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.

Course Coordinator Conundrums and Writing Wrinkles

With most of the English Center management team away for the better part of the next couple of weeks, it falls to a couple of us to pick up the slack. Or I should say not slack, precisely because we are in communication via email, but answering client emails in a timely manner. I have been able to answer most emails quickly as well as do follow-ups, but where I’m finding it difficult is with tasks that aren’t necessarily clear. I’ll give you an example. I was asked to spearhead a project for a super cool foundation called Dignita, which I think I mentioned a post or two ago. They are a chain of three restaurants in the city that are fully nonprofit. Their profit goes back into a foundation where they repatriate people back into mainstream society after having been trafficked. I think it’s a super-worthy enterprise and I’m really excited to be a part of it. My function is more as a liaison between the English Center and the foundation. On the 14th of November, we had the intake and there were 35 people in attendance. It was decided that the courses would be 15 and 16 people respectively on a Monday and Tuesday evening, and we were trying to divide the people into two groups, one for lower-level learners and one for upper-level donors. Or more accurately beginner and slightly less beginner. Most of the people in the classes are Ukrainian, but there are a few other nationalities mixed in. One of the tasks that I am in charge of for this group is making sure that they get the books that they need. I have been communicating back and forth with English Center and them and thought that I needed to go ahead and order the books. This was further confirmed when the teacher of the course told me that the manager of the foundation would get in touch with me to get the books delivered. I contacted her first and got the address for the book delivery. She let me know where to send the books and I set up the order. Over the weekend, she let me know that she would check whether the books were shipped to the location and that she did yesterday. They have gotten the books. But here’s the problem. On Sunday, I woke up to an email from Kerry, asking Paul (the course instructor) and I to confirm that Dignita would actually pay for the book budget. I then had to send another email to Dignita, kind of a mea culpa email taking responsibility for the mistake and asking if Dignta was going to pay for all the books or whether some students would foot the cost themselves. I also contacted Waterstones where I ordered the books and made sure that I would be able to return the books if I needed to. I have done all that I can, but I feel very bad that I did not get the correct information from the back-and-forth on the emails. Last night I received word that the company would pay and the student would be offered the choice to pay for some of the cost. SO all’s well that ends well but it was a bit fraught for me.

The above was not the only occurrence of me feeling stupid. The second one was a little bit more interesting. We have an email where all of the communications from customers come in and we can all see it. I woke up to an email from a former student of mine asking about private intensive lessons. So I approached the email in the following way. I said that it was really nice to hear from her again and I asked her for clarification asking if she was looking for more private lessons, like the ones we had in the summer, or whether she was looking for an intensive Group course. What is interesting is that she asked the question as if she had never taken classes with us before, but she has and so she should know how we work. The last time I saw her was in September. The courses haven’t changed since then neither have the prices. It was a bit of a strange interaction, but we will have to see what happens.

It isn’t often that my writing group and my book club collide, but this week they did, in a very interesting way. The book that we are reading for the December meeting is Atomic Habits by a guy called Jeff Clear and it tells you about how to succeed. It outlines how to make positive habits and how to break negative habits. What’s nice is that it’s short and clearly written. I took away from it a couple of things that were useful and I was anxious to try them out in the writing group. Basically, the author of the book says that habits are formed by small sustainable changes that you can do your whole life. One of the steps that he gives is to make a list of all the habits that you do in a day and mark them whether good or bad. He says that you should make good habits easy to do and accessible. Bad habits should become inaccessible. I wanted to try and put into practice a word goal for each writer’s meeting. I have not to date been able to do that. Somehow I feel that people around me are doing much better than I am and it stops me from actually doing any writing at all. Thereby it feels like the two hours and 45 minutes of the Writers Group for me is a waste of time. As you might imagine that is not a very good feeling and I do not enjoy it. I feel that even a small goal has been beyond me lately. And it isn’t going to get any easier but more on that in my next post.

