Teaching Tempered and Relaxing Write-In

With most of my students still out with colds and COVID, this week at Inkreadable in terms of teaching was quiet. It is picking up somewhat this week with everyone back on my schedule with the exception of my Polish client. She is taking a bit of time off post a visit to Asia. But I expect to see her sometime in the next couple of weeks. I was a little bit busier with administrative work this past week. I spent the weekend lesson planning for all of the students that are now back on my schedule as of yesterday. I also have a new student. He is an Italian student who wants pronunciation help and has signed up for a 12-hour course. I approached planning his first lesson as I do every other pronunciation client I’ve ever had and that is to go to Google and see what pronunciation mistakes speakers of Italian make. Google is quite good for that, and if you simply Google the words pronunciation mistakes and the language of origin it’ll come up with a whole host of things. It took me about 30 minutes to plan an hour lesson. The rest of the week was quite easy as I already had lessons planned for almost everyone since I hadn’t been able to give the lessons while my students were sick. I was able to plan almost the whole week on Saturday. George and Jerry this week were a bit of a challenge as I did a lesson on Marvel Studios and they really struggled with the vocabulary. It also didn’t help that for some reason zoom has decided that it doesn’t want to load when I screen share very quickly. This was more apparent with George’s class than with Jerry as I think they are using different tech. Toward the end of the half-hour with George, none of the lessons were working and we just had to have a conversation which is never easy with him because I sometimes have a hard time understanding him. In addition, he tries to get a little bit cheeky and tries to make my life difficult just for a battle of it.

Last week, dear reader, I told you how scary it was at my writers’ group last week. This week proved to be much calmer as the gentleman who came and wouldn’t stop talking did not show up. But I did notice that instead of being a 5-star meet up we are now a 4 and 3-quarters-star meet up so someone has given us a bad review. And while that makes me sad, I am not going to go looking for the review and see who actually didn’t like us. I actually got a bit of writing done on Thursday which was great but it was nowhere near my colleagues who were all writing thousand-word and up workouts. Still, I was pretty pleased with my own production, even if it wasn’t either quality or quantity. It was very nice not to feel like there were people of questionable mental health having a conversation largely with themselves at the table. There were a couple of new faces but it was mostly familiar faces. I even managed to find the energy to go out afterward to have a drink. What remains a challenge is writing at times that are not Thursdays.

I’m sorry that this week’s blog post is so short, but I’m not the type of writer to make stuff up if there is nothing to say. So that’s all she wrote for this Inkreadable installment. But stay tuned. There’s always there is more to come.

Student Sickness, Terrifying Thursday and Weekend Write-in

It has been an extremely quiet week here at Inkreadablle. I have been a little busy with English Center administrative work but the clients have all fallen ill. As I only have two clients and both of them canceled lessons for the week, that meant that I could concentrate on my private clients. I have scheduled Shinwei for Friday evenings when he comes to me and I give a lesson. Then we have dinner. That will change in April as he will go back to Taiwan for a month and so we will go online. That suits me quite well as I will be in Greece for 10 days in April from the 10th until the 21st for the Greek Easter holiday. My Japanese client has also agreed to go online and so I will give her four online lessons. I am going to have to cancel George and Jerry on Easter Sunday as there will be no possibility of giving a lesson that day.

My students being sick, meant that this week wass off to a very slow start as neither Jean or Helene have let me know when they want to come back for a lesson. In addition on Saturday, I realized that this weekend is daylight savings time in the US which means that a couple of appointments that I have in the US will be an hour earlier for me as we don’t change until the end of the month. That meant that I had to ask my Japanese client if we could make it earlier on Thursday. At this point, that meeting is up in the air because she is currently also ill with a fever and we canceled Tuesday’s lesson. I’m not too upset about any of this because I can always find the time to write.

