Tapping into Creativity to Thrive as A Language Coaching Leader — Carrie McKinnon
I am a linguist, tech enthusiast, educator, entrepreneur, and language coach.
Hey Carrie, with that introduction, it sounds like we have a few things in common. But before we dive into that, can you tell us about how you first started teaching English?
I knew that I wanted to live a portion of my life in another culture after having lived in Paris in my early 20s. The pathway to that was an undergraduate degree in applied linguistics and a TESOL certificate. From there I jumped straight into education administration by having the chance early in my career to go into a management position in an ESL school.
In that role I helped university-bound international students prepare for their language proficiency exams, TOEFL, and matriculate into the university system. It was a great opportunity to work with a lot of passionate and skilled ESL teachers that I considered my colleagues but whom I found hard to manage or relate to because I had switched into program and teacher management so early on.
It was for that reason that I went on a global job hunt and took a role as an ESL teacher in Morocco. I didn’t end up staying in the role long before ESL administration called me back into the fold BUT I learned so much about the teacher experience and from then on I always insisted on continuing to work directly with learners in the programs I managed.
I went on a global job hunt and took a role as an ESL teacher in Morocco.
When I worked in educational administration, I found it challenging to be relevant to the teachers the longer I was away from actually teaching. So, I see why you’d want to maintain one foot in each position. Can you tell us what you’re doing now?
Well, fast forward a decade and I have successfully founded two companies focused on language learning and soft skills, but in very different ways. I co-founded a company in Casablanca, Morocco that specializes in working with executives in multinational organizations that need to upskill their English language and executive soft skills, Locus English .
I am also a co-founder of the International Language Coaching Association , which is headquartered on the internet! We work with teachers all over the world that are shifting from language teaching to language coaching. Many of the learners that come to us for training already identify as language coaches and they are there for the language coaching tool kit as well as further deepening of their coaching approach.
We work with teachers all over the world that are shifting from language teaching to language coaching.
Since you co-founded a company that’s based completely online, it’s no surprise that you have a lot of passion for how technology can better our lives. What do you think independent language teachers should know about how they can use technology?
I have the honor of working with language teachers all over the world that are really digging deep to put the pieces together in terms of how they attract and communicate with potential clients, how they are increasing their visibility, and how they are diversifying their revenue streams. The world is more receptive than ever to distance learning models and the coaching medium maps really well into video calls, phone conversations, and online courses that are a part of coaching platforms. Technology is facilitating all of these things and thus empowers entrepreneurs and business owners to continually build their professional endeavors.
At the same time, without access to this technology and without an understanding of how to use it and what is available to help in all of these various areas of building and running a business, it is easy to stagnate and miss opportunities. My passion is specifically for this area of connecting entrepreneurs with the tools they can use to facilitate their business growth. I believe that entrepreneur language teachers should spend time researching, comparing, and trialing the variety of solutions available to them.
My passion is specifically for this area of connecting entrepreneurs with the tools they can use to facilitate their business growth.
I remember when I first pivoted my own career from being solely language and culture focused, to integrate educational technology into my regular practices, it blew my mind with what was possible. So I get your passion for how technology can make the world seem smaller. You recently moved back to the U.S. after having lived in Morocco for 10 years. What has that taught you about an evolving personal identity?
My transition back into life in the United States, my re-acculturation process, lasted for around 18 months. I kept feeling that I should be further along than I was and that I should somehow have the same amount of professional and social status that I had built up as a business owner, employer, and community member for over a decade in Morocco.
What I finally realized is that I was actually starting over. I knew when I walked away from my household full of furniture and books and personal items in Morocco and whittled it all down to seven suitcases for 4 people, that I was starting over with my physical belongings.
What I didn’t realize is that I was starting over professionally and socially, in addition to the physical move I had made. I went from a level 5 life of being ready to create a legacy to a level 1 of survival.
What I learned from this is that, as hard as it may be, it is a gift to recreate myself. I also learned that I had severely ignored my creativity and sunk all of my focus into my business. When that was no longer my primary area of focus, I rediscovered and fell in love with my creative nature. Slowly I have learned to incorporate and lean on my creativity in the new businesses I am building.
When that was no longer my primary area of focus, I rediscovered and fell in love with my creative nature.
Since you’re a co-founder of the International Language Coaching Association, can you talk a bit about the community that you’re developing there?
The ILCA Community is an online platform for language professionals, language teachers, and language coaches. The commonality of our community is that everyone is there because they are in some way interested in language coaching.
At ILCA we often have people ‘show up at our doorstep’ that already identify as a language coach and are looking for a “home”. Some people in our community take our courses to learn or upskill on language coaching and others have literally written books about language coaching!
We have intentionally built this community off of social media because we don’t want it to be a place that someone mindlessly scrolls past, rather we want it to be the place where a language professional goes to seek professional advice, share a win of the day, or ask for input on their LC business. Most importantly, our members participate in a community dialogue about language coaching and where our industry is headed.
Most importantly, our members participate in a community dialogue about language coaching and where our industry is headed.
If anyone reading this is interested in learning more about our community please go to members.internationallanguagecoaching.com and consider joining us today.
If you could go back in time, is there anything that you wished you’d known about earlier when it comes to your language education career?
The thing that comes to mind for me the most is the shared responsibility for the learning process. I spent a lot of time not having the vocabulary to address this with the learners I work with and also taking it upon myself to carry the burden of the learning responsibility myself.
This led me to years of content headaches through searching for the ‘perfect’ materials and creating very specific training materials for my clients.
These days when a client comes to me to learn a language, I know how to explain to them what our process will be and how important their contribution to this is. I am no longer beholden to finding the “perfect” article or the “perfect” text book to bring to a session because I have powerful reflective questions to ask, and I have partnered with the learner to facilitate their learning, not somehow transmit the language into their brains.
That sounds so liberating! Is there anything else that you’d like to share about yourself?
I am the founder of , a business dedicated to promoting menstrual cycle awareness. Oftentimes women are taught to not speak about or honor our periods. 28ish is not only trying to change this stigma but also make space for women to learn and understand the impact their entire 28ish day hormonal cycle has on every aspect of their lives. I consider this kind of self-awareness a gateway to the ultimate self-care available to women. If anyone reading this would like to learn more don’t hesitate to reach out!
That sounds like such a creative business!
Okay, so if others want to connect with you online, how can they do that?
Email: cmckinnon1 [ at ] gmail [ dot ] com