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.

Loaded Lessons and Parthenon Paralysis

It was quite a busy week here at Inkreadable, dear reader. Following up on my cold of the previous week where I only did as much work as was emergent, I really had to buckle down and get back into the swing of things. That meant that I had to do 13 and a half hours of administrative work for The English Center. I also had to give lessons to three of my clients for The English Center as well as my kids from China and the new client from Japan for my private lessons. In terms of The English Center, I reconnected with Slava with whom I now have four more hours left in his package. I am not sure whether he will continue as his boss actually has to approve the continuation because they pay for it. On the one hand, it might be nice to have my Monday evenings back, but it’s always a toss-up between working and free time. It’s the nature of being self-employed. If I’m honest, I would prefer to have online clients in the evening and in-person clients during the day. Slava is improving but it’s slow going because he has a hard time practicing English. He finds that when he’s speaking to his work colleagues the language is specific and used repeatedly. So he’s able to understand it. Where he struggles is if people go off script. I did try to tell him that that is an issue with everyone trying to learn a language. I certainly had it with my students during VIPKid. I had my last lesson with Roy for his 12-hour pronunciation package, but I think I may see him again. He might want to do a maintenance program but he said he would contact me with some dates. In his final lesson, we went over the different pronunciation and general English mistakes that Dutch speakers make. Including confusing the present progressive and simple present. Those two tenses are not differentiated in Dutch so “I eat an apple” and “I am eating an apple” are the same for Dutch speakers. So they tend to use present simple when they mean present progressive. I had a lesson planned for Isabelle this week but she changed it up on me at the last minute. She was giving a presentation in Dutch but the slides had to be in English because they are being distributed company-wide, and English is one of two official company languages. We spent about 45 minutes of the lesson talking about her slides, which left about 15 minutes to go over the plan for the following week. We are doing a lesson on the evolution of the hoodie. One of Isabel’s loves is fashion so I try to incorporate both fashion and HR into her lessons to keep them interesting.

Getting back into the swing of things with the kids in China was easy as we have started a new book and their conversations pretty well flow. At least Jerry’s conversation does. George’s speech impediment makes it a little bit difficult to understand him, but it’s gotten to the point where I’m able to understand about 75% of what he says. The other 25% I kind of fake it till I make it. But it’s interesting because they have very different perspectives on learning. Jerry is much more engaged and is able to answer my questions. George tends to fall back on the good old “I don’t know” when he doesn’t feel like participating or doing anything. As he gets older, I find that that becomes more and more prevalent. It may be that we have reached the end of the usefulness with George and that I will lose him as a client. Of course, it may be that I will lose both him and Jerry as clients because they are shortly to start high school and probably won’t have time for extra classes. China’s children tend to take many extra classes outside of their school that have an affiliation with what they’re currently learning and so English tends to take a back seat. We will have to see what happens but maybe they will just take a break and then come back once they hit university. My new Japanese student and I had our first two lessons together this week and they went quite well. We did cooking-based lessons and learned about some of the language involved with restaurants and food preparation. Our next lessons are tomorrow and Friday. We did a bit of an intake and while I did not do verbs like I normally do, I am going to try and shore up her use of the perfect tenses as they tend to be difficult.

You may have noticed, dear reader that I have not mentioned Odhran and our Greek classes in some time. That is because we went on hiatus during the winter holidays. But this past weekend starting from Friday at 9:00 Greek time until yesterday at midnight I was in Greece with him. On Saturday, we did a cat tour of Athens where we got to see several cat colonies and learn about the efforts to rescue and stop the problem of stray cats in Athens through catch-and-release programs. It was quite an interesting tour and I was very pleased with Odhran’s use of Greek even if it was just conversational. I had him order for us the whole weekend and I heard from his mom that even when I was not with them, (for example the time they went for ice cream and I opted to stay home), he used Greek to order. After the cat tour, we went to the Acropolis and I managed to walk most of the way up but I did not feel like climbing the stairs up to the Acropolis as they were very slippery and my ears are still blocked from my cold 2 weeks ago. As a result, my balance is affected and in fact, I wasn’t watching where I was going and I managed to fall once. I’m not sure why as I have gotten older I am less able to tell the depth of stairs and walking downstairs is much more difficult than walking up. I don’t mean stairs like in an apartment building. Those are fine. I am talking about finally hewn marble steps that have been polished and are so slippery with thousands of feet that traipse across them every year that is physically impossible to actually step on them. I do have a couple of nice pictures of views from the Acropolis but the nicest one appears below:

