In my last blog I wrote about how I’m embracing collaborative working with other freelancers in order to get more done & offer a better service to my clients. The thing that has struck me while talking to my network of colleagues & fellow freelancers is just how tough the last year has been on solo-workers. The beauty of freelance work is the freedom it allows us; to work where & when we choose, to network & collaborate with a wide variety of colleague & clients who share our interests & drive. But this year has really challenged the working dream!
Humans by nature are sociable creatures so it’s frightening to think about the long-term impact that this forced isolation will have on society as a whole. This most recent lockdown is taking its toll on everyone with large numbers of people going several days at a time without human connection. This is no good for our wellbeing.
I think it’s totally understandable to not be feeling at the top of your game right now. There’s a lot going on, and it gets even harder if you’re trying to home-school too whilst keeping an income rolling in. Support for self-employed people has been minimal, and for those newly self-employed due to losing their jobs it’s non-existent, so the pressure for peak productivity is high!
As freelancers we’re used to working on our own iniative and self-motivating but after almost a year of isolation in stressful, uncertain times with constantly changing rules, even the most stoic character would feel the effects. A lot of fellow freelancers I talk to are finding increasingly that they’re feeling the cumulative effects of the last few months on their wellbeing. I’m having weekly conversations with my network about fighting feelings of frustration, loneliness, low-motivation and uncertainty. And it’s not just a couple of people – it’s EVERYONE I talk to.
So I had an idea. My network is full of interesting, funny, warm and wonderful people so why not make some connections & offer these people the chance to cheer each other up! It’s easy to think you’re the only one feeling the struggle if no-one else is talking about it. So I’m introducing ‘Freelancer Fridays’ as a chance for fellow lone-workers to connect with their peers and give a little moral support for the crazy times we’re all living in.
The event is a monthly, informal zoom meet-up for anyone who wants to chat with fellow freelancers about the joys of home-working, home-schooling, finding motivation or new clients in a pandemic & anything else that springs to mind. Use it as a networking opportunity, or just a way to see some smiling faces & take 40 mins out of your day for a wellbeing boost.
If you want to join in send me a message to firstname.lastname@example.org and I’ll sign you up!
The aim is to run them the last Friday of every month, from 2pm but keep an eye on Caffeina Socials for any extra updates!
Happy January folks!
Over Christmas, I'll admit I not only got to rest, but I managed to switch off to such a degree I actually got to reflect on things (a rarity when you are often working 60+ hours weeks every week). One of the things I was really reflecting on was the impact of the past year on those of us that aren't employed by others.
Running a business or being self employed is hard work. 2020 and the Coronavirus pandemic seemed to push that to a whole new level, leaving people feeling completely isolated and unsupported and also adding a whole new raft of 'newly-unemployed-so-finding-myself-going-it-alone' freelancers.
When you’re running your own business you get used to mastering a lot of different skills all at once. While my first loves are coffee and education, in order to make my freelance career work I’ve had to pick up a raft of new, unrelated skills.
Any self-employed person will understand that there’s a lot of plates to keep spinning. Some of them will help pay the bills, some of them don’t, but they must be done nonetheless .
It’s a difficult balancing act to know where to expend your energy, which tasks require the most attention & in what order of priority. One of the wisest things a freelancer can do is recognise when it’s time to accept their own limitations and collaborate with an expert instead.
I am a firm believer in supporting fellow freelancers and am lucky enough to know a network of skilled professionals I can call on for collaborative working. Since Covid-19 has caused a dramatic reduction in face-to-face contact with colleagues or clients; this year I have decided that I will aim to fully embrace collaborative work with my fellow freelancers and where better to address it than here in the blog?
Throughout my working career it sometimes feels like I have signed as many NDA's (Non-Disclosure Agreements) as I've had hot coffee, so sometimes it can be really tough being a 'silent' member of the team. Plus - lets be real, how can you showcase your talent if you aren't allowed to reveal the work you're doing?
So, in the spirit of celebrating collaborative work I would like to introduce some extra members of the Caffeina team who have worked with me, lending their abilities, support & skills to the Caffeina cause. You'll also find some gorgeous pics of them on the 'Meet The Team' page here.
Brooke is the resident design guru. A qualified interior designer, she helps with café layouts and interior styling as well as branding & graphic design for clients.
Brooke is a fellow freelancer, running her own business Brooke Harmony Design and we’re grateful to have her to call on for design work and collaborations. She’s learned lots about coffee but still prefers tea & when she’s not glued to her computer, you’ll find her on a site visit or exploring the wilds of South-West England.
