My career path has been somewhat you could say meandering, or I chop and change. This best suits me as I need to reinvent and often take stock to get the most out of life. Chop off the deadwood you could say, or know when to give up the ghost cause something has been haunting me.
These days it seems in the present climate there is little real consequential development of teachers by any establishments of note, and very little remuneration increases or incentives. I see this with how many of my peers that are the best of the bunch are throwing away the ESL/EFL cape. But I have made quite a hard decision of late to withdraw a little more from the normal ESL/EFL teaching game, other than Technical English. It is yes with a heavy heart, and it is not just about the money, the internal politics and intra-school/institute politics is really bloody annoying. Also, other activities are taking my time and I cannot dedicate the amount to it that it deserves.
I wrote a blog entry in 2013 about mislabeling and which puppies I have had to shoot. Not much time has passed, but a lot has changed for me, even turning 40 😉
However in my Create5 tradition, here are some things I would like to pass on to any teacher come Wahl-östdeutscher. They may apply to other teachers or climates too.
Keep an eye on the market – the present market shifts faster than sand under your feet in a dessert storm. Some of this comes with the profession, also the quick development of my home city of Leipzig. Back when I started over a decade ago, there were probably around a dozen teachers competing in the same field as me, namely locally and across many different schools. Now, I loose count of the new faces in town, could be thirty good ones or more working across the board like this. This is no bad thing as competition is healthy. Which brings me to my next point
Keep an eye on the competition – I always have done this. Not only the old heads but the fresh faces. What are they doing? But more importantly what are their competitive advantages. There is this notion that backpackers ruin the market and it does add a little too many sleeping bags to the bunk. However, as I pointed out recently in an online discussion, there are some good teachers in this set, and the opposite of qualifications or experience can sometimes just breed complacency. And I could have been labelled a backpacker back in the day, but do not really think I turned out too shoddy. The question is what can you do to stand out from the rest.
Place yourself well – This is not just about networking or selling yourself, but also doing those projects that do good for your name. It may not always be financially rewarding, but good things come to those who wait. It could be an altruistic project or some teacher assistance to training. As they adage goes what goes around comes around. On another basic level simply speak to people in admin during all your projects. As teachers, we tend to take these guys for granted. But often I have found they are the back line troops that refer you or come back to you as a client in some other capacity.
Hone your skills – my business partner Erik and I used to do the BESIG conference circuit, and this helped us gain a lot of theoretical knowledge. However in practice, teaming up with this guy in tandem workshops, who has a few years on me in this job, has helped both of us really sharpen our tool set. We do not do it so often, but when we do what we learn is tenfold compared to some of my other projects. Here is a real snippet (Workshop-summaries) of what we have done to date –
Never be scared to say no – Yes, some organisations may not like the bitter pill of hearing that a simple No. But if you are honest with yourself, do you want to work for organisations that can not respect you for or understand your decisions. In the early days of your career or at times when you are finding it hard to get work, you may have to take the just take the job and swallow the pill yourself. However, sometimes it is better not to sign on the dotted line if you think it does not suit you. And we all as teachers have said, “do your homework”. Find out as much about the job and the people you are gonna work with before you do say yes. If you are stuck with a bad lot it turns into bitterness very quickly, leaving a bad taste in your mouth. I have walked away from my fair share of jobs and schools, it is better for your happiness trust em I am a teacher.
My chalk set may be partly away in a draw, this does not mean however that I have given up teaching or that I am sitting on my laurels. I have a non-profit that is really ready to take off to the next level, writing for a glocal webzine, performing in Inky Ensemble.
Even putting together a new start-up hub for Leipzig thriving cultural and arts scene. I could also see me returning to ESL/EFL, especially as mentoring is something that I hold a place for in my heart as much as this form of lingo training.
What would make you semi-retire or nearly hand up your boots?