelancing, Learning, Online Teaching, Technology

Free Webinar tomorrow!

Hello!

If you don’t follow me on FB, Instagram or LinkedIn, you wouldn’t know that tomorrow I’ll be hosting a Free webinar at 11:00 am Brasília time/2:00 pm London.

(Check here for your time zone.)

Here’s your chance to watch the talk I gave at BRAZ-TESOL’s International Conference, last July.

Webinar

Did I say it’s free?

Registration at: http://braztesol.org.br/onlineteachingsig

If you have questions on the subject, write them down and save them for our Q&A.

Thanks for reading and hope to see you live tomorrow!  🙂

CPD, ELT, Freelancing, Learning, Online Teaching

Sharing and growing

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It’s been a while since my last post. I left you with my advice and encouragement to take risks, expose yourselves and dare. Write, submit proposals, and let it shine.

That’s what I did. I came back from BRAZ-TESOL International Conference, which took place in Caxias do Sul, RS, Brazil, from July 19th-22nd.

We had presenters from many parts of the country, as well as from other nations, and I was one of them.

Tag-BRAZTESOL-2018Being there meant a lot to me because it is the culmination of a series of steps I’ve carefully taken in my career and education to develop and grow.

5 years ago I was not even teaching English. I was living in the US doing something completely different; I had been away from a classroom for years and teaching seemed like a distant memory . Now fast-forward to 2018 and here I am: presenting at an international conference, sharing what I’ve learned and learning from some of the most prestigious names in ELT in Brazil and abroad.

My talk was about how to bridge a gap between teacher and learners in an online setting. My focus was on how to build rapport and make sure your lesson is successful. By successful I meant connecting with your students as if you were face-to-face. I also talked about how we teachers have our own prior beliefs and biases regarding online teaching and how we can overcome that.

Now, let me take you to the last day of the conference when I gave my presentation. I arrived early and I’d made sure I had saved the presentation to the cloud (Google Drive & Dropbox for good measure), plus I had it in my email, and in a memory stick. Everything was perfect until I found out that I lacked one thing: a cable to connect my Mac to the school’s projector! *Gasp*

You’d think I would be panicking, but I wasn’t. I guess I knew that someone in this great community of teachers would help me. Do I advise coming unprepared? No! Not at all! But at BRAZ-TESOL I knew I was among friends. In the end a teacher I had just met the day before offered to lend me a cable _and_ clicker! He not only lent me his equipment, but installed everything and I was ready and set 15 minutes before my talk! Thanks Hulgo Freitas!

My final thoughts and advice

  • Come Prepared!

Don’t count on someone like Hulgo, because you may not be as lucky as I was. (I already bought cables and a clicker!)

  • Ask More Experienced Speakers for Advice or Feedback.

After my talk I was a bit upset because I had to rush a bit towards the end. The reason that happened was that I had 40 minutes total and I didn’t account for that. I thought I’d have extra time for Q&A. Another reason is that people started asking questions towards the end and that was was because of the way I presented the information. I started with the theory and moved to practical and real examples last. So I talked to an experienced speaker, Luiz Otávio Barros. He told me to trim the talk to about 30′ so I’d have an extra 10’ to account for questions, rehearse it until I nail it and to start with what the audience wants to hear: the practical and real examples. Once I have their attention and interest, the rest of my talk should go smoothly. The theory can come last to support my examples, and by the end of the talk everyone will have asked their questions and gotten their answers. Great advice, isn’t it?

  • Don’t Be Afraid to Make Mistakes or To Look Silly.

Your proposal was accepted because you have something worthy to say. Don’t worry if something goes wrong during your presentation like a glitch with your slides, the Internet or if you stutter. Be authentic. You know your stuff. That’s why you’re there! So long as you prepare for your talk and possible questions, no one will care about those things. Your posture, your confidence and how you handle yourself will matter most.

What’s next?

For me, I’ll get a second chance! I’ll be presenting the same talk in São Paulo on September 7th, at BrELT on The Road 2018. How great is that? I’ll listen to Luiz’s advice. He said he’ll try to watch my next talk! No pressure there, huh?

 

How about you? What advice do you have for presenters?