Certified word-nerd Jess is our go-to writer. She works on our blogs, articles for trade-publications and social media content. Before setting up her copywriting company Neon, Jess spent a few years working in the coffee industry, building her knowledge & sampling as many different coffees as she could get her hands on. Also a qualified teacher; Jess shares the Caffeina dedication to high quality coffee education & inclusivity.
When not busily typing away, Jess can be found at the beach with her dogs curled up with a good book.
Rachel is a coffee lover & barista based in South Wales and is lesson planner extraordinaire!
She has a biology degree & 15 years of secondary school teaching experience, so the coffee industry really doesn't scare her.
She is also mum to two young boys.
When not working or being mum, you'll usually find her enjoying (more) coffee, baking, travelling or blogging about any number of those things!
So, here I am introducing some members of the broader Caffeina team. The people that listen to my crazy ideas, encourage me to crack on, and support me with their skills so we can deliver the best possible outcome available to clients all around the world.
May 2021 be the year of collaboration, community, support and guidance and feel free to reach out if you want to join the team or just want a fellow freelancer to lean on!
Caffeina Consulting X United Baristas: Restart Coffee
Let’s be honest; 2020 has been a really tough time for hospitality. The knock-on effects on the coffee industry have seen many of us out of work; either furloughed or redundant and worried about our futures. It would be easy to fall into negative thinking and start to feel sorry for ourselves. I’ll admit to a few one-person pity parties during the early days of lockdown. But while it is clear that the Covid-19 pandemic is a long-term difficulty & that the industry is still full of driven people, who care deeply about the fate of coffee professionals; it’s time to shake it off & opt for action, rather than passive worry.
During the first lockdown I set to work on a long-term goal of mine, creating a series of training videos, lessons and assessments to make remote learning a possibility for coffee professionals. Suddenly I had the time to focus on my idea & have created something I’m genuinely proud of. Like a lot of self-employed people my income dropped off a cliff but I was able to find the positives and focus on a rewarding project. If I’m honest it was just as valuable to my mental wellbeing as it was for my career goals.
That’s why, with the start of a second national locdown, I was delighted to be partnering up with United Baristas on a project aimed at giving coffee professionals free advice, training and support.
Restart Coffee was a project started originally by United Baristas in response to the first lockdown. The project gathered & presented information, specific to coffee professionals, on the furlough scheme, reopening your coffee shops, financial information as well as tips on minimising the environmental impact of increased hygiene measures. There were also segments on employment advice, including steps to take if you’re thinking of retraining or changing your job role due to the pandemic.
When this new lockdown was announced Tim Ridley, the man behind the project approached me to discuss how it could be expanded to offering further support to our battered beloved industry. I was so excited to join & grow something so worthwhile!
The future output of the project will focus on different employment areas in the coffee industry, with a higher focus on employment, industry skills and insight into the various roles available to someone with a love of coffee. Perhaps you have been made redundant, or facing job insecurity; here you can gather ideas of how to stay within the coffee sector, but consider up-skilling or a sideways step into a new aspect. This is particularly necessary now as unemployment grows and more people find themselves furloughed, or re-furloughed. It’s such a worrying time of uncertainty for so many; it’s good to be creating something positive and practical.
Each week will see us focus on a different topic or area of working in coffee, starting with sales & account management where we will interview two experienced professionals who will give insight into their day to day workings of the role. Alongside that we will share some handy tips & points to consider for coffee professionals looking to expand their CV.
The project is growing all the time so make sure to follow our socials & check back regularly for further support, information and updates. The intention behind the project is to take the current, challenging situation and offer as much positivity as we can to our colleagues and peers. We feel strongly that the coffee & hospitality industry is facing its biggest challenge in our life-time and, while we may feel powerless in the face of such events, we are none of us powerless to affect change in our own sphere of existence.
If you require more targeted support & advice please see the below links:
For wellbeing & mental health:
Hospitality Action: https://www.hospitalityaction.org.uk/
For financial & employment advice:
Citizens Advice: https://www.citizensadvice.org.uk/
Information on Furlough: https://www.gov.uk/government/news/furlough-scheme-extended-and-further-economic-support-announced
When teaching adults vocational skills, it’s absolutely vital to have a secure grasp of the material you’re teaching, that’s a given. However, something that is all too often overlooked in adult education is the trainer’s understanding of pedagogy. Yet it’s just as crucial as being an expert in your field.
Pedagogy is the theory & practise behind all good teaching. For me, as a coffee skills trainer it’s not enough to just know a lot about coffee; I also need to understand how to best get this knowledge or skillset across to my students.
