I suppose that makes me a bad father but when I found her cleaning out the garden shed beside our garage a few years ago – her plan was a clubhouse – I immediately saw the potential for my own home office, a quiet repose from the upstairs echoes of our basement. Because it was a shed and is now an office I’ve taken to calling it the shoffice. I suppose a more exotic name may be in order but it is a quiet place to work and write and read. I had once dreamed of building a strawbale office, but this was less costly and more expedient.
It has been a step by step journey toward completion. Each successive year I’ve done a bit more to make it an efficient and comfortable space. At just over five feet wide and nine feet long, it is not an overly spacious office, but as someone who generally works from home four days a week it has been increasingly the right office.
I plug the shoffice into the house electricity with an extension cord. This adequately runs the lights, my computer and a space heater in winter. I installed a small window air conditioner this past summer making year round work a reality. I’m still working to finish out the ceiling, the trim work and a standing desk. Next summer I hope to refurbish the exterior as well and add a small portico over the front door to prevent rain from running down the front door, between the crack and onto the floor. I’d like to add a window or skylight in order to let in more natural light as well but we’ll see.
The shoffice is the place I go to work. My family is far too fun to work inside anymore. With two high schoolers studying at home, the distracting temptation to join in the conversations is just too much and so I escape out to my little shoffice beside the garage for much of the day. It’s my place to get things done.
I continually get asked the question, “What do you do?” whenever I meet new people.
I suppose as well that many who’ve asked before continue to wonder.
It is a complicated answer and one that I myself fumble around to answer whenever I am asked. I usually begin with, “It’s complicated.”
It isn’t so much that it is complicated though as much as it is just not traditional, not something that people can find in their own personal memory bank of “jobs.”
I am a language coach.
(or rather, one of the things that I do is language coaching, among other things)
To explain I’ll begin by way of analogy.
Lebron James has a personal trainer. Why?
Lebron is one of the greatest basketball players ever. He is one of the most athletic, one of the strongest.
Why would he need a personal trainer?
Pastor and author Andy Stanley said,
You will never maximize your potential in any area without coaching. It is impossible. You may be good. You may even be better than everyone else. But without outside input you will never be as good as you could be. We all do better wend somebody is watching and evaluating.
Lebron knows that he can be better, that a personal trainer can help him get the most out of himself.
As a language coach, I do the same – plus a bit more.
You see, Lebron knows basketball. You could say he is an expert.
Most learning another language however are not experts. Most don’t know where to begin.
Ask yourself, “If I were to want to learn Russian, what would I do? Where would I begin?”
If you are like most learners, you are probably drawing a blank – or you’ve gone to the only idea you’ve ever known – I’d go to school.
As a language coach I would with clients in six main areas:
New Learning Ideas
New Resources for Learning
When I work with a client, I help them create a plan for learning which usually begins by helping them understand how they learn best – in a classroom or out in the community, alone (mostly) or in a group, with lots of technology or with less technology.
I help them think about creating a learning plan for the next six months, for the next month, for the next week and for each day. We break it down.
I give learning strategies and drills and activities that they can use to focus on mastering the different elements of any language.
In this sense, I am never teaching a specific language but empowering people to be able to learn any language.
I help people find new resources – readily abundant and mostly free – to learn their particular language.
Language coaching is also about holding learners accountable to the plan we’ve created and about helping them stay motivated.
In the end, language coaching is mostly about helping people successfully learn another language as efficiently and effectively as possible.
Around the World
Most of my clients are overseas. They are mostly working for non-profits and church organizations.
And so my coaching sessions are all online through Skype.
This morning I met with a client in Istanbul. He was sitting in Starbucks with his iPhone, I was at home in my basement with my laptop.
I could see him, he could see me and for just over an hour we talked about how the language learning journey was going, about where he could be more effective and where he was doing well.
I gave him ideas for activities he could do, for ways to make his daily interaction with the building security guard a better language learning experience. I’ve sent him three or four articles from my website, The Everyday Language Learner, for further reading to expand on topics we discussed.
It is always a rewarding experience to know that I have helped someone step into another day of mastering a language with more hope, with less fear and with new knowledge for getting the most out of the day.
I meet with clients about once a month for an hour and my goal continues to be to work up to 30 clients.
It also provides a bit of income.
Not enough to pay all the bills but enough to keep doing it.
Language coaching is really what I love to do. It allows me to continue to be a part of the work we did in Turkey and to play my part to help others even as we’ve returned to small town South Dakota.
A few weeks back we began the glorious work with fork and and buckets of bringing up the potato harvest.
It was a good harvest, but we think the year might have been a bit too wet and figure the company who came to spray for dandelions may have hurt our production a bit too with a bit of drift and the yellowed, curled leaves that resulted back in June.
But we had quite the harvest none the less and now have several buckets of potatoes in the basement.
Over at my other blog, The Everyday Language Learner, I began a new venture to get people to send me postcards from where ever they live, telling me why they are readers of the EDLL blog. It’s a way to build the community there, to share people’s stories and to get postcards.
I like postcards. I like letters in general. Getting a good, long letter from a friend is like a gift. After finding an uninterrupted space of time, I’ll brew a cup of coffee and find a good seat from which to enjoy the letter.
I’ve never done that with an email.
My wife is an even bigger fan than I of all things letters.
For her it is an art form. The letter is important but so is the paper it’s written on, the envelope it is sent in and the stamp.
I’ve been given the look more than once for putting a plain American Flag postage stamp on one of her hand-made envelopes.
For Consuelo, letter writing has become a bit of a cause – one worth fighting for.
As we have been looking for ways to cobble together an income over the last six months, I’ve encouraged her to think about finding the convergence of her passions, her creative giftings and the economic realities that require income generation.
That is where I hope everyone can find themselves – making the money they need to live through the passions and skills that both bring the most joy and do the most good.
It is what I try to do over at EDLL.
And now Consuelo is ready to give it a try.
Artisan Envelopes and Stationary
We would like to introduce a new series of products – hand-made artisan envelopes and stationary.
Each envelope is cut from a beautiful wildflower guidebook whose pages swelled and binding broke when it found itself sitting in the bottom of a box that found itself sitting in a puddle of water.
The envelopes are all stitched – no glues, no staples – just thread. Each set of eight envelopes comes with 10 sheets of recycled stationary.
$10.00 for a set of eight
If you are interested in getting a set of envelopes and stationary for yourself or as a gift for a loved one, just send an email to me and we will send you a Paypal invoice and put your purchase in the mail. (Shipping is included in the price)
You can contact me here: email@example.com
If you love these envelopes, please take a moment to share this post with your friends and help us spread the word. Thanks!