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It’s a funny, old business being a self-employed teacher. Especially in a foreign land. Especially online. Especially nowadays. I emigrated to Spain in 1992 and although I do other stuff like make videos, edit, write stories and play music, it is teaching that keeps the wolf from the door.
 
I’ve taught preschool toddlers, construction workers. bank executives, journalists, politicians, every kind of kid and even members of the Spanish Armed Forces. I’ve been a director of university language seminars, a director of residential immersion courses in fancy hotels and now I have my own business in the mountains of Madrid where I bring my methodless method to students who have been badly served by language academies.
 

I’ve been around the block a few times and I’ve learned a few things.

 

 
1.  Nobody gets what they deserve. Everybody gets what they negotiate.
 Teachers are talented professionals but, frankly, nobody cares. Very few private companies will pay their teachers well. They will demand CELTAS, DELTAS, and degrees but pay the same hourly rate as someone with an unskilled job.
 
You can get into the habit of accepting anything until you find yourself believing you are worthless. I’ve learned not to waste my time. If you get made a derisory offer, refuse it. Walk out. Check out materials writing. Find a niche. Keep looking.
 
 
2. TEFL is a shark magnet.
A lot of online TEFL companies are predators. Beware the ones who offer you an easy-to-get TEFL certificate. No employer worth their salt will take seriously a TEFL without proof of real classroom experience. The CELTA qualification is pretty much accepted everywhere and shows you are serious.
 
3. The best tool is empathy.
 The best thing about teaching, even after all these years, is the students. To help someone along the road to pass an exam or get a promotion is deeply satisfying. To do that well you need empathy. It is the one quality that all great teachers have; wherever they are from and whatever they teach. Understand what your students are feeling. What is good for one student will not work with another. Never ever let a methodology get in the way of good teaching. Be present in the here and now with your students.

 

4. Teachers are generous people.
 Teachers are by their very nature generous people. Teaching is one of the many shades of love. If you know stuff, share it with less experienced colleagues. If you need help, ask. Teachers enjoy sharing resources, creating new things with other teachers, and giving their opinions.
 
One thing which has pleasantly surprised me is the creation of MyCoolClass.  A group of teachers got together and decided to create a cooperative. It’s a brilliant, generous idea. It’s teachers working for teachers under rules made by teachers. The business is owned by the teachers, the teachers make the decisions. Self-respect with not a shark in sight. And the chance to share and grow.
 

I wish I’d had this idea in 1992. I didn’t. But if the past is always shouting in our ears, how can we hear the first whispering of the future? I applied to join MyCoolClass and, dear teacher, I would urge you to. The future is about to happen.

 

 

 

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