Course Collaboration and Possible Plotting

This week, dear reader, was a short one here at Inkreadable. I had decided to take the Easter weekend off, including Monday, ostensibly to take a break. But in the middle of last week, a chance conversation changed everything.

In my last post, I told you that I had been doing some editing work for a former student, which while unpaid, could have led to a paid commission from one of their classmates. That did not turn into anything, alas. Not only that but I did not hear from my student about the edits at all. Not even a thank you. I also did some editing for my friend Despina over at Lexus Amsterdam. As we are friends as well as colleagues of sorts she came over and we were talking about our trials and tribulations in the time of pandemic trying to teach our languages. I casually mentioned that I was surprised that she didn’t have any group lessons for English and apparently, it blew her mind. She had simply never thought of it. So in a back-and-forth that would extend for the whole week, we decided to start two different fluency courses and one course for business English. They are going to run in the summer over eight weeks And at the end of September when I am back from my travels in Greece. I am quite excited for the possibilities and have spent quite a lot of time looking at different books and how best to structure all three of them.

With my private clients off the schedule for Monday, I took the time to take a walk but also do more planning and plotting for the syllabus for the courses. That is in addition to my normal lesson planning for my private clients. I am quite pleased at least terms of scheduling. My Monday private client is taking the week off but Alena and I have switched the lesson to later today, and we were going to have the lesson outside but the weather has been uncooperative since yesterday. In fact, my iPhone weather app had been calling for snow for both yesterday and today. Needless to say there will be other lessons in the package where we can meet in person.

Over on the Preply platform, things have ground to a halt. My one and only student says she has Covid and so we have suspended lessons until she feels better. I am also trying not to be a cynic and am choosing to believe that she is telling the truth. After all, she has already paid for the lesson so why would she then not want to take them. My plan is to contact her in a couple of weeks so that I can figure out my own schedule. After all, if I’m not gonna be teaching her on Tuesdays or Thursdays I can be teaching someone else.

In VIPKid world, I am basically only teaching the students who ask for priority booking requests. I am not really getting any new students nor am I getting any trials. It seems to be an up-and-down kind of thing. A lot of my teacher colleagues on the European Facebook group that I run, do have more consistent bookings but have also noticed that there is an up and down quality to the bookings as of late.

Writingwise, things proceed well. I am attending the Sunday Write-Ins and the Thursday Write-Ins quite regularly. I have an interesting dilemma in terms of plotting because my brain is working quite a bit faster than my fingers can type. The ideas are coming fast and furious and I’m not quite sure how to handle all of that creativity. It’s actually quite a good problem to have. But I will say that I was rather annoyed at some of the members of my group who either could not figure out how to get in to the meeting on Saturday, even though I have never had any trouble, or compounded the drama by giving me grief. The short version is that a new member of the group wanted me to post the link to the meetup website, which I refuse to do because I don’t want that many people on Zoom. I did explain how to access the meetings form WhatsApp but that seemed to be too much for the person to understand so I gave in. I duly set up recurring meetings in Zoom and sent emails to the people who requested them. I was touched that a VIPKid teacher friend who is also in the group, but is in the states now was following the What’sApp drama and wrote me privately to offer caring and support as it is a lot of work to keep track of. Managing the differing personalities in the group can be quite a challenge.

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

Trepidatious teacher and writing revelry

Spring has sprung here in the Netherlands. Well, it actually sprang last week, but over the weekend we went forward an hour to daylight savings time and I always find  I get much happier and more positive the more daylight I have. The downside, which for most people ends up being an hour less sleep, is the opposite for me. My Sunday at 9 AM student started at 10 over this past weekend. So what that meant for me was that I could sleep for an extra hour. Of course, my body woke me up well before the time of teaching but then I can be lazy and not get out of bed.

The week brought a couple of surprises. In my last post, I mentioned that I was possibly doing some translation work for my friend Despina over at Lexis Amsterdam. I accepted the project and completed the first three web content texts that she sent me in about an hour. She did say that she would send me some more as she wrote more content. I was impressed by her English writing skills as I did not have to make that many corrections. A former TEC student contacted me about doing some editing for her first research paper for her classes. I accepted the work and will do that one for free. She also gave my name to a classmate of hers That commission will be charged at €30 an hour. That’s if it comes through. I suspect that they won’t want to pay money for editing. So very few people do.