I was watching several groups of children bounding from stone to stone at the Acropolis and don’t ever remember feeling that confident or self-assured. Maybe it’s as we get older we learn to fear. But I was quite content to just sit at the bottom and wait for Odhran and his mom to come back from the top of the Acropolis and report what they had seen. Having accomplished what we wanted to accomplish, we spent Sunday morning on Syntagma Square watching the changing o the guard then went to Aegina. Here are some pictures from the ferry and on the island:

On Monday we went to the headquarters of his other Greek school and I got to meet the head of the school. We split up after that as they went to the airport but I was not flying until the evening and so I hooked up with a friend of my mom’s and spent the day with them. The flight home was uneventful thankfully. My key takeaways from this trip: Odhran is making progress and his mom is happy with me and the greek school. I also like destination teaching and hope to do more of it.

That’s All She Wrote for this Inkreadable installment. But, stay tuned. As always, there’s more to come.

Medical Minimalism, Restful Reading, and Private (student) Pickup

Unfortunately, there isn’t much to report this week, dear reader. From Tuesday last week, my cold got progressively worse with all the symptoms that you would expect including fever, not being able to breathe very well, and coughing. But the interesting thing about this cold and something I have never experienced before, was a blockage of my right ear that isn’t going away. It is my custom to wait a week before calling the doctor. So yesterday I gave the doctor a call but was not able to actually talk to one. Instead, I got the assistant. It seems that there is nothing they can do for a blockage of the ears except wait for it to pass. I did manage to clear my schedule of everything that caused me to have to talk.

I spent the week reading several books including a book club selection and a couple of other physical books for a book swap. While it was quite a nice restful week, yesterday I actually behaved as if I wasn’t sick and actually got some work done. I’m so behind in my administrative tasks that it feels like I am not going to get out from under all of this at least not for a while.

While I didn’t do much teaching last week, I did pick up a new student this week who is my most consistent student yet. She has purchased 68 hours of my time from now until the end of June. She is a Japanese student who found me online and we had been talking a little bit before I left for the US. We started yesterday and while she is at quite a low level, I think she has the potential for fast improvement. She’s also open to learning in different places so maybe I will do some lessons on the go with her like I do with ShinWei. I also contacted a parent who I had started a conversation with before I left. She has two kids and wants lessons for one possibly both of them full stop as it’s raining I have not heard anything back from her as yet.

I spent part of the weekend preparing for my forthcoming trip to Greece. It’s actually the reason that I called the doctor because I was afraid that with my ear blocked I would not be able to fly. Basically, they told me that I fly at my own risk and they can’t tell me not to. So dear reader, my next post will be coming to you post a glorious Greek weekend where I get to see lots of cats, the Parthenon, and possibly take a day trip to an island.

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

Calm Crossing, Jetlag Jinx, Advertising Anomalies and Flu Felled

Greetings, dear reader, from Amsterdam. The flight back was uneventful, though neither Jasper nor I were able to sleep at all. That is not unusual for either of us as neither of us is able to sleep in planes. I managed to watch a movie and spent the rest of the flight reading. The only problem with the flight was that I lost a brand new battery pack and as of this writing have not heard whether it was found. It’s a little annoying because I spent good money on it. I also lost a charger but I was able to replace that quite quickly on Sunday.