In its simplest expression ‘teaching’ is the delivering of knowledge and ‘learning’ is the intake of knowledge. They are closely linked, but distinct processes. An ineffective teacher will inhibit the success of the learner and an un-engaged learner will not retain information, no matter how passionately delivered by the teacher. The student’s success is dependent on an effective teacher, and also how well they’re able to engage in the lesson.
The proof that the learning process has been successful is almost always in the form of a test, or a demonstration that the student can apply the new knowledge independently. This is a universally accepted model of assessing the efficacy of teaching and learning, no matter the age group or the subject. So far so simple, right?
The challenge for teachers arises from the simple fact that no two learners are built the same. What works for one, may not necessarily equal success for another. So how do we, as trainers, ensure that every student we teach is set up for success?
It’s all about inclusion. That means for EVERY learner you may encounter.
How to facilitate success for ALL learners
The students I teach are a diverse bunch; coming to their learning with lots of experiences, strengths and limitations that make them unique. For me, inclusive teaching is not just a box I try to tick, it’s a responsibility to each learner who has the right to be given the opportunity to excel. It’s something I’m passionate about, and I make no apology for holding our industry to account for inclusive practises.
There should be no physical, mental, cognitive, linguistic or any other difficulty that can’t be overcome with some adaptive, inclusive teaching. And it’s easier than you might think.
The simplistic approach to teaching & learning in the introduction makes the journey of successful learning seem straightforward: Teacher spouts out some knowledge, student takes notes & regurgitates the information during the test. Voila! Learning has occurred!
However the process we go through to get a successful outcome can follow any number of patterns or identities. Delivery of knowledge tends to default to spoken or written, and demonstration of knowledge tends to take the form of a written test. But these are not the only ways to achieve successful teaching & learning.
What if your student understood every word you spoke, but was so severely dyslexic they couldn’t read or write well enough to perform for the test? Have they truly failed or could there be another way to demonstrate how knowledgeable they now are?
Being an inclusive trainer means using a variety of supporting resources and adapting your teaching style to meet the needs of your learning. It’s worth investing some time in creating resources or thinking about the structure of your lessons. Imagine the variety of students you might come across and the barriers to success they may need to overcome: Is your current teaching style up to the challenge?
As an educator and a human being I would hate to think a student felt marginalised, unsuccessful, or excluded during any of my courses. Being an inclusive trainer is a mindset we must all take on. It’s an acknowledgment that a human’s default state is not able-bodied & ‘normo-cognitive.’ It’s a dedication to sometimes uncomfortable reflections on my own performance, prejudices and provision; and being open to learning & adapting my teaching style, lesson content & physical environment to better advocate for students’ achievement.
Once you have adopted the inclusive mindset you will already be thinking of some of the barriers to success your students will bring with them to lessons. Accessibility is the practise of ensuring that, wherever possible you make provision to help the learner overcome these barriers – At the very least we should pledge to not make the difficulty worse through an unsympathetic teaching style!
Accessible lessons are ones where the trainer provides learning materials or resources in different formats, styles or languages. Your students may have difficulty with auditory processing, written language or understanding more than one instruction at a time. But if you have pre-empted and provided for each type of learner your lessons will be accessible through written, visual, auditory & kinaesthetic delivery and activities – all can flourish in this environment.
Students with Physical difficulties may need the environment adapted to promote their success. For example, I taught barista skills to a student with impaired motor skills, (potentially a big challenge to his success as a barista). We overcame a lot of difficulties simply by changing the layout of the equipment on the bar & finding some ancillary items to support efficient workflow – simple steps to success!
Now that your lessons offer the possibility of achievement for all learners it’s important that your students see themselves reflected in your teaching resources. As I have said; there is no ‘default’ human so representing all types of learners in your materials is a clear signal to students that this is a space where all are valued and all can succeed. Whether it’s through pictures, names, anecdotes you use to support your teaching: Show up for BAME, disabled, LGBTQ+ people.
A little louder for the people at the back: I cannot stress how powerful it is to represent minority groups!
Paving the path to success
As a vocational trainer I have a passion for my subject & the industry that has encouraged me to this point in my career. I want to see the coffee industry thrive, despite the difficulties we currently face. The absolute key to our growth & success is in attracting and promoting talented people into the field and this can only be achieved if the route is clear. As a trainer it is my job to pave the way & ensure that success is open to anyone with the drive & passion to succeed, no matter the challenges they face. As a coffee lover it is important that I help support and build up our beautiful industry. By holding people accountable and providing support to inclusion for everyone, right through the value chain, we can strive for a better, more inclusive learning environment for everyone.