Over on Preply, my one and only student no showed on Thursday. I waited 1/2 hour in the classroom. I also contacted her on WhatsApp as well as sending a message on the platform. In addition, I took the step of also emailing Preply support. They were not very helpful. I got a canned automated message about their cancellation policy. I have decided not to charge my student because it was her first offense. The funny thing is she never answered either on Preply or on WhatsApp and in fact, while it looks like my messages were delivered, the checks are double and gray which means that the student hasn’t seen them. I hope everything is OK with her. We have a lesson on Tuesday evening and Thursday afternoon so I hope she will attend those. But it leaves me a little bit frustrated and stressed out that this will become a pattern with her and impact her learning goals. After all you cannot improve if you do not attend class. Preply, unlike VIPKid, actually penalizes the teacher for a student no-show. This means that they hide your profile from potential students.

Over in VIPKid world, I had my last ever class with a favorite student. He has finished his package of lessons. His mom and I are friends on WeChat and he suggested that we have conversations via WeChat. I was so sad as I have been teaching him for the last three years. My private clients in China have asked that we slow down our lessons using the third book of National Geographic because the readings are too long. I think that I will try to expend them to four weeks a chapter which means more prep for me, but also means that it should take 20 months to get through the last two books in the series.

This week I also had the son of my private student on Wednesday. I decided to use the Book 21st century readings by National Geographic, which is a collaboration between the publishing company and Ted that makes English lessons based on Ted talks. I quickly found that this was a little too advanced for him and had to downgrade what I was doing. So we basically turned it into a conversation based on the lesson in the book and a bit of reading from the chapter but we didn’t watch the Ted talk. Additionally, I find that it’s really hard to teach a nine-year-old whose only interest is soccer. I hope but I haven’t made a mess  with this client that I will not be able to come back from.

I have six lessons left with Delphine over at Lingueo. I have found some amazing free lessons that have to do with art as the subject matter, and she seems to be enjoying it even if it’s a little difficult for her. I hope that I can find a few more of those lessons for her last few. It looks like we will be finished on 23 April.

Writing this week was actually quite productive. I was able to finish a chapter and start a new  I also think I see the light at the end of the tunnel for The Book of All Things.. After 10 years, I think it’s about time. But for me it was more about the journey than the destination. Still it’s nice to have an idea of where it’s going and how it will end. I’ve also noticed that the possibilities are open for multiple books because I don’t want to leave these characters just yet. What was supposed to be my trying to process my feelings about leaving Scotland at a time that I was hurting, turned into an odyssey of writing self discovery.

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

Online Onslaught Translation Temptation

Happy first day of Spring to all of you! Spring in the Netherlands is full of flowers and people sitting on terraces drinking. But, of course not this year. The restrictions in the Netherlands continue and it looks like they will be made even stricter as our numbers are on the rise. With no vaccine in sight, I made the decision to use my credit from the US trip that I canceled a year ago to book a ticket for 25 August through 14 September this year. It’s my cousin’s son’s wedding as well as possibly my nephew’s christening, though I haven’t heard anything about that from my sister. Let’s hope that I get to take the trip. I am not looking forward to all the Covid tests in my future.

This week at Inkreadable brought all but one of my lessons online, and an extra lesson for my new client’s son. In essence, since I’ve already been paid for his Dad’s hours, I do not mind transferring the hour to the son. At least someone is making use of my services. The situation will change if they want lessons for the young man on his own. He, like Yves is nine and at about the same level. I am going to try the National Geographic 21st-century reading for him but if we find that too difficult then I will try and craft lessons for him that are more age-appropriate. It would be helpful if I could have a look at his English materials. Then I can align closer with what the school is teaching him.

The lessons with Alena are going well and she seems to be enjoying them and as they are early days the prep is easy as I’m going through mostly grammar. She is compliant with homework and gives me her homework every Tuesday and we go over at the following class. She is intuitive and asks really interesting questions. I love my adult students because they are so motivated to learn and they are genuinely happy to see you when you walk in the room. Or as the case may be, n screen. It’s a little bit more fun than my kids at VIPKid who are essentially being forced to take English lessons. It’s not that their attitudes are bad, in fact, some of them are really happy and interested in the lesson. But it gets very difficult when a kid wants to focus on something else. I am finding that with Greek as well. My Greek student he’s a great kid who is focused when he wants to be. But focus is difficult for him and I have had to learn to incorporate the things that he likes to do, like play with emoji ‘s, into the lesson.