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

Load Lightening and Writing Return

While it hasn’t been a quiet week, I have rather figured out how to manage my time. It helps that certain classes have ended over at the English Center. Sanne will not be doing any more classes. Neither will Carlien. This means that four hours of time are freed up because I won’t be going to Amstelveen until next year-ish.  For our last lesson, Sanne and I talked about holidays and we played three games in the course of the hour. I have a feeling that this was her favorite class. but really, dear reader, that’s not exactly my fault because she did ask for more grammar. And she really wouldn’t bring me her English homework either. With Carlien, because she pays for her lessons herself, I think that the budgeting is not there for her to take more lessons. Which is a shame because I quite like her and we got on very well. Currently, on my English Center roster, there remain three students. There is Isabelle with whom I am doing article-based teaching and conversation. There is Roy who is a pronunciation student. He and I are doing accent reduction but what’s interesting about him is that he was recently diagnosed with asthma and feels that he is losing words both in English and in Dutch and he also loses his breath as he speaks. That’s not actually in my preview, so I very gently directed him to maybe go to a speech pathologist to help him out. That was the consensus with my colleague who does pronunciation and is also the English Center’s English central coach, which is a software that allows you to work on your pronunciation in the context of video-based lessons where you listen and repeat. Finally, there is Slava, with whom I have to start a new 10-hour package. This 10-hour package will extend into the first half of January as I am going to the states and there will not be time to finish his lessons before I leave. I was very gratified that he tested as an A2 level which is what his company wanted from him. So now it’s a matter of getting him more confident in his speaking. I am sharing him now with another colleague because he wants to do four hours a week, and I am not in a position to do that at the times that he wants. He is not happy about that, but I am not about to compromise on my Thursday evenings anymore than I already have.

Speaking of Thursday night. I was finally able to go back to the Writers Group this week and get some decent writing done. I do find that my concentration is not where it needs to be, and I frequently find myself spacing out. I’m not sure if anybody else is experiencing this because they’re all typing away seemingly without trouble. But this week I am working on a scene where my main character is actually learning how to do magic.  It is in the 34th chapter of my book, and that’s about 170 pages in. I found myself continually, wondering whether I wasn’t leaving the magic teaching until too late in the book. It’s a question for a beta reader, I suppose, but I’m also finding that I’m having a hard time figuring out where to send my characters next and how to structure the climax of the book and the eventual resolution.

On Saturday I went on a scavenger hunt in the city of Haarlem that was Alice in Wonderland-themed. While this doesn’t really have to do with teaching or writing, I got to say that Lewis Carroll was a trippy individual. The questions were mostly chess themed which was a little bit difficult, but we managed to get most of them. There were a couple of stupid ones, like the one that said “I am taller than all and I rhyme with hoof”. So we thought roof, but the word was actually chimney. I’m sorry but that doesn’t rhyme with hoof so whoever wrote that riddle was an idiot. The other notable event from this particular scavenger hunt was the fact that my partner in scavenger hunts Lola and I met by chance at Centraal Station and got on the train. We nearly missed our stop for Haarlem however and were forced to literally jump off the train. This led to a very delayed PTSD reaction from me in the evening as I started hyperventilating at the thought that I could’ve really gotten hurt by jumping like that. Still, it was a fairly lovely afternoon and while I don’t think we will do the next one as it is Smurf themed, we might do another one in the future.

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

Cold Consequences

Sometimes, dear reader, things happen unexpectedly. They can be so pervasive
that they affect every facet of life. At least, in the short term. Such was the
case with me this week. The week started out well enough with me doing all of
my routine things for The English Center like my two-star leads that I contact
on a Monday and then contact again by telephone on a Friday. I am also fully in
the swing of things with taking over projects for them, at least in the short
term. They include a project to re-patriot people into mainstream society after
being trafficked or having been sex workers. Which I think is a really worthy
endeavor. I was able to give Odhran a private lesson on Tuesday as well as an
in-person pronunciation lesson. And I even gave Isabelle her weekly lesson that
evening. On Wednesday, I headed over to The English Center to do admin work
with them and to teach Sanne, for our penultimate lesson. That evening I was
struck down by an insidious cold that I’ve either had for three weeks and it’s
just reared its ugly head again or this was yet another, separate cold. Either
way, it was ridiculous because the rest of the week was quite difficult.
Thursday and Friday are typically fairly light days because I don’t really
teach. Instead, I have other things going on. This week it would’ve been a
mortgage broker consultation for Jasper and I to talk to them about purchasing
a house. Luckily or unlikely, I’m not sure which guy flaked out and got the
time wrong. He thought we were meeting at 11 and we thought we were meeting at
10:30. We were ready to go at 10:30, but then Jasper had to go to work so they
wouldn’t have been time to wait the half hour until 11 am.

