A teaching co-operative

I find the idea of Crowdsourcing extremely interesting and it has definitely come into its own due to the crisis. As tuition fees soar, ELT salaries remain stable or decrease, people get fired left right and center and the quality of teaching remains questionable in some places, the question of ‘going it alone’ must cross many people’s minds.

Crowdsourcing is about, if I understand it properly, FT jobs getting chopped up and allocated to freelancer to save time and money. The end result is that there are less and less FT jobs, more and more freelancers and they become very skilled. I can safely say that I know some very skilled freelancers who’d give top FT teachers a serious run for their money. Now if you take a group of freelancing teachers put them together and you have the people skills for a very good school. What’s missing is a physical building, a school name, books and admin and marketing. Yes, they won’t be able to fight against the huge franchises with advertising budgets in the millions but if quality and price are important then teachers who get 100% of what students pay (minus expenses though) will work better and give a far better service.

Getting clients would depend on their networks and team work would be essential. Of course to start with they’d all probably just use their own clients but later maybe share clients, get new ones together and even help each other. As nobody would be the DOS/boss there would be equality, in theory and they could even develop a name and market it.

As some may teach in-house or online then expenses would be very limited and they could also offer their other services like writing perhaps.

What would be in it for the freelancers is the support, sharing of clients, ideas and even having a physical office/classroom to share. Working with others they would also be covered if they were ill.away/busy and needed someone to replace them. I also think that being a member of such a group would look more professional and attract more clients, students and even groups.

Any thoughts??

5 thoughts on “A teaching co-operative

  1. Although in principle it sounds like a lovely idea, once you get a group of people together working on a common business idea, you then quickly realise that you’re limited by space, lack of brand, and a bunch of initial work for free, which most cannot afford to do. This is why schools eventually require marketing staff and budgets to support them.

    • BUT I’ve seen this work in Brighton and in other places in England where they even offer free services.

      Also, isn’t this just how small enterprises start ie 2 people? In France a lot of us are AutoEntrepreneurs which means we are freelancers. You can now rent office space from the local council per hour to hold meetings and give training or just work. Add to that the fact that I know a lot of freelancers who cover classes for their friends or who get each other jobs. So, it seems that everything is in place. The next leap is just having a name and making it more official.

      Another example is the ‘middleman’. I’ve seen many agencies rent our teachers to schools and unis. Some of these are proper agencies but some were just people doing it from their bedroom or as a side job. Just look at the amount of online English teachers. They set up a website, call it Bob’s online school and voila.

      Re:Bunch of initial work

      You set up a blog, stick your profiles on it, tweet it, FB it and whatever you want if you are looking at getting new clients. But this is what a lot of use freelancers do anyway. I spend at least 5 hours a week applying for jobs, sorting out interviews, chasing up people bla bla bla. I also know teachers who call schools, put ads in the paper, online etc etc.That’s sales. If I had the means then I’d to proper research, find out what people need, create a service and brand it and with several people working together it would have more value. Not to mention that students would make a big saving.

      As a lot of students are mainly interested in passing IELTS/TOEIC maybe they are not as bothered about where they study. Thus, if the co-operative offered classes in the library, university or other public place (if possible for a low fee) and this helped students get a good grade at a quicker and cheaper rate wouldn’t that be good??

      As for budgets, I’ve worked at huge schools which have sponsored the Olympics and other large events and even they had problems getting and KEEPING students. Initially they came but found out it was rubbish and left. Other schools nobody had ever heard of used to be packed and get all our students. Why? Word of mouth perhaps, a target market, an agreement or just better quality.

      Thanks again Tyson for your comments, they are always appreciated.

  2. Very interesting post, especially as I know some teachers here in Barcelona, hoping to set something up along these lines. It’s a good idea, I’d love to be a part of something like that – scrapping the hierarchy for a flat structure, cutting out the middleman and working for yourself, yet still having the support of colleagues in a school environment.
    However, I think you’d really have to weigh up the advantages of having that middle man against working in a collective:

    • Physical identity/ permanent location – is the best advertising.
    • Reputation and brand identity – takes years to build and is recognised by students.
    • Organised hours, with fewer mistakes
    • Deals with problems – administration, refund, receiving and giving payments.

