Inspirational ELT #5 | Tom's story

I met Tom Madeley three years ago when he did his CELTA course with me. He had been teaching in Spain and wanted to develop his teaching, expecting to continue working in language schools but, without really planning it, has ended up setting up his own teaching business in Sweden. Maybe his story will inspire you try something similar and branch out on your own. I hope you enjoy it.
Jo Gakonga

Tom's story- the many faces of ELT

By January 2021 I had set up my new online teaching business. I’m still getting used to the idea however it sounds less and less ridiculous as time goes on. Why wouldn’t I be able to run my own business?

In the summer of 2018 after three years of teaching in Spain I went back to the UK in order to do my CELTA course. Me, back in the classroom but with the roles reversed. Again it seemed unlikely but there I was, nervous, unsure of my capabilities. You see, I dropped out of Uni for one reason or another and did OK before that at school. I looked around the classroom, perhaps they were all far more academic than I was? Perhaps they’d know I was an imposter? Well those thoughts came and went in an instant because anyone who has done CELTA knows that the train moves quickly and you’ve no choice but to put your head down and work every moment for yourself and others. And what an inspiration it was to be involved in that learning environment.

After completing my CELTA, the ideal next step might’ve been to immediately head back to Spain and put my new skills into practice. Well, again for one reason or another I found myself back in the UK without work. This is when I started to think differently. I had the skills, I just needed students. After 18 months I’d built up a solid base of learners through some promotion on Facebook and word of mouth. But it never felt like a long-term plan, it seemed like stop-gap work before ‘something else’.

I arrived in Gothenburg, Sweden, in October 2020. I came with the hope of getting work at the one local school. I didn’t get it. I had a little moan to my friend about this and he says to me, ‘you should make a website’. I wait but for somebody to laugh. But no one does, hmm. It didn’t seem an absurd suggestion to him so why should it to me? It seemed strange that I hadn’t had this moment of clarity before. Confidence can need time to grow I guess.

So it turns out creating a website is easy, especially with the help of people who love you! Registering a business is just as simple, ok there’s plenty of paperwork to begin with but there’s nothing stopping you. I don’t have enormous business goals but I’m proud of my work and I strive to be the best I can be for my students. I think I blindly assumed where I am now was out of reach. I was definitely frightened but any projections of fear I now have, I use to focus a little harder on my work. I think two things will always be the basis for my teaching, a passion for my students and CPD. With learners ranging from three different continents, now is my time to really grow as a teacher.

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