This week’s session at the library was one of the scariest I have ever experienced in my life. I do not scare easily and generally, I can deal with writer weird. But this week a young man walked into the library and up to our table and didn’t stop talking until he left. Generally, I ignored him but then I started listening to a little bit of what he was saying and all he talked about was how horrible his education was, how he felt duped by all the teachers in Ireland and the upper class. I’ve heard this stuff before so I was able to turn it out until he started referring to women as females and I caught a drift of some of his incel ideology. He scared me so much, dear reader, that I didn’t get any writing done. I left the meeting at about 8 and as I was walking to the bathroom got a text from my co-organizer Mark, saying that the creepy guy had left and taken the elevator and suggested that I take the stairs. I decided to take the elevator but as I got downstairs to the lobby and exited the library, I thought I saw the guy who was hanging out outside having a smoke. Needless to say, I walked as quickly as I could to the tram stop that would take me home but I was literally looking over my shoulder the whole time. I didn’t actually feel safe until I was in my house with the door locked. I cannot deny this guy the library as it is a public space and I am very worried that he will come back. My writers’ group is the tribe that I chose and they generally have my back so I think it will be ok even if he does come back but he freaked me out quite a lot.

On Sunday I taught George and Jerry after a week away and then went to meet some writer friends. We met at the bookstore where we used to meet and I got a couple of hours of writing done. If I can maintain the schedule of writing on the weekends then perhaps writing on Thursdays will become a bit easier as well. On Thursday evenings I have a tendency to get distracted by the tasks that I didn’t complete for the English Centre during the week. We also talked about the creepy incel guy and they gave me the suggestion that if he comes tp the meeting again we make it a silent write-in, so that at least he won’t be able to talk. It’s not a bad suggestion, but I really just hope he doesn’t come back.

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

Flexibility Focus, Hastings Holiday, and (Group) Member Mix-ups

This week at Inkreadable shifted the focus from teaching to my ability to be flexible. I have had to ensure that I am fully available for several students who travel quite a lot. The first has been Jean who seems to go go to Brazil at least once a month. He has a business where he supplies jumbotron screens to advertisers. In that role, he is back and forth quite a lot and we have been on hiatus for this last week. We will make it up this week with two lessons and probably with two lessons the next week. This is fine, but it doesn’t leave me much time in the mornings for my Polish client who wants to do two hours a week. But she also needs flexibility because she travels quite a bit as well, albeit not for business. She has a partner who lives in Asia and she goes to see him quite frequently. It makes it a little bit difficult to plan lessons that are cohesive for her because we really do need to focus on her grammar. She also has a hard time remembering the differences between the tenses, and I’m not so good at explaining how to keep them in her head. It is indeed quite a challenge. But she’s a new client and I suspect that is going to take us some time to get her up to snuff. I have given my usual tips for using the language and as she lives in one of the Ra cities she should have some flexibility with finding people who speak English. In fairness, that is easy in the Netherlands, even outside the main cities. Everybody speaks some sort of English. Whether they speak good English or not is another debate entirely. But any language acquisition is better than no language acquisition. After two years with my beloved Odhran, we’re taking a break. I am not sure whether the break is indefinite or not. I have just told his mom to let me know when they are ready to begin again. I will be available but it makes me sad because if it is permanent, that’s two years that we’ve been working together. Admin work was relatively busy this week with a new Course starting for Ukrainian refugees that I had to facilitate with one other teacher. I also had to go to Amstelveen as well to grade the tests and put people into groups. It was extremely tiring trying to coordinate between the English Center and the people actually running the program but it got done. But flexibility cuts both ways and my students have also had to be flexible with me as well. That was particularly true this week as Jasper and I went to the south of England to celebrate our friend’s 50th birthday.

Our friends live in a town called Three Oaks which sounds like, and is in fact, in the middle of the countryside. But surprisingly, when I mentioned it to people in the Netherlands who are English they knew the town. Every single time that I mentioned it. My friends’ names are Colin and Caroline and they are absolutely lovely people who are very much into wine. We met about 10 years ago when I was living in Edinburgh and became fast friends very quickly. The bed and breakfast that we stayed in was quite lovely and is owned by a man who was the headmaster of a private school. The school has outposts in Africa and it’s reflected in the decor: the hotel is an eclectic mix of both old English style and African artifacts from the owner’s travels. But they were having staffing issues and I am not sure that they will be around if things don’t turn around. We also went to Hastings which, to be honest, was not the most interesting town, but at least we got to walk on the beach. We didn’t see any Normans, however. Sunday was spent recuperating from Saturday’s accesses. Jasper and I both took it easy. And then Colin and Caroline picked us up for a pub lunch in the country. It was a lovely weekend all around. The only dim spots on the weekend were not being able to figure out the trains as it wasn’t very clear how to transfer and there were very few people to ask. But we made it and going back yesterday was a little bit better.

