Agata Pul is the creative genius behind DIY handouts - a grammar handouts generator that helps English teachers to create personalized grammar exercises for their students. When she couldn't find what she needed for her own students, she found a solution. Her productivity tip? The worst thing you can do is start your day with social media, replying to emails or reading the news.
1. Thank you for taking the time out of your busy day for this interview. Can you start off by telling us where you teach and how long have you been teaching?
I have been working as an English teacher for more than 8 years running in-company courses. My students are CEOs, managers, artists and other professionals who are passionate about their jobs and inspire me to develop as a teacher and entrepreneur.
2. Can you describe a typical day?
My day looks the way I plan it so it can be different every day. I am self-employed so I make my own schedule. I love the flexibility of my job. I often travel for work and usually spend 2-3 days a week on a business trip, teaching English to students in the energy sector and automotive industry.
3. Teacher self-care is so important. How do you relax?
We often forget how important it is to care about ourselves and plan holidays before we plan work. I rest best when it’s guilt-free relaxation after I have done all the things I wanted to do and I know it’s a part of the plan. I exercise and do pilates and try to sleep enough but it’s not always easy because I am a night owl. I love reading business books.
5. You took on the challenge of setting up DIY handouts. Can you talk a bit about it?
DIY handouts is a grammar handouts generator that helps English teachers to create personalized grammar exercises for their students.
The Internet is full of English grammar materials, but they do not always exactly match the needs of our students. As a result, the teacher often adapts existing exercises or writes his or her own. With the help of my tool, teachers can create tailor-made material without entering their own content, just by using the elements which are already available. They are called “examples” and are actually different kinds of sentences e.g. gap-filling, paraphrasing, multiple choice. You search through the database just like you search an online shop, add suitable examples to your cart/exercise and mix them to get any combination you need. You get the exercises as a doc file for further editing or save it as a pdf file.
6. How did you come up with this idea?
I created this website to solve my own problem. I used to look for grammar exercises in books and online and it took forever to find something suitable for my students. I searched for various generators and it turned out that the service I needed didn’t exist so I decided to change it.
At that time I didn’t carry out any extensive market research, which, of course, is usually a must when you plan to launch a new product. I just knew I was on to something useful and people would love it. In the worst case scenario I was going to do it only for myself and be the only user.
I shared my idea with a friend, who is also a teacher, and she actually said that she couldn’t imagine it. I knew I had to create the website to show people what I meant. I am not sure if creating a prototype before creating the website would have changed much. My friend uses DIY handouts today and she supports me in my work.
6. You managed to balance teaching and working on DIY Handouts. What is your best productivity tip?
I've read a lot about productivity but I am far from perfect. I always have my schedule and I know what I should do, but sometimes more important issues come up and the plan is changed.
I usually set three important goals for the day and try to achieve one before I have my morning coffee. It tastes better and the other two items seem less challenging. If you get tied up later, at least you did one important thing. The worst thing you can do is start your day with social media, replying to emails or reading the news.
7. How can we find out more about DIY handouts?
Check out www.diyhandouts.com
8. Where can we find you on social media?
On Facebook https://www.facebook.com/diyhandouts/
9. Are you working on any other projects at the moment?
At the moment I’m only working on DIY handouts and all of my projects are connected with it. In my opinion, it is very difficult to focus on more than one big project at a time.
10. How do you promote or market DIY handouts?
I publish free ready-made resources on my Facebook page. I create them on DIY handouts with Premium account features. Some of them are very popular and shared by DIY handout fans. I have also run two small Facebook ad campaigns but I actually treated them like a test before launching anything bigger. I am also lucky to have great clients, users and even bloggers who recommend DIY handouts to their fellow teachers and this is the most rewarding advertising you can have. In the future, I would like to create a system of benefits for teachers who do that.
Next month I will also have the honour to be a partner in a big e-conference for Business English teachers. I'm so glad to be part of it as there are many great speakers and the topic is close to my heart and what I do. I love both languages and business! (There is a special filter on DIY handouts that shows only Business English elements and it was one of the first options I planned).
11. Do you do everything yourself or do you hire people with specific skills to help you?
Yes, I hired a developer to do the programming. I chose him in a little casting I did. I asked him if it was possible to do what I wanted to do and he said everything was possible. Then I knew I found the right person. I do everything else myself.
12. What skills did you gain from classroom teaching that have allowed you to excel as a teacherpreneur?
Probably the ability to express ideas clearly and care for the user experience. I try to treat the users of my website like students who spend time with me and I want this time to be as effective and enjoyable as possible. I want to them leave thinking they got real value. I know it’s my responsibility to provide good content on the website and to make it easy to navigate, just like in the case of my lessons.
13. What have you had to do outside of your comfort zone as a teacherpreneur?
I talk to a lot of people such as my clients, users and fans. I don’t often do it in person but through my email list and Facebook fan page. You may think it’s not stressful but if you send a message that you know thousands of people may see and read it makes me hesitate before I click “Send”. Public speaking has always terrified me and for me being active online sometimes resembles speaking in a conference room full of people. I guess I still need to work on my style of communication.
14. I talk to many teachers about their fear or doubt in trying something new or "putting themselves out there". What advice would you give to these teachers?
There is never a perfect moment to start. Do something and don’t expect that whatever you are going to do will be great from the very beginning. Quality will come with time. There will be ups and downs and it’s best to get used to it and enjoy your own journey. It can really be fun.
Thank you so much for sharing your teacherpreneur journey and for inspiring teachers.
Interested in learning more about transitioning from a teacher to teacherpreneur but don’t know how to get started? Here are some ways:
1. Read more than 80 inspiring teacherpreneur interviews at www.teacherpreneur.ca/blog
2. Sign up for my free 5-day email course How to Start your Side Hustle https://www.teacherpreneur.ca/pl/60868
3. Download The Essential Teacher to Teacherpreneur Toolkit - 50 pages packed with information to get you started as a teacherpreneur at http://www.teacherpreneur.ca
4. Download 10 Tips to Transition from Teacher to Teacherpreneur https://www.teacherpreneur.ca/p/10-tips-to-transition-from-teacher-to-teachepreneur
5. Download The Social Media Make-over Checklist for Teacherpreneurs at www.teacherpreneur.ca
6. Connect with other teacherpreneurs by joining my LinkedIn group https://www.linkedin.com/groups/7060976
7. Set up a private coaching call with me https://www.teacherpreneur.ca/pages/book-a-coaching-session-with-me
8. Connect with me on social media. Teacherpreneurs must be on social media.
My name is Patrice Palmer, M.Ed., M.A., CPP. I have more than 20 years’ experience as an ESL Teacher, TESL Trainer, and Writer. I spent seven amazing years teaching in Hong Kong and have taught students from 8 to 80 years in a variety of programs. I now work as a teacherpreneur doing the things that I love such as writing books, courses and teaching materials; coaching teacherpreneurs, travelling at any time of the year and applying the science of positive psychology to all my work (www.patricepalmer.ca). Contact me at [email protected]
Join our mailing list to receive the latest news and updates from our team.
Don't worry, your information will not be shared.