The grass is always greener on the other side

Today I ran into a teacher I met once at an ETAS workshop and we got to talking about work. He asked me if I had enough work and I said, at the moment, I do, but that with January coming up, I can never be sure. Teaching freelance for private language schools always involves uncertainty and there’s always a shuffling of the deck as some courses end and others may or may not start. I thought about how I’d like to work for a school like the one where he works. Teaching at a “Berufschule” means there is a steady course load. Curriculum is designed with longer term goals in mind, not one-off lessons created to keep students signing up for another six months.

married_greener_grass_750Meanwhile, however, he complained that he misses the days when he taught at a private language school, working in companies and learning so much from the various groups that he taught. It can be so stimulating to go into varied contexts and we as teachers learn almost more from the students than they do from us. It also constantly challenges us to customize our course objectives and this creates intrinsic motivation for ongoing professional development. For him, teaching twelve courses, each with 24 students, is gruelling. Teachers are faced with designing and grading three tests per semester, strict fixed course objectives, and lots of pressure to get their students to pass.

So I realized that although I loathe the inconsistent paycheck, the pressure to keep clients happy, and the uncertainty that I face every six months, I shouldn’t take for granted the advantages that I have. Every job has it’s perks.

We all have our complaints. What are the good sides of your job?

And if you work at a “Berufschule” or state school, do you know of a job opening? … 😉

Share your comments below!

What do I look for in a school?

This is related to Fabienne’s “What do I look for in a teacher” post, but it’s in no way intended as any kind of reply. Hopefully just starting a new conversation or continuing it from a new angle. 🙂

If we’re honest, there are two stages in school-choosing. In the first stage, the main consideration is really, “Do they have hours?” “Do the hours fit in my existing schedule?” If the answer to either of those questions is “no”, then that’s the end of the consideration. The more complicated part of school-choosing is after the end of the first year when we have to decide whether we want to keep working at this school or start looking for new hours at a new place. Here’s what matters most to me (and I’m interested to hear what matters most for you in the comments): consistency, professionalism, and good atmosphere/colleagues.

By consistency, I mean how far in advance can I know my schedule? When a course is booked, how certain am I that it will run? By professionalism, I mean two things: am I treated as a professional (ie, do I have an appropriate amount of freedom in my lessons) and is the office run professionally (is the admin work completed efficiently, is the communication handled well, are the wages paid reliably without undue effort on my part)? The atmosphere and colleagues are also important, but I find it easier to work with someone who’s good at their job but I don’t get along with rather than the other way around. Ideally my colleagues will be both professional and nice, although I have been in situations where they were neither.

What about the money? Money is important too, of course. But typically I’m working in 2-3 schools and I don’t get a lot of offers for a 100% position. So if I did get a new offer, I’d be using the above criteria to decide which school to cut, rather than whichever one pays the least. Simple things like being able to plan my schedule and not having to deal with a bunch of repetitive paperwork add up for me and these are the kind of places I want to stick around. The grind of doing work I don’t like takes time out of my life that I’m not paid for anyway, and these kind of factors motivate me to look for something new anyway so I may as well get rid of those jobs first.

Cunning schoolmasters

We’ve all heard teachers gripe about shortcomings of working at a school. Bureaucracy, money, people problems. . .

There are glowing benefits of working in a school too. Free books, copy machines, travel allowances, regular classes, not having to look for your own clients. . .

And every school is different. There are small and large language schools, state schools, local schools, schools for adults, schools for kids . . .

They differ in the resources they offer, the support the administration gives, pedagogical advisory, and communication with clients, (not to mention what they pay!).

They differ in expectations too. I applied for a job once and the first question in the interview was, “what’s your availability?” Some say language schools only want maximum availability, maximum flexibility, and maximum professionalism.

What’s important to you regarding the school where you teach?