Maybe it’s the fact that we hadn’t traveled for 2 years, but I felt that the jet lag was quite a bit worse this time than previous times coming back from the States. Generally, I can get back into the swing of things in about 3 days but this time that was not to be. On Sunday we ran a couple of errands and I noticed that I was very foggy through most of Sunday. If this is going to be a recurring theme for travel then maybe travel is no longer for me. Jet lag really is the pits.

My last week in the States was pretty uneventful. I hung out with my sister quite a lot and managed to get some things done for my dad which was good. I didn’t do much teaching that last week. I had Odhran, Shinwei, and Isabelle for the English Center. My schedule was full of doctors’ appointments both the dentist and the eye doctor but I had to cancel them as I was felled by the flu. And it wasn’t just me. One of the other teachers at The English Center was also likewise sick. There’s apparently something going around. Sunday into Monday I had a fever of 40 and really was not doing very well yesterday. I did manage to write this blog post, however. The only other thing of interest for the week was that I registered with Google to start advertising Inkreadable to see if I can get some interest and new students. I have decided that I’m going to invest in my business a little bit more this year and see if that helps. It was interesting though because I made the ad and then was promptly put into Google ads jail for unacceptable business practices. I’m not sure what that meant but I did get a chance to resolve it though it took about a day and a half. Since then I haven’t done anything in terms of advertising because I’ve been too sick.

That’s all she wrote for this Inkreadabe installment. But stay tuned. As always, there’s more to come.

Admin Anxiety and Book Brouhaha

First of all, dear readers, Happy New Year! Let’s hope that 2023 is a better year than either 2022 or 2021. That is not to say that 2021 was terrible as we all started traveling again, but it became apparent that after 2 years of the pandemic many things have changed. I speak, of course of, the difficulties that most people have had traveling. Or going to a restaurant. We might have a labor shortage in the Netherlands but it seems that the industries that suffered the most, are travel and hospitality for obvious reasons. What’s interesting is that we still have a labor shortage in both the Netherlands and the US. But enough about that. The week in the run-up to New Year’s was quite quiet, I had finished up most of my stuff on Friday fully expecting that there would be a quiet weekend ahead with family. And there was. Mostly. I went to see my sisters and I spent the night with my sister Alex and her kids at my dad’s house on New Year’s Eve. Of course, we did not manage to see the new year in as we were all asleep. Alex by about 8:00 and myself about 9:00 30 or 10:00. On New Year’s Day that meant that we woke up well refreshed for a journey to the outlets which is fast becoming a tradition for my sister and me. Our mom is buried in a cemetery close by and so while I myself did not go to the cemetery we have decided that that might be a nice tradition to institute. Say hi to Mom and then go to the outlets. Though I am a little bit conflicted about all of that because going to visit someone at a cemetery really isn’t such a wonderful thing to me. But it’s not about me.

Still, as nice as the family time was, there were things that were left hanging over the weekend partially because I was waiting to hear from teachers and not expecting to hear from them over the New Year’s holiday. So I wasn’t as responsive as I could have been to certain emails. The upshot was that I received two emails in a row from a student who was very uncertain about whether I received her emails. I managed to wake up quite early and send her the email on Sunday. Yesterday I woke up to an ocean of constructive criticism, (or maybe it was just criticism) that I shouldn’t have said as much in the email as I did. Oh well, live and learn. The scheduling SNAFUS continued throughout Monday morning. In addition to sending an email with too much information, I had to try and coordinate switching out a class for a teacher who is sharing the student with another teacher. That was a flurry of emails but I am hopeful that this will resolve after this post publishes. Working six hours behind the Netherlands is not always that easy.

