Kim Carroll – ESL Teacher Trainer

I think teachers underestimate all they do in a day. If you take the time to list the tasks you need to teach, you’ll find you could be an entrepreneur.

If you are considering a career change from classroom teaching, Kim Carroll’s interview is thought-provoking on two levels. Firstly she provides great insights into how she made the transition from classroom teacher to business owner. Secondly her business may be the resource and support you need to make a transition, particularly if you are interested in teaching English as a Second Language. This post is part of a series of posts profiling careers after teaching.

What are your qualifications and experience in classroom teaching?

  • Advanced TESL Certificate
  • Certificate in TESOL Teacher Education
  • M Ed, Divergent Learning
  • Certified Professional Coach

I’ve been teaching/training in ESL since 1999, and running a TESOL Certificate program since 2004. I’m working on Catalyst Intercultural now, which provides intercultural training, coaching, and consulting to global organizations. That means if you want to teach English overseas or want to work interculturally, you should come see me first to learn how.

How do you explain what you currently do to make a living?

I’m the founder and director of English for Life Academy, and the co-founder of Catalyst Intercultural. I train teachers to teach English overseas, and do language and intercultural trainings for organizations.

That’s the official description. As an entrepreneur, the day to day work is often making a marketing plan, updating a website, sending invoices, fixing the printer, etc.

Can you give some background about how you decided to leave the classroom?

While teaching in several ESL programs for adult immigrant students, I kept getting offers to do private tutoring. Within a few years, I was teaching so many hours of private classes I had to quit my day job! When it came time to hire someone (and the options were scarce), I decided to move into teacher training.

How long did it take you to make the transition?

I continued to work in the classroom part-time for many years, mostly because I loved it and didn’t want to leave ESL teaching. I also believed that in order to train teachers effectively, I needed to also BE a teacher and not lose touch with that.

What are the top three things someone should know or do in order to successfully change careers?

I think teachers underestimate all they have to do in a day. If you actually take the time to list out all the tasks, qualities, dispositions, etc that you need to teach, you’ll find that with a slight shift of language you could be an entrepreneur, CEO, etc.

1) think about what you really want to be doing with your time. What’s your “zone of genius?” What makes you happy? What could you do without?
2) Think about other scenarios in which you could be doing those things.
3) Be open to “being a teacher” in non-traditional scenarios. So many of us identify only as Teacher. Shift your perspective, and know that you are still a teacher, even if it’s not in the traditional sense.

What is the best way to get started?

Some people like big leaps, but for me, it was baby steps. Be open to the possibilities.

What advice would you give to anyone wanting to do what you have done?

I moved from a background of classroom teaching to running a company. I invented and reinvented the wheel so many times because I insisted on doing everything myself, and it slowed me down. My advice to the people I coach who are starting a business is to find the balance between knowing that you CAN do it yourself, and knowing that you don’t HAVE to. Work smart.

What were some of the problems you faced?

– feeling comfortable not getting a steady paycheck and relying on myself
– feeling scattered with so many things to do
– creating systems (financial, project management, hiring, etc)
– putting a price tag on what I did/undervaluing myself

Which teaching skills have proved to be most valuable?

The ability to plan and flexibility have been the keys to being an entrepreneur. “Monitor and adjust” happens way more in my office than it ever did in my classroom.

If you had one secret to give about changing careers what would it be?

It’s not about being brave.

People have always told me that I was so brave to “start my own thing.” I’ve never felt particularly brave. It’s always just been one foot in front of the other, moving toward how I can do the Greatest Good while finding my Greatest Happy.


Connect with Kim at English for Life Academy or at her new company Catalyst Intercultural.

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