I really dropped the ball this week with the writer’s group. I did not realize that on Meetup you can have an event chat and completely missed that one of the people coming for the writers’ group contacted the group on that forum and I only saw his message on Sunday. It was a message to say that he had arrived at the library. I immediately contacted him to apologize but as of this writing, he had not contacted me. In addition, I contacted Mark to let him know that we had missed a member. We have agreed to keep a better eye on the meetup responses in the future, but it cast a pall on Sunday as u felt horrid about it. We had one other new member show up but he was just a visitor as he is from Spain and was visiting friends in Amsterdam. He popped into the writer’s group but did not have anything to write with and so left soon after. It was an atypical week for writer’s group management and my writing suffered for it, as I didn’t get any writing done at all.

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

Timewasting Trial, Terrible Tech, and Sincere Students

This week, dear reader, was full of lessons. I don’t mean lessons that I gave, but rather ones that I learned this week. I’ll start with The English Center because that’s still the bulk of my time. It will continue to be so until I can start advertising Inkreadable. Since I haven’t had time to figure out where to go get a translation of my website, it’s going to be a little while. I spent about 10 hours doing my normal administrative work throughout the week. But I also had three hours of lessons with Jean, an hour with Heleen, and four hours with Eva over in The Hague which was actually 5 hours each day with the commute. That was a little difficult and while she has friends who would like lessons, I am not in a place to be able to go to the Hague to teach people. There has to be a limit to how far a teacher will travel to teach a lesson. And The Hague is just too far. Three hours of travel and €70 for the lesson, if you amortize it across the five hours is just about €20 an hour. That’s my admin rate and I can stay at home to do that. Jean and Heleen are online so that is worth it. They seem to be happy with the lessons and as they both need some flexibility it works out quite well to go week to week with them. For example, I won’t see them this week because of scheduling conflicts for all of us. So the next time I see Jean will be next week and the same for Helene.

In my private client world, it’s been very quiet with just Yuka and Shinwei. Both these lessons are quite easy to plan and ESLBrains and Linguahouse make it much easier. And both of them are active participants in their learning journey and so they often ask me to practice things that they are unsure of. With Yuka, that means learning how to use interjections as well as how to use exactly, definitely, and other words to indicate heartfelt agreement. Shinwei is struggling to communicate with his boss and explain that he feels like his career has stalled, that he is the only one working on his team, and keeps getting stalled because the other members of his team don’t work in the same way he does. He also feels that he isn’t being listened to. I find it a little ironic because he will listen to what I say and the advice that I give in terms of English to use to talk to his boss, but then I am uncertain whether he puts it into practice. His response to why I give him advice on what to say to his boss, (especially be as direct as your boss is because he’s Dutch) is that he has to think about it. I also gave the trial lesson to the woman in the horse riding world who wants English lessons. It was a waste of time as she is not even willing to pay for four hours a month. I find people who are serious about learning have no problem paying my rate. Such is the case with a student who found me through one of my postcards. She has said that she will come to me once a week for 2 hours. She purchased 10 of my hours which is great. And that was just a start so this client seems very promising. So much so that I have pretty much written off the horseback riding trial, but at least this was a good enough exercise to learn how to do a sales pitch and that is good so I can practice. So all things considered, it was a good week.

