Scheduling Snafus, Confounding Certificates, and Mobilized Marketing

It has been, dear reader, a little bit difficult getting back into the swing of things after my Greek trip. It didn’t help that the remnants of my cold lingered a bit longer than I wanted. But it seems that there is something nasty going around in Amsterdam so I guess I’m just going to have to grin and bear it. The most difficult part of the week was The English Center administrative work. I’ll start with my own scheduling issues. I assume that all of you remember Marco, he of a stomach illness that had to cancel his lessons in 2021. We had only had 1 1/2 hours of a 20-hour package. We picked them up in late October 2022. We had one lesson where we set up all the lessons for the remainder of the package. The next lesson he actually missed because he was sick and I couldn’t give him that lesson because it was within the 24-hour window. So that I got paid for. Subsequent to that we decided that we would start our lessons back up on the 13th of January once I was back from the US. All of it was sorted. Prior to my return from the States, I heard from Marco and he said he had been studying by himself and that the thought of taking lessons with anyone was a little bit stressful. He wanted to give his package to his partner. There was no reason why I couldn’t take the client, so I asked the English Center they said that was fine. Until this week. On Friday this week, I sent a zoom link to Loekie, (otherwise known as Marco’s partner) in order to prepare for the 10th of February. In response I got an email saying that she did not want to take the lessons and that she wanted to transfer them to her sister who is a singer and wants to reduce her accent when she sings. The package was not an accent reduction package which is about 20% more expensive than a regular online package. Once again I contacted the English Center and asked if we could do this, indicating I didn’t mind teaching the person but didn’t know how they would feel about it. They have grudgingly, and rightly so in my opinion, agreed that the lessons can be transferred to Loekie’s sister, but no one else. But I agree with them in this instance that is not right. They are losing money and a significant amount of money on this package. I am enough of a business person to understand what that means for the company. And as much as I don’t like some of the English Center’s policies nor do I like to see companies taken advantage of whether knowingly or unknowingly.

On Wednesday the English Center received word that a woman who I had contacted three times and had no response from was ready to start a private 30-hour intensive that started yesterday. We had to scramble to book rooms for her and find teachers. It has proven quite difficult lately to find teachers for students and an intensive of this magnitude with such short notice has proven no exception. Guess who had the most hours to teach? Given that I am able to teach a little bit every day except for Thursday, I was given half of the total hours. Which while good for my pocketbook, may not be so great for my mental health. But the best way out is always through. The challenge will be to coordinate with three other teachers. I spent most of the weekend including the time that I was supposed to be writing with my writer’s group planning all of my lessons. I am grateful to have such understanding private clients because I’ve had to shift my Japanese client to the weekend. I also had to shift a couple of other clients as well. But I hope that this is not a pattern. After all, I do not want to constantly change my private clients in service to The English Center. Because I’m much more loyal to my private clients than I am to any institution. To be fair, I did try to keep my Japanese student’s lesson as planned at 2:30 pm because I’m working in the morning with the intensive client. The intensive ends at 12:30 and that would have been enough time to get to Amstelveen for my Japanese client. If I didn’t have to walk the intensive student and the next teacher to the next location where we are teaching. That’s right we had to split up the rooms between two different locations because we simply couldn’t find them in the same building. It was a jigsaw puzzle of epic proportions. But we finally managed to figure it out. The student works for Kearney and wants some grammar reinforcement and better language for writing reports and describing trends, so it seems that it will be very vocabulary focused. It’s a little bit difficult because while she gave us a needs analysis, there are four teachers working together to get her 30 hours. I find that that is a little bit difficult to coordinate even with a WhatsApp group that all the teachers are participating in. It’s going to be a bit of a tough week.

Another difficulty for the week was that I had to make certificates for classes non-profit group classes that are ending this week and the next. I started to make them and of course, The English Center decided to change the formatting. So the owner of the English Center and I spent much of Friday going back and forth on the phone trying to make sure that the stupid certificates were fine. That extended into Saturday when I made Word documents of the certificates for the class ending on the 6th of February. But what I noticed is that Google Docs took my word document and actively changed the color of my font without me doing anything. It was as the title says, quite confounding. I find that I am not so good with formatting to be able to see when something is a millimeter off at the best of times, let alone when we’re under pressure to complete certificates by Monday. But in the end, it all worked out. I am pretty sure that the owner of The English Center had a glass of wine with dinner. I was tempted to when Shinwei came over for a lesson and dinner but did not.

Speaking of Shinwei, dear reader, I have decided we’re going to once again change our focus for his lessons for a time. He mostly feels ok with social interactions and speaking English. He doesn’t struggle so much with grammar though he sometimes forgets constructions. He has also started taking Dutch and that is informing what he does in English. That’s been very interesting to watch. He says that he has to say the Dutch sentence he has to translate into English and then translate it into Chinese. So it’ll be interesting to see what happens with his social English once he starts learning more and more Dutch. But we have decided that he needs more help with and where he struggles is in making presentations so I have decided to assign him random presentations each week that he will have to give. I will have to ask questions and get him to speak off-script. We will see how that works. Working with my Japanese student has proven to be a pleasure and we have decided to meet on Tuesdays and Thursdays because she has started working part-time at the restaurant under her house. She is also quite keen to do some on-the-go lessons when we go into the city and she uses her English when we are together. I foresee many Museum visits in the immediate future.

While I was in the States I was talking to my sister about the troubles that I have been having in terms of teaching and working here in the Netherlands. She suggested that I completely strike out on my own. She also offered to facilitate a meeting with a digital marketing company that does the marketing for her. I had that meeting early last week and it was very encouraging. I feel a little bit better about the direction I’ve decided to go with my teaching and hope that eventually I can get away from all of the schools that I work for and really cut out the middleman. I am a writer and I have no problem with negative feedback or constructive criticism but what I have a problem with is when it’s filtered through a school and that impacts your job prospects. I love when my students tell me that there are things that I’m not covering that they want me to. I make sure that my students are active participants in their learning plans. I also don’t have a problem with feedback from schools, but I have a problem when that feedback is passive-aggressive and isn’t actually given to the person but instead is on some form that is only seen by the school. Especially if you find out what they think in a roundabout way. I’m excited by the developments of the last week in terms of the marketability of incredible and have a clear target in mind. I think that actually helps.

That’s all she wrote for this Inkreadable installments. But stay tuned. As always, there is more to come.

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