Dear teacher-parent: the struggle is real.

Before I had kids, all I wanted to do once I started having kids was to be a full-time, stay at home mom. After my first child was born, I continued teaching full-time, and still all I wanted to do was stay at home. I loved teaching, but I felt constant mental torment seeing the areas in which I was forced to cut corners at school and at home in order to get the most important things done at both places. I wasn’t doing everything that I used to be able to do at school, and I wasn’t doing everything I wanted to be able to do at home. My husband was transitioning from the military to civilian life at the time, and so we needed my income and my healthcare. I kept working, and as we anticipated the birth of my second child, we prayed a lot and started looking for ways to supplement Matt’s income so that I could be home with the kids. Through connections that I had made in the teaching community, we made the scary step of faith into the realm of duel-self employment with no fixed income! (Side note, Christian Medishare has been a huge help to our family–neither Matt nor I have insurance through work, and their premiums are very affordable and the organizational philosophy is incredible!)

For those of you that have found the magical balance between parenthood and the teacher life, I salute you! I taught with many teachers that were able to prioritize and set good boundaries and, as a result, were very happy thinking about a long future in the classroom.  When I am finally done having kids and raising toddlers, I hope to return to the classroom and consult all of my friends that struck this magical balance.

Many of you are, however, are like teacher Martina was: overwhelmed, tired, and feeling like you’re letting everyone down (even though you probably aren’t!). Many of you reading this have felt in the past or are feeling now the turmoil of parenthood and teacher-hood. Or perhaps your struggle is instead between your passion for language education and your disdain for the business of education.

Quite a few months ago, I connected with Jill Wiley from World of Wonders Learning LLC. Like me, Jill was an in-school language teacher for many years before deciding that she needed to find a different way to pursue her passion for language education and to be the parent that she wanted to be. After much consideration, Jill left the classroom and started her own business in Indiana. Like Fluency Fast and Express Fluency, World of Wonders Learning offers language classes to children and adults. Instruction happens in the form of comprehensible input, and so Jill has been able to continue her love for language teaching and comprehensible input instruction even outside a formal school setting. Jill offered to write a guest post presenting some ideas for teachers that have been considering how they might live the language teacher life without reporting to work at 7:00am each day to teach 175 students with a 30 minute lunch and 40 minute planning period and submit 1570 grades each week.

We need great language teachers in schools, and we need excellent, readily available opportunities for language learning in our communities. If you think you might be ready to explore language education outside the school setting, read on for some ideas from Jill!

I was one of “those” teachers. You know the ones. They talk about teaching constantly. They pay from their own pocket to go to professional development conferences on their own time. They think the only day more exciting than the last day of school (Yay, summer!) is the first day of school (Yay, my kids are back!). Yes, I was one of those.

So what was it that made me resign from my dream job when I really wouldn’t have changed one single thing about my teaching post? Maybe it’s the same thing that makes you – from time to time, or more often – think about doing the same thing. Maybe it was the feeling that both groups that I cared most about in the world – my family, and my student – were getting shortchanged more often that I would like. Maybe it was the fact that more and more time was being spent on things that seemed useless to me, instead of on creating and presenting outstanding learning opportunities for my students. And maybe it was watching education be destroyed through political wrangling that is motivated less by what is good for kids and more by what makes politicians sound good. Probably, it was a combination of all of these and more.

In my case, the “more” was a desire to start my own business doing something that I love – teaching languages in a fun and engaging way. If you’ve ever thought about leaving the classroom, but thought, “What would I do to make money?” there might be more demand for your particular skills than you think. Whether you are wanting to quit tomorrow or planning a slower exit, hoping to stay home with your kids and just add a bit to your spouses income, or retire without giving up teaching altogether, the ways you can use your CI and language skills are limited only by your own creativity. Here are some options:

