Applying some #Chaos

The first step was taken. Let’s try this freelancing for a while and see where it takes us. You know, it has been difficult, as it can prove extremely hard to break habits you have had for years. A school environment can offer an abundance of opportunities, set you in a norm, train you to operate and be an efficient collaborator; it can also facilitate, in a way, your being a teacher, deal with bureaucracy, so you can focus on the teaching. In theory. While discussing my choice to freelance with colleagues I received some rather peculiar feedback, in my mind anyway: ”you will now be solely responsible for everything”. Two arguments there: 1. Why should this be a problem? Aren’t we supposed to be responsible for what we say and do? and 2. No, I will not be solely responsible, since I do not control the world.

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There are a number of things that could go wrong when you are trying to organize your freelancing life.
You might not get the number of students you wished for. You may not know how to deal with paperwork and finances. You might feel excluded from the teacher community and deprived of development opportunities. It might turn out that you prefer the, sometimes false, safety of a school.
It seems to me that it simply cannot work if you see yourself as a school teacher. In fact, when you’re freelancing only one word should go next to teacher, the one that describes your context. I could generalize and state that the same applies to all teachers, regardless of their state of employment, but I won’t. What I will say, though, is that more or less the same thoughts go through our teacher-minds, with only slight variations.
The decision to go freelance was made at a difficult time for me, on both a personal and professional level, and my difficult times are usually cured by lots and lots of reading and a fair amount of writing. Among other pieces, I particularly enjoyed Lorenz and his Chaos Theory, which led me to the Turbulent Mirror by F. D. Peat and J. Briggs, which in turn opened the path to a serious number of articles, approaches and further inner dialogues. When I came across the term self-similarity, another door opened, to the patterns that form from the same elements or original pattern, but are never the same. I kept thinking that there was such a commonality between where I stood as a freelancer and what was being described in all those readings. Could they actually be applicable in what I attempted to do?
Not so long ago, Achilleas Kostoulas wrote an article on Complexity in ELT, sharing a definition and an insightful approach on the connection between Complex Systems Theory and Linguistics, which brought more ideas to surface along with even more queries. I urge you to read it.

I decided to give chaos a go, on all levels. I’m not necessarily in the position of giving advice, but I have made certain discoveries for myself that I’d like to share.

-What I had to alter was not the practice, but the scope. The idea that we can plan things in detail seems rather ridiculous after two years of embracing chaos, yet it used to be my empowering move for a long time. Make small plans and leave room for improvement and external influences.

-Being open is misunderstood and somehow it feels it always will be. Again, it depends on how one approaches it; to me, open means curious. There are so many wonderful and scary things out there, it is such a shame to miss the chance to experience them and make them work for you.

-Curiosity leads to an even more open world. It is admittedly hard to be objective, to know what you should and shouldn’t do, but you might just miss the opportunity of doing something brilliant. Even, or especially, in freelancing what matters is keeping yourself trained, available and flexible.

-Things happen and you cannot control them; you can only control how you react to them. Our days are series of nonlinear movements and accepting that sets us on the path of discovery.

-Learn to notice patterns. We live and work in such dynamic systems, that self-similarity is real and all around us.  Learn to appreciate patterns, what they can offer you and what you offer them.

-Do things when it feels right to do them and don’t do them in expectation of a specific result. Do them because you and everyone involved agrees to them.

Does all this practically apply to the freelancer world? I say yes. Think of your student network and the word-of-mouth that keeps you going. Think of your PLN. Think of your presence in your community, be it real or virtual. Why not think of your presence in the world, as well?


4 comments on “Applying some #Chaos

  1. Join the club of freelancers – I have been doing it for years, sometimes with semi-permanent jobs at colleges or universities but I still get to decide which classes I would like to take and who I want to work with or for. Finances and accounting can be tricky but after a while it all begins to make sense and for me, the benefits have long outweighed the disadvantages. Just get all the info you need about insurances, taxes and so on and then let yourself enjoy!

    • ChristinaC says:

      Thank you for your comment Marjorie! I’ve been trying freelancing for some time now – that’s why I started this ‘Freeelancer Diary’ section of the blog, to reflect on what has been going well and perhaps not so well. I have been enjoying it and when it comes to bureaucracy and paperwork, it really is something you get used to.

  2. Zhenya says:

    Dear Christina

    Thank you for the wonderful post: made me reflect on my own freelancing time as a teacher trainer/curriculum designer (the last 5 years in fact) and … made me appreciate it more, with the patterns I noticed and missed, with the opportunities it brings, and responsibility, etc. I think the main word for me is freedom – something I really missed in the corporate/school word. What is missing is perhaps stability and predictability (but then I know a lot of school teachers out there who are equally dreaming about those two, for various reasons)

    Just wanted to say thank you for the blog, and for this post specifically, and to wish you good luck in exploring this world of freelancing (or being independent/flexible/open teacher).


    • ChristinaC says:

      Zhenya thank you so much for this comment. We miss patterns often, don’t we? But it’s ok, new ones will always emerge. And I totally relate to seeking freedom and some predictability, but since we rarely actually get them, I’m fine with random happiness in the teaching world. Flexibility and openness are key for me and I’m glad you could see it through the post.
      Thank you for reading the blog and sharing your thoughts!

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