My Polish student Karolina is going through changes of her own. She is moving from Warsaw to Krakow in the next couple of weeks and so we spent this weeks lesson with her talking about that move and the apartments that she has seen. We will go back to doing IELTS prep at the end of the month. Generally, I find IELTS fun to teach but I also find it challenging because I’m not sure where to find materials. I have a couple of good websites but I’m always looking for more stuff. I have taken to using the other standardized English language tests as material and applying the oil test prep and strategies to those. It seems to be working.

In other news, my friend Despina over at Lexis Amsterdam need some help translating her website into English. I am happy to do the work as I really like translation work and even offered to do it for free. She is a friend and I really don’t mind but she insists on paying me and that’s quite nice. I’ve also been contacted by Sander who also wants translation work for his website in a couple of months from Dutch into English. Both are very good exercises for me because they allow me to improve both my Greek and my Dutch.

Over the weekend, I got a call from the owner of the Conversation Playground who took the time of slow down and the pandemic to learn new skills in IT and has designed an escape room online for use in the classroom by teachers. Not just language but also any other subjects. It’s an interesting design and I was able to create questions and hints but had some significant critique because I found some of the navigational tools a little bit difficult. Still it was a good exercise for me and I never considered an escape room as a teaching tool for EFL but it seems like it could work. I did assure him that I would use the tool in my classrooms and that might be a good thing to try and do with my private students in China. I do like when there’s lots of possibilities.

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

Preply Potential and Sunday Shutdown

The days here in Amsterdam are getting longer, and what that means here at Inkreadable, is more time to prepare for lessons, seeing friends, and a general uplifting of the mood. I had not spent a winter here in the Netherlands in its entirety, as we generally leave to go to the US in the beginning of December, so I had never experienced the shortest day of the year here. The winters here are tough, they are gray and cold and the nights feel very long. It brings me back a bit to my time in Scotland. I did not really like winter there either, as the days ended at 3 PM and didn’t start until 9 o’clock the next day.

This week at Inkreadable, started with my two new students and miracle of miracles I got one student on Preply, who booked 12 lessons with me. But I have not had any inquiries from anyone else and the three conversations that I was having with people turned into nothing. I wish that the company would allow teachers to book lessons when students express interest. At least, the trial lesson. Since you’re not being paid for it anyway, you should be in control at least  of booking the lesson so that the student doesn’t have to do it. Still I am hopeful that I will get more students, though I am continually annoyed by that Facebook group for Preply Teachers where everybody is posting their 18 hours a day of booked lessons. It is a known problem for me, as the teachers at VIPKid do the same thing. There are some teachers who always post their schedules that are fully booked, and that’s great for them, but that’s no longer my experience. To that end, I have decided to stop opening from 9 AM to 11:30 AM on Sunday. Instead, I am only going to open for one student who has to ask for the Sunday slot. I decided it wasn’t worth it for me to open 2 1/2 hours of lessons, then have a spate of 25 hour cancellations that will not fill short notice. Instead, I plan on using the time to write.

The plan is to write on Sundays from 10 AM to 1130 when I have to go teach Greek. I will, of course, keep my Sunday private clients so that still keeps me working from 11 to 2 but at least once my VIPKid student is done with his package, I won’t have to wake up before 10 o’clock in the morning on a Sunday. I’m finding that the writing sessions on Sunday and good for me as they let me connect with my characters on a day that is other than Thursday. Which is always good. That’s not to say that I won’t give up a Thursday for something interesting and fun, as I did this Thursday to go have dinner with friends in the neighborhood, but as I told them the writing is as much about my mental health and the connection with my characters, as it is about connecting with the Writers Group. I try not to flake out on them too often.

The lessons at Lingueo are ticking down to their inevitable end. My second student has his last two lessons this week. I will be sad to lose him as we get along quite well. I am hopeful that once the lockdown ends, we will stay in contact and Jasper and I can do a long weekend in Paris so that I can meet them, and as a bonus so that they can meet each other. I am not the only one suffering Lingueo loss, my friend Teresa, who is also a VIP teacher living in France, also hasn’t had any more students after her initial two students. I still have Delphine until the end of April at some point.

I am happy with the decision do not do VIPKid on Sunday. At some point of course, when we start meeting at WW in person, the Saturday means will allow me to take Saturday off as well. At least, that’s the plan, though I don’t know when that will start up again.

