Teacherpreneurship Revisited: Q&A with Marina Kladova

Not sure what teacherpreneurship is? Before you read on, find out from our 2017 interview here. 

Just before she prepares to present at the IATEFL conference this week, I checked back in with Marina to hear about recent developments and her experiences in the teacherpreneurship movement.

Before Marina takes the floor, why am I on board? Well, teachers have a lot of transferrable skills and ideas to exploit beyond the classroom. Education is a very slow-moving industry, but teacherpreneurship can freshen up teachers’ motivation and reduce the risk of professional stagnation. Most importantly, it can improve students’ education by introducing new ideas and experiences back into their learning.

There are details of Marina’s upcoming online course on teacherpreneurship at the end…

  1. It’s been almost  year since our last interview for the blog. What kind of changes have you seen in teacherpreneurship?

The trend towards the gig economy is growing, therefore more and more teachers are starting to work for themselves, participate in different projects and try experimenting in different roles. Instagram, youtubing and blogging are very popular among ELT teachers and they share materials, ideas and teaching tips, though I’m not sure that many are paid for it. More and more apps are appearing and ELT teachers are starting to participate in product teams to develop them.

However, I think that we, as teachers, are not used to thinking in terms of capitalizing our knowledge and expertise. We need to get more knowledge about running business and develop our teacherpreneurial mindset. Besides, when we do something for free, we need to clearly understand why – if i give away materials for free, will my efforts be worth it?

  1. You’re based in Russia. How is the teacherpreneur landscape developing there?

What I see in Russia is that more and more teachers are starting to be freelancers and working for themselves. There are more and more teacherpreneurs, i.e. teachers with a special mindset who want not only to teach lessons, but to also do something else. We have many projects like communities in social networks, webinars for fellow teachers, events in ELT, creative materials design, etc. There are quite a number of teacherpreneurs in Russia and I’m happy to know some of them.

But it’s a bit sad that there’s still a big gap between high-quality products, the value-based approach and what some Russian teachers offer. They often try to do hard-core business and be sellers, without thinking about real value. Basically, they have heard something about sales and marketing, but without any deep thinking and relevance to the context or audience.

  1. What solution can you see here?

We live in the era of social media and globalization where your reputation and social capitals are your most valuable assets. That’s why whatever you do, think in terms of valuable product even in MVP (minimal viable product) when you check your hypothesis. Network with colleagues, collaborate and promote the ideas you like and of course do what you can do best of all and what you love doing!

Besides, I think competition will help to increase quality standards and people will be more educated on how to choose better products and be selective in purchases. That’s why I invest my time and energy in educating my customers on what a good education is, how they can achieve better results and what they need to pay attention to while choosing the course.

  1. What was your most successful project over the last year?

As a person who likes a holistic approach to life I’d say that during the last year my most successful project was my experience of working as a product methodologist, academic director and later Chief Methodology Officer at Skyeng, one of the biggest online English language schools in Eastern Europe. The decision doesn’t seem teacherpreneurial at all, but I used this as a chance to develop my teacherpreneurial mindset in a business environment and with a team of very cool professionals (product managers, managers, sales people etc).

It was a success for the company because they got the vision and high standards of how processes should work in ELT. At the same time, I got an opportunity to build business processes and the department from scratch with my colleague i.e. to find the team, to develop processes, set KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) and make an action plan for achieving them. It’s given me an understanding of a business-driven approach, how we can marry business and methodology and of course, it developed me as a manager which I couldn’t have done myself as I have no team yet.

  1. Any failures? What have you learned from them?

One of the failures from last year was hiring a person who wasn’t qualified enough for the position, but I was pressed for time and had no other candidates and I decided to take her on. At some point the gap between real performance and KPIs and the amount of work was huge, I gave her the feedback and she reacted very emotionally and stopped talking to me. She had been ignoring me and bad mouthing about me to my other employees for 2 weeks and as a result I fired her. Two weeks later she deleted all the documents which she had created and we were not ready for this. 

The lessons I’ve learnt from this as a manager: 1) Hire the right people – it’s better to wait for the right person to come up. 2) Always do backup copies for all processes and documents. 3) Always explain to people why you hire or fire somebody. 4) Always think about risks and preventative measures.

6. What skills and knowledge does a teacherpreneur need?

Firstly, I’d say that they need a teacherpreneurial mindset. I always say that if you give someone a fish, he’ll eat for the day; if you give him a fishing rod and teach him how to fish, he’ll eat all his life. So I always tell colleagues to develop this mindset so they can help themselves in the future. Secondly, of course some basic knowledge of business like marketing, sales, branding, finances, some legal issues, performance management, project management, etc. Thirdly, some qualities typical for entrepreneurs like growth mindset (more on that here), readiness to take risks and mental agility. Lastly, some other assets like social capital and a good reputation.

  1. I’m interested. What can I do now?

Look around and be open to new ideas. Observe the trends and try to find something interesting for yourself, which is in demand and which you can do best of all. Besides that, you may take some courses in marketing or some separate aspects of business.

Another option is to join my 5-week course on teacherpreneurship – A step-by-step guide to becoming a teacherpreneur which will be held from April 20, 2018. More details – https://teacherpreneur.timepad.ru/event/687902/



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