3 reasons why I love having my own business as a language teacher

1. Extreme flexibility

When you’re a Language Teacher Rebel, you can set your own hours. You can also choose to move hours around. If you need to do something a particular date, you can shift your hours around to make up for it. You might wonder how this works for the learners. Won’t they be expecting you to have the same hours available every week? Some do, but most don’t. The reason why they come to you for language lessons online is flexibility. Many will come to you because they can’t attend a traditional language school for various reasons. They might travel for work. They may live far away from a language school. They may work irregular hours, or work from home. They appreciate the flexibility that you offer, and the vast majority will have no problems with you shifting hours and days around occasionally.

Prior to the outbreak of Corona, I spent a month in California (because of my husband’s work) twice a year, and I still taught when I was there. The time difference between Europe and California is 8 or 9 hours, so I used to teach afternoons and evenings (CET) during these periods. I would not have been able to do this if I wasn’t a Language Teacher Rebel. It would be impossible for me to have this level of flexibility if I was constrained to a classroom or a language school. Many students also seemed to find it interesting and it gave us even more to talk about.

A couple of times a year, I usually spend a week or two in Sweden with family. Again, being a Language Teacher Rebel allows me to take my work with me. And because I have chosen to work compressed hours, I can go to Sweden for a week, work Mondays to Wednesdays and then have 4 days off with family and friends. Without having to take any time off. I can use the fact that I am in Sweden during these lessons, show the place where I am staying, and so on. Some of my learners have never been to Sweden, or rarely visit, so they love seeing the interior of a typical Swedish home. For me, it means a lot to stay connected to my native country and being able to work there. It would be extremely difficult for me to do if I had to teach in a particular physical location.

At home, my husband and I regularly board dogs. We are both obsessed with dogs, but because we have been traveling regularly, we haven’t had a dog of our own for a while. But because I work from home, we can board dogs that need looking after from time to time. As I am writing this, I am sitting on my sofa with a blanket over my legs, a cup of coffee next to me, and a brindle Mastiff-Staffy cross snoozing next to me. It’s my idea of heaven.

But the flexibility is more than simply geographical. When you become a Language Teacher Rebel, you also get to design and create. The creative flexibility and freedom you have means that you get to design your lesson plans and course curricula. You get to design visual content, social media posts and videos. You can dream up new products and services. You get to play with colours, fonts and photos. You can record and edit videos. You get to learn new things, new pieces of software, new marketing ideas, new tools and tricks. You can do fun and silly things that make you laugh. You get to act on your creative ideas and focus on output and how to express yourself. This is also an extremely rewarding experience.

2. Reaching more people

Throughout my 10+ years as a Language Teacher Rebel, I have talked to doctors, nurses, midwives, authors, IT programmers, students, lecturers, managing directors, editors, archaeologists, solicitors, store managers, computer game designers, psychologists, priests, football coaches, sales people, HR people, marketing people, embassy workers, postmen, economists, bankers, musicians, film makers, translators, dancers, dog kennel owners, marine biologists, veterinary surgeons, post docs, PhD students, pharmacists, recruiters, entrepreneurs, unemployed and more.

Because of the flexibility you have as a Language Teacher Rebel — especially if you do one-to-one sessions, you will be able to connect with your students in a deeper way than if you had taught them in a classroom setting. They will have their lessons while with their families, in-laws, or while at work. You will get a little window into their private world and learn a lot from them and about them. It’s incredibly rewarding and fulfilling.

You also get an opportunity to make a difference in the world. Ok, it might sound cheesy and grandiose, but think about it. In our world today, we get exposed to different cultures. As people have travelled more during the past decades than ever before, things… happen. I met my husband while travelling in South East Asia. This led to me eventually moving from Sweden to the UK. Many of my students have met Swedish partners and started a new life in Sweden.

3. Close relationships with clients

For me, a big part of the enjoyment of being a Language Teacher Rebel is the relationships you form with your learners. It is indeed possible to form close relationships in classrooms too, especially if you’re doing one-to-one teaching. However, I dare to say that this fades into insignificance compare to the relationships you form when you teach online.

This might sound like a paradox, given that you’re not in the same room as the learner, but there’s something about teaching online that enables you to get really close and personal with your learners. I think it is a combination of the following factors: (1) the one-to-one environment, (2) the location, and (3) the online environment.

Firstly, when you teach one-to-one, you have an intense focus on your learner, and they will intensively focus on you. Of course, this can happen in a classroom too, and will perhaps be lesser so if you teach a group online. Nevertheless, when you see a learner maybe once or twice a week for an hour, you may spend more time talking to them than they talk to their own mum and dad. And it might be the same for you.

I have had some of my learners regularly for over 3 years (the learner I have had the longest has been with me for conversational practice for over 10 years), and I find that I think about them outside of the lessons. Perhaps something is happening in their lives that they have talked about, and I am eager to find out how it went. Maybe a job interview, maybe a house move, maybe a difficult conversation at work. I sometimes miss them when they are away on holiday and I’m over the moon when a learner, who has taken a longer break, returns to their lessons.

I care deeply about them, not just as a language learner, but as a person too, and I find it rewarding and humbling to be allowed to be a part of their lives.

Secondly, even though you may think you’re ‘only’ teaching on Skype/Zoom (or whatever client/programme you’re using), they might have their lesson in their living room, their bedroom, or their office. This can create a really intimate space and you may catch glimpses of their everyday life in a way that you would never be able to do if they came to a classroom in a language school. I have had mums breastfeeding while speaking to me, I’ve had fathers soothing babies and children (and I have sometimes ‘met’ and spoken to their children), I have ‘met’ partners, work colleagues and pets. I have spoken to people while they have been travelling, from hotel rooms, or cafés, or just been out on a walk. I have ‘gone with them’ on holiday, so to speak. This creates a wonderful intimacy, in my opinion, which I would thoroughly miss if I didn’t teach online.

Thirdly, there’s an interesting dynamic between the ‘online distance’ and the ‘online closeness’. It leads to yet another level of depth in the relationship with a learner. It’s almost as if you as an online teacher represents a safe space, where the learner can talk about certain things that they wouldn’t otherwise share with someone. For example, I’ve had learners telling me that they are planning to propose to their partner, and no one else knew. I was considered ‘safe’, as I didn’t know anyone in their circle. I was not a friend, colleague or family member that might meet them together with their partner and accidentally reveal what was about to happen. In their world, I only existed in their computer and via email, and this made it safer.

Equally, some learners have shared more difficult life situations with me, I think for the same reason. In addition, speaking about something difficult in another language seems to create a certain perspective and emotional distance that learners have benefited from. In a sense, you end up being so much more than a language teacher. You’re a friend and a confidant. And I truly believe that this kind of relationship is really valuable, especially if the learner experiences lack of motivation (which they all do occasionally, of course).

You may feel uncomfortable at the thought of this kind of intimacy with your learners. Some may feel like there’s a lack of hierarchy between the teacher and the student. In my 10+ years of experience, this is nothing to be afraid of. It’s one of the most rewarding and deeply satisfying aspects of the whole Language Teacher Rebel lifestyle. And you don’t have to feel like you need to become some kind of counsellor or psychologist.

Most of the time, it’s just about connecting and listening to another human being.

More information about Language Teacher Rebels here.

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Anneli Haake

Anneli Haake

I help language teachers to become Language Teacher Rebels by teaching the steps to set up and market their teaching online.