What I noticed, dear reader is that by Thursday I wasn’t really firing on
all cylinders and I was making stupid mistakes. Like the fact that I sent an
email to someone with the wrong name and no subject. I don’t typically make
those mistakes and realized that because I wasn’t feeling at all well, and I
wasn’t as cognisant as I could be, I wasn’t as efficient as I could be either.
As a result, I actually pulled everything off of my schedule that wasn’t online
and kind of put myself to bed. except that I really didn’t. I kept doing online
work as much as I could until one of my colleagues told me that I needed to
slow down and take a break. It’s just as well that my schedule is about to get
much lighter with the completion of both Carlien’s and Senna’s lessons. Neither
of them is going to renew. Which is fine. what is not so fine is that my
student Marco is once again on hiatus for the month of November because he is
also ill. His immune system is very badly rundown after a virus that activated
the symptoms of his chronic illness. I sent him a revised schedule, telling him
that he didn’t need to lose all of the lessons, but rather that we would
suspend them and I would add them to the end of a package that would take us
into March 2023. He hasn’t responded as of this writing, but I am assuming that
that is what he wants to do. I also had to give him a revised DC schedule
because by the time we are ready to begin, I will have to give him a few
lessons in the US and because I already have some commitments I had to figure
out when I was available.

But, dear reader, there was another reason that I had to really be careful
with my health over the weekend. I hosted a friendsgiving on Saturday and did
not want to get anyone sick, but also did not want to get even sicker. it was a
very small intimate Friendsgiving we were only about nine people and so were
able to sit at my table, which was great. The previous Thanksgiving had been in
a Dutch circle style where we all sat on a big circle and atet on our laps. I
have to say that I really like having a sit-down situation but my
850-square-foot apartment doesn’t have a lot of space to be able to do that. So
I had to turn my living room into a dining room. Still, it was a rousing
success, and we did not have any leftovers, which is always a good thing.

While I did not get any writing done this week, I did poke my head in virtually
to the meeting just to say hi and make sure that new people were being noticed.
I also poked my head in very briefly on the discord meeting on Sunday. The
upside to not having Marco on Fridays is that I can actually go out for drinks
on Thursdays now.

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



Random Realisations and A GGI Get-Together

With the loss of two clients in my private client world, my hours for that income stream are a bit light. I am now averaging about 3 1/2 hours a week with private clients. But one of my clients has Covid for the second time, so I am not sure when I’ll get to give them their last hour.  I had a realization this week, dear reader. Optics are important, and the optics of EFL when you are on your own are completely different than when you teach for a school. I came to this realization talking to a friend on Thursday because she has had some of the same. reactions from people that I have. If you’re on your own and you quote a price people think it’s too expensive. But they don’t realize what goes into preparing a lesson. I’ve had so many people come up to me and say “But what does an English teacher really do? You’re not a real teacher. For whatever reason, if you don’t work for a school that is paid for by the government, then people consider the teaching to be not as valuable as if you were teaching children in a school. The problem with that theory is that most teachers have to bring in their own supplies, they don’t get paid enough to put up with student disrespect and that translates to parent disrespect. At least, in the west. In Asia, I think it’s a little bit easier to be a teacher and the pay is much better. I have a friend who taught in Korea for some years and she was able to make much more money than she does here in the Netherlands. In Asia, people make recommendations and you get lots of clients, but here in the Netherlands, people don’t recommend it to other people in their circle. The other problem is that with online teaching being so low pay when you quote a €50 an hour price people think that’s too expensive. I had that happen with a recommendation from Café Vanaut, which is where I go to do my admin work for The English Center. The owner of the Cafe is a New Yorker and is amazing. She allows me to put my postcards in her window and she actually recommends me because she has seen my work. She recommended me to a customer of hers and I got a text asking what my prices were for basic conversation lessons. I quoted my rate of €50 an hour and didn’t hear a word from the person so can’t say that I am surprised.  However, I have stopped trying to reduce my prices just to get clients. For each hour that I teach. I do at least that much if not more in prep time. So why shouldn’t I charge a living wage? After all, nobody bats an eye when a software engineer charges €150 an hour for his time and consultancy. Teachers are just as skilled as software engineers and frankly have to put up with a lot more. If you want a 10 euro per hour lesson, go online.  It was an eye-opening realization that I am just as capable as anyone else, but because I have the word teacher in my title, I am looked down on by many people. 