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

Trial Tales, Dizzying Dilation and Writing Restlessness

In last week’s post, I didn’t know whether my trial was going to turn into a regular student. But I needn’t have worried, even though there was a bit of an inner monologue going for the two days before she actually signed up. Alena is the sister-in-law of my WW friend Laura. To start we’re going to do 10 lessons once a week on Mondays. As she is not working she is able to be flexible which is great for me because at some point on Mondays I will have to start heading to Amstelveen to teach a client for TEC who still has 11 lessons left on his package.

I also have another private client who we will call Sean. He is Dutch and found me through my own website which was great. I was surprised, as my website is not the first that you come across one searching for English language teaching in the Netherlands. He wants 15 hours that will be in person on a Monday as well. With my Mondays sorted so nicely, it took the sting away from the loss of my beloved Sander. At least a little.

In other news, I’ve had some messages from students on Preply, One young woman who just wanted to talk for free. I think she was from somewhere in the Middle East and her family would not allow her to have lessons. Unfortunately, Presley is not a charity and I cannot work for free. I also got a message from a person in Russia who wanted to book a lesson. I gave the instructions but he never did it. On the platform it’s the student that books the trial lesson and there’s a big blue button on the teacher Profile to be able to do that. it really isn’t that difficult. Once I confirmed with support that that’s how students were supposed to book trials, I gave the instructions to my student but nothing came of that. I also had a lesson with a woman who is in Connecticut and has been living in the United States for 17 years but her life revolves around the Brazilian community and so she didn’t speak much English. I thought the lesson went really well she was engaged and laughing and seem to be enjoying the lesson that I gave her, But she did not confirm the lesson. As every single trial lesson on Preply is unpaid, I’m not sure there’s much I can do. I did contact support but have not heard anything as of yet. I sent countless messages and reminders to her to confirm the lesson and to encourage her to book classes but no joy. I am thankful for Lingueo, as I still have a bunch of lessons with them.

Over in VIPkid world, the trial gods have found me with a vengeance and I have at least one or two trials every day that I have a 50/50 chance of teaching. Unfortunately, I’m not very good at turning the trials so I rarely get the extra five dollars. I really don’t like the trials because they don’t show the parents what the kid will actually be learning. Instead it seems that the marketing ploy a VIPkid with regard to trials is “come to VIPkid and you’ll get 30 minutes of alone time”. So while other people think that they’re actually teaching, what we do is not teaching it’s edutainment and it deserves to be treated as such. I am no longer #Grateful #Blessed or #Thankful. In short, I am not one of those VIPKid teachers for whom this is an escape, or an extra source of income. It is getting more and more difficult to want to teach on the platform. In effect I have stopped opening from 9 to 11 AM my time because those slots don’t book anyway. Unfortunately, I may have to once the Lingueo contracts run out especially as Preply seems to be dead in the water for me.

The Thursday night writing goes well, at least in terms of trying to get some thing down. But it’s not a 1000 word bonanza or anything, and I’m finding that even staying focused for an hour and a half on the computer can be quite difficult when you’re writing. The time tends to pass agonizingly slowly for the amount of thinking that I do. Still, I’m happy to get anything down at all in our Thursday writing sessions. The weekend writing session on Sunday was spent trying to figure out why I couldn’t edit this post on the computer since I couldn’t see the block previews.

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

Last Lessons, Preply Prep and Writing Recall

It is, dear reader, the end of an era. Yesterday, I taught  my last lesson with Sander at the English Center. He has opted not to renew his package of lessons because of scheduling difficulties. I am going to miss him. For those of you who have been with me from the beginning, Sander and I started as Sander, Ferry and I. We lost Ferry about three months ago because he moved house and was no longer able to attend lessons. It paved the way, however, for me to get to know Sander’s son Yves. He is as precocious a nine-year-old as you will ever meet. He is funny and smart and will rule the world someday.

Not only will I miss my lessons with them, but I will also miss my walk across the park to the location where I was teaching them. It is a coaching space that the English Center and others rent out for their use. But it’s not just missing the routine of the walk and getting outside, I will also miss the women who run that space. One is Dutch and one is German and they are exceptionally kind and helpful. Ute, who is from Germany, is always willing to have a brief chat while you’re waiting. The other manager I don’t know as well, but she is also super kind. She let me use the facilities on a Saturday when I had walked through the park and was far from home. Maybe someday I will be back giving lessons t the location. But for now, I am wallowing in a little bit of sadness. There is a wonderful Dutch word that doesn’t really translate into English very well but encapsulates the feelings I have as I teach at this location, Gezelligheid. It kind of loosely translates to a feeling of coziness or having a general good time. It can apply to events, places, and people. The staff at the location are the embodiment of this idea.

