I know this series of posts lies outside of my usual series focused on tools to help with language learning. However from the outset, I set up this blog as a place to support colleagues, rather than a language teaching site for pupils.
I simply feel that these ideas might be of help for many colleagues struggling with their professional identities and looking for a bit of direction.
So .... some personal background.
The original aim of this blog was inspired by 'un souffle d'air' blowing along a Normandy beach where I was lying on a hot summer's day, contemplating the prospect of chucking teaching in all together.
At the time, I had decided to leave my full-time teaching job for health reasons. I simply couldn't see how I would ever continue until retirement at the pace required of me and stay alive.
My wife and I were in Normandy checking out a fantastic Longere with 15 acres of land attached where I had the grand idea of running a Quad Bike business / Gite. (I was approaching 50 at the time! Such musings go with the birthday I believe)
Lying on the beach that day, I realised that I wasn't really passionate about becoming a 'hotelier'. What I was passionate about was helping teachers find inspiration and refreshment from creative ideas that would help relieve some of the stress I had felt under from trying to continually motivate reluctant language learners.
We are very hard on ourselves as a profession aren't we? As a line-manager in school I would listen to teachers I thought were great, indulging in orgies of self-criticism.
We are spurred on by those moments when everything seems to come together, when we know we have delivered an inspirational lesson or series of lessons, when previously reluctant learners become eager sponges hanging on our every word. Trouble is that is rare for most of us. We lambast ourselves when this doesn't happen all the time. Or am I being too honest here?
How many of you recognise this? You reach the end of a long and particularly tiring day, a day for which you prepared long and hard the night before when you came up with what you thought were some original and creative ideas, sure to work.
Things get off to a good start, in fact most of the day you are flying. Then one incident happens where you don't hit your mark, more often than not because of something completely out your control. A moody pupil, equipment failing, photocopier broken, SMT unannounced visit just as some ninny has decided to kick off etc. etc.
For the remainder of the day and evening you feel that you are a rubbish teacher. You can rationalise it all you like, try and remember the positives but I know that it can be incredibly hard to shift that feeling. Out of all proportion, that one event clouds everything.
We all like to present ourselves as being the most consistently inspiring, brilliantly organised people, with ne'er a dull day or lesson to their credit. The thing is sometimes we are like this and that's what makes it so very frustrating as a career. We know that sometimes we get there, it's just that realistically, maintaining these heights is impossible within the system within which we are given to work.
When Ofsted first burst on the scene, I wrote a satirical song called "Inspection Blues". I was really proud of it, still am really! I even posted it on this site once. It lampooned all of the things I might try to do as a languages teacher to get a good inspection. In particular it lampooned poor Chris Woodhead, the first Chief Inspector.
However I removed it. I wasn't really being truthful with myself in that song. It made people laugh when I played it BUT it masked an unfashionable truth.
The first time I was EVER told by ANYBODY in teaching that what I was doing was any good, was by an INSPECTOR. Uptil that moment, no-one really knew about what I did, valued it, praised me for it, commented on my work unless I made a mess of something.
Like everyone, I worked my socks off to prepare for an inspection. I dotted every I and crossed every T. I poured my heart into those lessons and came out with an 'outstanding' rating each time. BUT to sustain the effort needed to maintain those heights would have killed me, so what was the point? I loved the fact that someone at last recognised I could do the job but hated the hidden message I was all too aware of, that when the inspection was over, I would always be worse than at this moment.
To compound this sense of 'not being quite up to the job' to get on in the profession, you weren't judged by your teaching abilities but by your prowess as an administrator. Never miss a deadline? Know how to complete forms A-Z, manage a budget, conduct and minute a meeting, create a timetable, organise exams? You are Headteacher material. Know how to inspire children to be passionate about learning and in particular about learning your subject, you are a teacher.
Headteacher = adminstrator = Star Teacher = professional no hoper
I was, and am still, a rubbish administrator. There, I've said it!
Of course I know being able to organise a ........-up in a brewery is an admirable thing! But you get the point.
I know that things have changed to some extent now: threshold levels, more enlightened appraisal systems and so on. The biggest thing however that has changed this for the better is Social Networking.
The ability for teachers to connect, reflect and share their gifts, insights, inspiration online has turned everything on its head. The people colleagues turn to for help and ideas these days aren't their managers. If you don't believe me, think of all those teachers whose training you have attended in recent months. I can bet that everyone writes a blog. I can bet that they are the ones connecting on a professional forum, or using Twitter, or attending Teachmeet events that facilitate professional sharing. I can bet they are the ones being paid to share what they know.
Depending upon their professional commitments, they might being doing one, some or all of these, but somewhere they are using social networks.
Why am I writing all of this?
Last week I put up a post about my own view on how, in the years to come, I see a career as a teacher developing. I suggested that learning how to develop our particular areas of expertise in the classroom and our passions and interests outside of it into two parallel incomes will become the norm. And the key to doing this?
Talk about it! It's very simple, the more you share what you say, the clearer what you have to say becomes, the more focused what you have to offer is, the more in demand you become as a speaker to share it.
There is a bit of a silly 'mystique' about being a public 'speaker' I don't really like that term. It puts those who do it on a kind of self-generated pedestal that others feel they cannot aspire to. "I could never do that! I wouldn't have the nerve! I'm simply not interesting enough! I would make a complete muddle of what I have to say'
All a public speaker is is someone who has TALKED a LOT with other people about what inspires them. And what better and less forbidding platform to start from than a blog! You don't have to see people's reactions to you, you can start with very small posts, then grow them as your message gets bigger.
And then, just suppose you have managed to pour your heart out so effectively in what you share that people grow eager to hear what you have to say next; suppose they even begin to contact you to come and talk to them; suppose that this grew to the point where you were begininng to earn enough from your online presence to consider working part-time as a teacher and part-time on your 'fun' online presence; suppose that life-balance enabled you, when you do teach, to have more energy, more ideas, more time to get it right, to prepare the same lessons that you were able to when you shone in all of those inspections.
Double the satisfaction, double the fun, double the income. Why wouldn't you!
So, to help you on your way, here is a link to a colleague who has already made that journey.
The author, Shelly Tyrell, I understand gave a keynote speech at a conference at last week's
Shelly sets out a 30 steps goal challenge to help you to develop your passion and invites people to share their progress online.
The main post about these steps is here
So if you are unsure about how to proceed with this and move towards earning a income from a hitherto financially untapped part of your life, these pointers might help. The fact that Shelly was paid good money I am sure to go and speak about something that she had first shared online proves everything I have said here.
Finally, I'll put up this link again to 3 possible dates for a forthcoming workshop in May led by an internationally recognised expert on coaching people to speak and earn from their interests. Joanna Martin charges her high-end business clients thousands to attend her workshops. This one day event will only cost you £47. It might just launch that parallel fun income for you!