It’s Jo Gakonga everybody! *crowd go wild*
An ELT ‘legend’ – CELTA Trainer, video creator, someone whose tips and advice I found super helpful early in my teaching career (and still do now!). In this showcase post, Jo talks about her ELT journey, her venture into online learning, course creation, video creation, and she promos her latest course.
Honest? Very. Boastful and smug? Not IMO. Jo is proud of her achievements, genuinely helpful, knowledgeable, successful, and happy.
Take it away, Jo!
(Learn more about showcase posts at the end of the article)
I have a very nice life.
I live near the sea, I work when I want and where I want doing creative, meaningful work, I feel appreciated and although I’ve been an English teacher, a CELTA trainer and MA TESOL tutor in a prestigious British university, I’m earning more now than I earned in any of those jobs.
Good for you, you say. Don’t be so smug.
Fair enough. But after this initial reaction, you may be curious. Well, what is it you’re actually doing that gives you all these perks? The short answer is ‘making video for education’ but let me take you back a bit further to how it all began.
I started teaching English in 1989, became a CELTA tutor in 2000 and was happy through the noughties, working in a local college with great colleagues, bringing up my three children. However, I’m a person who likes to keep developing and so in 2010, when my youngest son started school, I started an MA TESOL and as part of that, did a module on ICT and started dabbling in online learning.
My main motivation for this was to develop a course to give CELTA trainees some pre-course training in grammar terminology – what’s a past participle? What’s a preposition? What’s an uncountable noun? That kind of thing. The knowledge that people coming to the course with English as their first language often don’t have. Initially, I set up a live online course. Live teaching was what I knew and what felt comfortable with. I had 120 people sign up in a week (it was free!)…great… but how many people turned up every week? About FOUR. Clearly, this wasn’t working.
As time went on, in addition to running the classes live, I started recording them and putting these online and what I found was that more people watched the recordings than came to the live sessions (clearly, the recorded me was a better option than the live me – not sure how to take this!). When I started putting that content into shorter videos, that number rose even further. This was the key.
So, I sat down and developed a video based course that I called ‘Grammar for Language Teachers’ and this led, in January 2012 to launching my website, ELT-Training. People seemed to like it. They said it felt as if I was sitting there with them, explaining things in a personal and friendly way. They said they felt as if they knew me.
At the time, I really didn’t expect much from it. As I said, I had a job that I liked and the video making was a bit of a hobby. An interest that earned me some pocket change. I didn’t expect it to lead anywhere.
How wrong I was……
Over the past decade, making videos and video based courses has had a significant impact on both my professional and my personal life and it has done this WITHOUT an huge risk on my part. It’s co-existed with my main, wage-paying job and grown steadily until it was able to support me alone and give me the freedom I love.
What’s been good about this journey?
It’s brought me great work –I think that it was a significant factor in getting a fantastic job at Warwick University, and the fact that I’ve put my head above the parapet as a teacher educator has landed me all sorts of work as a CELTA assessor, JCA, freelance CELTA Tutor and ELT Consultant.
It’s brought me recognition – I’ve also been invited (and paid) to go to some really nice places to speak at conferences (and done a lot online!) and I put out a lot of free stuff which allows me to feel that I’m giving something back to the community.
It’s brought me satisfaction-Do I feel appreciated for this? Yup -every day I get emails and messages on social media from people expressing their warm regards for what I do. This always makes me smile.
It’s brought me freedom -Finally, and this really is the icing on the cake, my business has now grown to the extent that I can rely on the income it generates (significantly more than I used to earn at Warwick) and I’m now able to live and work wherever I want – Greece, Italy and Australia so far!
This is not a boast. I have no pretensions about my teaching ability. I think I’m pretty OK, but I know lots of teachers and trainers who are just as good or better than I am. The difference is that by making video and getting it out on social media, I have given myself a voice. This is the power of making video for education.
Earlier this year, I decided that this was something I could share with other teachers and so I launched VoiCE – Video Creation for Educators. It’s an eight week group programme with input and practical work combined, and a strong emphasis on peer and tutor support and group feedback. Every week, I teach you a manageable amount about making video and every week, you make a video that’s relevant to the work you do. Then in small group feedback sessions (up to four people), I invite you to comment on it, discuss what went well and think about what you could work on for next time. If this sounds like a familiar structure, it’s because I based it on the CELTA model, a learning experience that I KNOW to be valuable and effective.
I put this together because I could see NOTHING else out there that delivers in the same way.
Yes, you can Google the information you need, but how long will it take you (it took me 10 years). Yes, you can buy a DIY course much more cheaply, but will you be motivated to see it through? What will happen when you get stuck? There are other group programmes out there, but not with this amount of small group work and 1-2-1 support and not run by anyone who really KNOWS this industry and cares about your success (I really do – on both counts).
Participants love the course – here’s a quote from one who has now made a video course for IELTS to sell and is getting himself known on Instagram:
‘VoiCE’ has been amazing. I think I’ll look back to this time and realise that doing this course was life changing. It’s been fun, manageable, challenging and rewarding. We’re actually making real videos that we can send out into the real world and use whatever way we wish. The best thing about doing this course is that you stop thinking about ‘doing things’ and instead actually do them! I highly recommend it.
You can see other case studies and lots of testimonials here.
If this is sounding interesting to you and you think it might be something you’d like to do, I have a FREE training session on September 10th at 12pm BST. Discover how making educational video can change your life – can attract more learners, make you more money and give you more freedom.
Come along for some tip tips on making a start down this track and see why YOU should be making educational video and utilising the teaching skills you have to the full. Come and get yourself a video VoiCE! Sign up here.
Got other questions? Feel free to email me on Jo,firstname.lastname@example.org
About showcase posts
I’m offering teacher-writers-content creators (etc) the chance to showcase their work. They decide what and how they do that, meaning the content of this post is their own (minor edits, that’s all). The aim is to give more writers a voice, especially those that are either up-and-coming or without their own blog. In this case though, I’m showcasing a bit of a guru – just because they are awesome.
I’m happy to host your post if you are looking to promote your own resource. Please do check back now and again to see if anyone has asked you questions in the comments section.