Building an Income outside of Teaching

I love teaching English as a foreign language. I really do. However, being a freelancer, I face the risk of cancelled courses if not enough students enroll, which has happened with three out of six evening courses this past trimester (with the other three running below the minimum number of students out of goodwill). The four evening courses starting in mid-January are still way below the number of students needed as well. In short, it doesn’t exactly look rosy for freelance EFL teachers here in Berlin at the moment.

What that means for me (and my colleagues) is this: We block time slots for planned courses (and we only have a limited amount of time we can block, plus if we block too much time and–miracle!–all courses run, we may very well burn out because it’s too much) and then are left with more free time and less money if courses are cancelled, usually without the chance to fill the time slots at such short notice (since a lot of courses are cancelled after the first class, or only a day or two before they should have started).

We only get paid for the hours we actually teach (which is okay with me), not for all the additional time it takes us to prepare classes, correct written assignments (and in the case of some courses, grade them), go to teacher training workshops, do all the administrative stuff. In order to determine actual work hours for possible additional payment (part of health and pension insurance premiums), the Land Berlin calculates with double the time we actually teach. To put this into perspective: According to them, a full-time job with an average of 40 hours per week would be about 27 class hours of teaching (à 45 minutes each). Currently, my plan for the upcoming trimester has between 20 and 27 class hours, and one week of 35 hours (a week-long intensive class). That’s besides going to university for currently 12 class hours each week (plus preparation and homework) for part of the upcoming trimester.

So you see, I can’t possibly plan even more time slots for teaching, so if most or all of my evening classes are cancelled, it leaves me with only a fraction of the income I’m planning with. I either need more students, or a second (passive) income to counterbalance the risk.

And that’s why I started to upload designs to Redbubble for T-shirts, coffee mugs, notebooks and stuff. I will add to them as inspiration strikes me, so maybe check back every now and then.

I also have my children’s books about Miro the Dragon up on Amazon (print and ebook). The first book is available in German, English, or Mandarin Chinese, and the second book is available in German.

Anyway, it would mean the world to me if you took the time to check out my stuff. Thanks for your support!

Transgender Pharao?

So I’m currently taking a Coursera class about Ancient Egypt, and in the last video I watched, the professor talked about the pharao Hatshepsut, who was born a woman but referred to herself/himself as “king” and “he”, and wore male clothes. To me, this sounds like maybe one of the earliest documented openly transgender people, and in a society nonetheless that apparently frowned upon it. Her/His name was erased from lists of pharaos, and even her/his image was erased, which is interpreted as a sign of deep disapproval, and of trying to make future generations forget her/him.

I think her/his name should be remembered, not forgotten. Kudos, Hatshepsut! Kudos for your bravery facing disapproval from your society and your priests.

Preview 2017

So after my review of 2016 was tongue-in-cheek, this preview will be about my plans for the new year.

As some of you may know, my interest for dead/ancient languages was recently sparked (after years of snubbing them because no one spoke them anymore) thanks to my historical linguistics minor at university. I’m currently enrolled in a class about Hittite, a class about the Anatolian language family, and a two-semester class about Sanskrit, as well as a class about one of the bigger research topics the laryngeal theory (if you have no clue what I’m talking about, I don’t blame you–just bear with me and hang on).

As you may also know, my 30th birthday is getting closer (October 2017, if you must know), and I still have this promise I gave myself years ago: to be able to speak at least ten languages by the time I turn 30. About that: I think I’ll modify it a bit and make it “to be able to understand/read in at least ten languages by the time I turn 30” because that seems to be more accessible given the fact that I lost a lot of fluency in those languages I haven’t spoken for years but am still able to read in them fairly well (thanks to a good understanding of grammar, and good deduction skills for unknown/forgotten vocabulary).

Currently, I’m able to read fluently in German and English, and still fairly well in French, Spanish, Italian, and Dutch (though especially Spanish and Italian need some refreshing, and Dutch contains a lot of guesswork based on my German and English vocabulary). So that’s six languages down, four to go.

