We had presenters from many parts of the country, as well as from other nations, and I was one of them.
Being there meant a lot to me because it is the culmination of a series of steps I’ve carefully taken in my career and education to develop and grow.
5 years ago I was not even teaching English. I was living in the US doing something completely different; I had been away from a classroom for years and teaching seemed like a distant memory . Now fast-forward to 2018 and here I am: presenting at an international conference, sharing what I’ve learned and learning from some of the most prestigious names in ELT in Brazil and abroad.
My talk was about how to bridge a gap between teacher and learners in an online setting. My focus was on how to build rapport and make sure your lesson is successful. By successful I meant connecting with your students as if you were face-to-face. I also talked about how we teachers have our own prior beliefs and biases regarding online teaching and how we can overcome that.
Now, let me take you to the last day of the conference when I gave my presentation. I arrived early and I’d made sure I had saved the presentation to the cloud (Google Drive & Dropbox for good measure), plus I had it in my email, and in a memory stick. Everything was perfect until I found out that I lacked one thing: a cable to connect my Mac to the school’s projector! *Gasp*
You’d think I would be panicking, but I wasn’t. I guess I knew that someone in this great community of teachers would help me. Do I advise coming unprepared? No! Not at all! But at BRAZ-TESOL I knew I was among friends. In the end a teacher I had just met the day before offered to lend me a cable _and_ clicker! He not only lent me his equipment, but installed everything and I was ready and set 15 minutes before my talk! Thanks Hulgo Freitas!
My final thoughts and advice
Don’t count on someone like Hulgo, because you may not be as lucky as I was. (I already bought cables and a clicker!)
Ask More Experienced Speakers for Advice or Feedback.
After my talk I was a bit upset because I had to rush a bit towards the end. The reason that happened was that I had 40 minutes total and I didn’t account for that. I thought I’d have extra time for Q&A. Another reason is that people started asking questions towards the end and that was was because of the way I presented the information. I started with the theory and moved to practical and real examples last. So I talked to an experienced speaker, Luiz Otávio Barros. He told me to trim the talk to about 30′ so I’d have an extra 10’ to account for questions, rehearse it until I nail it and to start with what the audience wants to hear: the practical and real examples. Once I have their attention and interest, the rest of my talk should go smoothly. The theory can come last to support my examples, and by the end of the talk everyone will have asked their questions and gotten their answers. Great advice, isn’t it?
Don’t Be Afraid to Make Mistakes or To Look Silly.
Your proposal was accepted because you have something worthy to say. Don’t worry if something goes wrong during your presentation like a glitch with your slides, the Internet or if you stutter. Be authentic. You know your stuff. That’s why you’re there! So long as you prepare for your talk and possible questions, no one will care about those things. Your posture, your confidence and how you handle yourself will matter most.
For me, I’ll get a second chance! I’ll be presenting the same talk in São Paulo on September 7th, at BrELT on The Road 2018. How great is that? I’ll listen to Luiz’s advice. He said he’ll try to watch my next talk! No pressure there, huh?
How about you? What advice do you have for presenters?
Thanks for reading & ’til next time!
PS. Here’s more about my talk and if you’re interested, there’s still time to register! It’ll be a great event. Hope to see you there!
Online Teaching: Overcoming The Distance and Delivering a Successful Lesson
In this talk, I will share tips to overcome the most common problems in synchronous learning: adaptability, struggle (teacher and students alike), computer literacy, discipline and motivation, and credibility.
Teachers will be presented with solutions to choose and adapt the right material to their learners; the most common platforms used for online teaching; tips on how to build rapport, engage students and bridge the distance gap between them.
One of the things that kept me from blogging for years was fear of exposure. Once your words are out anyone can hear them. Some ears will be kind but others won’t, and that’s OK.
I also used to ask myself these questions: What am I going to write about? There are so many blogs about teaching, ELT and freelancing, already.
There is another version of that. When there was an ELT event approaching, and colleagues asked me if I would submit a proposal, that same inner voice would strike again: What am I going to talk about? Who will want to listen to me? Or, what could I possibly say that hasn’t been said before? Etc.
Have you had these thoughts? Have you heard other teachers say that?
This way of thinking can be more harmful than it might seem. When we ask these questions, we are usually comparing ourselves with other people. What we fail to realize is that we each have a voice and our own experience to share. When we teach a lesson, it’s never the same no matter how many times we do it over. So, why would that be different than when we write from our perspective or give a talk?
