Monthly Archives: July, 2014

The trials and joys of teaching over the summer months…

Ah, summer in Prague!  Beer gardens, walks in the park, long warm days.  You’ll wish you had more time to be outside instead of teaching.  Fortunately you most likely will.  This applies to teachers like me who work for schools or private students and teach either in companies or privately, if you teach children in a school setting you were already expecting to have free time over the summer.

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When you take TEFL training, and even when you accept a contract with a school, nobody mentions that your summers will be quieter than you expected.  This is my second summer in Prague and now I know what to expect, but the first summer was a little stressful.  If you are new to the ESL world be aware:

Students take vacation.  This is normal and expected of course, but it leaves you with holes in your schedule and since they are all early cancellations this also means holes in your income.

Classes get cancelled for the summer.  You would think this isn’t a surprise to the schools but somehow it seems to be.  I thought maybe it was just my school but a random survey of other teachers confirms this.  Three of my 90 minute classes took the summer off and I wasn’t informed until the day of my final class with them.  Not a nice surprise!  The loss of 1350 per week is noticeable.

Classes end.  This happens at other times of the year as well, but expect it in June as it is the end of the semester.  Some classes run on terms and, again, your school might not warn you in advance.

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What to do to cope with this problem?

Save.  Those busy winter and spring months are the time to put something away for now.

Ask your students.  In the late spring I have a lesson I do that is all about travel and vacations and I have adapted it to work in most of my classes.  This is a perfect time to simply ask “Hey, what vacation plans do you have?  What happens to your ESL classes over the summer?”.  Don’t expect your school to communicate this to you.  Avoid surprises.  Alternatively, ask your school – they will certainly be asking you about your summer plans so it is a perfect time to have this conversation.

Take your own vacation.  If you are planning to take a break, this is a good time to do it with a minimum loss of income.

Take on substitutions.  The one upside here is that summer is also when other teachers will leave – either for the summer or for good.  If you are staying and can be flexible you can take on extra classes. I’ve worked hard to be on good terms with the person in my school who handles substitutions.

Try intensive courses.  If your school offers intensive English programs you might be able to get involved.  These will be high intensity, up to eight hours a day of teaching for anywhere from one day to a week.  The benefits are a good experience and a great way to top up your earnings while not really needing to cancel many of your normal classes.

Not to worry, come September things will pick up again and you’ll look back on these quite summer months fondly.

Enjoy the summer!

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Minimalism….

(Disclaimer:  this post doesn’t cover anything about Teaching, Canada, Immigration or Prague – there might even be some philosophy in it)

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Anyone who knows me would agree I am not a person who identifies with groups.  I don’t join teams, listen to only one kind of music, wear a certain type of clothing, collect anything at all, follow any religion or have particularly strong political opinions.

Not so long ago I stumbled upon  The Minimalists, a blog about minimalism and it just clicked with me.

What is a minimalist?  Dictionary.com defines it this way:

noun:

1. a person who favors a moderate approach to the achievement of a set of goals or who holds minimal expectations for the success of a program.

2. a practitioner of minimalism in music or art.

adjective:

3. of, pertaining to, or characteristic of minimalism.

4. being or offering no more than what is required or essential

Number four resonates with me:  being no more than what is required or essential.  Once I identified that I am a minimalist and there are others like me I felt a little better about myself, I’m not completely strange after all.  When I tell people I know that I realized I am a minimalist the response has been pretty much universal:  “Well, duh! This isn’t news”.

Not wanting to accumulate a bunch of stuff puts me outside societal norms, especially in North America.  If you don’t want things there must be something wrong with you or you are denying yourself somehow.  I am also an atheist and draw a strong analogy between these situations.  Atheism is often described as “not believing in anything” when in fact I believe in something quite strongly, just not that a deity or omnipotent being created us.  Minimalism is not simply “not wanting stuff”, it is more about wanting the things that you can have by not having stuff or by making sure the stuff you do have adds value.

What are these things?

Freedom:

Freedom comes in two flavors – financial and physical.  As a result of not having a lot of things I now have more money available for other things such as travel.  Further, I am not tied to a job I don’t like in order to support these purchases.  The physical freedom comes from not needing to care for, insure, clean or store things.  I feel so much lighter without things to anchor me down.

Appreciation for what you have:

My possessions are very specific. If I don’t get some value from them I won’t get them or won’t keep them.  Most of the things I do have are things I like and use regularly.  Every purchase goes through two questions: Will this add value to my life?  Is it worth the time I need to spend to earn the money to pay for it?  If the answer is no, I don’t make the purchase.  Does this mean I have nothing?  No, of course not.  My flat has everything I need to live comfortably, and things such as  a nice computer and high-end mountain bike because they are things I enjoy having.


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Minimalism, or whatever you want to call it, looks different for different people.  For some it might be about stripping down to the absolute bare essentials such as getting down to only 50 possessions.   Others have families and homes and obviously more things are required, Leo Babauta has a fantastic blog about minimalism as a whole.  It is all about personal choice.

I’m not trying to convert people.  I’m simply suggesting that giving some thought before purchasing another new thing might add some value:  do you need it?  will it add value to your life?