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Teach the Rainbow II: Queering our ELT Materials and Practices so Everyone Belongs

in Professional Development

Teaching materials mostly focus on grammar and lexis – but often seem to fail to paint a realistic, inclusive picture of our social landscapes. Tyson Seburn explains why minority representation matters and demonstrates how teachers can bring diversity into their ELT classrooms.

I am staring at a blank page. I should be writing materials for B1 learners, but I’m still staring – I know the target language and I know the types of activities I’m expected to incorporate. Still, I have questions, ones that other writers and teachers may only briefly consider, if at all.

  • How will the content help all the learners feel they belong to this learning experience?
  • What will my choices of content convey about what and who is valued?

Answers to these two questions can significantly impact how learners feel about the materials and more importantly, about themselves.

Language learning is most effective when the language and activities are relevant to the learners using them. The narratives (i.e. texts, audio, visuals) in our materials are not only vehicles for modeling target language; they collectively paint a picture of what people are worthy of being included and which experiences are valued.

Choosing relevant content: situational relatability

Let’s use a snapshot of a lesson to demonstrate. Take a coursebook unit that focuses on polite requests. Throughout the unit, there are the usual four skills, grammar, and pronunciation activities. One unit situation included is applying for a mortgage, where that target language will be used.

We see a couple sitting at a desk, one holding a pen about to sign a document while the other looks on with anticipation. Across the desk is a person in a jacket, who most likely is the mortgage specialist. There is a short text at the top of the page setting the scene and an audio dialogue with gap-fill under the image.

One set of questions we may ask ourselves when looking at these pages is about situational relevance. What if our learners aren’t likely to apply for a mortgage? What if there’s a different process in our context for buying a house than the way it’s presented here?

It can be easy for our learners to disconnect from materials when they don’t see themselves in them.

Yes, the grammar, the lexical set, and the functional language is probably real, but for your learners, is this context and this use of the language irrelevant? Surely we would adapt or skip this part of the unit altogether.

Ultimately, it can be easy for our learners to disconnect from materials when they don’t see themselves in them. For these reasons, it is our responsibility to do our best to create and give access to learning materials that support our learners’ needs. However, this also includes narratives.

Narrative biases – who do you think does what?

Then, another set of considerations we should make concerns the narratives themselves, assuming the situation itself is not the problem. When you pictured the unit as you read about the bank loan for a mortgage situation above:

Who were the couple that came to mind?

What:

  • do they look like?
  • are they wearing?
  • are their names?

What does the mortgage specialist look like?

What:

  • bank are they at and what does it look like?
  • kind of information set the scene in the text?
  • did the couple and mortgage specialist say to each other in the dialogue, how do they sound?

Your answers to these questions can be interesting to think about.

Diverse representation in practice

Let’s examine a sample narrative for this unit, including a preview text, a visual, and dialogue.

TEXT – relevant vocabulary, target language

Somchai and Lucas are first-time homeowners, at least they want to be. They are applying for a mortgage. Today, they are at Deutsche Bank to discuss terms with a mortgage specialist, Emilia. If all goes well, they will probably sign the mortgage application.

Normalising diversity: a mortgage is a mortgage is a mortgage.

AUDIO

Somchai: Hi Emilia. We’ve looked over the application and we’d like to discuss the interest rate on the mortgage. Would it be possible to lower it in any way? 2,0% is a little high for us.

Emilia: OK, let me see what I can do. Ahh yes, the interest rate for a 10-year term is lower than 20 years. However, the shorter term disqualifies you from the first-time homeowner bonus. Do you think that this option might suit you better?

Lucas: I think we should weigh these options first. Do you mind if we talk privately for a few minutes?
Emilia: No, of course not. I’ll come back in 10 minutes.

Closing the circle of inclusion and belonging

When you compare the total sample narrative with the one you imagined at first, there are likely to be differences. It can be helpful to cycle back to the two questions we began with:

  • How will the content help all the learners feel they belong to this learning experience?
  • What will my choices of content convey about what and who is valued?

When we answer these questions, learner identities play an important role for relevance, just as much as the situation and language context do. If certain identities are represented as stereotypes or erased completely from the materials we use to practice language, how can learners feel connected to, invested in, or valued by them?

Two women drinking tea in bed
Another example of normalised, relatable diversity.