When someone writes about a topic, or gives a lecture, they’ll bring into light not only the theoretical aspects about it but also their unique view on that subject. We each experience teaching differently. Some made that a career choice before College, while others embraced it later in life after graduating in a different field, such as myself. For this and many other intrinsic reasons, we will have different stories to tell.
Your story, impressions and views on a subject will be yoursonly.
Don’t wait any longer. Get ready!
Here’s a list of pros to give you that push so you can start writing and submittingproposals to that conference, or event you may be shying away from:
The world can benefit from your knowledge. You may say: Oh, but that has been said many times! Maybe, but has it been said by you? Your way, from your perspective? What if you see it through an angle that no one has seen before? How can you know it if you don’t try? It’s like the saying goes, you’re failing before even trying!
Promote your business or services to a broader audience. If you hide, who will know about you besides those close to you, your friends and family? You can potentially reach anyone on the planet who sees your website, blog or hear you at a conference, webinar, etc.
Advance in your career. By writing or participating in events as a speaker, you will be taking your teaching career to another level. The good news is that you can find support from experienced teachers to assist you with all the steps from writing your proposal to preparing your first presentation. Check with the event’s organizers.
Let me share something with you. I gave my first talk in 2017. Yes, last year! Here’s the opening slide that started it all.
I had total support from experienced colleagues from BrELT who organized this wonderful event called BrELT on the Road bringing together teachers who only met online on Facebook to a live event held in Rio de Janeiro.
I was a first time speaker, so I was helped during the entire process. From writing the proposal, to rehearsing my presentation and getting a personal call from Bruno Andrade, the Group’s founder himself who watched my talk and offered me his feedback! How wonderful was that!? In the end I felt energized, happy and accomplished. Some of the teachers who attended my session were beginners, but some were experienced as well. They came to me after the presentation and asked me questions. It felt great! And to think that I almost didn’t do it because, oh well, what could I possibly say that someone hadn’t said before?
My advice? Choose a topic with which you’re familiar. Something you know very well, and have tested again and again. It’ll give you the confidence you need.
By sharing what we know, we can help other people avoid making the same mistakes we made. We can also shed new light onto an old issue.
OK, we all know that sunny days won’t last forever. Some clouds will move in eventually. There will be rainy days. It’s just part of life. In order to succeed as a writer and speaker, you will need to hone your skills like any other professional, but you’ll also need to work on your emotional intelligence. With exposure, comes constructive as well as destructive criticism. There are all kinds of people out there reading what we write and watching us. That shouldn’t stop us. If you receive destructive criticism, it should serve as fuel to make you write even more! If that happens to you, don’t get bothered with that. Carry on!
Constructive feedback on the other hand is great and should be welcome! It’ll make you a better teacher, writer, lecturer and so on.
We should think the same way when we get to a position when we can offer feedback. First of all, we must ask ourselves, was it solicited? We shouldn’t assume the other person wants our feedback! Instead, we can reach them via inbox if we really mean to help. Remember the feedback I received after my first talk? My colleague contacted me in private and asked me if I wanted his feedback. That’s the way to do it.
I’ll leave you with a picture from my first talk, and it would make me really happy to hear that you have taken the first step to write, or to submit a proposal. I will be giving my 2nd talk this July at BRAZ-TESOL International Conference in Caxias do Sul, Brazil. I couldn’t be happier. I’ve had the support of friends and colleagues to have my proposal accepted yet again. I took the first step, but I also asked for help. Don’t be shy. This is my advice. Teachers are generous. Ask and you shall receive!
If you follow me on FB, you know that I moderate Cecilia Nobre’s Facebook group Private English Teacher’s Reloaded. Last month we created a pool and asked: “What’s your biggest challenge as a 1:1 teacher?” Finding new students was voted number 1. It was no surprise to me, actually, since this is a recurring theme among freelance teachers.
I did a talk last September at the ELT event BrELT on the Road-Rio edition, entitled “Transitioning to Freelance Teaching: the Do’s and Don’ts.” In this talk, one of the topics I addressed was how to find new students. To illustrate it, I decided to check exactly how I’d done it.