On Friday night, I went out with colleagues from The English Center and mentioned all of these concerns. They had a different take. People expect high prices from schools. They don’t expect high prices from individuals and so it’s a little harder as a tutor to get the rate that you want. They would be very surprised to hear that test prep in America is charged upwards of $200 an hour. In the Netherlands, those prices would be impossible. The more I learn about how things work at The English Center, the more curious I am as to how they were able to go out and find so many in-company clients and foster so many good relationships with different entities within the Netherlands. I think my colleagues are quite lucky when they told me that they don’t have those experiences that I had on Friday. I have to say that I was quite happy for them but also a little bit jealous. Maybe if I’m here another five years I will also have the same experiences but for right now my private client world is loyal, but a little bit light on new clients. My English Center schedule is going to lighten a little bit more as Slava wants to switch his online classes to Thursday and I do not want to work on a Thursday so it was decided that we will give him to another teacher. While it is a loss of €300 for me, I think this is the best way forward because I do not want to give up my Writer’s Group, as it is kind of sacred to me. Carlien and I are scheduled to finish our five-hour package this coming Friday and I’m not sure that she is going to renew. I also have a couple of lessons with Sanne and I have to get in touch with her parents to see if they want to continue which I have no problem doing. After all, I’m in Amstelveen on Wednesday. Roy proceeds well, but accent reduction is tough. It’s a little bit challenging with Dutch people because they don’t have a very strong accent, to begin with, and their biggest issue is the TH and that’s really hard to correct I’m finding.

In terms of the Writers Group, I was away last week because of an evening of brainstorming with the book club instead. At the brainstorming session, we solidified the structure of the group and I am going to be in charge of the calendar and be an emergency host when needed.  So I didn’t get any writing done this week. And I won’t get any writing done until Thursday because on Sunday when I would’ve been writing, I went to a book club event. We had a Halloween edition discussion, and we talked about A Clockwork Orange,  both the film and the book.  I have to say that in terms of the two I preferred the movie to the book, but it was super 1970s and felt a bit like being drunk. Or high, I imagine. It was a very interesting look into 1970s cinematography.  And the primary colors and filming were ridiculous. I didn’t like the treatment of women in the book or the film, but it’s to be expected both for the time and the subject matter. All in all this dystopian world is not one that I would want to be a part of. And I’m not sure as a result of this book, whether redemption from crime is possible or not. Still, it was an interesting discussion. 

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

Pronunciation Problems, CYA comeback, Private Pullbacks, and A Failed Feast

I no longer have a weekend, dear reader. At least not for the moment. I started with three new students this week. Although to be accurate, I started with two new students and Marco. You’ll remember that Marco was the student who I thought I was starting with last week, but due to an email miscommunication with the dates, we had to postpone to this week. I’m not sure that Marco can be considered a new student entirely, as we had one class, but he isn’t exactly old either. I guess he’s somewhere in the middle. We reconnected and had a really nice conversation. I was able to get the details about why he was ill and thankfully his illness is manageable. But it’s interesting because it was initially a misdiagnosis. He was told he had stomach cancer, but instead has sarcoidosis which apparently, though serious, can be quite manageable if treated in the right way. At least that’s what I hear from Jasper’s dad, who also had the illness for a while.  I was very touched that Marco opened up about it. In terms of his learning, we’re going to have to start from the very beginning and what I did for the class was actually quite okay. We did a second intake class and I reacquainted myself with what he finds difficult, and I think I have a plan. He did promise to watch a series and talk to his girlfriend for 15 minutes a day in English. We’ll see if he does it. Apparently, she is quite keen to practice English with him. The second new client that I have is in software sales and advocacy. This means that he tries to both sell his product but also troubleshoot it.  Hence the videos he does.   I approached his lesson from the wrong angle. What I did was. I approached it from an acting angle and what I should’ve done was just approach it from an accent reduction angle without thinking that he was going to try and use different accents.  I also tried to use movie clips and while that was marginally more successful, I’ve learned from Jasper, that Dutch people simply cannot make the TH sound, not the hard-voiced one or the soft voice t It doesn’t exist in Dutch, so it’s really hard for them to make it. I asked a writer friend of mine how come she didn’t sound Dutch when she spoke English and her explanation was that she cared. Jasper‘s ability with a TH is different because he lived in the US, but he remembers being made fun of when he was in grade school about the way that he said, father and mother. My third new client wants help with presentations and describing trends. We meet on Saturdays, with an exceptional Sunday thrown in so that I can do a scavenger hunt on 12 November. 

