Fellow TESL Community, whether you’ve benefited from working with a professional coach or not, join me in raising a proverbial glass in honour of coaches.
In March 2020, like some, or even many of you, I found myself suddenly unemployed. The private language school I had taught at for the two years prior was unable to keep its doors open to welcome local and international English Language Learners due to the swift pandemic measures that came into effect that same month. My experience, sadly, was not unique.
Whenever I find myself in challenging times, I get to strategizing, not wanting to be a victim of circumstances. I come up with to-do lists, draft quarterly plans and even give my efforts some sort of catchy tagline to motivate me into action. I drew on this tried-and-true coping mechanism until, like countless others, COVID-fatigue was having its way and my resolve waned along with a series of temp jobs.
By the end of September, apart from struggling emotionally, I knew that my physical health and wellness needed attention (banana bread is not the cure-all I secretly wanted it to be) and I knew I needed professional guidance. There were three more months in the year, and I decided that the tutor needed to become the tutee. I reached out to my health coach with whom I had worked close to five years ago and got into contact with a career coach.
Here’s my tribute to both coaches:
To my health coach, K, with whom I worked one-on-one for the first month and then in a group coaching circle for the next two, I am grateful for the reality checks. Usually, the term “reality check” means that we’ve been in a state of idealism, disconnected from the real world. However, the reality check that I got from K was that I had to awaken to the fact that I was not failing in my health and wellness journey, rather over time I had developed accessible tools and resources to build on and progress, even when I found myself much further away from some of my goals than I wanted. I was not starting at ground zero. In our sessions, we kept things simple, focused on self-care and self-kindness and celebrated all the small wins.
To my career coach, N, the word ‘mighty’ comes to mind when I recount our ten weeks working together. As an internationally educated professional, I knew what professional contribution I wanted to make in my new home, but I felt that I didn’t quite have a grasp on how to achieve that. I could not have asked for a better strategist than N. From the practical, like resume revision and interview preparation, to the existential in terms of rediscovering my purpose and worth, N, created an almost personalized bridging programme.
While the ultimate goal of this coaching programme was to find the right career path and job, the true success surfaced before the job opportunities and offers materialised. My nerves became steadier, and my resolve to be an active member of and contributor to the TESL community were as much a priority as securing a job.
As I wrap up my toast, I recall a meme I came across recently listing 3 of the hardest things to say:
- I was wrong
- I need help
- Worcestershire (sauce)
‘Worcestershire’ is easily pronounced with just 3 syllables: wu–stuh-shr. It can be a doozy of a tongue twister. Unfortunately for me, and maybe others like me, it’s saying “I need help” that’s the true conundrum.
We all have lessons learned from 2020, and being strategic about the help and support I needed is one I’m adding to my backpack of life.
Over the last 15 years, Michelle Wooding-Andrade has worked as a librarian, college lecturer, ESL instructor and TESL mentor teacher. She is an internationally educated professional, with an MSc. in Library and Information Science and a B.A. in Linguistics. Michelle completed the TESL diploma program with the Canadian College of Educators in 2018 and now adds Ontario Certified English Language Teacher to her list of credentials. As a proponent of educational technology, she is also a certified online teacher and currently holds the position of Instructor Support for the LINC Ontario Home Study program with Achev.