By far the most stressful incident of the week was trying to make sure that a particular class had books. Here’s the situation: back in December I ordered 17 books for a class that takes place on Monday evenings. I had ordered six copies to be delivered within a week, and 11 to follow at a later date. While I was in the Netherlands we had some trouble getting the books from the bookstore to the location because of address problems. Once we finally sorted that out the books were supposed to get there the following day. I think this was a bit before the holidays even started. Thinking that everything was okay I assured the people waiting for the book that they would be there the following day. Only to wake up yesterday morning saying the books had not arrived at the location at all. And then saw a subsequent email that they had arrived. Once again I thought that everything was on track. Only to receive a text at 12:00 p.m my time yesterday from the teacher saying that they didn’t have the books at the location where she teaches. So I had to contact the person who actually delivered the books to the location and ask where they went. She told me who picked them up and where they potentially are in the building. I related the information to the teacher, who let me know at 17:00 that the books had indeed been found.

But the above fracas caused me no small end of anxiety so I sent an email to the bookstore that we work with for large orders to make sure that the large orders that still remain including the 11 books expected for the class above, as well as 10 books that are expected for a course that will run in January, are on the radar of the bookstore and myself. I even took the precaution to contact the owner of The English Center to make sure that she received the two books that she ordered some weeks back. Thankfully, she had. Is it any wonder that I spent most of Monday panicking? So much so that I was not able to finish most of the tasks that I had set for myself, including lesson planning, my own admin work, and this blog post.

In terms of students for the week, I am only seeing Isabelle, Shinwei, and Odhran. All of whom are pretty easy to prepare for. In fact, my prep for both Isabelle and Odhran is complete. Shinwei is not yet complete but I’m doing a little bit of research about photography and the terms associated with it so it’s taking me a little longer than I thought to prepare. I also contacted my English Center pronunciation student Roy to see if we could schedule our last lesson but I have not heard anything as of this writing. All in all, I think I need to work on not being so anxious when things don’t work out as easily as I need them to.

The Writer’s group is once again on hiatus on the 5th as neither Mark my co-organizer nor I can attend the meeting. We have let everybody know that they’re welcome to meet but there will be no admins and there will be no new people day after tomorrow. Things will go back to normal once both Mark and I are able to attend meetings.

That’s All She Wrote for this Inkreadable installment. But stay tuned. As always, there is more to come.

Slow Schedule and Holiday Highlights

It’s been another quiet week at Inkreadable, dear reader. The only teaching that I did this week was with Isabelle on Tuesday. And even for that one, there was no prep because I had already prepped a lesson for her, and as ever we discussed an article. We also talked about our plans for Christmas and I checked in with her as to how she’d like the lessons for this package to proceed. We’ve been doing mostly conversations with syntax corrections if needed and trying to build her vocabulary. I think my next lesson will be about using idioms with her as we haven’t actually done that. In terms of English Center work everything else is in person and has to be completed when I get back to the Netherlands.

It’s not to say that I didn’t do any work for The English Center. In fact, I did quite a bit of scheduling work and trying to find rooms for various students who are doing intensives and the like. Scheduling work seems to be ramping up quite a lot as they have an influx of new students. It’s unfortunate however that they’re only using about 1/4 of their teaching staff to teach these students. I have figured out that they want to keep new teachers happy. I know this because that was how it was for me in 2019. Of course, the pandemic affected everything, but things are getting back to normal, at least in the Netherlands and there should be enough work for everyone. Unfortunately, there isn’t. And that means that the teachers who have been with schools for a long time are the ones that are being shafted and new teachers are being led to believe that they will have the volume of work that they have now for always. And I think that is across the board.

My Private Client world is also pretty slow with only Shinwei doing online lessons while I’m here. My Chinese kids are on hiatus as is Odhran. In fact, I won’t be seeing him until I get back to the Netherlands, and then we will have to do twice the work to account for the break. It gives us two weeks to get him ready for our trip to Greece on the 20th of January. In other news, the parent who contacted me for lessons for her son finally got in touch with me. We are going to set up a meeting when I am back in the Netherlands to see if I can start teaching her son. In true Dutch fashion, however, she has already asked me for a discount. I don’t think I can go much Beyond 20% off for both children. That means working with each child for 40 euros an hour. I think that is more than reasonable. Of course, it may come to nothing so it’s not something that I’m banking on.