Stick it on your fridge: Inclusion 101

To promote inclusion and belonging in our practice, I have a few maxims on post-it notes near me:

  • Do the work. Before you try to improve anything, read stories by underrepresented individuals. Watch videos from minority voices. Listen to podcasts about race, queerness, and disability that centre these experiences.
  • Reality has variety. Let go of any preconceived notions of what X people are. One of the best ways to avoid reducing a group of people into one version is to increase the opportunity they appear in our materials. For instance, more than one LGBTQ narrative means we can showcase more individuality.
  • Nothing is always centred. Place focus away from a perceived default where possible. For example, English (and perceptions of culture) is centred in our lessons by default. It doesn’t need more help or power. Take the opportunity where natural to localise names, places, experiences, and even use L1.

For a more in-depth exploration of inclusive practice, see my new book, How to Write Inclusive Materials (2021).

***

Teach the Rainbow: LGBTeachers on the Importance of Queer Visibility in ELT

in Berlin/Professional Development

To celebrate Pride Month and the Berlin CSD/Pride Parade (which is today, by the way!), ELTABB has asked queer teachers in Berlin for their thoughts on LGBTQIA+ lessons and visibility in the ELT classroom. We hope that this article will open the door to more positive and effective discussions on the matter as well as cultivating more inclusive teaching. Plus, we want our queer members, peers, and colleagues to know that we see you and support you!

Interviews

Name: N/A

Pronouns: she/her, they/them

 

How do you identify? Bisexual/pansexual/queer

What do you teach? Freelancer at secondary and higher institutions.

 

Are you publicly out at work?

Partially at one place but not officially at the others.

Do you teach LGBTQ+ lessons in the classroom? If yes, what have you taught? How did your students respond?

Not really. I have adapted a listening comprehension exercise from a report on singular “they” but that’s really about it.

Have you experienced homophobia/biphobia/transphobia in the classroom? How did you handle it?

I haven’t yet because I try to avoid even having a situation of homophobia, biphobia, or transphobia in the classroom because I have no training in handling these situations effectively. Also, since I’ve dealt with biphobia and bi-erasure in my personal life, I don’t want to put my LGBTQ+ students in any uncomfortable, invalidating, or even threatening situations.

What steps can teachers take to ensure safe queer visibility and representation in the classroom?

That’s a hard one because I have no idea myself. I did read one piece from Tyson Seburn on using LGBTQ+ issues as debate topics, and he claims that doing so could result in “the othering (and potential demonizing) of the LGBTQ+ individual.” After reading that, I have decided to not have students discuss or debate these issues but instead give them the chance to shed light on certain LGBTQ+ subjects by giving informative and factual presentations. So far no one has volunteered, unfortunately.

What problems should be addressed in regard to queer visibility and representation in the classroom?

Too many! For me, the first step is to ensure the acceptance, safety, and security of the queer educator (at least from higher-ups and colleagues). I’m sure there are peers, like me, who are afraid to fully come out because they aren’t sure how their institution, bosses, colleagues, or students may respond.

If queer educators feel safe then I feel that they can also ensure the acceptance, safety, and security of their queer students thus nurturing an inclusive yet educational environment. Moreover, general training on inclusive education is something I personally wish I had and feel that all teachers should have.

Name: Jean

Pronouns: she/her

How do you identify? Queer/lesbian

What do you teach? Mainly general English, occasionally Business. Beginners and upwards.

Are you publicly out at work?

Yes, if the occasion arises. However, in the classroom, this has rarely happened so far, so I prefer to be out by talking about my life and what’s important to me, e.g. going to CSD or other queer events and including people and events in my lessons that give LGBTQ+ people a presence, e.g. talking about Ireland’s openly gay PM,  Obama’s law on equal marriage, or the bathroom dilemma for trans people.

But I think my own sexual orientation is less important than what I do with my students. I think it’s OK to be seen as a heterosexual woman who includes LGBTQ+ stuff in her lessons. I think we all have a responsibility to do this regardless of how we identify – just as I think it’s vital to talk about racism as a white woman.

Do you teach LGBTQ+ lessons in the classroom? If yes, what have you taught? How did your students respond?

I have an article on “Pink Money,” i.e. the spending power of LGBTQ+ people, and our contribution to GDP, which I have used in lessons on the economy. I also have a very popular “Pub Quiz” lesson which includes questions like “Which European country has an openly gay Prime Minister?” or “When were the Stonewall riots?”

And I have a wonderful collection of postcards: some of scenes from Pride Marches or same-sex couples holding hands. I use these in many ways, e.g. to engender discussion or to teach a specific language structure (e.g. There is/are).