On Friday, I had my unintentional last lesson with one of my Lingueo clients Maria Jose. Her schedule changed, and as her work is paying for the lessons, she wanted to do it inside work hours. She has had 17 1/2 hours of lessons with me. The last 2 1/2 hours she will take with another teacher, because she hast to take them on either Monday or Tuesdays  as she’s working those days. I am a little sad at losing her, but also a little frustrated because she had my WhatsApp and could ask me if we could change the lessons instead of going for another teacher. I would’ve happily opened up Mondays for her for her last two lessons. I kept Monday closed because I was afraid that I wouldn’t be able to get back in time to teach a lesson. But I would’ve happily opened up for her from 2 PM because I can definitely get home by then. Still, such Is life.

Yesterday afternoon I gave a trial lesson for the sister-in-law of a woman that I know from Weightwatchers. As of this writing I do not know if she will take lessons from me as yet. I hope so and as they will be on Skype they will be quite easy to schedule. I also spent a bunch of time this week doing the Preply seminars and self-study courses, changed my description and added one in French. While I did not find the courses entirely helpful there were some good takeaways for teaching on their platform. Yesterday morning I woke up to my first Trial lesson with a woman who is in the US EST time zone and that is for 7 pm my time this evening. Preply trials are unpaid which is not the best policy but if it gets me clients in the long term, and away from VIPKid a bit then I am happy about that. Let’s see if I can turn her into a student.

In writing news, I spent a good part of Thursday night creating new content and have been happy to connect with my characters and my storyline. I am finding it difficult to remember just what I have written and just which  subplots I have to resolve but the readthrough that I did over the last few weeks has been helpful. I am hoping that the streak continues. I also think that there’s a light at the end of the tunnel and possibly by sometime in April we will be able to start meeting at least on a reduced basis. Maybe I will suggest that people meet at my house rather than finding a location for the moment. I will have to talk to my group Co-organizer for his opinion.

Later this morning, I have a consultation with the eye doctor. I hope they’ll be able to give me a date for the cataract surgery as I’d like to get it over with frankly. Jasper’s family are possibly planning a reunion where we rent a couple of cabins somewhere in the Netherlands and hang out for a week. I’d like to be able to have sight to do that. I also want to go and see my sister and it would be nice to be able to have all of my surgeries finished when I can start traveling.

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

Student Slowdown and MRI Monitoring

It has been a pretty slow week at Inkreadable. The weather in the first part of the week didn’t cooperate very well, leading a late cancel for Sander. That’s been a bit of a continuous thing in lessons over the last few weeks, February has turned out to be ferocious in terms of weather. Getting to the location where we meet has been treacherous. I would’ve been happy to switch to online, but there just wasn’t enough notice to let TEC know to cancel the room where we meet. There was no lesson this week so I spent yesterday teaching extra VIPKid classes.

My Lingueo classes have also been relatively slow between having to cancel for a doctors appointment and not having my third student on my schedule this week because she had a break. Consequently, I was able to set up my lessons through 1 March. Of course, it helps that one of my lessons was planned for 15 February but will have to be for that first of March instead. But I generally like the trend where I’m able to plan the lessons for all of my students by the beginning of the week before. It lets me chill out on the weekends and do other things.

My Sunday schedule went back to normal with Karolina back after a Valentine’s Day break and ready to study. Our IELTS prep is going well, but some of that has to do with the fact that she hasn’t actually scheduled the exam nor does she know when she wants to take it. On Sunday, before we got started with exercises I talked to her about her potential timetable and her own research and self study. It would be interesting to see how she does on an actual timed exam, so I am going to try to find a couple of mock exams if I can.