There are some other things in my teaching pipeline but what I’m realizing is that given that The English Center feels mainly negative things about me and is trying to keep me happy with an administrative position, my conclusion is that I need to leave English language teaching completely. This isn’t a very easy realization as English language teaching was my career change. But I’m realizing more and more that if everything that is thought about me by the people that I work for is negative then there’s no point in doing the job. I am not going to take any action until I have another job and in order to do that I am going to start by getting some help from HR professionals who might be able to point me in the right direction in terms of resume and skill set help. For the moment I’m going to bide my time and see where things take me, but I’ve been feeling more and more that aside from the clients who have come to me of their own volition, English language teaching is starting to dry up. But it’s not just that, dear reader. I recently discovered that a friend of mine thought that I had taken someone’s job at English Center and that was not the case. While it was a misunderstanding I now feel that I cannot trust the friend who felt these things about me and as she is also an English language teacher, it’s time to go.

I’m not actually looking forward to looking for other work in an economic downturn, and certainly, I’m not going to let anyone know that I’m looking until I have something else that is not English language teaching. I’m not sure how this will affect the blog but of course, you guys will be the first to know once things change. I figure it’s better to look for a job from a position of having a job rather than leaving and trying to find a job without a source of income. The best of all worlds would be if I could make more passive income and not have to work as hard as I currently do with lesson planning.

Christmas Eve and Christmas day were both pretty quiet and spent with family. Christmas Eve was with Jasper’s family and that was a do-what-you-like kind of Christmas. My own family is a little bit more outwardly social and you always have to be on with them as opposed to being able to read a book like you can with Jasper’s family. I like both but I have to say that I do prefer that people don’t look at me funny in Jasper’s family when I want to read a book.

A belated Merry Christmas to you all dear readers. That’s All She Wrote for this Inkreadable installment. But stay tuned. As always, there is more to come.

Teaching Tempered and Holiday Hiatus

It’s been a very quiet week here at Inkreadable with zero teaching. I have only been doing administrative work for The English Center the whole week and since Jasper and I are maintaining Dutch hours, has been a bit of a challenge. I have been waking up with more and more difficulty around 5:00 a.m. and working from about 6 to 10:00 in the morning US time. The most challenging thing about that is not being able to schedule students as easily with teachers not available to work during the holidays.

In terms of classes, I do have Greek with Odhran and I have Isabelle at The English Center. This schedule is probably going to include Shinwei towards the end of my trip as he is on vacation at the moment. But h will be easy as we can just talk about his trip and his thoughts on Germany and the places he has visited. For me, the holidays falling on a Sunday are great as I would feel guilty about not working if they fell on a weekday. Of course, I also feel guilty not working on a weekend or holiday, but that is remaining PTSD from VIPKid days.

The writers’ group both on Thursday and on Sunday is right now on Hiatus until the beginning of the year. I will not attend the writers’ group until the 12th of January and I think this will be the longest time that I have been away from them. I did not realize how difficult that would be but it also feels like time is passing very quickly and I will be back in the swing of things in no time.

I am sorry my post is a little bit short this time but I don’t really have much to report as I’m not doing much anyway. As ever, thanks for reading my blog. I wish you and your families the best of the holiday season.

That’s All She Wrote for this Inkreadable installment. But stay tuned. As always, there is more to come.

Covid Conscious Crossing and Fond Farewells

Greetings, dear reader, from the US. We arrived yesterday afternoon and it’s been a flurry of trying to settle in and get acclimated to the timezone. The first is actually pretty easy but getting accustomed to the timezone is a little bit more difficult. Not to mention being back in the States. For Jasper is a vacation but for me, it’s mostly trying to finish up problems that as yet remain. One of the things I’m here to do this time is pick up my Christmas ornaments and ship them to Crete to my sister so she can have them. I also want to go through my books which are at a friend’s house and consolidate them into something that I can take with me or at least get rid of. These types of things really do stress me out, because instead of having nothing to do there is a bunch of stress. The flight was uneventful, but the world seems to have forgotten that we’re still in a pandemic. When I travelled to Greece a couple of weeks back I did not wear a mask, figuring 2 hours and 15 minutes was a reasonable risk to take not to mention the 35-minute flight to Crete. But I’m not so sanguine about being on a plane for 8 hours and 40 minutes. That is too much of a risk so Jasper and I have decided that we will both wear masks for most of the flight. So I’m not looking forward to it, but better safe than sorry as we are going to visit older people and who wants to get them sick. Even though we’ve both been fully vaccinated. The week leading up to the trip was quite full of events and English Center work. And it’s not as though I won’t see some of my students while I’m away.