Thanks for reading & ’til next time!

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PS. Here’s more about my talk and if you’re interested, there’s still time to register!  It’ll be a great event. Hope to see you there!

Online Teaching: Overcoming The Distance and Delivering a Successful Lesson

In this talk, I will share tips to overcome the most common problems in synchronous learning: adaptability, struggle (teacher and students alike), computer literacy, discipline and motivation, and credibility.

Teachers will be presented with solutions to choose and adapt the right material to their learners; the most common platforms used for online teaching; tips on how to build rapport, engage students and bridge the distance gap between them.

1:1, CPD, ELT, Entrepreneurialship, Freelancing, Learning, Online Teaching

Let it shine!

abstract beach bright clouds

One of the things that kept me from blogging for years was fear of exposure. Once your words are out anyone can hear them. Some ears will be kind but others won’t, and that’s OK.

I also used to ask myself these questions: What am I going to write about? There are so many blogs about teaching, ELT and freelancing, already.

There is another version of that. When there was an ELT event approaching, and colleagues asked me if I would submit a proposal, that same inner voice would strike again: What am I going to talk about? Who will want to listen to me? Or, what could I possibly say that hasn’t been said before? Etc.

Have you had these thoughts? Have you heard other teachers say that?

This way of thinking can be more harmful than it might seem. When we ask these questions, we are usually comparing ourselves with other people. What we fail to realize is that we each have a voice and our own experience to share. When we teach a lesson, it’s never the same no matter how many times we do it over. So, why would that be different than when we write from our perspective or give a talk?

When someone writes about a topic, or gives a lecture, they’ll bring into light not only the theoretical aspects about it but also their unique view on that subject. We each experience teaching differently. Some made that a career choice before College, while others embraced it later in life after graduating in a different field, such as myself. For this and many other intrinsic reasons, we will have different stories to tell.

Your story, impressions and views on a subject will be yours only.


Don’t wait any longer. Get ready!

Here’s a list of pros to give you that push so you can start writing and submitting proposals to that conference, or event you may be shying away from:

  • The world can benefit from your knowledge. You may say: Oh, but that has been said many times! Maybe, but has it been said by you? Your way, from your perspective? What if you see it through an angle that no one has seen before? How can you know it if you don’t try? It’s like the saying goes, you’re failing before even trying!
  • Promote your business or services to a broader audience. If you hide, who will know about you besides those close to you, your friends and family? You can potentially reach anyone on the planet who sees your website, blog or hear you at a conference, webinar, etc.
  • PLN (Professional Learning Network). It is a good idea to spend some of your online time with other professionals who share your goals. For English teachers, I recommend the following Facebook groups: BrELT – Brazil’s English Language Teachers, Private English Teachers Reloaded, Women in ELT and Global Innovative Language Teachers. Twitter is still going strong for you to make new ELT connections, exchange ideas and chat with professionals and learn about scholarship opportunities, courses, webinars, and so on.
  • Advance in your career. By writing or participating in events as a speaker, you will be taking your teaching career to another level.  The good news is that you can find support from experienced teachers to assist you with all the steps from writing your proposal to preparing your first presentation. Check with the event’s organizers.

Find more help here: From Tesol.org: Tips on Writing Proposals
Alex Tamuli’s excellent webinar on:  Presentation Skills For Teachers


Let me share something with you. I gave my first talk in 2017. Yes, last year! Here’s the opening slide that started it all.

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I had total support from experienced colleagues from BrELT who organized this wonderful event called BrELT on the Road  bringing together teachers who only met online on Facebook to a live event held in Rio de Janeiro.

I was a first time speaker, so I was helped during the entire process. From writing the proposal, to rehearsing my presentation and getting a personal call from Bruno Andrade, the Group’s founder himself who watched my talk and offered me his feedback! How wonderful was that!? In the end I felt energized, happy and accomplished. Some of the teachers who attended my session were beginners, but some were experienced as well. They came to me after the presentation and asked me questions. It felt great! And to think that I almost didn’t do it because, oh well, what could I possibly say that someone hadn’t said before?

My advice? Choose a topic with which you’re familiar. Something you know very well, and have tested again and again. It’ll give you the confidence you need.

