Saturday, July 14, 2012

Rhetoric of Irresponsibility

I recently participated in a heated discussion on Facebook.  Luckily, the conversation is so far down my timeline that it would probably take four hours of scrolling to find it, thus the identities of those involved have been protected by piles of social-networking compost.  Rather than provide the details of the actual discussion, I've decided to use a substitute topic: 

The whole firestorm started when a teacher posted a rant on her Facebook page that the coffee machine in her office constantly breaks down.  "This is outrageous!" she vented, "I can't teach properly without my caffeine!"   Meanwhile the post collected "likes" and comments faster than ants on a watermelon. Several of those posting comments worked together in the same office.   The majority of the replies were clusters of Yeah!, Word up!, and Agree! Other comments read: "We should complain to the administration about this!" "We should demand better working conditions!" "We should refuse to come to work unless the machine is fixed!"

Being the victim of office-coffee-maker breakdown myself, I sympathized with my colleagues. I posted a few suggestions to solve the problem that have worked for my institution in the past.  More "likes" popped up along with dozens of, "Yeah! We should do that!" 

A few weeks later, I sent an email to the teacher who posted the original rant, asking if the coffee maker got replaced. She reported that the lifeless appliance was still in her teachers' office and nothing had been done to fix or replace it. She threw in how unfair it was to work without coffee.

Strange, I thought.  So many colleagues seemed to have banded together online to help.  There were some good suggestions and it appeared as if the problem would be solved in no time flat.

Upon analyzing the comments from the conversation, I came to a cloudy-day realization: all the suggestions started with "We should..."   None of them started with "I could..."  or "I will..."

"We should..." are perhaps the two words in the English language that will guarantee the project won't get off the ground.   This is what Maria Araxi Sachpazian beautifully calls "Rhetoric of Irresponsibility". 

I work with some wonderful people who come up with some wonderful ideas. However, I hear "we should" almost on a daily basis. I've thus developed a reflex that fires off the following reply: "That's a great idea! Why don't you come up with a game plan to implement it? Let me know if you need help." 

I encourage you all to try this.  And be aware of when you (over)use "We should..." Consider changing it to "I could..." and see where it leads.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Numéro de déclaration d'activité: Part 1

Expolangues was abuzz this year with seminars devoted to trainers who have taken the leap and gone independent. The majority of the attendees were auto-entrepreneur and many were travailleur indépendant.  I am quite pleased to see the growth of independent trainers; it means the field is headed towards an even higher level of quality and trainers are taking charge of their own professional development. 

Taking charge of the paperwork (a popular French pastime) is also key. I've checked and it's possible for both travailleur indépendants and auto-entrepreneur trainers to obtain a Numéro de Déclaration. Many of you may have heard of (or may already have) a Numéro de déclaration d'activité. This is a declaration of your activity as a training entity. It enables private clients to declare your services using their DIF funding (droit individuel à la formation). If you specialize in teaching students in higher-education establishments, then this number if not necessary.  But it's good to have should you wish to take on private clients.

All of the documents, FAQ, and other handy information can be found here:
The basic instructions for what is required when putting together your first "declaration":
The document that you should fill out (though you can also do it online!) for your first "declaration":

I strongly recommend you set up an online account. 

There is even an handy tutorial (in French) that walks you through all the steps for setting up an  account. Wonderful!
This will make things easier down the road when you have to submit your annual BPF, or Bilan pédagogique et financier (an annual report on the amount of money you've earned as a trainer, expenses, the number of hours, and the number of trainees you taught. This report is due every year at the end of April. If you miss more than two annual declarations in a row, you risk losing your number.).

When doing your first declaration you must provide proof of your:
  • SIRET,  
  • Code APE/NAF (e.g. 804C for language training - though I'm told APE has changed to another, similar acronym - shall check on this), 
  • Address (e.g. copy of your electricity bill)
  • Your company name (The name you used when you first registered as an independent - most of us use our own names - some of us have chosen company names).
  • Your first "convention" or contract signed with a direct client (public or private), 
  • Field of activity (e.g. 136 Langues vivantes, civilisations étrangères et régionales), 
  • Name of the founder (you) 
  • If you have any employees paid with a CDII, CDD, or CDI salary (if you're auto-entrepreneur or independent then probably not).
And as always with technology, hope for the best but prepare for the worst. When filling out your online account and data, before you click "continue", print out the page just in case the website is buggy. That will help you save time if you need to fill out a paper version and mail it in (registered of course!).  

Going freelance in France has gotten easier over the past few years. Fortunately for us, it's the same for that loisir français of doing paperwork! 

Part 2 of this article (the BPF annual declarations) will appear mid-March when the BPF forms are available on the declarationof.travail.gouv website.