Hello, everyone! Happy New Year to you all! I thought it was time for another update, as I haven't done one for a while. Last time we spoke, in October, I had just finished a week trying out a new Sales Progression job, which unfortunately didn't work out for me. So what hapened next? I decided that the best thing to do, at least in the short term, would be to return to Viewber and do some more freelance estate agency work. Whilst doing that, I decided to look around at other self-employment options, of which more later…
Canals are probably the thing that brought most of you to my website, so you’ll probably be happy to hear that I intend to carry on producing monthly canalside property lists, and just as I have been doing for the last couple of editions, each of those lists will be comprehensive, i.e., I will repeat any properties that are still on the market, so you won’t have to look back at the older lists, unless you really want to. I will also continue to list the properties which I think you'll be most interested in, such as characterful rural homes, and properties which have moorings. You'll also still see occasional posts about the canals in France, and indeed, French property in general.
I may occasionally do a house history, when I find a property that I’m curious about, or when somebody asks me to research one. I will also be carrying on with occasional volunteering for the Canal and River Trust around my local area. It was lovely to be out with the volunteers last Wednesday and they certainly appreciated my usual supply of cakes! I can't commit to it as regularly as I used to, because Viewber is an ad hoc job, and I found it was quite stressful trying to deal with volunteering around my appointments – it’s not quick or easy to get from being on a wet and muddy towpath in my CRT gear, to looking smart and professional with all my equipment to hand.
Anyway, I warned you that I had more to tell you about my self-employment options. This next bit has nothing to do with canals, or indeed estate agency, but I thought some of you might like to know what I've been up to behind the scenes.
Towards the end of November, I started looking back at some of my previous experiences and qualifications, and thinking about what I had enjoyed, and what might be marketable in 2024. I decided that I would like to update my Teaching English as a Foreign Language qualification, which I gained in 1991, as it might be useful if and when we go to France. I used to enjoy teaching English, both as a self-employed teacher with a class full of au-pairs, and working for the local authority, for whom I taught classes at a College and an Adult Education centre.
I decided that I would do an online course at a higher level than the one which I took previously, and I also decided to do a further course in teaching online, because the skills and lesson plans required for that are somewhat different. I have now passed both courses.
It certainly has been a pleasure to be studying again. The general TEFL course was very interesting, and I learned a lot from it, especially about how teaching methodology has changed over the past 30 years. However, the 'teaching online' course turned out to be far too generic for me, talking about platforms, web design, and marketing, rather than the specifics of online language teaching. I found it very frustrating, because almost all of it was stuff I knew already. Worse still, it appeared that it hadn’t been updated for several years, and there was a great deal of out of date content. I decided that I would complain about it. The suppliers took my comments on board, and they're now correcting the errors, so I am pleased that I spoke up, and that I've been able to help future participants.
I'm now doing two more courses, one with the original supplier and one with another organisation. Both courses are about training students for examinations, particularly the IELTS, a well respected exam which students need for things like visa applications and university entrance.
How I will use my shiny new qualifications is still a little bit uncertain. I have lots of options, as these days there are plenty of online platforms, like Preply and Cambly, where you can set yourself up to teach English. They don't pay very well, but they are great in terms of flexibility, and it's a good way to get my 'teaching hours' up. Getting current teaching experience on these platforms will also help me to decide how I want to specialise in the future, although I suspect that I already know the answer to that question.
In the English as a Foreign Language field, there is very little in the way of materials and examinations which are adapted for students with autism. The IELTS exam is a very good example – it’s more of a higher processing exam than an English exam! There is also very little advice or training for TEFL teachers interested in SEN (special educational needs). I was unable to find a course on this subject to study myself, (short of doing a Masters, and sadly I don’t have the time or the money for that). It's an area where there is patently a need for information, yet there's very little out there – and commercially it's almost a completely untapped niche.
Naturally, I've done my usual thing, and rather than being defeated by the lack of information, I’ve started to research and write my own course for teachers of students with autism. I've already got about two thirds of the way through writing it, and it has been really enjoyable so far. Hopefully within a month or two I’ll be able to market my course. I'm not planning to sell it for big bucks, I just want people to work through it, learn from it, and give me feedback to improve it, but maybe eventually I can develop to the point where I can get it Ofqual regulated and it can add a steady little drip to my income stream.
You'll be relieved to hear that none of this should interfere with this website, as I am starting up a separate one for my English Teaching – it will be called English Lessons Anywhere. The name is inspired by Music Lessons Anywhere, a narrowboat-based business which you may have heard of!
In the meantime, I am still looking out for a property in France. When we retire, but maybe before, my husband and I would like to move to France. Thanks to Brexit, we’d probably have to split our lives between the UK and France, unless I decide to work full time in France as an estate agent or an English teacher. My dream is that a little ruined house will crop up – one that we can afford (peanuts), and that's in the right place, (either by a canal or in an attractive town or village, probably medieval). The reality is that we'll be staying at Glascote Locks for a good few years yet, until eventually we can sell up and split the proceeds between a small place in England or Scotland and a small place in France. If any of this comes off, this website will obviously morph to suit, and I may even do a vlog about buying a house and living in France, because – well, why not? The escapism of moving to the countryside and a wonderful new environment seems to align very well with those of us who love canals and narrowboats, doesn’t it?
Well, I think that's probably brought you up to date with everything. There will be another canalside property list coming up in a few weeks' time. In the meantime, if you have any questions or comments about what I'm doing, I'd be really interested to hear from you. Hopefully this long rant won't put you off staying with me and following my canalside adventures!