By sharing what we know, we can help other people avoid making the same mistakes we made. We can also shed new light onto an old issue.


OK, we all know that sunny days won’t last forever. Some clouds will move in eventually. There will be rainy days. It’s just part of life. In order to succeed as a writer and speaker, you will need to hone your skills like any other professional, but you’ll also need to work on your emotional intelligence. With exposure, comes constructive as well as destructive criticism.  There are all kinds of people out there reading what we write and watching us. That shouldn’t stop us. If you receive destructive criticism, it should serve as fuel to make you write even more! If that happens to you, don’t get bothered with that. Carry on!

Constructive feedback on the other hand is great and should be welcome! It’ll make you a better teacher, writer, lecturer and so on.

We should think the same way when we get to a position when we can offer feedback. First of all, we must ask ourselves, was it solicited? We shouldn’t assume the other person wants our feedback! Instead, we can reach them via inbox if we really mean to help. Remember the feedback I received after my first talk? My colleague contacted me in private and asked me if I wanted his feedback. That’s the way to do it.

I’ll leave you with a picture from my first talk, and it would make me really happy to hear that you have taken the first step to write, or to submit a proposal. I will be giving my 2nd talk this July at BRAZ-TESOL International Conference in Caxias do Sul, Brazil. I couldn’t be happier. I’ve had the support of friends and colleagues to have my proposal accepted yet again. I took the first step, but I also asked for help. Don’t be shy. This is my advice. Teachers are generous. Ask and you shall receive!

Thanks for reading. Till next time!

 

You can find the slides for my presentation here.

“Transitioning to Freelance Teaching: Do’s and Don’ts” (BrELT on The Road, Rio, 2017)

 

 

 

1:1, Business, ELT, Freelancing, Online Teaching

Burnout

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Have you become cynical or critical at work?
Do you feel disillusioned about your job?
Do you lack the energy to be consistently productive?

Have you become irritable or impatient with co-workers or students*?

These are some of the questions you should ask yourself according to the article “Job burnout: How to spot it and take action” (Sept. 17, 2015), by the Staff at the highly-regarded Mayo Clinic, to discover if you’re at risk of burning out or not. (*I purposefully changed the words ‘customers or clients’ to ‘students.’) If you said yes to any of those questions, then this post should help you.

(For the complete article and more information on the subject, check the links at the end of the post.)

Accumulating responsibilities is easy. For freelance teachers, it gets more complicated because we also handle all the administrative and pedagogical aspects of our business. Besides, there’s our professional development, our families and so on. How do we find time for everything? We want to believe we can do it all, but we can’t. So we start neglecting something here, something there. Instead of slowing down, we keep pushing to the breaking point. The good news is that you can prevent it from happening with a few changes in your routine. 

This past week, a freelance teacher asked in a FB group how many hours we worked in a week. The answers varied. Some worked between 5-6 hours a day. Most teachers said that this number was ideal, but since they also worked part-time at schools, they pulled between 8-10h total. There were those who worked 10-12 hours a day, including the person who asked the question. All of those who worked 8+ hours complained about exhaustion. The chance these individuals burn out is real unless they rethink their busy schedule.

Work overload is one of the causes of burnout syndrome. In our profession, much like in healthcare, it’s important to remember that we must help ourselves before we can help other people. We, educators, tend to say yes and help everyone, worry about our learners as we should, but to what extent? There is a balance that we must keep. We can’t go so far as to make ourselves sick! How can we help anyone or make a difference in anyone’s life if we’re bedridden?

What can you do not to fall into this trap? 

1. Set Achievable Goals

Watch the number of hours you commit to work per week. Don’t push yourself too hard! Maybe you can do it for a few months to save some money for a trip, to buy something, but don’t do it for a long time. You’ll regret it, and you’ll get sick!

 

2. Learn to Say No

Sometimes you think you know it all, but when you least expect it, you’ll be reminded about the core values in your life. Turning down that job offer that will cost you two hours of sleep, or saying no to another private student so that you can have time to exercise, may be good ideas for your mental and physical health in the long run. 