In fact, the only students that I won’t see at all during the vacation, are George and Jerry because the timing is too difficult as I don’t want to wake up at 6:30 a.m. on a Sunday morning and luckily Christmas and New Year’s Eve are both on Sundays this year. So I went ahead and canceled with their mom before I left for the States. Apparently, this was just as well because they are having exams over the Western Christmas holiday. So I did offer that if they needed help with something for the exam I could be available via WeChat. I think that is the most humane thing to do both in terms of time and in terms of getting them help if they need it. But I suspect they won’t need it at all because these two kids are quite good at English.

The week leading up to my trip was full of fond farewells to friends, lots of FOMO with missed writers’ groups, and even some fond farewells to my students. I had originally thought that I would have to teach Yana on Saturday but it turned out that she was going to Germany so I had to find a sub for her final lesson. Luckily my colleague Emily stepped up and Yana’s lessons have been scheduled. She will finish her package on the 17th of December which is just time enough as she is flying home to Russia on Christmas Day. So on Wednesday evening this past week, we had our final lesson about idioms and bid each other a nice farewell with promises to remain in touch and maybe go have a coffee in the new year. I find it a satisfactory ending to a class. My pronunciation student Roy was sick this week and so we did not get to have his final in-person lesson. It remains to be seen what will happen once I get back but it’s up to him whether he wants a remote lesson or an in-person lesson. This Final one should be in person but he is a quite copacetic person and would not have a problem going remote. Slava and I will pick back up for lessons for the final 3 2 hour lessons when I come back we should take us to February. comes back on my schedule when I am back as well.

There may even be some new students on the horizon but even though I have sent emails I have not heard anything from them. I received an email from a woman who wants lessons for her kids, but I have sent several emails and not heard anything from her. I sent her several emails and that’s how I fugured out my website and my email were down. I have had a call into the person who hosts my website me but he hasn’t responded as yet. It’s a little bit annoying. I have another student that will start in January and she wants about 68 hours. We’ll start when I get back in January and we will have to finish by the end of June 2023 as that’s what her company expects.

The Writers group was really badly attended this week on Thursday with only two people meeting and of course, the Sunday meeting online has a few people but let’s hope it gets back to normal levels post-holiday season. We have decided to suspend the group after the meeting this Thursday. And we will meet back up on the 3rd of January.

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

Schedule Shifts and Writing Woes

I have been back from Greece for nearly a week and I can’t say that I have settled into a routine. Because we’re traveling in less than a week it feels like the last couple of weeks have been rather surreal. It hasn’t helped that I’m not able to control what happens on my schedule currently. It had been set before I left for Greece but as with most business people, a few of my clients have had to cancel our lessons. One of them was Yana. We were supposed to meet on Thursday but she was called into a business meeting and so she could not meet. That meant that I had to find her a substitute for her final lesson in the package as she did not want to do a double lesson on the weekend. Luckily I was able to do that because Emily, the teacher who helped me out on November 26 was available on December 17th so I went ahead and booked a room. So it worked out, but not without consequences for me. Because of course, it is a financial loss. But since I tend to be really optimistic about teaching, something else will come up, and the bright side was that I got to go to my writer’s group on Thursday. I didn’t have any of my clients for English Center with the exception of my pronunciation client who I saw while in Greece because it was an online lesson. Our final lesson will be in person later today. I am going to miss our lessons because he’s quite a nice student. He really does listen to the advice that I give. Our final lesson is going to be spent going over pronunciation mistakes that specifically Dutch people make because up until now we’ve been trying to isolate and get him to say the th sound both voiced and unvoiced. Accordingly, I prepared the lesson over the weekend for him with all of the mistakes that Dutch people tend to make including some incorrect word used mistakes which he doesn’t tend to do but I have to fill up an hour and a half with him anyway. Isabelle and I are going to meet on Thursday this week as I have a book club tonight. And I haven’t had Slava in what seems like a million years but has really only been about 3-weeks. We met last night and worked on expressing the time and expressions with time as well as higher-order numbers. I am sharing him with another teacher, and sometimes that can be difficult, but it’s nice when you’re given concrete things to work on. It makes lesson planning much easier.