As I said earlier, I’m currently learning Sanskrit (the final exam on that course will be before my birthday, so if I pass, I’ll count Sanskrit in) as well as some Hittite, Luwian, and some basics of other Anatolian languages. I’m not yet sure whether it will be enough to justify counting those languages in; I’ll probably play it by ear by the time I finish the classes and see how comfortable I feel reading unknown texts (if I’ll be able to decipher them at all).

I’m back trying to learn Chinese (Mandarin) for the umpteenth time (at some point, those pesky words and characters have to stick, right?), and I want to refresh and improve the Turkish I learnt at university during my first two semesters.

On top of that, there are a few languages I’m interested in, one of them being Low German (I don’t know whether its official status is that of a language or that of a dialect, but I’ll count it as a language since there are dialectal variants within Low German as well), which I already understand to some extent thanks to my knowledge in German and Dutch.

Besides languages, I want to learn more about the peoples and cultures in Asia minor and the bordering regions (including ancient Egypt, on which I’ve just started a Coursera course), and about Chinese culture.

I’m on track to finishing my B.A. this summer, and will probably enroll in another degree starting this fall, although I haven’t yet completely decided which one it will be, and how to go about it with my work and all (another degree full-time while also working full-time is utopian and not going to happen if I want to stay sane).

Speaking about working, I want to continue working as an English teacher (EFL) teaching adults for local community colleges, and I want to improve my knowledge on teaching methods and materials, as well as work on some of my own materials.

And last but not least, I want to continue working on my conlang Kviglivok, which was the topic of my BA thesis, and which is still lacking a good basic vocabulary.

I may or may not actually get around to writing fiction again (still haven’t got my motivation and passion for it back since my burn-out, and almost non-existant sales of my published books don’t really help) but I know better than to pressure myself again.

If you actually hung on till here, thanks a lot. I know it’s a long post, probably full of rambling and uninteresting stuff, but hey, now it’s your turn: Let me hear your plans for 2017 and I promise to read them to the end as well if you post them in the comments.

Review 2016

So…2016. Come in, please. Let’s see…what’s bringing you here today?

–I have a bad bout of celebrities dying, and I’m afraid I’ve caught a severe form of political bullshittery.

I see. Well, let’s do some tests. Any deaths recently?

–Yeah, three just over Christmas.

Uh-huh. *scribbles* How long has this been going on?

–Since January, at least.

*scribbles some more* What about the bullshittery?

–*sighs* Brexit, Trump, Aleppo, Turkey…do I need to continue?

*puts down notepad* No, I think that’s enough. 2016, I hate to say it, but you’re in a pretty bad shape. Thinks don’t look well…Now, I have good and bad news for you.

–What’s the good news?

Your problems will be over soon.

–Oh, really? *looks hopeful* Oh…and the bad news?

You will die in four days. Sorry, mate.

Random Gratefulness Post

I know I’ve been very quiet on here lately, which had one simple reason: I was overworked. I actually had to call in sick for work once, which I normally don’t do even when I have a cold (you won’t believe how quiet a room full of adults in an ESL class can be if you write on the board that you’re hoarse and can only whisper), and had to quit two of my university classes because I desperately needed the free morning to sleep in, to recharge my batteries. You see, I often have trouble sleeping, or falling asleep, and then days (a lot, actually) where I can sleep for twelve hours straight, wake up, and still have to fight to get out of bed (coinflip between forcing myself up or turning around to nap for another hour). Neither me nor my GP know the reason for this, so I’ll just take it as it comes and live with it as best as I can.

Now, because I had missed some classes due to struggling to keep up with everything (work comes first, so it was usually my morning with only university classes where I decided to stay in bed and recharge for the rest of the week), I finally wrote two of my professors a candid email talking about my chronic illnesses, my sleep problems, and apologizing profoundly. It was hard writing those emails, but what really made me all teary-eyed were their responses: Full of understanding, not being angry with me at all, one of them even offering to meet with me simply so that I could talk to someone about it all, since she figured it’d help (it did).

So today is my random post full of gratefulness for amazing university professors. Thank you, you’re doing a great job, and I’m glad to be able to call you my professors!