 

3. Take Care of Yourself

We neglect ourselves when we are stressed. We’re the last ones on our to-do list. So, make sure you add a “Me time” to your schedule every week. Go out, do something you like. If you work from home, go out! Take a walk and see people, get a massage, go to the movies, get a drink with a friend or a loved one, do something nice for yourself! If you go to your students and prefer to stay in and rest, take a nap, order some food, watch TV, just don’t check emails or deal with work-related issues!

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4. Reduce the Stressors in Your Life

Here are some examples:

  • Giving yourself unrealistic deadlines will only cause stress. 

Telling yourself that you’ll have time to prepare lesson plans, write articles, and teach full-time before taking a trip.

You should have an idea how long it takes you to prepare a lesson, or to write an article. Give yourself enough time to do what needs to be done. Plan accordingly. If you don’t know how long it’ll take you, double or triple the time to be safe.

  • Not setting boundaries with your students (not having a contract of any kind)

Example: Allowing a student who didn’t pay in advance to attend a class, and then not getting paid immediately after, and then having to ask for payment again.

Charge in advance! No payment = no class = no stress.

Be firm. Have a contract, have rules, enforce them. Students will respect you. You will look professional. Isn’t that your goal? Being firm doesn’t mean being rude. It says I value my work; I value my time and these rules will make sure I can offer you the best service to you. 

  • Accepting a job that you’re not prepared or qualified for

If you’re not sure if you can deliver what is expected of you, it will not only be bad for your nerves but also your reputation.

You should politely decline the offer and if that is the case, recommend a colleague who’s qualified for the job.

  • Accepting a student who doesn’t fit your profile.

Teaching 1:1 requires establishing rapport and trust. If you can’t build rapport from the beginning, it won’t work. Not every student will be a match. If there’s no mutual respect and trust from the start, forget it. Come up with an excuse and move on.

 

5. Body & Mind

Go to the gym, lift weights, do yoga, martial arts, bike, run, just get moving! It’s important to do some kind of physical activity. Any doctor will tell you that. You need to find something you like. I see it now as a necessity, much like wearing sunscreen when I go out, or a hat. It’s about staying healthy and the relaxation that comes with the release of endorphins – our body’s natural pain and stress fighters. So if you’re stressed because of work, go for a run, ride a bicycle, do some exercise, and you should feel better.

Meditation is another way to relieve stress and to improve your concentration. I haven’t tried it myself though, but I know teachers who practice it and love it. They say it helps them focus and relax. Why not give it a try? Here’s a link to free apps that you can try. I have used Calm to relax and fall sleep.

My final piece of advice is to listen to yourself, to your body, and if you’re not feeling well, physically or emotionally, don’t wait! Seek medical help.

For more information on the Burnout Syndrome, and the link to the article I cited:

How to spot it and take action, from the Mayo Clinic.

The tell tale signs you have burnout syndrome, from Psychology Today.

A thoughtful article I recommend from a teacher’s perspective, entitled ‘Learning to Say No’ by Isabela Villas Boas.

Till next time! Thanks for reading!

 

1:1, Business, CPD, ELT, Freelancing, Online Teaching

How do I find new students?

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If you follow me on FB, you know that I moderate Cecilia Nobre’s Facebook group Private English Teacher’s Reloaded. Last month we created a pool and asked: “What’s your biggest challenge as a 1:1 teacher?” Finding new students was voted number 1. It was no surprise to me, actually, since this is a recurring theme among freelance teachers.

I did a talk last September at the ELT event BrELT on the Road-Rio edition, entitled “Transitioning to Freelance Teaching: the Do’s and Don’ts.” In this talk, one of the topics I addressed was how to find new students. To illustrate it, I decided to check exactly how I’d done it.

This was my background at the time: I had been away from Brazil for 12 years, and I was starting over from zero. I had few connections left in my hometown, and I had to try something. I had placed online ads in the US, and it worked well for me there, so I thought, why not try it here? What do I have to lose? This chart was shown in my presentation.

It takes time to build rapport and credibility, but it happens!