Slava and I are two classes away from finishing our 20 hours. Kerry talked to his boss and enquired about whether he would continue and the tone of his boss’s email was that we should ensure that in 20 hours he reaches level B1. That’s all well and good except that it takes 160 to 190 hours to go from A2 to B1. So I had to get proactive and cover my own butt, by talking to Kerry to tell her that I was trying my best, but Slava was not able to use the language outside of our classes. She told me that she was going to have Brenda contact Slava and encourage him to use the other methods that we have in our arsenal, including English Central. I felt that that would not sufficiently cover us and I was very clear that Slava does the working class. It’s the fact that his colleagues speak to him in Dutch at work and speak Dutch around him rather than speak English. That is the main issue.I felt that that would not sufficiently cover us and I was very clear that Slava does the work in class. It’s the fact that his colleagues speak to him in Dutch at work and speak Dutch around him rather than speak English that’s the main issue. I did agree, however, that it would be better if Slava were to do some of the English Central work as that might help him with his pronunciation. I also spoke to Kerry yesterday and told her that it would be more effective if his lessons with me would be more effective at once a week rather than twice, and in person rather than online. But for those of you who have been with me for a while, you know that CYA was the way that VIPKID did things. We were always taking screenshots and covering ourselves so that we wouldn’t get penalized. it gave me PTSD flashbacks.

I’m also dealing with a couple of looming losses this week. Unexpectedly, my Greek student had some money issues that she needed to sort out and so she is away temporarily. At least that’s what she indicated. But I find that that is not usually the case. Especially if it’s a money issue. We came to an agreement wherein I am happy to give her What’spp help when she’s doing some writing and that I will not charge for it. But if she needs greater editing, help with a resume, or something like that, then I will charge her, so we decided to go on a case-by-case basis. And we will reconnect when she is here in the Netherlands in November. But it’s still not very easy because it was a good source of income. But more important than income is access to a client. Because according to the business rules in the Netherlands, I have to have at least three clients at a time. and while I still have that without her, I am also going to lose another client, my beloved Sander. A few months ago when we split for the summer he said that he would probably want to continue but yesterday was our last lesson and he needs to also take a lengthy break. He did say that he would come back though. It might be a while. 

Over in my writing world, it looks like Thursday writing is going to be the norm for the next couple of weeks. At least for me. With my weekend taken up by clients, there won’t be much time for writing. Last post I wrote about one o my writers who wanted to invite people to lunch or dinner at his place in Delft. This past Thursday. he asked if I would choose a few people to invite. I told him that most people would not be able to attend with such short notice, but he was insistent so I had him put it in the group. To my surprise, a few people responded that they would go. Thinking that all was well, I let the issue go. I shouldn’t have. One of the people canceled on Sunday morning and the other was a no-show and then acknowledged his no-show Sunday evening. I felt very bad for the host as he sent a picture of the food that he had cooked. We then decided that it would be better to make a potluck event and I also offered to host, but I think that for me, at least, that will have to be next year. Still, I felt that I had dropped the ball spectacularly.

