Tag Archives: ESL teacher

Transition year

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If you recall, a few months ago, I outlined my busy work schedule (Juggling all the eggs in one basket) and wondered if really these things were worth the effort I was putting into them.  I decided shortly thereafter that they were not.  Thus began the transition year.

The first to go was my Saturday classes. (See Saturday classes)  Some days I had been pulling in a whopping $600 pesos, but more often, I had a single class.  $50 for a 6 hour day was not profitable.  So when my student finished the book we were working with, I told his mother that I was going to take a break from teaching on Saturdays.  She and her 8-year-old son were disappointed, but I consoled them that I may start up again in the Spring.  The uncle, who had been my student but gave his hour to the nephew, sent me an email demanding to know why I wasn’t going to teach English anymore.  I explained that I was still teaching English, just not on Saturday mornings.  I had too many other obligations and I needed more time to do things like laundry and shopping.  He wasn’t happy.  Oh well.  Can’t please everyone.

I still taught online Saturday afternoons, but I wanted to transition to my new place in Sunflower Valley (See A Room of Her Own).  It took over a month, but I finally was able to make the little house my base of operations rather than the school.  Having a kitchen made the afternoons easier.  There’s a little store across the street, so whipping up a light meal for a hungry teenager boy was more manageable.

Then I started dropping my afternoon private classes one by one.  The first to go was in mid-November.  We finished our book and that was that.  She begged and pleaded that I not abandon her.  I told her that I’d start teaching in the spring but that if she really wanted classes, she’d have to come to my little place in Sunflower Valley.  She said she would. We would see.  That freed up 2 hours a week.

Then in December, right before Las Posadas, I dropped the other 3.  All of them said that yes, it would be a good idea that I took a break, but that they didn’t want to lose their classes.  Maybe I could drop everyone else, and just teach them?  When I said that I really was planning an extended break, like maybe until Semana Santa, their eyes went wide and said, well, they’d be waiting here for me to return and give them classes again. That freed up 2 afternoons per week.

I didn’t start teaching afternoon classes after Semana Santa. Instead, I began going through my things at the school, readying it for my final transition.  I reviewed the supplementary books I had made for each grade level for errors and changes.  I also checked that there were assessments and exams and grade sheets for each unit of all 6 levels.  I would be leaving the entire system in place for whoever takes my place.

Finally, in July, I told the owners that for health reasons I would not be returning the following school year.  It’s not that I hated my job at the school.  After all, I had designed the entire ESL program myself.  I was getting some results, not as much as I would have liked, but some.  I had my own classroom, which is a rare perk in the schools around here.  Yet, at $65 USD per week, it was not in my best interest to continue. The health problem wasn’t invented.  I’m really working myself to death at this rate.  

I interviewed and recommended 2 teachers, one for first, second and third grade, and the other for fourth, fifth and sixth grade.  Yep, two teachers were needed to replace me.  I agreed to do a training session with them in August before everyone returns to classes.

The owner asked if I would consider staying and teaching at least 2 groups or at least the phonics classes since the main focus is pronunciation there.  Nothing doing.  I would, however, make a book for the sixth-grade group for the new teacher to use.  And if I got around to it, make a recording for the phonics books.

My first schedule with my newest online job came out the week after we finished classes.  Twenty-six hours paid in US dollars.  So provided I have a full schedule each week (and with online work nothing is a given) I’ll nearly triple my income for half the work and less than half the time.  

Hasta la vista baby!

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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.

mototeacher

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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