Five years ago my team and I were the official English lessons suppliers for a very well-known global corporation. Business there was pretty good, and the amount of classes per month was rising and flourishing. It was a great time, and needless to say, we were making very good money. But then came a day in which I was called into the Human Resources office, and I was told that because of low budget they had to stop offering the in-company English lessons to their staff. It was a shock, and of course there was a significant cut in our monthly income.
As a result, I had to let some of my people go, I couldn’t afford having them on board! It was very painful. But of course, looking back at those times I can say that I learned some very valuable lessons. So here’s what I learned:
Consider new markets. In ELT there is more than one market. If you are a school teacher, remember Business English teaching is also an option, delivering English lessons in-company can be a very profitable activity in the realm of English teaching and you can do it in your free time, after school hours. Offering tutoring for kids who study in a school where some courses are taught entirely in English can also be an option to consider. It implies of course that you may have to cover topics like science or maths, but it can be a great opportunity to expand your knowledge and grow professionally. Also, what about teaching exam preparation courses like TOEFL or FCE?
Never take things personally. Choose to believe what the school or student is telling you when they decide to let you go. It may be a cut in the budget, or just that you are not the right fit for the organization. In any case, choose to believe the best and don’t take it personally, it won’t do you any good to blame yourself. This is the time to look at other options and get creative, remember you have the knowledge (the know-how), which is valuable per sé.
Get ready. Sooner or later you will get new offers and you’ll be back to the hectic rhythm of teaching more classes than you even wanted. So by now, get the most out of your unexpected free time. It is time to register for ELT webinars, time to read more, create new materials, even improve your own English or writing skills, ask a friend to help you practice, observe lessons so you can help and learn. There’s a lot you can do, but it is up to you. You need to have a fresh new positive look at your current situation. It won’t be forever, so let’s go!
Don’t be afraid to ask. Remember that person who called you a month ago, looking for a private English tutor but you just had no time for them? The point is you can remember some job offers you had in the past. Don’t be afraid to call and ask if they are still available. You’d be surprised at how many times a year I am looking for new teachers to join my team. This is a hot market, and you can take advantage of it. This is a good time to tell you that we must always take notes and save phone numbers and names of people who call us looking for our service. This is key in building a data base of possible students and jobs.
In closing, remember everything comes and goes, sometimes you’re up but sometimes you’re down, so we must always be alert and open to the possibilities.
But I’d love to hear from you, how have you managed to cope with those low times when you just didn’t have enough students or classes to get by?