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

Tricky Time Management, A Shocking Surprise, and A Self-Esteem Story

Maybe the title of this post should be a little bit different, or at least in a different order, because there are two self-esteem stories today. One is mine and one is someone else’s. But first an update on teaching. I have two quite interesting students from the English Center. The first is an accent-reduction student who is an actor and wants to perfect his American accent. This is particularly exciting for me because while I have a lot of experience with pronunciation, I don’t have as much experience with accent reduction. Luckily there are lots of resources at the English Center and a couple of teachers who do quite well with accent reduction. I think I’m going to have to pick their brains. My second student is also quite nice because she is a chance to strengthen something that I’ve done with Claudia, my Colombian student. I am quite happy that I still have most of the stuff that I used with her because it takes the onus off of me to do as much preparing. This student also wants presentation help and that may be challenging if she doesn’t have materials ready. After all, it’s quite hard to get adults to do homework. Most adults simply do not have the time, so I always ask if they want homework, but frequently the answer is no. It’s a lot easier with kids who are conditioned to do homework and doing homework is not such a big deal for them. That’s the case with Sanne, my Japanese-Dutch student. I have been giving her a writing assignment after every class to see if I can get her to write more than two or three sentences at a time and gauge her level. Her parents have also asked for progress reports and that makes it a little bit difficult after every class but I have given them insight into what we are doing and hopefully, they are content with the direction of the classes. Slava let me know on Friday that he would not be meeting me on Monday so I had an unexpected night. With Carlien, it looks like I’m going to have to pivot once again and go back to putting her on the spot and having her do presentations, and then asking her questions. She has decided not to go for the job that we were preparing for. And finally, in terms of English Center clients, we come to Isabelle, who seems to like the new format of our lessons where we talk about an article and she answers questions that I ask her. But the movement of my schedule continues making time management, a little bit tricky. It’s not so bad when the admin stuff stays manageable in terms of the low-level sales that I do. What I’m finding is that if I make a phone call, then people are more receptive and I actually close deals. It’s different with email. I don’t often get a response to those. On Friday I spent 5 1/2 hours just doing email responses that came in. As well as my monthly follow-up, which I think is going to take a couple of hours, at least every 15th of the month. It will be interesting to see how I am able to increase my efficiency over time.

And now we come to at least a portion of the self-esteem part of my title. As I mentioned, maybe the whole title of this post should be about self-esteem because mine took a knock quite unexpectedly this week. What happened dear reader was this: I had been trying to place a student with teachers and was looking for someone to teach on a Saturday. I contacted my friend Rose at the suggestion of the English Centre. She was not able to take the client, and nobody else wanted to either. In talking to Rose, she gave me her availabilities, and I asked TEC to point me in the direction of a spreadsheet where they might have teacher availability. They duly sent it to me and here is where the fun begins, dear reader. Like an idiot, I decided to not only update Rose’s info but also check out my own. That was a huge mistake, dear reader. every single comment that I had in my profile was negative. That I am negative with the students, that I am old-fashioned, and that I am not flexible. I am not sure if this last one was about time or teaching style. Nevertheless, I was thrown for a loop and quite upset. Only if I know you’re really well and we’ve become friends will I tell you my honest opinion, if you asked for it. Only if I know you really well and we’ve become friends will I tell you my honest opinion, and then only if asked. Rather than wallow, I did go directly to them and asked for help. I feel good about that, just as I feel good that I did not absorb the criticism and think I am a complete failure. But the moral of the story is never read about yourself. Ever.

The final part of my story is not my story directly, but rather the self-esteem stories of one of my writers. We have a member in the group who has just started coming. He is a beginning writer and has lots and lots of questions that sometimes many of us don’t have the answer to. Because we’re all amateurs ourselves. This writer is probably looking for friends, but also suffered some traumatic experience that caused him to want to be a writer instead of an engineer. It’s quite an interesting story really. but it’s also very difficult because he’s one of the writers that live far away and can’t always come on Thursdays. He asked if we would be willing to write on the weekends and we already do that, but that is not an official Writers Group event, it’s more several of us that are quite close who get together and write. I have promised to tell him when we write on a Saturday, but that has been happening less and less frequently as the end of the year approaches. The fall is a busy time for most people and our weekends are taken up by various things. This writer also doesn’t have a sense of how to read the room and he wants to invite us all for dinner at his place in Delft, which I think is great. But he texted me late on Friday evening saying “hey, I want to invite you and four others to dinner tomorrow”. And that of course is not enough notice here in the Netherlands definitely, but probably anywhere else in the world as well. I guess my issue is that I don’t have the time to coddle anybody and maybe on some level. I wish I did, but I don’t think I can be somebody’s psychologist I have enough difficulties of my own and in fact, I pay someone to be mine.

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

Student Starts and China Confusion

I never realized how difficult scheduling can be, dear reader. While I may have found a rhythm in terms of the week and how to schedule, I am finding it difficult to figure out how to prioritize tasks within the time allotted. Which scheduling tasks come first is a confounding question at the moment. When I only had the two-star clients to follow up, by which I mean the first week that I was in the role, I found it quite easy to schedule on a Monday and a Thursday for initial contact and then follow-up. That continued quite nicely for a couple of weeks. And even up until this week, everything was hunky-dory and quite smooth. All of that changed yesterday morning. Yesterday I didn’t know which way was up in terms of scheduling as so many things came through email in a short period of time. I ended up spending half the day doing scheduling and none of the day doing sales work. But scheduling always takes priority over low-level sales that I can do at any time during the week. This means, of course, that I am going to do it later today.