But things are not always sunny in my world. On Saturday this week, I discovered that the charging port of my computer is no longer working. That’s right, the port that charges my computer is once again dead. I spent 40 minutes on Saturday evening on the phone with Dell and they are supposed to come out sometime between 8 a.m. and 12 p.m. am today. I may have to modify how I teach my student if the computer technician is at my house while she is here. And it’s not like I can tell them not to come. Because I can’t be running around without a working charging port. Especially as I am traveling this weekend. Once again, I found it very difficult not to walk onto my balcony and throw my Dell computer into the canal in front of my house. I am so bitter that I am also quite close to going back to Apple which is something that I thought I would never do. It’s a case of “I hate all of the companies but if I didn’t have a hell of a warranty package where Dell has to come and fix everything, I wouldn’t have had a computer for so long. Right now, my warranty program will lapse in 2024. I am in the process of considering whether to purchase another warranty extension for another four years or simply go back to Apple in 2024. I’m very conflicted because I was not very happy when Apple told me that my computer which I had never spilled anything on had liquid damage and that it was my fault. This was in 2018 and back then there was no so extended warranty where even if I spilled water on the computer it would get fixed under the warranty. There is such a warranty now, however, and I do have to say that I generally had good experiences with Apple products until I didn’t. But they weren’t on the same scale as the computer that I have now with the repair people coming out five times in 3 years. I find it a little bit ridiculous. As ever, dear reader, you’ll be the first to know when I do.

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

Client Conundrums, Recent Recommendations, and (Writer’s) Group Growth

It has been a rather fraught week here at Inkreadable, dear reader. Over at the English Center, it has been fairly quiet in terms of teaching. I currently only have two clients with them. Jean from Brazil is quite easy as what he wants is social English and lots of conversation so I have been doing lots of ESL Brains lessons because they’re interesting. Heleen who is my pronunciation client is easy to prep for because she has the same sort of issues that Roy, my former client had and so I can use a lot of the lessons that I had with him. So there’s not a whole lot of prep. The only prep that I do for Heleen is to look for songs that might be interesting for her as that’s what she does for a living. This coming week I have 4 hours in The Hague with the Polish woman who I shared with three other teachers. We have been communicating a bit about her lessons and I know that she’s done some travel vocabulary with another teacher. Because she has talked about travel and her work with multiple teachers I am a little bit at sea as to what to teach her myself. I have told the other teachers that I can do a review on her last class of the things that she still finds difficult so I’m hoping that people give me ideas for that. As for tomorrow, I am thinking of maybe trying a Linguahouse lesson that is speaking-focused.

The Polish woman and I had a wonderful first lesson and she indicated that she wanted to continue privately. But on Friday last week, she indicated to the English Center that she wanted to continue with them. I have decided that I am not going to mention continuing privately unless she asks me first. But I have decided that I will not be the teacher to travel to the Hague 3 hours a week. It’s a little bit too much time. But this is not the first time a client from the English Center has indicated they want to go private with me and then they decide to continue with TEC. I just find it interesting that people would rather spend more money than less. But the more I think about teaching in The Hague the less I really like it. It’s a full 3-hour commute round trip to go and teach for 1 or 2 hours and that is certainly not worth it even if they do pay for the commute. It’s too much time lost. And that’s a little unfortunate because I really like this student.

On Thursday evening this past week, I received a text from Amardip over at The Conversation Playground. He is no longer doing the Group Kids Lessons program that we were doing in 2021 but instead has transitioned back to IT and is building an app that will help teachers and students learn with the aid of virtual escape rooms. It had been a while since I had talked to him and I was very pleasantly surprised to get a text from him saying that he had an adult student who was interested in lessons. Before I got too involved, however, I told him up front that my private rate had changed to €55 an hour and his response was that he had not talked money with the student. So I said I would give her a call which I duly did on Friday. We had a lovely conversation with her in Dutch, and me in English. It was decided that I would give her a trial lesson. So I am giving her a half an hour trial lesson later this morning. On Friday I also met with a former English Center student for coffee and he is interested in lessons for his girlfriend. It seems that they are moving to America at the end of this year and she would like to reduce her accent so that people understand her. I offered him a trial lesson for her which he accepted but he asked me the talk to her directly which I did. She is waiting for her work to give her information about a major meeting that her work is having and then will let me know t her schedule. So she is on pause for the moment and I’m willing to do that because I think it foments good relations with students. I am quite pleased with the development because it means more potential especially since my digital marketing team is taking a little bit too long to put together my plan. I think even if ultimately don’t get the students it’s OK because at least I’m becoming known.