This was my background at the time: I had been away from Brazil for 12 years, and I was starting over from zero. I had few connections left in my hometown, and I had to try something. I had placed online ads in the US, and it worked well for me there, so I thought, why not try it here? What do I have to lose? This chart was shown in my presentation.
Placing ads is pretty much like fishing. You need to find a good spot, the right gear, the proper bait, then you throw your line and wait. How long you’ll wait will depend on a few factors: the most important how well you write your copy; followed by where you place it and third when. (Near the holidays it may take longer to get a reply, or during summer break, but don’t get discouraged! In my experience, there’s always someone willing to study in all 12 months of the year.)
Continuing with the fishing analogy, if you use the wrong bait, (wrong words), you will not catch the fish you want. If you choose the wrong spot (wrong platform, site or medium), you may go home empty-handed. If you don’t wait long enough, the same may happen.
Finding students through ads requires patience, choosing where to advertise, how to reach your target audience, and writing to them, not from your perspective! Now, whether you’ll find a student who can pay your asking price is another issue, but it’s got nothing to do with your writing abilities. The problem is that the student you’re looking for may not be there. (More on finding the right student later.)
Let’s go back to the chart for a minute. I want to focus on the referrals. When I did my research, even the teachers who do not freelance full-time said that most of their students came from referrals. What does that tell you?
What I’ve learned in my many years working on and off as a freelancer (since the 90s!) is that we have our ups and downs when it comes to finding new students. What we can’t do is to stop advertising! People must know that we “still teach.” I remember when I was living in Chicago and my Mom would tell me someone asked her if I still offered English lessons! I was surprised that after so many years away, some people still remembered me as an English teacher.
I’ve talked to colleagues who are successful freelancers, and we share the same opinion. It’s essential for you to have a professional website or a blog. You’ve got to have an online presence of a sort. Note I said professional, not personal. You have to separate your brand from your personal life. These days you can’t hide anymore. People must know who you are, what you do in order to find you. A good online presence will give you credibility, and you’ll attract new students that are not from your close circle of friends, family, and neighbors.
I clearly see a shift in the way things are happening now. On the one hand, if we do a good job, invest in our development, we’ll have happy students who will give us new referrals. On the other, we live in a connected world which we can’t ignore. I know many teachers do not want to have a website or be on social media, but I’m afraid that if you’re a freelancer, you will have a hard time finding students if you stay hidden. I used to be on of those teachers.
Some teachers love it, though: they are on Instagram, they make videos on Youtube, they love the exposure. I don’t advertise my services on FB, but others do. I think FB works best for courses than for 1:1 lessons. The reason is simple in my view. There are so many teachers on FB looking for students, that the moment someone asks for a teacher dozens reply… in seconds! Remember that when you’re online so are millions of other people! Do you really want to be competing with just about anyone like that?
If you choose to place an advertisement, think about how you’re going to write it. I have a background in Communication, so I’ll give you some pointers.
• Think about you and your qualifications. Then think about who your target audience is. Focus on them.
• The writing has to be clear and informative. Give specifics.
• Talk about you, who you are, and what you can do for the students. Talk about what you offer, how you work but don’t write too much text either. Make it easy to find the significant information.
• I recommend not to say how much you charge in the ad on purpose. (I don’t) Ask the prospect to contact you for further information. This strategy will give you the chance to explain in detail how you work and your value, not just your price. See: How much should I charge?
• Use a good photo of you. You want to look professional and friendly. A smile always helps. Make sure you choose a nice (neat) background. Preferably of where you teach, otherwise a white wall works just fine.
Give it some time. If you don’t get replies in 5-7 days, delete it and rewrite it. Something is off. Change the text, your photo, or where you placed your advertisement.
Do a Google search in your country for private teachers in the language you teach. See what comes up. Then, check where these ads were placed. Now go and place yours there! That’s what I did, and it’s always worked for me.
1. It starts in the classroom. Keep doing a good job. Keep learning, keep getting better at what you do. Your students will notice. They will learn, and in return, they will bring in new students.
2. Show yourself to the world, but do it your way! You should always be comfortable. Just don’t stay hidden.
3. Keep it up. If you have placed ads, don’t stop running them once you reach a desired number of students.. (I made that mistake once!) Things happen. People may change their plans, their priorities, or lose their jobs. If one or two suddenly stop taking lessons from you, then what? How long will it take you to get two new replacement students? 2, 3 Months?