    In principle, I think it’s a great idea – but I think it’s important to question in order to counter the potential problems.
    Is there ownership?

    I’m assuming no in a collective, but without ownership, the name, trademark, or brand – that eventually comes – cannot be registered.

    Also, who is liable for any damages? Are the teachers insured? Who has liability? Most teachers can’t afford their own insurance. Is there an emergency War-chest? If so, do teachers contribute a percentage?

    When does a collection of AutoEntrepreneurs working in the same building, under the same name, become a company – and how does that affect tax-rates and charges? Tax and registering as a company – might be tricky without an owner. I guess this all depends on the country…but it would likely be a headache.

    Who pays for the space? Again, I guess this would be by contribution from teachers, paying a percentage.

    Communistic model – Does everyone getting paid the same per hour? What about higher qualified teachers – they’ve invested more in their profession – should they ask from more money? Or do students pay each teacher what they can?

    Admin
    Do you employ receptionists? How do they get paid? Or does the teacher have to deal with all the admin problems and complaints directly? What happens when new students hear about the collective: How do you determine which teacher gets the student? This could be sorted out by level, class size etc, but it could also been seen as unfair.

    Also, do Students pay in cash? Per lesson, or per course? This could be tricky to manage without a central account from which to pay teachers. If it seems dodgy or unorganised it might well put students off. If Students need refunds (for whatever reason) or to cancel/reorganise a class, who deals with that?

    Resources
    What about resources… computers, whiteboards, pens, paper, photocopier /copies – do teachers provide their own and leave them, take them home at the end of the day, or does everyone contribute a percentage of their wages to cover this?

    I guess that each teacher would be responsible for their own money, and what students pay. However, then there would have to be an honour system, if teachers were expected to contribute to the running costs of the school.

    At first, assuming there is a low number of students, how are classes organised? Do teachers give one-to-ones, limiting their efficiency, or do they teach mixed-level classes, possibly limiting the quality?

    The key is to make sure it’s scalable – what works for 2 teachers must also work for 20. What works for 10 students must also work for 300, etc.

    Just some thoughts, they may not all be valid – I’ve come across a bit negative, though I don’/t mean to🙂 I think most of them can be answered. It would also be one of those situations where things sort themselves out. I think it’s important to have a very solid plan though!

    • Cheers for the comment George. Yes, all depends on the country.

      I wrote this post based on knowing people who started off on their own and then went on to employ others and also from being hired to teach students for schools who just provided the room. Oh, also based on Chinese teachers who got their own students then found schools/venues to hold their classes. They then swapped with friends for cover lessons.

      I know many couples who teach together as freelancers and lots others who ‘help’ each other.

      Re:Materials etc. I have a laptop and that’s about it so I can literally do a class anywhere and if you teach in places without a syllabus you have a lot of freedom.

      My other reason for this idea was based on the crisis and crowdsourcing. I think a teacher charging 30/40 Euros an hour would get more clients than a school at 60 if they were reputable, especially for in-house company lessons.

      My other angle was online teaching which is pretty easy to set up. You do a site and everyone adds their availability and students get allocated to who is free. Having worked for some online places, the pay seemed low and the quality could easily be raised by doing it on your own.

    • Cheers for the comment George. Yes, all depends on the country.

      I wrote this post based on knowing people who started off on their own and then went on to employ others and also from being hired to teach students for schools who just provided the room. Oh, also based on Chinese teachers who got their own students then found schools/venues to hold their classes. They then swapped with friends for cover lessons.

      I know many couples who teach together as freelancers and lots others who ‘help’ each other.

      Re:Materials etc. I have a laptop and that’s about it so I can literally do a class anywhere and if you teach in places without a syllabus you have a lot of freedom.

      My other reason for this idea was based on the crisis and crowdsourcing. I think a teacher charging 30/40 Euros an hour would get more clients than a school at 60 if they were reputable, especially for in-house company lessons.

      My other angle was online teaching which is pretty easy to set up. You do a site and everyone adds their availability and students get allocated to who is free. Having worked for some online places, the pay seemed low and the quality could easily be raised by doing it on your own.

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