The autonomous teacher: 5 filters for professional growth and development

A2838466-0483-4400-8B31-9A33219E32F4I’ve been a self-employed teacher for 20 years and can say looking back at my professional history that I’ve made some mistakes, such as,  being too straight-forward with some students, letting students go on and on with their classes without making any commitment to actual improvement.  But also gotten some things right: helping them identify their strong and weak points and providing tools for them to set achievable goals and challenges. Helping them identify language learning as a tool not a 7-headed monster.

Noam Chomsky has developed the five filters of the mass media machine but those filters can be adapted to the self-employed career:

1. Ownership – you must own up to your mistakes, also understand that you must charge your students in a fair way while not compromising your source of income. Your rate can’t just be based on the hour you’ll be with him.

2. Advertising – you’re the top model who’ll inspire people to hire you. Looks are not the point. Transparency and motivation are great selling points when it comes to hiring a new teacher.

3. Elite – ordinary citizens can’t hire a private mentor or tutor for longer periods of time. The elite can afford you. But charging a low-income student and a high-income student differently, helps the latter finance of learning program of the former.

4. Flak – you may take some flak if the students fail. It’s part of the territory. Learn to cope with that.

5. Common Enemy – ignorance, laziness, lack of motivation, lack of payment.

Happy teaching,



Education is a process. Not a commodity

Talking about learning as a process, many students start having classes and then after one or two months go away on vacation, then they can’t have classes because of the yearend holidays, then there’s carnival… cutting a long story short – they suspend classes for 2 to 3 months in a row, and when they return they want to continue from where they stopped. Helloooo… even a car if left unattended for too long can show problems when the owner tries to use it again. In other words, they are back to where they started… and then after 2, 3, 5 years of classes they start to complain saying they must be too stupid,* because they’re not making progress (*translation: their teacher can’t be any good or he’s just incompetent).

The Americanoid Blog

Working as a self-employed teacher, I have the freedom that other job positions do not offer, but also lack all sorts of protections and guarantees that a school – even if lame – is required to provide.

Being my own boss means that I always have to negotiate fees and rates, teaching methods, class frequency, class load and homework directly with the student and on some rare occasions with the parent (if a minor) or the HR of a company (this latter case only happens once in a blue moon).

There’s no shame in being up front about the costs and how many classes there will be per month and the need for cancellation or postponement of classes and in the case of the absence for whatever reason of the teacher or student, how those missed classes should be made up for. Yes usually the contract – either verbal or…

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Give and take – the little practiced art of “practicing language”

That’s a common complaint by language teachers everywhere: after a weekend, long weekend, and heaven forbid, after 20 days of vacation, students return rusty and despondent. Allow 2 to 3 weeks for students to get up to speed, depending on their language class frequency, which in my case, most students have classes only once a week.

So… they return to class, I’m talking about adult students, but the same applies to children, with their ears and tongues hardened by lack of exercise in the target language, even if they’ve done their “assigned homework.”

Bear in mind that our brains also need some rest, and that’s ok. But language-wise, I’m not talking about reviewing grammar rules and prepositions or phrasal verbs, which can bore both teachers and students to death. I’m talkingincorporating language to their routine via give and take.


When learning a language we must be receptors – take Language from different sources. Listen to a podcast, or internet radio, watch a movie or TVs series, read all sorts of texts, etc. Take in as much language as you can…  but, you must also become a  giver.


Start producing the language. Be a transmitter of English or any other language you are learning. How? By trying to speak that language even if to yourself. Another great way to transition from a simple receptor into a transmitter is by taking small pieces of text – books, newspapers, magazines or online, and reading them aloud. Nowadays, there are many text to audio resources which you may use to check your pronunciation. Otherwise just listening to your own voice and working on the sounds you produce will work wonders in your language process.

Happy learning,