In my private client world, it’s been almost dead. While I was in Greece I didn’t have anyone on my schedule. But once I got back I made sure to schedule Shinwei on Friday and then with my kids from China on Sunday as per usual. This week I am meeting with Odhran twice to make up for the loss from last week. These are fairly easy classes to prep for. With Shinwei we’re working on wine terms. With Odhan we’re working on functional phrases in Greek that he can use when we go to Greece in January.

What wasn’t great this week was my Writer’s group as I actually had to prep a lesson so I wasn’t doing any writing of my own. And I don’t like when that happens. It gets very frustrating because Thursdays are kind of sacred and when I have to give them up for students it really messes with my week. It is especially difficult now as I will be away starting next week in the US and so won’t be attending any meetings at all. So I would have liked to connect with my characters before being in the US and not really being able to write. Maybe I’ll get a chance to write while I am in the US. But I think that is a bit too much optimism.

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

Modals Mania and Crete Confusion

Greetings from sunny, warmish Crete, dear reader, but before I get to the whys and wherefore of that, a teaching update. As you might imagine, it was a very difficult couple of weeks here at Inkreadable. I say a couple of weeks because even though I did a blog post last week, I could not talk about everything that was going on in terms of teaching because it was directly connected to the reason I’m actually in Crete. A couple of weeks ago, my dad offered me a ticket so that both of us could come and surprise my sister here in Crete for Thanksgiving. After talking to The English Center and agreeing that I could go because I could work from there, I decided to buy the ticket. The past couple of weeks were spent trying to shift everybody off my schedule.

Almost everybody on my schedule was okay in terms of switching lessons or not having lessons at all but Yana, my consulting student is very particular about what she wanted and did not want to have too long of a break between lessons. The last time I saw Yana was on the 5th of November. I was supposed to see her on the 13th, but she was sick, and then she had a commitment on the 19th. On the 26th I was going to Greece and so I was trying to figure out how to get her scheduled. Originally I was going to give her up to another teacher, but nobody wants to work on Saturdays. I also don’t want to work on Saturdays but I will sometimes make exceptions if it’s a consistent enough package. Or if they have nobody else. It was damnably difficult, trying to find someone to take her lessons permanently. I was getting so fed up with the back-and-forth and the emails, and the fact that she just wasn’t flexible that I wanted to give her up completely money be damned. But alas, it was not to be, and I had to find someone to substitute instead. It happened like this, dear reader. Yana and I started our package in October, and we had three lessons completed by the 5th of November. There were five lessons to go. Because Yana wanted to complete our lessons before I left, I offered a Wednesday evening as well as a Thursday. So as it stands, we now have lessons scheduled on the 1st of December, the 4th of December, the 7th of December, and the 10th of December. In addition to these changes, however, I also had to switch out Thursday, the 8th of December to teach Isabelle instead of going to Writers Group. This makes me kind of sad because my Writers Group is important to me, and I do not like to teach on Thursdays. And now I find myself having to teach on both Thursdays before I leave for the US.