The week from last Tuesday until yesterday was okay. I started with a new student, Sanne, who is a teenager and she is quite a bit lower level than I expected as she had a hard time with the British Council teens lesson that I had planned for her. In addition, she is quite difficult because her parents want progress reports after every lesson. Nevertheless, it was an okay lesson, and she seem to understand some of the reading but it was hard for her to pick out comprehension items when we were doing the exercises associated with the lesson. In the lesson. My other English Center clients are also doing well and I think I am well able to adjust to their needs pretty quickly.  Both Carlien and Isabel needed me to change up the lessons shortly before the lessons began this week, and I was able to. I don’t think they were unhappy. Slava is still a challenge, but this week I got his books and we were able to go over the grammar that we’ve done so far. I was able to match it to the books and so that was quite informative and helpful for him. Last evening the lesson on indeterminate pronouns was too difficult. He isn’t using the language enough and it doesn’t matter how many times he sees me during the week and for how long if he’s not using language, he’s not gonna get anywhere. This coming Friday I start with Marco who was the student that I had for 1 1/2 hours of a 24-hour package a year ago. He left because he was ill and we weren’t sure whether he was going to come back. I hope he doesn’t have a photographic memory because I’m planning on doing the same lesson that I did with him a year ago.

My private client world remains a bit slow, but my beloved Sander was on my schedule once again this week. It ended up being quite a bit of catching up and not a lot of work, but it got him speaking, and I think the fact that his son is going to the British school is going to help him even more. The writing is on the wall for him because I don’t think I will keep him as a student and we have one more lesson in the current package. I will be very sorry to see him go because we’ve been working together since 2019, and he was my first adult student in the Netherlands. Samar and I have lessons when we can, but I think our days are numbered as she is quite busy. ShinWei and I met twice while he was away in the US and I think we have a couple more lessons left in this current package. I did promise him that I would do something fun, but I’m not quite sure what to do.  Odhran continues to be my biggest private client challenge, as it’s always difficult finding content for greek that is simple enough for him to follow. At the moment, I choose a verb a week to try and use in the present and the past. We’ll see how long that lasts before both of us gets too bored. There was a bit of a miscommunication with George and Jerry as I thought they had two major exams over the weekend so I canceled class. They thought that I had an exam or another conflict and would have been able to take a class. It worked out in the end as I was able to give the time to Jasper’s family member who needs help studying for an English exam. And it looks like she will turn into an online client. I am planning on giving her a family discount as I feel super guilty taking money from family. 

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

Teaching Tales and a Writing Return

I am thankfully getting into the swing of things in terms of splitting my time between admin and teaching. It’s been a little bit of an adjustment because all things being equal, the teaching pays more. But the advantage with the admin is that I get the first pick of new students if I want them. I haven’t been able to take on a new student in about three weeks, but this week I saw a student who is just up my street as a banking professional, needing interview prep and finance help. It’s also nice because she’s only a five-hour student.

Her name is Carlien and we get along like a house on fire. We met yesterday morning and we scheduled all five of our lessons within the next couple of weeks. That suits me fine because it allows me to keep slots open for other people. I will have another English Center client on the 14th of October. My client Marco with whom I only had one hour and a half lesson before he went off sick about a year and a half ago. I am excited to reconnect. I had a bit of a complaint with Isabelle last week. She feels that we should be doing a lot more speaking spontaneously than we are doing now. At the moment, I am doing two critical reading lessons with her to help her with her pronunciation and her ability to learn new words. But I think I’m going to have to adjust and actually do half an hour of reading and structured discussion in the lesson as well as some spontaneous speaking for the rest of the time. The ability to pivot on a dime is essential when you’re teaching adults who want a voice in what they’re learning. By far, my most challenging student at The English Center is still Slava because while he likes to talk and accept correction, it’s very hard to get him to actually do an exercise because he thinks he knows all of the tenses and all of the grammar already. I’m also a little annoyed because he never received the books that we got him at the English Center. They were delivered on 25 September. He’s staying at a hotel and so I imagine the reception received them. At least, I hope so. This has made it very difficult to assign him work that dovetails with the lessons that I teach each week.