This week I also had a consultation with the doctor about my MRI results. He feels that the numbness in my feet were a one off neurological events due to a virus. He proposed myelitis as the reason for the numbness. But he said that of more concerned for him is the fact that I do have lesions on my brain that he wants to monitor. So it’s to be quarterly MRIs for the next year and then possibly ending the monitoring  if nothing changes. I am not unhappy with the way that he is handling my case and can be thankful at his briskness because it keeps me calm. There are 1,000,001 reasons for lesions on the brain so I’m trying not to worry about it. In the first place, a lesion is simply an abnormality, and in my case could have been caused by contracting Hydrocephalus at birth. While I am not happy by all of that forthcoming visits to the hospital, at least I am not in America, where I could potentially be beggared between insurance costs and hospital bills. Having not been part of any employment insurance Skim through an employer when I left the US, If I was living there I would have to be a consumer on the open market paying upwards of $500 a month in premiums. Is it any wonder that I’m quite happy to be in the Netherlands where they are a little bit more reasonable about insurance prices and don’t have the same Me me me mentality as people in the US? I am quite happy to be paying a quarter of what I was paying in the US. In addition, I haven’t received a bill for any of the MRIs or visits to the doctor. In America I would be getting bills every day.

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

Teacher Trepidation and a “Cold Call Collapse”

In the Chinese calendar, a new year has begun and so I wanted to wish you all a happy Chinese New Year. It is the year of the ox and may it be a better one than 2020 for all. This week at Inkreadable, was quite quiet in terms of lessons with VIPKid. In fact, on 11 January I had no classes at all with VIPKid. I did, however, have 2 1/2 hours with Lingueo so the day was not a total loss. The fluctuations across my schedule are better than some teachers are reporting. But I also don’t open 80 classes a week with VIPKid anymore.

Percentagewise things have been OK. But at this point, VIP no longer gets priority in terms of bookings. Rather I schedule my VIPKid around everything else. It seems to work OK, and it helps that Lingueo has a cancellation policy that if you cancel well before the 24 hour mark there is no penalty. I’m not sure if there is a penalty within the 24 hour mark. At least on the teacher side. This past week my student had Internet issues and I’m not sure if there’s a penalty for her or rather the company she works for, in terms of payment of a lost class. Because Lingueo is actually subsidized by the French government none of the students actually pay. I’m not sure what portion the companies that my students work for pay but I can’t imagine there is Any monetary penalty to them.

This weeks slow down has allowed me to do really well in terms of lesson prep. I’m currently running about a week ahead of schedule. Which is great because on the weekends I can actually just teach and not lesson plan. This weekend my schedule shifted a bit with Karolina having a Valentine’s Day weekend away with her partner, so I contacted my Chinese clients to see if they wanted to take her slot. They did so my Sunday ended at 1:00 instead of 2 pm. I spent the rest of the day reading and binge watching TV. I am not a Valentine’s Day person, as that holiday is manufactured and the real Valentine’s Day has a far darker history than many people realize. Jasper was on call anyway with his work, because as he told them ” I don’t need Valentine’s Day to show my girlfriend that I love her” Which was sweet and amusing as I could care less about the holiday. Still it was nice to do nothing.

I had a chat with a friend who works for the English Center this week and she gave me some very useful tips for companies to contact here in the Netherlands. One is a company that teaches English the kids in the context of summer camp either a day camp or sleep away camp. The sleep away camp happens at a castle and teachers get room and board and paid. It’s like a weeks vacation to play games with kids. I will definitely have to look into that. The other that she gave me is for adults and I’m not to sure about anything else. I have my research cut out for me with these two companies. I forgot, it’s actually three companies.

My friend Despina over at Lexis Amsterdam very kindly introduced me to the director of a company called Square Mile via email. Unfortunately, they are not hiring as they are trying to protect their existing teachers. Which I was really happy to hear because it feels like across all of my platforms, the companies are hiring teachers when there’s not enough work for the teachers they already have.  Also, I was very happy that they sent a nice sounding email to tell me they weren’t hiring. Which was a totally different experience to the two sentence email I received from the headmistress of the Amsterdam International Community School. I think that she’s been living in The Netherlands for too long and had forgotten that the Brits and the   Americans need a bit more modals than their Dutch counterparts. Despina also let me know that I should contact another company called language corner. It will be a busy week indeed in terms of research.

But as hinted at in the title above, all of this causes me no end of trepidation. I am not very good at selling myself, and my hustle has been fairly passive. Pounding the pavement has never been my strong suit and  up selling myself is really hard. Writing a letter or an email to ask whether people are hiring has never been easy as I agonize over it.  But really the  AICS experience has soured me on “cold emailing” my qualifications and such.