Advertising

Placing ads is pretty much like fishing. You need to find a good spot, the right gear, the proper bait, then you throw your line and wait. How long you’ll wait will depend on a few factors: the most important how well you write your copy; followed by where you place it and third when. (Near the holidays it may take longer to get a reply, or during summer break, but don’t get discouraged! In my experience, there’s always someone willing to study in all 12 months of the year.)

Continuing with the fishing analogy, if you use the wrong bait, (wrong words), you will not catch the fish you want. If you choose the wrong spot (wrong platform, site or medium), you may go home empty-handed. If you don’t wait long enough, the same may happen.

Finding students through ads requires patience, choosing where to advertise, how to reach your target audience, and writing to them, not from your perspective! Now, whether you’ll find a student who can pay your asking price is another issue, but it’s got nothing to do with your writing abilities. The problem is that the student you’re looking for may not be there. (More on finding the right student later.)

Let’s go back to the chart for a minute. I want to focus on the referrals. When I did my research, even the teachers who do not freelance full-time said that most of their students came from referrals. What does that tell you?

What I’ve learned in my many years working on and off as a freelancer (since the 90s!) is that we have our ups and downs when it comes to finding new students. What we can’t do is to stop advertising! People must know that we “still teach.” I remember when I was living in Chicago and my Mom would tell me someone asked her if I still offered English lessons! I was surprised that after so many years away, some people still remembered me as an English teacher.

Online Presence

I’ve talked to colleagues who are successful freelancers, and we share the same opinion. It’s essential for you to have a professional website or a blog. You’ve got to have an online presence of a sort. Note I said professional, not personal. You have to separate your brand from your personal life. These days you can’t hide anymore. People must know who you are, what you do in order to find you. A good online presence will give you credibility, and you’ll attract new students that are not from your close circle of friends, family, and neighbors.

I clearly see a shift in the way things are happening now. On the one hand, if we do a good job, invest in our development, we’ll have happy students who will give us new referrals. On the other, we live in a connected world which we can’t ignore. I know many teachers do not want to have a website or be on social media, but I’m afraid that if you’re a freelancer, you will have a hard time finding students if you stay hidden. I used to be on of those teachers.

Some teachers love it, though: they are on Instagram, they make videos on Youtube, they love the exposure. I don’t advertise my services on FB, but others do. I think FB works best for courses than for 1:1 lessons. The reason is simple in my view. There are so many teachers on FB looking for students, that the moment someone asks for a teacher dozens reply… in seconds! Remember that when you’re online so are millions of other people! Do you really want to be competing with just about anyone like that?

If you choose to place an advertisement, think about how you’re going to write it. I have a background in Communication, so I’ll give you some pointers.

• Think about you and your qualifications. Then think about who your target audience is. Focus on them.
• The writing has to be clear and informative. Give specifics.
• Talk about you, who you are, and what you can do for the students. Talk about what you offer, how you work but don’t write too much text either. Make it easy to find the significant information.
• I recommend not to say how much you charge in the ad on purpose. (I don’t) Ask the prospect to contact you for further information. This strategy will give you the chance to explain in detail how you work and your value, not just your price. See: How much should I charge?
• Use a good photo of you. You want to look professional and friendly. A smile always helps. Make sure you choose a nice (neat) background. Preferably of where you teach, otherwise a white wall works just fine.

Give it some time. If you don’t get replies in 5-7 days, delete it and rewrite it. Something is off. Change the text, your photo, or where you placed your advertisement.

Do a Google search in your country for private teachers in the language you teach. See what comes up. Then, check where these ads were placed. Now go and place yours there! That’s what I did, and it’s always worked for me.

Final Recommendations

1. It starts in the classroom. Keep doing a good job. Keep learning, keep getting better at what you do. Your students will notice. They will learn, and in return, they will bring in new students.

2. Show yourself to the world, but do it your way! You should always be comfortable. Just don’t stay hidden.

3. Keep it up. If you have placed ads, don’t stop running them once you reach a desired number of students.. (I made that mistake once!) Things happen. People may change their plans, their priorities, or lose their jobs. If one or two suddenly stop taking lessons from you, then what? How long will it take you to get two new replacement students? 2, 3 Months?

Don’t wait any longer. Go find your students!

Till next time! Thanks for reading!