In my private client world, work remains consistent but relatively slow. I had a lesson with Samar this weekend, where we edited a cover letter for her. We have one more lesson left in the four-hour package and I think that will be the last one. Her schedule is a little bit too busy and I find that teaching her once every two weeks is not enough for me when I can give time to someone else. ShinWei and I are online for the moment as he is in the States for another week. Galini and I continued to work on interview prep this week. On Wednesday we met in person for the first time. I also did a touch of unpaid work for her by editing one of her cover letters and taking a look at some resources that she asked me to. The resource was a cover letter template that she found a bit aggressive. I was amused, but also tended to agree. My beloved Sander comes back on my schedule this coming Monday. We only have two lessons in the package and I think it will be our last two which I’m a little bit sad about, but I’m also hopeful that he will continue or at least that his son Yves will need help and will be able to keep in touch. We will have to see how that works out. Leonardo, otherwise known as Karim is not on my schedule currently, but he gives me frequent updates on his progress with the TOEFL and studying. I joked this week that he no longer needed me as he got an 8 1/2 out of nine on the reading comprehension for the TOEFL and that’s a great score. His response was “please don’t say that, of course, I need you!” I was amused and touched. But mostly amused.

This week was the first week in about six or seven that I was able to actually create new content for my novel. Up until then, I had been editing my 33 chapters. It was really nice to get back to actually writing the story and listening to my characters. I think I’m going to have to institute a writing goal like one of my writers who says that he tries to write 400 words a day. It is an extremely doable goal. Let’s see if I can do something similar.

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

Time Management Turnaround, Administrative Additions, Client Catchup and Writing Renaissance

I think, dear reader, I have figured out my time management once again. This week I decided that I would do my administrative sales emails on a Monday so that I could capture the weekend. I had done them previously on a Sunday. That means that on Thursdays I will send follow-up emails. The strategy seemed to work a little bit, though I did notice that all of the people that I contacted with the exception of three or four all had non-Dutch numbers, which meant that on Thursday I was mostly sending emails out. I did get one person who did not want lessons because she found us too expensive which is fair enough. I also managed to get in touch with one other Dutch speaker who wanted lessons and we were able to schedule a getting to know your appointment for him. This was not part of my duties, but I suspect it will be in the future, so it was good to get a jump on learning how to get in touch with the getting-to-know-you team.

On Wednesday, I went to Amstelveen and spent four hours with Brenda and Kerry in-person learning more about how the English Center runs. It is a bit of a change being on a management team. It was interesting because I got a chance to see what went on before the teacher ever gets a class. Marieke, who was the former scheduler was actually there, and later in the day, I joked that I was the new Marike. I can’t honestly remember all the steps of the things that I observed, so I was very pleased that I was able to get one of the sales clients a getting-to-know-you appointment. I also put a new client into the teacher group in order to start getting teachers available to teach them. We were not sure of her availability so it’s on hold until we find out more specific dates and times because we also need to coordinate with the teachers. All in all, it was quite an interesting experience and I hope I am able to handle it when both Brenda and Kerry are away in Australia in November. At this point, I’m kind of wishing that I can go away in November as well, but it is not to be.

Right now at the English Center I only have two clients. I have Slava who is a joy to teach because he is motivated, but it’ll be a challenge to get him there as he isn’t using the languagre at all. Then I have Isabelle who is probably about a high B1 edging towardsB2 and getting better. I may also have a third client starting at the end of this week, but as of this writing have not heard anything yet. This new client is intriguing because she is an ING bank executive and probably speaks fairly good English. She wants help with financial terms, and generally speaking a bit better in meetings and giving presentations. She also only wants five hours but I have a feeling I’ll be able to get her to do a few more lessons.

This week I was able to finish summarising my novel of 33 chapters so that I know know what is happening, what needs fixing, where I have plot holes, and what is working just fine. This was done in a couple of writing sessions with the Writers Group, but also surprisingly, with a bit of discipline on my own, which hasn’t happened in a while. I used to be a pantser, a fly-by-the-seat of my pants writer who would turn on the computer look at the blank page, and simply start writing for good or ill. I am definitely not a planner like many of my writers in the group who literally planned for years before they actually start writing. I am in the middle, a plantser, that is, I have to start writing and then I have to plan, at least that’s how it seems so far. It’s a good realization because it tells me what I need to do next, and where I need to go with the novel and possibly the series. it’s not a bad position to be in dear reader.

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