Updated: Oct 22, 2019
Who are you?
Ask yourself this: who am I? (and don’t panic and develop a full-blown existential crisis now, bear with me!)
I am a Swedish teacher. But I actually don’t have a background in language teaching. I sort of fell into it. I was studying for a PhD in music psychology when I started teaching Swedish, and I had been studying musicology previously. I was all about music, and a little bit about psychology.
In the beginning when I started teaching, I felt really embarrassed about this. Not that I was doing a PhD, because that is pretty cool, but that I was teaching languages and I had no qualification in language teaching. I felt like I was faking it. But I have always been interested in languages and I had a high grade in Swedish and English from school, so I quickly picked up how to teach grammar. But I still felt I shouldn’t speak about the fact that I was really doing a PhD in something unrelated.
After a few years I did mention it to a few students and started talking about how music and psychology actually have many links to learning a language. And being into music, I had also always loved dialects, because of the musical elements to it. I am also desperately interested in and passionate about integration, and I see languages as such a powerful tool to integrate. This is me. I am a language teacher with a particular passion for the musical and the psychological sides of languages, along with integration and identity. This is my niche, my culture add. Something that makes me stand out.
What is your story? What are the things that have shaped you over the years? What are some other things that you love doing?
It took a long time before I was brave enough to start promoting myself as such, but when I finally did, I was contacted by many students who said they had chosen me specifically because of my background. Maybe they too were interested in music. Or psychology. Or dialects. Or they liked my take on languages as something bigger than just verb tables and the grammar drills (although I love them too). Not all my students are, but it’s something that makes me slightly more unique, just because of who I am. And I can use that.
There’s no one just like you and this is what you need to nurture as a Language Teacher Rebel. So ask yourself, what is your Culture Add?
The problem that most of us have is that we usually don’t see our own unique abilities and what we are good at. We take them for granted. They feel so natural and instinctive to us that we feel that they can surely not be something that other people would be willing to pay for.
But the thing is this: you have been blessed with ideas, gifts, talents and through your background and your experiences you have developed skills that you can use to serve others. Other people need your language-teaching skills. And they are just waiting for you to find your voice and become a Language Teacher Rebel, so you can start helping them.
The biggest hurdle you’re most likely to face throughout this process is being comfortable with positioning yourself as an expert in what you do. You may feel like you don’t have the right skills (in IT, marketing, teaching, creating learning material or marketing material, etc.). You may feel that you don’t know enough.
But you don’t need to know everything in order to get started. As long as you know a little bit more than someone else, you can help him or her.
Having an entrepreneurial mindset means being comfortable with starting something and not knowing where it ends. It means being ok with learning as you go.
This is also the best approach when you run a business, as it means you can stay lean and change direction if you need to. You won’t get stuck in a rigid model that perhaps doesn’t work.
Technology changes, people’s needs change, the world changes all the time. You need to surf along and change with the waves as they turn up. It’s an ongoing process and you need to stay flexible. Therefore, you’ll not know what your business looks like in two years’ time. And that is a good thing!