In addition, my trepidation stems from the fact that I get MRI results later today. I think I told you, dear reader, that my MRI results were published on the hospital portal and neither Jasper nor I could make heads or tails of them. I am wise enough to know that if it was really a problem the doctors would’ve called me in much quicker than they have. But that doesn’t stop me from worrying a little bit. I am also a little bit worried about my upcoming consultation with eye doctors in March but that is kind of at the back of my mind and isn’t really the reason I’m a bit stressed now. Still all things shall pass and there isn’t anything that I can do about the results at the moment anyway so I’m trying not to think about it.

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

Schedule Shuffle and a Writing Wrinkle

February in the Netherlands, dear reader, is like in  most other places, the coldest month of winter. Generally what that means is that instead of being 6 to 7°C, the temperature up limps up to about zero and stays there. On occasion, it might plummet below and then we might get some snow. Such was the case this past weekend. The forecast called for temperatures between -7 and -3. As is often the case with people from DC, I was looking forward to the possibility of some white on the ground with no little anticipation, but also a good bit of cynicism as I’ll believe it when I see it. Of course, the same can be said for my friend Erica who has lived in Savannah and also New York. If you ever lived in New York, the chances of you getting a snowstorm with actual accumulation, as opposed to living in DC where the mere threat of a snowstorm grinds the city to a halt, is always a source of amusement. In preparation for momentous event, (7 to 12 cm isn’t much of a snowstorm but I’ll take it), I prepared my kitchen to do lots of batch cooking and baking. And it was a good thing I did too, because Mother Nature made a fool out of me. I think Amsterdam recorded over 20 cm, which hasn’t happened for a couple of years. The Amsterdam city council also enacted their “Ice Day” policy which means that they close off the canal system so that the canals will freeze. Presumably for people to be able to skate. Ordinarily I’d be all for that, but not in the time of the Covid. I think we will see a rise in our numbers from Sunday and Monday as any bit of the city that has any type of a gradient was heaving with people.

This week my teaching world and my personal world collided a bit more, as my schedule was shuffled on both fronts through no fault of mine. On the personal front, an in real life doctors appointment was made for me on Tuesday this week, which was subsequently changed to a telephone consult for this past Thursday, then changed again to an in real life consult on 16 February in the early afternoon. As a result of all of these changes, I had to inform two sets of students on the 16th that I probably wouldn’t be giving them classes, I also let them know that I didn’t want to change the schedule just yet, but will do so probably tomorrow. Anything can happen between now and then, like the doctors letting me know if they want to have a telephone consult and not in real life consult as has happened in the past. As a result, I’m going to have to be ready to get to the hospital rather quickly. In other medical news, we are in a holding pattern until 2 March when I have the next of my appointments for the eye doctor. This too is at the hospital. I swear I’m starting to hate the sight of the hospital, even if it is a nice walk through a park.

The other schedule shuffle happened because on Friday, Delphine let me know a half an hour before class that she wouldn’t be able to have the class because roadworks was interrupting her internet’s signal and she could not ensure that we wouldn’t be interrupted. The bad thing about that is that Lingueo doesn’t get paid if the student cancels and neither does the teacher. What’s interesting about how they handle that is they translate straight from the French, to let you know that the teacher kind of has to act as a bouncer letting the student know that they can’t do this because it ultimately affects your (and Lingueo’s) ability to be paid. But as my sister rather brusquely, though rightly pointed out, I knew this when I signed the contract. Which I suppose, is fair enough. To that end, I used the time that I had to run some errands and help out some friends. And finally in a last minute schedule shuffle, Monday class was moved online because of the snow. Which is fine because I get paid anyway, so to foster good relations I’ll give the class.

Writing this week on Thursday was good, though I only got one chapter edited. I found myself having to write an attack into a dinner conversation and found that quite difficult. I find that internal dialogue tends to be a bit of a problem for me, well as we’ve seen a previous post, dialogue tends to be a problem anyway, but internal dialogue seems to be a particularly tricky thing for me to handle. My schedule shuffle also extended to writing a bit as with a cancellation at VIPKid for an hour on Sunday, I was able to get in to a zoom meeting, and write for a bit. It wasn’t much, but it felt nice to reconnect with my writer friends and with my characters on a day that I don’t normally write. Once we have hit the after times, (after corona) I hope to be able to manage my schedule so that I can find places to write that soothe my soul with cups of tea, comfy chairs and other like-minded people. The search for a venue for the writer’s group on Thursday is ongoing. We may have to suck it up and meet at peoples (Read my) houses, though I’m not sure how much Jasper will appreciate that. Still, since Thursday is also a night out with his friends, it shouldn’t really affect him that much.

