This week, Patrice Palmer asked me on Twitter if I was a “teacherpreneur” and if I would be interested in answering an interview. To start off the conversation I wasn’t even sure what she meant by that but a quick Google search showed me the following definition:
“The teacherpreneur merges the image of the innovative classroom teacher with the risk-taking and entrepreneurial leadership that we commonly associate with those who create their own place in the professional world.
Teacherpreneurs are, first and foremost, imaginative teachers. They have created a classroom culture of creativity and reflection. They think beyond the classroom in terms of how to make lessons meaningful, and in so doing, might see a need elsewhere in school that their innovation can address.” (https://www.edutopia.org/blog/era-of-teacherpreneur-heather-wolpert-gawron)
So … I guess I’m a “teacherpreneur” after all. Thanks, Patrice for teaching me one more thing this year.
Here’s my interview:
Teacherpreneur: Moacir Sena (aka Mo the Americanoid)
Can you start off by telling us where you teach?
I’ve been teaching English and Spanish at banks, law firms and other industries. (99% of the time it’s been one-on-one basis) and the students usually came from managerial positions up to the CEO). I’d say 60-70% of the students have been upper-intermediate to advanced (B2-C1+)
How long have you been teaching?
I’ve been teaching since 1986 – started teaching at a small language school near where I lived and from then on I moved to other language schools until starting my solo career back in 1998.
Can you describe a typical teaching day?
In the past I’d have classes early in the morning -7:30-9am / break / 12-2pm/ break/ 6-8pm (with the occasional class starting at 9-10:30pm) During those windows I’d work on translations.
Considering that I am wholeheartedly a morning person, now I’ve managed to keep my mornings pretty busy – (7:30 to 11am) and (12pm-3pm). The odd student at 4pm. I try to close shop at 3pm. NO evening classes in the last 5-6 years. Hooray. 80% of my students have in-company lessons. 20% come to my home office.
What do you do in your spare time to relax?
As a man, I watch tv – often not paying much attention to what’s going on. But I love reading and taking long walks in the park in the late afternoon.
You took on the tremendous task of starting a solo career…
I decided to fly solo after having been a partner at a language school here in São Paulo, having to deal with teacher training, teacher and student prospecting, keeping the financial balance of the firm, making money but never seeing it. To keep good teachers you many times had to sacrifice your own pay. To keep good corporate clients many times you had to cut them a discount. So we came to a crossroads – either we would move to larger facilities with more classrooms etc., or shut down. My partner at the time was not interested in expanding so we decided to follow our own path. Being my “own company” I know where to invest, how to manage and control client satisfaction and teaching quality. And make more money than when I “owned a company”.
How do I get my students /clients you may ask? Word of mouth – 100% guaranteed.
Over the last 6 years or so I’ve dabbled in YouTube – posting video lessons using English and the Bible – ESL with Mo the Americanoid –
Here’s a sample: Episode 104: ESL with Mo the Americanoid: 6 Tips for Teachers One on One Classes https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lrOUmGofIso
Here’s the link to the playlist: (https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLyyx8yztcz879R6iSGDLpIMfCBQWcj08Z)
Initially the videos were based on a book called ENGLISH LESSONS FROM THE BIBLE (BOOK OF MARK) by Glenda Reece. After a few episodes I felt more comfortable to develop my own material and content expanding to interviewing some English learners and teachers and presenting some Teaching tips.
Other social media I’m involved in…?
Intensely involved with Twitter – its immediacy and reach are amazing, even though I’ve learned that Twitter is not as much used in Brazil as in Europe and North America. I always follow #ELT #TEFL #ESL #TESOL threads. But I’m not very keen on Tweet Chats – I find them hard to follow live and to try to read a later compilation of the tweets is quite boring and many times senseless. Depending on the editing you’ll read 20 “hello this is…” tweets before getting any real content.
Are you working on any other projects at the moment?
Also writing a blog – www.americanoidblog.com – An English Language Lover’s Teaching Adventures and other ramblings.
A dream I have is to produce a language learning program for the radio or TV. But still don’t know how to get there. Still beginning the process.
What skills did you gain from classroom teaching that have allowed you to excel as a teacherpreneur?
- Public speaking – if you can face an audience of rambunctious children or bored teenagers you can face the world.
- To adapt to different audiences and needs
- To be flexible and also know when to draw the line (sometimes ;-)
What advice would you give to teachers who are considering to go solo or start a language school?
To be self-employed can be a scary experience but also empowering. You feel the world on your shoulders knowing that you will have to provide for everything – from your health insurance to managing your pay so you can afford any sort of vacations – (no paid vacations or holidays). But it’s liberating: you can set your workday schedule (within certain limits) and explore the world (either literally or in your own town or neighborhood).
To those dreaming of opening a language school or franchise – remember you will be less and less of a teacher and more and more of an entrepreneur. So think carefully before you jump into the abyss.
All in all, the important thing is to do it with passion and remember that the world is not found in your bellybutton.