The overall reactions have been positive. I think that if you present these things with confidence then the straight students enjoy an opportunity to indulge their (secret?) interest and the queer students feel seen.

Have you experienced homophobia/biphobia/transphobia in the classroom? How did you handle it?

Not directly, but if any phobic comments are made in the classroom I try to address them on the spot or turn the issue into a lesson at a later date (e.g. bring an article about a person who has suffered homophobia and have a discussion about it).

What steps can teachers take to ensure safe queer visibility and representation in the classroom?

Present LGBTQ+ people as a part of the landscape as often as possible. Let’s ALL be brave every now and then: perhaps during Pride Month or when something important happens in the world – include it in a lesson!

Furthermore, course books are notoriously LGBTQ+ -blind. How about sending an occasional email to a publisher to demand more inclusion?

Name: N/A

Pronouns: he/him

How do you identify? Bisexual/polysexual

What do you teach? Higher education.

Are you publicly out at work?

Partially.

Do you teach LGBTQ+ lessons in the classroom? If yes, what have you taught? How did your students respond?

Yes, in thematic courses. Not negatively; however, many had little idea about LGBT+ culture.

Have you experienced homophobia/biphobia/transphobia in the classroom? How did you handle it?

Some bisexual erasure/biphobia. I told students about how I personally felt as a bisexual.

What steps can teachers take to ensure safe queer visibility and representation in the classroom?

Be open about their own sexual orientation if possible,  plus support LGBT+ students in coming out/being out.

Name: Justin

Pronouns: he/him

How do you identify? Gay

What do you teach? Everything.

Are you publicly out at work?

I’m out in the sense that I don’t hide it.

Do you teach LGBTQ+ lessons in the classroom? If yes, what have you taught? How did your students respond?

In Business English the only time that it has been a dedicated part of the lesson is when we talk about diversity and inclusion. The learners tend to be interested since they know I’m out, and I treat the topic in a professional way. I also get the impression that there’s value-added.

I’ve never had any negative experiences with that topic in the classroom (to my face).

Have you experienced homophobia/biphobia/transphobia in the classroom? How did you handle it?

In my role as a language school owner, we received vague negative feedback about a trainer, which we *suspected* may have been due to sexual orientation but it couldn’t be proved. This unfortunately forced us to replace that trainer with another one and the topic was unable to be directly dealt with (due to the vagueness of the request).

What steps can teachers take to ensure safe queer visibility and representation in the classroom?

It is important that, from the start, all trainers (no matter the orientation) state their pronouns as well as ask the learners for theirs. This sets the tone that you want to be inclusive and respectful. It might spark a conversation and it may be uncomfortable, but we all have to grow in certain ways. It is also a good linguistic link as well as a teaching and learning opportunity.

This article ran previously (however, the message is still fully up-to-date).

Here are some ideas for making your lessons more inclusive:

MaWSIG Panel webinar: Making materials that reflect the realities of marginalised groups

Boost your Online Teaching with Brain-Friendly Slides – Here’s How

in Professional Development/Teaching

When teaching online, you probably use slides to some extent. Making slides is easy — just add a text box and an image, right? In his May workshop, Ákos Gerold shared what makes slides brain-friendly – and it is not what you see most people do.

Imagine you are giving a presentation. You show a slide with five bullet points, each followed by a short sentence. You discuss the topics listed in the bullet points. But, to see if your audience is paying attention, you sneak in a completely unrelated sentence.

A few seconds later you check to see if anyone registered the odd sentence that should have stood out. Instead, most of your listeners won’t believe you said something unrelated until you play back the audio that you secretly recorded. When they hear your unrelated sentence, their jaws drop. They realize that not only did they miss the unrelated sentence but probably most of what you said.

I do the above each time I teach presenting slides in a brain-friendly way – it helps demonstrate what is wrong with the typical use of slides in every industry, including education.

Multi-tasking is a myth

Neuroscientists have proven that the brain cannot pay attention to more than one source of information at the same time. When we show slides and speak, the visual almost always wins over the auditory.

The result is that our audiences and students are unable to hear most of what we are saying while absorbing visual input.

Switching is detrimental to learning.

When they finish reading, they will shift their attention back to us. But the next slide will hijack it again.
Such switching is detrimental to learning.

So what can we do about it?

Make it as easy as one, two, three…

Whenever possible, reduce the amount of visual input in each slide to what can be absorbed in two to three seconds.