  1. Offer small classes in your own home. This is how I started out. CI/TPRS changed my professional life so much, that I really wanted to share this exciting and fun way to learn languages. My class was small but enthusiastic, and it meshed well with my lifestyle. Since I had three young kids, it was convenient for me not to have to leave my house. My husband watched the kids upstairs and I taught downstairs. Best of all, it took very little preparation, since I was doing what I had spent hundreds of hours doing in my classroom. Starting out this way allowed me to gain confidence that people were eager to learn languages in a fun and novel way.
  2. Create a class at a local winery or restaurant. Inspired by a friend who mentioned that she loved “Wine and Canvas” but really didn’t want any more paintings, I decided to call a local winery and offer to do a class there. After all, you don’t have to hang or store what you learn in a language class. The winery was happy because it allowed them to gain some business in their conference room, which was often empty, and I was happy because I had a cool, hip location at no cost. They were great about promoting the classes on their web site, and I use social media to promote it to my friends and family.
  3. img_6949Offer language classes in area daycare centers or elementary schools. Many parents are in a panic about how to get their pre-schoolers and elementary age kids exposed to foreign language, but they don’t want one more commitment during their precious, and very limited, after-work family time. You can provide a valuable service by offering engaging classes on-site. It also benefits the school or daycare, because they can then advertise that they offer language enrichment programs. Since daycares often stay open until 6:00, there is time to fit this in after school. Most elementary schools offer after-care services, which is where I made my first contact and offered my first “official” class. Since I was already a known employee of the school corporation, I had a bit more credibility than I might have otherwise.
  4. Provide professional development and career training. In our area, many teachers are frustrated by their inability to communicate with Spanish speaking parents, as well as newly arrived students from Spanish-speaking countries. After my success offering classes to elementary students at an after-school program, I contacted its director and mentioned that I also provide professional development seminars to child care professionals. Since our corporation has a high population of Spanish-speakers, she was enthusiastic. We began a pilot program to help her employees learn Spanish. WOW! That was fun! These are folks who had often had very bad experiences with traditional language instruction methods, and they really whooped it up when they realized they could be successful at learning a language. Because of your skills in language and CI, you could provide a very valuable service to school corporations (and their teachers) who need to be able to communicate on a basic level with Spanish teachers.
  5. Contact museums, cultural or community centers, libraries, and YMCAs. Imagine the thrill of teaching a French class in the galleries of a local art museum, surrounded by impressionist paintings. Although I never would have guessed it, this was an opportunity presented to me as I started investigating my options. Many museums, community centers, and YMCA’s offer classes for home-school students and also for adults, and some even offer weeklong summer day camps. They are often looking for novel, high-quality programs to interest their patrons.

Again, only your imagination and your understanding of the various groups of people who need or want foreign language instruction limit the ways you can use your CI to supplement your income. Have you had success with other ideas? We’d love to hear about them in the comments section.

To connect with Jill and learn more about how teaching in a non-traditional setting might work for you, contact her via her Classroom To Home website. For more information on her teaching company, World of Wonders Learning, contact her through the WOWL website!

30 replies on “We need excellent language teachers in our communities AND in our schools.

  1. A really thought-provoking guest post. There was a Fluency Fast workshop at a conference I attended this summer and I heard nothing but positive remarks about it. If WOWL is like that I think the more the merrier!

    1. Fluency Fast is incredible. Karen Rowan has been doing those classes (and has a team of experienced teachers) for quite a few years now that they are really just an awesome, well-oiled machine. Highly enjoyable and highly effective!

    2. I have been reading your blog for a while, and I get so excited every time you have a new post. You have inspired me beyond words. I am so proud of your decision to stay at home and be with your children. I am a firm believer that you can have it all, but NOT at the same time. I stayed home for 18 years before I went back to teaching. There is no greater gift you can give your children than to be at home with them as they grow. When I had my first child and decided to stay home my husband made $18,000 a year, then I had another child and he got a raise to $20,000 a year. Needless to say, it was very lean at my house. When I would come to the end of the month with $0 in our account I would pray and ask the Lord to provide for our little family. Neither time nor space allow me to share how He provided our needs EVERY single time. It was such a faith builder for me and my husband, and now my grown children (I have four). They were VERY lean years, but very rich years. The Lord blessed my decision. Now my children are grown and out of the house and I am teaching again. Thank you for sharing your heart with us as well as your love and knowledge of teaching.
      Cecilia Callaway

  2. I teach languages to area home-school tutorials (these are big in our area — a once/week class in which parents pay tuition, and the host pays me). It IS classroom, but I do what I want, and once/week. I also teach online tutorials, once/week, with a homeschool-based internet academy. It is grading papers, etc. — but I teach in my pajama pants and just dress from waist up — pick the times I offer classes, etc. These two opportunities keep me working full time.

    1. My son loves you class on the online academy! Nice to see other life-long learners! Lisa Welch

    2. I think I will be doing this in the near future; my oldest son will start homeschool kindergarten next year and I think we will be joining a co-op. I’d love to teach again and I think it would be a great
      ‘best of both worlds’!

    1. LentzSpanish,
      Hi. I just wanted to check in and see how you were doing. Is this still something that interests you? Do you have any questions I might be able to help you with?

