Behind the Scenes. It’s not just a walk in the park.
In this great weather I am the envy of many. “Oooh, you’re lucky, you can just stay at home and don’t have to commute to work!” Well it is true that I don’t have to commute to my own office, but I normally pick up my clients from theirs (unless they are job hunting) and when I am not out and about walking with clients or trying out new routes I’m planning meticulously:
You see, having previously been a marketing manager in the city of London, I have had my fair share of painfully dull training. I have experienced first hand the anxiety of having to sit there, listening to some jerk in a cheap suit droning on and on about something that had little or no benefit to the onslaught of work that I would face when I got back to the office. He was bored, we were bored, it was dreadful, but we were bums on seats, so at least the training manager was happy.
And yet I have always been a true advocate of training. My Dad encouraged me as a child to learn everything I could about whatever I needed. He told me to ask questions, to read books, to do courses, to try things out, but never ever to stop learning. So out of a passion of learning and a love of the English language, I decided from the outset that as a freelance English trainer, every single course I designed, would be tailor made. Of course I had ensured by other trainers, that is was unsustainable to work like that for all of my clients for ever and you know what, it truly was exhausting at first.
I needed to work out how to spend less time creating content but I refused to compromise on the quality and relevance of the training, so I decided that I needed to automate the process. Now I am no programmer but I had taught myself some basic HTML so I used what is now considered to be an old fashioned platform, “Quia” to post language feedback and create quizzes for my students. That way I could have questions that were relevant for their job, industry, gender and hierarchy but adapt the questions, answers and feedback for other students getting confused with the same grammatical headaches, such as ‘make or do’ or ‘since and for’.
I have since learned that there are language trainers out there that do a far better job than I do of explaining the grammar, so I will often link to their explanations, making sure that they get the credit. That’s what I love about technology, it means that my students don’t need to compromise on quality, ever, before the age of social media, that kind of sharing was far more complicated and hence rare.
I still create custom made conversation byte cards, I design them carefully according to the mistakes I am hearing. I refuse to cover grammar that my ladies already have a good grasp of because it is a waste of their time and mine. I insist on relevance and despite the fun that we have during the walks, I know that my clients have come to expect relevance too.
meticulously – very carefully
I have also learned that the grammar is of course important but it is the ability to communicate confidentally and competently that boosts professionalism. With this conversation bias in mind, I give most of the personal feedback online unless it is a mistake based on grammar that we have already covered or it’s a real no no mistake that makes my hair stand on end. The exception to this is pronunciation mistakes, I tackle those immediately, especially if they are career critical.
If I spot a grammar gap that only one student has, I will send them a link to the appropriate grammar byte online and can provide individual online support. Members also get the opportunity to take part in regular online group discussions and they have access to all kinds of useful online language learning resources. The member’s online learning lounge is moderated regularly with challenges, chatter and coaching.
My client is the learner, not the employer and by getting my learners to pay for themselves and to arrange when they will learn, we do not need to compromise. It is my mission to help women reach their full ‘international’ career or business potential. To do that I combine the three most neglected activities, which are speaking English, keeping fit and networking.
Women just don’t have enough time or energy to get to English training that is not of immediate relevance. For training to take real priority, I have discovered that ultimately my ladies will only be motivated to get involved regularly both in the park and online if I can guarantee
A) Immediate learning effectiveness for your own job
B) Worthwhile social interaction that enhances professionalism.
So as you can see it is the magical mix between being outdoors in the fresh air and taking full advantage of the technology that makes this language learning approach so effective and popular, despite the fact that we meet during the daytime and each person pays for themselves.
As Einstein said “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results” and to my mind, the corporate cut and bake English lessons are in reality little more than a token gesture of helping staff to improve their English for more bums on seats and happy sheets.
There is much talk about providing staff with fitness incentives and at least the access to social media during work time has relaxed but corporates still have to go a long way before they genuinely respect and support the worker’s need to stretch their bodies, minds and souls, if they are to be fully functioning individuals, loyal to their organisation. Thankfully start ups are leading the way. So I am glad to hear that not only are start ups finding an alternative to conventional banking but also thinking about new approaches to training too.