To say that I am annoyed is an understatement. I also had to move all of my private clients off my schedule while I’m in Crete because it was a little too difficult to teach. The kids are everywhere. or at least that is the excuse that I am using to justify not doing any teaching at all. Luckily, my private clients are a lot nicer and a lot less difficult than my English Centre clients. Or at least a lot less difficult than Yana, who by the way is all sweetness and light when you meet her in person. Or at least a lot less difficult than Yana. I suppose she’s not so very different from everybody else, I guess. Since my sister reads my blog, you might imagine that all of the shenanigans were very difficult, and trying not to talk about it in the context of my post last week was very taxing. It made posting in chronological order very difficult.

But at last, everything was organized in terms of scheduling. What was a little harder to organize was homework correction. You see, dear reader,  Yana sent me some homework via WhatsApp that I had asked her to do and it took me about two hours to correct. Based on the corrections, however, what I noticed, and she did as well, is that she struggles with using the past participle in conjunction with the modal verbs as well as the difference between used to and used to be. So I spent yesterday and today trying to figure out how to teach her that. Luckily, I have a bit of time to kind of make a lesson and figure things out since I’m going to be on planes tomorrow and have a very long layover in Athens. But she, like Claudia a year ago, is my current most challenging student. I am looking forward to not having to stress about her lessons after the 10th of December. I will always be available for her if she has questions about writing reports and such but I think she is going to be one of those students that I’m happy to not have to plan lessons for.

So now dear reader, we come to the crux of Crete confusion. With my ticket sorted and my classes somewhat sorted, I was able to go to the airport this past Wednesday with very little stress.I was initially worried that I would have trouble at security, but it took about, an hour into being at the airport. I was seated at the gate, connected my laptop to Wi-Fi, and working. Once I got to Athens, everything changed. The Athens airport Wi-Fi is a little bit better than it was the last time I was at the airport, but I was still only able to work for about an hour without interruption before it got too difficult. The B level of the airport is not particularly wonderful and there isn’t much to do. so I spent a very boring few hours, never realizing that I could’ve actually gone upstairs and hung out in a much more cozy area of the airport, more fool me. Not being able to work and not feeling like reading at the moment, I gave my dad a call. His response to the call was strange as he said “looking forward to seeing you I have so much to tell you.“ I thought it was a very strange response, but I thought it had to do with his business or something from home that he remembered and wanted to talk to me about it. Never ever did I assume that it was about the surprise.  I got on the plane and had an enjoyable half-hour flight to Crete on a Brand-new airline sky express. Once I landed in Crete and had gotten my bags which went very smoothly, I called Jasper to let him know that I had arrived. I wasn’t sure if anybody was coming to pick me up at the airport but as I was talking to Jasper I saw my dad outside in the visitor pickup area.   and said okay I got a go and I went to meet my dad and that is when the proverbial surprise shit hit the fan. You see my sister had found out about the whole surprise through a comedy of errors, that was quite ridiculous in scope. What happened, dear reader, was this. Apparently, a friend of Alex’s had seen my father on the plane in the morning from Athens to Chania and asked her if my dad was on the flight. My sister said no, and it would’ve been fine if the friend then hadn’t sent her a picture of my dad on the plane and said “yes, he is on the flight and he’s surprising you but does tell him because it will ruin the surprise”. Foolish, foolish friend. Rather an idiot actually. They could’ve just said no, it wasn’t your dad and that would’ve been the end of the matter and the surprise we have proceeded as normal. but no. My sister was tired of waiting for my dad throughout the day and so she went to his house to surprise him. She woke him up in fact, and he was so out of it, that he said “where is Tina”. Thereby ruining the surprise for even me. Anyway, I get to the airport and there is my dad. As I have very bad peripheral vision on the right I don’t see my sister until she jumps in front of me. To which I responded. Nope. Nope. Nope nope. nope go away. This was supposed to be a surprise from me to you. I was so annoyed.  To which my sister said just give me a hug so that people don’t think that you hate me. But all is well that ends well, in this instance, but the moral of the story is when you try to surprise, someone don’t do it for someone who is so famous on the island of Crete that everybody knows her.

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