      1. Jill, thanks for checking in! I’m on a break from teaching so I’m not yet at a point to take up the ideas, but I hold your post as one of my touchstone gems for when I go back to teaching, AND I’ve been recommending it to others! Thanks!! -Kristi Twitter: @lentzkristi

  3. I have used TPRS-CI based instruction for 10 years in the classroom and trained several colleagues, and have been seriously wondering how it would be received in the community. Thank you for encouraging me to branch out and showing me that options are out there! After 17 years, the politics of it all are getting to me, and my special needs child needs more attention now than ever! Merci mille fois!
    Madame Lisa Welch

    1. Lisa, It has had a real learning curve with it, but it has been received very well. I spend a lot of time educating the parents on what to expect. The first group I taught had several kids drop out because the kids weren’t able to spout Spanish when they got home. So now I try to do a short e-mail every month or so, just to help them understand how language acquisition (vs. language learning through grammar) looks. Let me know if I can help at all. I taught 17 years, too, and loved it, but it just got to be too much.

  4. And don’t forget house-of-worship-based WL. I currently teach Comprehensible Hebrew at my temple (Wednesday nights and Sunday mornings). I received a grant to retrain and model lessons for the teachers. Hopefully we’ll expand and train a lot more. Also many kids go to Greek, Romanian, Dutch, Japanese school outside of their public school experience. A CI teacher could pitch to these ‘cottage industry’ schools and perhaps train a bunch in the area all at once. Finally, a friend of mine holds an adult class at a local bar – they meet in a quieter back room – she says a glass o’wine loosens everyone up and they have a great time!

    1. Both awesome ideas! There was a large group of language teachers from Bethel Church at a training that I did in Redding a few weeks ago. I believe they offer classes to the community, not just to students in their school of ministry. And YES, a glass of wine is mighty fine when it comes to lowering the affective filter 😉

  5. Thank you so so much for this insightful post Martina! It is exactly how I feel at the moment: I am still on maternity leave with my fourth boy and I have started teaching online which I love! No politics, no silly paperwork and I just love tprs and ci so much, I want to spread out the good news that anyone can acquire a language effortlessly 🙂 I sometimes miss the classroom and my students though, and it is scary to start a business but I guess you have to find a balance as a mother and woman. I will contact Jill for some useful advice. Thank you so much!

  6. Thank you so much for this insightful post Martina! It is exactly how I feel with four boys at home. I have started to teach online and I really enjoy it as I get to stay home and and still teach. No more politics nor silly paperwork and I get to spread the good news that anyone can acquire a language effortlessly through tprs and ci. I still miss my old students and being in a classroom though and it is scary to start a business from scratch but I guess you have to find the right balance. I will be contacting Jilll for some useful advice as I have just started. Thank you so much for helping us 🙂

    1. …and I hope that you will be sharing lessons you’ve learned and problems you’ve solved on your blog as you continue the journey! Online teaching especially with CI is such a challenge for teachers to figure out!

      1. Yes, you are right, teaching with CI to individual learners is completely different but it is figurable! I can still ask stories and some learners are more creative than others 🙂

  7. This is fantastic. Thanks for posting this. I have been teaching some adult classes over the years and finding the right location has sometimes been a challenge. I love the idea of a local winery or wine bar and connecting with museums!

    1. Oh my goodness, Faith you were MADE to teach in wineries or museums! You are one of the most classy and interesting people I know, they would be the perfect settings for you!

  8. Talk about what I needed, when I needed it. Wanting to homeschool my daughter who has autism and trying to figure out how to still bring in some income. Been messing with this idea a long time. Inspirational! Thank you!

  9. First off, Martina, as always, thank you so very much for sharing your time, skills, and insight, day in and day out. Your presentation at our COFLT conference in Portland on Saturday two weeks ago was ¡fenomenal!

    THIS particular post was unbelievably eye-opening. While I have often thought about what I could do with my teaching outside of school hours, I’ve never seriously considered it due to all the time constraints you mentioned prior to CI/TPRS teaching. Now I’m seeing the multitude of possibilities in the suggestions that Jill wrote about. Yippee! I have been considering going part-time in my last five years before retirement and this just might give me the impetus I need to get something going! Upon full retirement, my husband and I will be moving to Costa Rica permanently and and I have thought quite a bit on whether or not I’m really ready to hang up my teaching shoes forever. These are just some of the opportunities that I clearly see are now before me. Thanks SO much for this post. It probably just changed my life!!

    1. SO happy that this post was meaningful for you! Honestly, when I was writing it, I was absolutely wondering if it would be the least bit useful for anyone. Thank you for sharing that this got you thinking about possibilities!

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