I haven’t blogged in a while, because my new job at a big language school here in Berlin has been taking it out of me this week, as I also packed in two interviews, a visit from two friends and even some eating and sleeping, too.
But I wanted to write something about my realisation this week that our PLN, or personal learning network, is often far more important than we think. I realised this after two particular experiences this week:
The first stemmed from a misunderstanding with my two friends from my old job at Routledge who were visiting. I thought they were going to bring my keys, but I confused them so they didn’t bring them to school as I had expected. I live in a flat with two girls, and as my excellent luck would have it, one of them was in Frankfurt for the evening, which meant she couldn’t help me. The other was on a date down in the south of the city, and I didn’t want to disturb her to steal her key, so we arranged to meet in the district just before our own district in the north of the city, where she was due to meet some other friends after her date.
However, that wasn’t to be until later in the evening, and I had left school around 5pm to meet someone for a coffee at 6pm. (More on that later.) Our lovely chat lasted for about an hour, so at 7pm I was left contemplating how to kill some time with minimal phone battery, a dead laptop and approximately €3 in my purse (more bad luck that I hadn’t topped up my purse from the stash of cash in my room!) The lack of money was a problem, as I know German cafes aren’t often keen on people invading to use the toilet or charge their phones (!) and my need for both was becoming gradually more acute…
My longest-standing and closest friend in Berlin, Sabrina, was out of the city until 8.30pm, so I couldn’t go and invade her house. A friend from the CELTA was another possibility, but she was having dinner and didn’t answer her phone until later (when she was incredibly apologetic, bless her.) I contemplated going home and knocking on my neighbours’ door and asking to hang out there until my flatmate was done (we bonded a few weeks ago when they kindly lent me their WiFi password to Skype my boyfriend and give an English lesson online when our internet was misbehaving!), but I was aware my flatmate could take a while and I wouldn’t want to outstay my welcome in a flat with a young baby in it.
I had a very tragic gap life moment around 7pm: sat on a wall around the corner from a cafe, eating the Tupperware of emergency pesto pasta I had made in the morning because I had thought I would be at school late doing lesson planning!
But then I had a bit of a brainwave: on Sunday afternoon, as I was in my beloved Mauerpark in the glorious Berlin sunshine with my friends, someone had come up to me and said ‘Rachel!’ with a big smile on her face. It took me about 3 seconds to process who it was, and then I realised I was standing in front of a lovely girl with whom I’d been chatting on Twitter for months beforehand – Gemma Lunn : ) She had seen me Tweeting about Berlin and mentioned she was coming in June for a language course, so I had offered to show her round. I’d told her I was busy at the weekend with my friends, but somehow she recognised me amidst the throngs of people in the park and we spent an hour or so together in the park and its adjoining flea market, which was great!
At the weekend, Gemma had mentioned she wasn’t living far from the Mauerpark, which happened to be the same area where I had had my coffee, so I connected to a random café’s free WiFi and messaged her to see if she was home. She was, so I explained my temporary homeless predicament and cheekily asked if I could go round and say hello. She was kind enough to accept, so I went round to the very nice and very Berlin-esque flat she was Air BnB’ing in for the duration of her course. She made me the best cup of tea I’ve had since I moved to Germany, let me steal her WiFi password and her electricity for my laptop – a real hero! Before Sunday, we had been total strangers except for our communication on Twitter, and afterwards I realised how nice it was that we have so much in common and that she was willing to save me : )
(If you are interested in how my homelessness situation ended, I left Gemma’s when she had to go to a conversation class and went to meet my friend Sabrina. We went on a long walk around my beloved Prenzlauer Berg together, then went back to her flat for what felt like a much-needed beer before my flatmate text me to say she was on her way home – then I was finally able to head home and crash out in my bed around 11.30…a long day!)
The second PLN experience is related to my blog and, without wanting to sound too much like the Digital Product Manager I once was, highlights the power of having an ‘online presence’ – however small and insignificant, like my little blog here. I had communicated a little bit about Berlin and teaching in general with the very talented Dale Coulter in advance of coming to Germany, and he had told me to send my CV to the language school where he was HR Manager once I finished my CELTA, which I dutifully did. He has now left that role, but as part of his handover, he kindly suggested interview times for me, and even advised me to accept the later slot on Thursday, so that we could meet to discuss the school on Tuesday.
In addition to that, he had also seen me talking to the IATEFL Materials Writing Special Interest Group on Twitter about my disappointment that I wouldn’t be able to make a really interesting-sounding event that they are co-hosting with the Munich Association of English Language Teachers on a Thursday evening this month. This exchange turned into a conversation about the possibility of doing a similar event in Berlin, which might now be happening and in which I might be able to get involved!
But, most exciting of all the conversation topics that came up during mine and Dale’s very pleasant coffee chat on Tuesday evening was a little job offer he made me! I have now attended two separate events run by the English Language Teachers’ Association here in Berlin (ELTABB), which you will hopefully soon be able to read about on this fair blog. At the second one, I was talking to the lovely Events Coordinator about the defunct Twitter that belongs to ELTABB and wondering who was in charge of it. The last Tweet came in 2009 and the handle only has three followers, so it is desperately in need of some loving.
I think Mandy, our über-organised Events Coordinator, then mentioned my remarks about the ELTABB Twitter to Dale because, as we drunk our coffees in the sun, he pulled out a piece of paper with ‘ELTABB Social Media Ambassador’ written on the top of it and handed it to me. We discussed what the role would entail: working with the Communications Coordinator to plan social media strategy; picking events in conjunction with the Events Coordinator to tweet and promote; selecting relevant and engaging content to share from the account, taking part in Twitter events on behalf of ELTABB and, of course, enhancing the brand awareness of ELTABB online.
It was all very exciting, and not at all what I expected! I have done similar things before, though – for example, being in charge of the social media channels of the language school I interned at in Bilbao on my year abroad, so the responsibility of this extra role didn’t scare me, and I was really honoured to be offered this new role for the Association as a newbie to Berlin.
I of course accepted, so I am very happy to say that I am now the Social Media Ambassador for the wonderful organisation that is ELTABB 🙂
I could probably written all of the above in the space of two paragraphs, but if you’ve been kind enough to persevere with my blog for a while, you’ll know that’s not exactly my style! I wanted to write it all out to highlight just how important an online presence is: I started this blog because I like writing, because I knew I’d want to remember my CELTA experience and because I thought it might possibly help me in the future when I leave Berlin and want to move back into publishing…
But I really didn’t anticipate how much more it would bring me: this post proves why it’s worth scribbling about your English Language Teaching experience. It’s brought me into contact with so many fascinating people, who continue to amaze me with their kindness and helpfulness. It’s brought me two job interviews, a new job as a Social Media Ambassador – and it even indirectly led me to the best cup of tea I’ve had in two months. (Huge thanks again to Gemma for that special treat!) The motto of ELTABB is ‘teachers helping teachers,’ and I really do think that sums it up rather nicely!
So, this is my ‘takeaway’ message from this post, if I may: get writing! Even if you think nobody will read it, apparently they do! If you’re honest, you write about your experiences and try to make suggestions to others doing the same sort of thing, then I can guarantee people will start to notice you and read what you would otherwise perceive to be just idle chitter-chatter. I have been bowled over by the response to my blog – I only have 33 followers, but when I only started writing it to entertain my parents and boyfriend, I think that’s already quite amazing.
So thank you to my readers, to my saviours this Tuesday, and to anyone and everyone who has welcomed me into this wonderful ELT world online! I really hope I get to meet some of you at IATEFL next year!