The writer’s group, dear readers, has grown to 1300 people on Meetup and 140 people on the WhatsApp group. Of course, we’ve only ever seen maybe 20% of those people once. What I am noticing, is that people tend to get very stressed out about the number of people in the WhatsApp group and I find it quite amusing. Less amusing is the fact that I have to constantly explain that we’ve not seen most of these people. I’m not sure what to do about it because I’m very weary of deleting people as I think that is rude. They are, of course, welcome to delete themselves from the group and then I delete them from my address book so that I don’t have 25 million numbers clogging up my phone. But sometimes I am very tempted to delete people and find I have an itchy trigger finger.

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

Intensive Interlude, Ferocious Fatigue, Marketing Moments

It was quite an exhausting week at Inkreadable. I love intensives because I don’t have to think much beyond that week, I was right in that it was a little bit difficult to coordinate between four different teachers. I just decided that I wasn’t going to give my lesson plans to the teachers so they could see what I was doing when what I was getting in return was General comments about what still needed working on. Arina was a challenge because she is quite advanced in her English and so it had to be quite idiom and vocabulary focused. She didn’t make too many grammatical mistakes and I think what she got out of the lesson is that she felt more confident after the week. Which I think is exactly what she wanted. I did check in with her at the end of the lesson to see how she was feeling and she expressed very positive thoughts about the whole week. I did tell her that if she had a problem with anybody’s teaching to tell the teacher directly and give positive feedback to the school because it impacts how we get our work. And she was receptive.

Friday was tough because I was with her for the whole day and even though we managed to finish some of the stuff that I had planned, there was a whole lesson that I didn’t even get to because we just kept talking. What I found difficult about the week generally was trying to stay focused on all of my lessons because I also had other lessons. While I managed to prepare lessons for everybody that I needed to, I found it unexpectedly difficult. The intensive also threw off my week because I had to move two of my students to Saturday in order to accommodate the intensive. So while I had a weekend, I did barely any speaking outside of my classes. I think I spoke three words to Jasper the whole weekend. I binge-watched mindless trash TV for all of Saturday and part of Sunday. Which is something that is sometimes necessary. Key takeaways from this intensive: C1 level students need more talking and video-based best lessons are fun and they really help in a pinch. Also, working wit multiple teachers is tough.

The week was tiring enough that I actually let everything go in terms of my social life. That meant there was no writer’s group or hanging out of any kind. I pushed everything to this weekend and balance is not a word that I am currently familiar with. I’m having a dinner lesson with Shinwei on Friday, and I am cooking dinner for a friend and her partner on Saturday. Sunday hasn’t been scheduled but I will likely figure something out for after teaching.

I was not as proactive as I could have been about my own business the whole week. On Sunday I sent a message to Fuse (the digital marketing firm) to remind them to give me a marketing proposal as I hadn’t heard from them in a week. I’m giving them a little bit of leeway because I did tell them that I was a small potato client and it wasn’t a rush, but I still shouldn’t have to chase you. One of the biggest challenges currently is that my website will not load in my house unless I use a VPN. I contacted my provider and made sure that they could see my website which they can and so can other people who have the same provider when I asked them. The problem seems to be in my house with my computer and I don’t know how to fix it. It’s kind of ridiculous. My next step with digital marketing beyond trying to figure out why the hell my ISP does not allow the loading of my own website is to get a Dutch translation of my website up and running as I think that’s what people are going to see once we start marketing. I need to talk to a couple of people to see if they’re willing to help and of course, I’m willing to pay them.

This week I start with a new English Center client, and that is accent reduction. I have my last lessons with Slava and Isabelle. Isabelle will pick lessons back up in the spring and possibly bring me more TEC business with the addition of a group course or a least a semi-private.

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

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.

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.