This roughly translates to an image and up to three words. Make sure you use the exact words from the slide and synchronise what you say with when those words appear on the screen. Such little and synched visual information will not distract your learners’ attention from your verbal message but support it.

How can you know what words are on the next slide and how can you synchronise perfectly? By using presenter mode in PowerPoint or Keynote, which allows you to see the current and next slide along with your notes. When sharing your screen in Zoom or Teams, only share the part of the screen with the current slide.

The green frame shows what part of the screen is shared in Zoom.

Keep it short and sweet

Say goodbye to bullet points and full sentences. Making them appear all at once will introduce visual stimuli that take longer to absorb than two to three seconds.

Instead, break down bullet point lists into separate slides for each point, reduce the text to its essence and synchronise when delivering.

If it is important to explain the link between the bullet pointed pieces of information, e.g. because they are part of a system, then keep them on the same slide. Just make them appear one by one as you introduce them and grey out the ones you are currently not talking about. Again, the text on each slide should be shortened to its essence.

Tips for longer texts

When you need to show visual information that exceeds what can be absorbed in two to three seconds, e.g. longer text, follow a three step procedure.

1. Before you click to the detail-heavy slide, say:
a) what you are going to show
b) how long the students will have to read it, and
c) what you will do afterwards.

Example:  “Now, I will show you a short text about X, I will give you a minute to read it and then we will focus on some of the sentences which demonstrate a grammatical point we will deal with today.”

2. Stop speaking, they will be unable to hear what you are saying while reading anyway, and show them the slide.

3. After the announced time is up, briefly repeat what you will do next and then do it.
Example: “Let’s look at some of the sentences which show us how the Y grammatical structure is used.”

Then click to the next slide, where everything but the sentence(s) which you wish to analyse is greyed out.

Brain-friendly slide design tips

Add a related image whenever you can. — Tested 72 hours after exposure, the retention of the content of a presentation that used only text in the slides is 10%. This number climbs to 65% if the slides include black and white images and up to 85% in the case of colour pictures.

Do colours matter? — Due to its resemblance to a large, shiny object, a light background attracts more attention to the slide than to the speaker. Respectively, the opposite colour combination gives the latter more prominence. Thus, a dark background with light letters is often better.

To share, or not to share, that is the question. — You may often start sharing your slides at one point in the class and then never stop sharing till the end, relegating yourself to a small screen in the corner. But humans connect with other humans, not slides. Therefore, whenever possible, exit screen sharing to facilitate connecting with you students.

As you can see, most widespread slide practices are unfortunately not aligned with how the brain works. This is because they are based on what we see in printed media. But magazines, newspapers and books are very different from presentations and online teaching.

***

To find out more about what makes presentations brain-friendly, check out my website, YouTube channel or LinkedIn page.

Workshop Review: “Soft Skills and Leadership Development for ELT Professionals” with Bob Dignen

in Professional Development

On 17 April 2021 Bob Dignen gave the workshop “Language to Leadership: A hands-on approach to soft skills and leadership development for ELT professionals”. Not only ELTABBers but around 50 trainers from various cities and ELTAs across Germany attended. What great networking online delivery gives us!

The main theme Bob imparted to us throughout the workshop was supporting leaders to deliver results. He wants us Business English Trainers to delve more into this area so that we, too, may assist our clients better in achieving this.

What makes a leader?

The first point of Bob’s agenda was the question: “Who leads?”

Bob gave us the following input before answering the question:
In the title of the workshop Language to Leadership, we see a reversed take on a book written by L. David Marquet, a submarine commander, entitled “Leadership is Language: The Hidden Power of What You Say and What You Don’t”.

Marquet explains the difference language can make. Understanding this can empower a team to make better decisions and to take greater ownership. This point of the book is the link for us as language trainers to the topic of leadership. (For more information on the author, check out this interview with Marquet).

As Watzlawick didn’t say

Bob then used a spin off from the famous axiom by psychotherapist Paul Watzlawick, “You cannot not communicate”. The idea is that humans communicate as soon as they perceive each other. From this it follows that every kind of interaction is communication.

You cannot not lead.

Bob Dignen

So according to Bob, the same can be said about leading: Just as “you cannot not communicate”, “you cannot not lead”. He wanted to impress upon us that we are all leaders; we need to acknowledge our leadership and individual responsibility as well as common and shared responsibility with others.

What is leadership then?

The next point on Bob’s agenda was: “What is leadership?” For pursuing this idea, Bob broke us up into groups for the following exercise. We were to choose an animal associated with leadership and think of three key characteristics. We then shared our choices in the break-out groups and then in the larger group. This was a good introduction to kicking around the concept of what is leadership.