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

Curriculum Changes and Delicious Dialogue

In Greece, dear reader, it is customary to wish people a good month on the first. While we are a day late, I still want to wish you a happy February. My hopes for you all for the month, wherever you are, is that corona is not running rampant, or impacting your lives in any way. Here in Amsterdam, we have a rather ridiculous curfew which I am not sure is doing anything to stem the tide of new cases. We are supposed to be home from 9 o’clock in the evening until 4:30 in the morning. I myself am of an age that a curfew doesn’t matter and there’s no place that I want to go at 9o’clock at night anyway. And no matter what my age was, I never wanted to stay up until 4:00 in the morning.

Over at Inkreadable, it’s been a fairly slow week work wise, though I had two days in the past week where I worked a full six hours teaching. One day was even 7 1/2. I had forgotten how tiring it is to be on for that long. On Wednesday and Friday of this week, I found myself absolutely exhausted from teaching full five hour days at VIPKid and then a couple of hours at Lingueo. But also happy that at least I had some full-time work. If all of my days could be like that that would be wonderful.

My private students in China are again on a break because they have a week and a half of winter camp so I won’t see them tomorrow nor did I see them on Sunday. Over in Poland, Karolina has decided that she would like to change the lessons and so we are shifting our focus from conversation and using 21st-century readings to make lessons, to a more targeted lesson to practice the strategies for the IELTS. I’m excited about this because I really like teaching the IELTS. It’s not an easy exam, and even I struggle with it, let alone someone who doesn’t speak English as their first language. I certainly don’t get everything right..

My super advanced, nearly speaks better English than I do student has now decided she wants conversation classes. I’m also quite a bit more happy about that because I was really running out of advanced grammar to teach her. So during our lesson on Thursday we had a conversation based on an article that I found from the BBC called “What If Animals Were As Smart As Us”. The article goes into fairly interesting points about sentient beings and what might happen if all the animals think on the same level as humans. While I had initially used the article as an example of the conditional tense with Karolina, with Maria it turned into an interesting discussion about our views about who actually rules the earth and where man lies in the food chain. Are we the top hunter? Or is there something else that is even more dangerous than we? This of course, lead to an  interesting conversation about the different choices that people make in their lives regarding their own consumption of food. While Maria is not a vegetarian per se, (she eats meat when not at home), in her own home she doesn’t cook it because she doesn’t really like it. Which to me is the best reason not to eat it. Needless to say, the next few classes are going to be challenging and quite fun.

This week’s writing session was great as I was able to get to chapter 20 of my own work and slowly clear out comments from the Washington creative writer’s club  that are a million years old. I also received comments from the fifth critique submission from the Critique Group here.  I have been quite slow (read not at all) looking at those comments because I simply cannot multitask. In addition, I would like to give my readers here a clean copy of the novel which is why I’m trying to get the comments that I have from the US group cleared away. I have forgotten my friend Adam’s comments, he has sent me essays about my writing, and as they are in another place on my computer, I continually forget to add them in. I might have to do that at some point.

The Wednesday critique group met last week and it was amazing because we got treated to a wonderful lecture by one of our members about how to write dialogue. I find I it to be quite difficult but Juan is a master. It was an hour long lesson essentially on how to write dialogue in five (not so easy) steps. And it was great. I learned quite a lot, and asked him for his lecture because there’s no way that I’m going to remember everything that he talked about. I am looking forward to going back and trying to use some of the tips and some of the ways to engender conflict through dialogue which I don’t do very much or at all well. Both Ilana and I are quite willing to listen to the lecture again should he choose to give it to a greater audience in the future.

Yesterday marked the second of my appointments at the eye doctor. This was for a field of vision test to make sure that my field has not actually shrunk. It’s small enough as it is. Next up in a month, it’s a consultation with someone else. So my preparation for cataract surgery proceeds apace. I also have to schedule a consultation with the neurologist after these three MRIs that I’ve had. But I haven’t seen a date in the system yet. At least things are being done, and maybe in the not too distant future I’ll be able to see better out of my right eye.

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