Failing at your own business (or not) –Saturday School

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Featured as a Creative Problem Solver at Inspired Livelihood.

Somewhere between my last teaching position and my current teaching position, I found myself unemployed. Not just unemployed, but destitute. My husband and I had separated and I rented an apartment in town for my son and myself. A decided benefit to the situation was that we now had 24-hour access to electricity, which our home in the Middle of Nowhere, Mexico was without. The downside being that now I had to pay for it. And being unemployed, I wasn’t sure what to do.

Taking advantage of the electricity, I made some English language games. I soon had requests from moms and teachers for Spanish and bible games too. But these occasional sales weren’t enough to get the bills paid.

So, I approached the owners of the school where I had hoped to work but wasn’t because the school hadn’t opened that year. I asked if they would consider allowing me to use the school on Saturdays for English classes. Generously, they said that would be fine and wouldn’t even hear of me paying them rent for the use. I went one step further in my grandiose plan and asked an art teacher if she would be interested in giving art classes on Saturdays as well. Then we started with the publicity. The school had a Facebook page and we uploaded our class offerings there. Then we went about town and posted announcements on the telephone poles and in front of schools. We also went to each of our students, present and past, and gave them the information.

So it began. I can’t say it was an instant success. We each started with 3 classes with two or three students in each class. Some days there were cancellations and we were discouraged. The art teacher began to miss classes and her students stopped coming. But I kept at it. Most Saturdays I earned a whopping $75 (which is less than $6 USD) pesos. Other days I earned upwards to $600 (about $50 USD) pesos, but those days were few and far between.

I taught whatever was asked of me. I taught classes for TOEFL exam preparation, classes for the U.S. citizenship exam, regularization classes for failing students, conversation classes for those planning on heading norte (to the U.S.), listening, reading, and grammar classes from beginner to advanced levels, kindergarten classes, adult classes and classes for every age in between. I even taught a few beginning piano classes.

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It’s been 2 years since I began the Saturday classes and I now have classes scheduled from 8 am to 5:30 pm nearly every Saturday. I look forward to cancellations for a little down time in my day. Some of my Saturday classes have converted into weekday classes, so I now teach 2-4 classes in the afternoons Monday thru Friday. I also have an ESL teaching position from 9:20 am until 2:30 pm at the school that finally did open.

Some students have disappeared but have sent friends, relatives or classmates to me in their stead. Others have just disappeared. I’ve learned to be more selective with the classes I teach and the students I take on. I’ve actually had to say no to new students several times this year. I give preference to students that have been with me since the beginning when setting up my schedule and when cancellations occur. I have a waiting list for both the afternoon classes and Saturday classes, but the students that I have currently are not in a hurry to give up their places, for which I am incredibly grateful.

I love that I don’t teach the same old thing over and over again. Each class is more or less individual, sometimes with 2 or 3 students, and I am able to concentrate on what would be most beneficial for the student or students. The process of inventing such individualized classes has been challenging but rewarding. I enjoy seeing my students’ progress and watching them master tricky language skills. I am who they recommend when an English expertise is needed. Although I won’t ever become wealthy teaching on such a small scale, I have become rich in experience and it does get the bills paid.

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12 Comments

Filed under Education, Employment, Teaching

12 responses to “Failing at your own business (or not) –Saturday School

  1. Good for you for landing on your feet and picking up the pieces!

    Like

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