This type of exercise is important when starting any new project. Clarifying what team members actually understand of the language used for the goal of a project can be crucial to the success of a process.

Afterwards, Bob defined leadership as a group of individuals going in the same direction.

A brief History of Leadership

We were given a quick historical overview of leadership concepts, including:

  • ‘Great Man’ leadership based on a male military model such as Napoleon (19th century).
  • Taylorism: a scientific form of management, practiced to run organisations more efficiently, e.g. assembly lines in the automotive industry (1920s).
  • Jung-based psychological profiling of leadership (became the trend in the 1940s).
  • Behavioural Leadership styles, analysed by Blake and Mouton or the DISC Profile based on four main personality profiles: dominance, influence, steadiness and conscientiousness (1950s).
  • Situational Leadership, a model created by Hersy and Blanchard. This focuses on two factors – task behaviour and relationship behaviour (1960s).
  • Servant Leadership, focuses on sharing power and putting the needs of employees first in order for people to develop and perform as highly as possible (introduced by Robert K. Greenleaf in the 1980s). This idea was initially not so successful but did later evolve into Scrum and Agile leadership.
  • Transformational Leadership fostered by James V. Dowton and James MacGregor Burns, became the basis for change management in the globalised world. Such leaders are inspirational and can motivate and influence their followers (1990s).
  • The next step, “Emotional Leadership”, as based on Daniel Goleman’s “Emotional Intelligence”, is being able to lead others who know more (2000s).

In the present age of globalisation and digitalisation, other new leadership models are emerging such as Ram Charan’s idea of A ‘Leadership Pipeline’ for leading teams, multiple departments, leading a group of leaders and the scope changes as people rise in an organisation. A series of videos can be found on YouTube.

Essentially all leadership comes down to feedback and realising it must be gathered again and again.

Different Types of Leaders and a Paradigm Shift

A new paradigm of leadership is presently emerging and it is not yet clear how this will evolve. Simon Western’s work “Leadership: A Critical Text” gives us three models (all of which may be operating parallel in the same organisation).

Leader as:

  1. Controller – deference to power delivers results but the risk is alienating one’s team – may not be sustainable.
  2. Therapist – psychological approach and coaching idea of being closer to the team and using personal development but the risk is neglecting dealing with complexity.
  3. Messiah – personal approach – team and organisational leader producing an authoritarian system.

The fourth – emerging – paradigm features the Leader as Eco-Integrator. It is based on democracy and aligning networks of people. It also incorporates systems theory for managing complexities.

Another brand-new idea is remote leadership as given in the article “Leadership one year on: so remote, and yet so close” by Mark Dekan, CEO of Ringier Axel Spring Polska that appeared in the Polish version of Forbes magazine.

Thinking Globally – International Leadership

Bob’s next question was: “What about international leadership?” He spoke of looking at competence sets that deal with the global and the personal response to ambiguity, world markets, and inter-human dynamics.

Now we came to the more hands-on part of the workshop by Bob using a case study about Kai Bendix, General Manager of Nivea Beiersdorf in India, for investigating his next agenda point:

“What is good leadership?”

After viewing Kai operating in India we had to identify three challenges he had and what competencies he possessed when dealing with these. We did this in break-out groups and then gave feedback in the big group.

Suspense mounted – Bob showed us Kai’s prior experience in Bulgaria where he had been successful. After viewing the video about Kai being a Nivea managing director in Bulgaria, we formed breakout groups and analysed his challenges, his influencing strategies and the solutions he found.

We discussed this again in the big group.
The third part of the case study was back to India and what Kai did in the end. We discussed whether this matched our expectations or if there was a twist we had not thought of.

The workshop ended with Bob posing the final point of his agenda:

“How do you feel about delivering leadership training?”

Final Thoughts about the Workshop

Many times throughout the workshop Bob encouraged us to evolve with him and feel more comfortable in dealing with leadership in our teaching and training.

We learned how complex international collaboration means taking action, finding solutions that comply with ethics and laws, being transparent, and managing loss of face. We saw how different forms of communication influence outcomes, and how to create trust and find the right balance in amalgamating conflicting cultures.

For those interested in becoming a Leadership Trainer, Bob has just the right training course for this
qualification and reminded us that higher fees can be charged in going in this direction. If interested, please contact him at bob.dignen@ilp.training.

About Bob

Bob Dignen is the Director of York Associates based in York, UK. He also founded his own organisation International Leadership Performance (ILP). His publications include Communicating in Business English (2003), Communicating across Cultures (2011), Communication for International Business: the Secrets of Excellent Interpersonal Skills – co-authored with Ian McMaster (2013).

Along with contributing to Business Spotlight and teaching at the Gdansk University of Technology, he is also cooperating with an interdisciplinary team who authored Three Pillars of Organisation and Leadership in Disruptive Times published by Springer International Publishing in their series Future of Business and Finance. (See this link for more information)

Suggested Reading

  • Cialdini, Robert B. Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion (1984, 1994, 2007, 2016 Harper Collins).
  • Dignen, Bob and McMaster, Ian. Collins Effective International Business Communication: Build yourInterpersonal Skills in English (2013).
  • Dignen, Bob and Wollmann, Peter. Leading International Projects: Diverse Strategies for Project Success (2016).
  • Goleman, Daniel. Emotional Intelligence (1996).
  • Marquet, L. David. Leadership is Language: The Hidden Power of What You Say and What You Don’t (2020).
  • Meyer, Erin. The Culture Map: Decoding How People Think. Lead and Get Things Done across Cultures (2016).
  • Kahnemann, Daniel. Thinking Fast and Slow (2011).
  • Western, Simon. Leadership: A Critical Text (2013).
  • Sinclair, Annette and Agyeman, Barabra. Building Global Leadership: Strategies for Success (2004).

Teachers Talking Shop: Make the Most of Being a Freelancer in Germany with these Insider Tips

in Professional Development

Being a freelance English teacher or trainer in Germany has its ups and downs. Shaun Trezise shares his tips on how to navigate and circumvent some of these. He also explains how you can have the best of both worlds – freelancing and permanent employment at the same time.

Teaching is – or should be – fun. New people, new conversations, new classes and even long-running ones that have stood the test of time…all of these lend a lot of variety to our day to day work lives. When it comes to the actual teaching I think most people reading this blog are pretty happy with their lot.

It’s a good job. But is it really a “job”? How many of us are employed by someone other than ourselves? I have to admit this is deeply unscientific but anecdotally it seems that in Berlin today, most English as a Foreign Language teachers are self-employed. Now is this through choice?

The Dreaded Red Tape

In some countries, working for yourself can mean lower tax bills and lower health insurance costs but I think most would agree that Germany is an outlier here. The German Pension Insurance office has hit too many English teachers here with large bills of two, three or four years of backdated payments to catch up on.

No holiday pay, no sick pay and limited government support in general if you end up with no clients for whatever reason. Not to mention the difficulty in tracking down a reliable tax advisor, which took me personally over two years.

Naturally, as educated, professional and informed workers, most of you know the pitfalls and costs and price your worth accordingly, but I’ll be honest and say I learned most of it the hard way. The three things that helped me the most, as a worker were:

  1. Getting a reliable tax advisor, who knows how to use email
  2. Joining a union, in my case GEW, for support, info and some specific employment insurances
  3. Signing up to a workers’ cooperative for invoicing, payment guarantees and no more letters from the myriad German state insurances

The third point is the most recent, but I wish I had done it so much earlier. Last year was eventful to put it mildly, and my monthly income varied wildly. Trying to pay the correct amount to each office took time, effort and multiple phone calls, not to mention written correspondence. I did not particularly enjoy this period…

Becoming a Freelance Employee: Joining a Cooperative

…Then I remembered a talk given at an earlier ELTABB event from SmartDE, a workers’ cooperative. I booked an appointment and headed off to a seminar, before deciding that I thought it would be a good fit for me. Essentially, the cooperative employ you, and pay you based on your invoices.

In this case, you get a regular monthly salary, minus all your deductions for health, pension, social security etc. It means that the money that shows up in your bank account is yours to keep, and you don’t have to worry about who needs paying and when. They even manage your income tax.

Clearly there must be a catch. In this case that is a 7% fee to the non-profit organisation which essentially goes to keeping the lights on and everything running. It also funds your salary, in the case of late payment of invoices. They invoice your clients for you, and pay you at the end of the month regardless of whether the client has come through in time.

So what do you think? I’d like to hear about your experiences as a worker in ELT. Are you employed or self employed? Is that your choice? Would you change if you had the choice? Do you have any other suggestions for dealing with red tape and general work life as a teacher? Please feel free to leave a comment below if you have anything to add!

Also, you can find some more Berlin-specific tips for English teachers here.

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