ITI – March: Part One

Time to start my first full month of teaching online, and I had a near-full schedule. It was exciting because not only was I going to be busy, I was going to meet new people and of course, make a decent amount of money this month.

The first week was okay schedule-wise. I had two days where I had no classes until the evening, so I was able to have a long lie-in (did I mention that I’m not a morning person?) as well as get some stuff done around the house. Wednesday was my busiest day, and my worst day on ITI thus far. My first lesson was with a Russian girl who told me she likes to do pole in her free time. I told her I’d done pole in the past (in an exercise class at a gym, before you ask). I asked her what her thoughts were, and she said she liked it and considered doing it competitively. Now, crazy thoughts came to my head when she said that. What did she mean when she said doing it competitively? I can’t remember what I said, but I’m pretty sure I made it sound like I thought she wanted to make a career out of being a pole dancer. Urgh, SET, what are you doing? Stop. I honestly thought she wouldn’t come back for more lessons—time to move onto my next student, another Russian called Az.

I remember dreading having this class because he sent me a message asking why I don’t provide general English classes for intermediate and above. I explained that I provide them for lower levels because I have some experience of that, and my conversation classes are for intermediate and above. Not long after, he booked a package with me and scheduled all the lessons. I had money on the brain and accepted the package booking without even thinking about having a trial lesson with him. Before class, I sent him messages on Skype and ITI asking him to send me any questions he’d like to ask so I could answer them in class. He didn’t send me any questions, and I had no idea what he was going to say to me. Whenever I have a class with someone new, I ask them a range of questions so I can get to know them and to see what their conversation skills are like.

I remember asking him my questions, and he said he doesn’t like it when teachers ask him questions about himself and that he only wants to learn English. Yes, that’s fair, but at least let the teacher get to know you, especially if you want to have regular lessons with them. I did not like the way this class was going and I started to feel uncomfortable, especially when he kept swinging around in his chair. He then wanted to know the difference between a herd, pack and pride (e.g. herd of sheep, pack of wolves). This threw me off because I didn’t know the answer to his question. It wasn’t something I ever considered. I did my best to answer his question and looked up some different examples. He then said that it doesn’t matter if I couldn’t answer the question. It obviously did because he huffed and puffed a little. I said to him I gave him the opportunity to send me his questions in advance so I can find the answer to them and tell him in the class. I don’t remember how the rest of the lesson went because I had zoned out. I was fed up of this guy and I wanted this lesson over and done with. The end of the lesson arrived and I said nice to meet you, take care, bye and went for a quick break. I was so annoyed at that guy and it left me in a really bad mood. I was over it and wanted to cancel the rest of the day. That was not an option because I had two more classes.

I had the next one which was with a French guy living in Ireland. The lesson didn’t go particularly great, and there were some awkward silences. I don’t know why this was the case because normally I’m a chatterbox. I didn’t expect him to return for future classes. I had a two hour break before my final class which was with Mich, and I was relieved to have some normality and for the teaching day to be over.

Over the next few days, I had a bit of drama happen. The day after our lesson, Az cancelled three of the five lessons in the package he booked. He didn’t give me any notice about this, so I asked him why he wants to cancel those lessons. He gave me a half-arsed reply and said he wants to keep the final class scheduled in the package. I was suspicious, and two and two came together when I remembered him saying he was having lessons daily and used the idiom fits like a glove in regards to teachers. I probed a bit more, and he admitted that he had done this before and it was never a problem. Well, it was a problem for me. I am not going to deal with students who can’t make up their mind what teacher they want, and I was not going to have him take away a time slot from a regular student. I told him I’m going to terminate the package and asked him to never book lessons with me again. As he was replying to my message, I blocked him on Skype so he couldn’t contact me and also blocked him on ITI. I absolutely love it when I get into an argument with someone and block them when they’re halfway through replying. I’d love to see their reaction when they realise they can’t reply. Even though I had a thrill of doing that, it also put me in a bad mood, so I quickly changed my teacher profile to show that I will not accept packages until I’ve had a trial lesson with them.

Once that situation was neutralised, the Russian girl who did pole returned for a general English class with me. She wanted to work on phrasal verbs which I had no problem with because it’s an interesting area of English and I felt like I could provide a simple explanation to them and come up with good examples. I set some homework for her and asked her to confirm she has received my email. I contacted her a few days later to check if she got my email, but she never replied, and she hasn’t come back for lessons since.

I had a trial lesson with a Japanese girl who did the placement test but didn’t give me a breakdown of her scores which annoys the hell out of me because I see it as them being evasive over their actual English level. I had the lesson with her and not only was she eating her lunch during class, but there was also loud banging in the background like someone was doing construction work. It annoyed me because I couldn’t hear what she was saying so I asked her what was going on and she said someone was doing work in her flat. This went on for 45 minutes, and I was over it. It was so unprofessional. Once the lesson was over, I said nice to meet you, bye and I was able to cancel the day. I was also hoping I wouldn’t get any more drama. Wrong. When I checked my stats, the next day, I noticed my 5-star rating had gone down to 4.9 – the cheeky cow gave me a bad rating. I even left feedback for her saying we had a good conversation about British TV shows and hoped to see her again. She didn’t leave any for me, and I’m not sad about it. I wish I left feedback saying she was eating during my class and had building work taking place during the lesson, which was not professional. I wouldn’t have done that by the way, slander and all that shit.

Now that situation was neutralised, am I going to have to deal with any more drama? The answer to that question was yes.

The French guy from Ireland came back for a general English lesson with me. I was absolutely dreading this class because I knew I didn’t make a good impression and I really didn’t want to teach him again. The lesson went awful. He was unable to do the answers on the pre-class materials I sent him. I realised that the material I sent was put in a different format. I profusely apologised so I showed him the copy I had and he answered them. After that, I said that I had homework for him, but he said he’d rather do a Q&A session with me. A part of me was annoyed because I had prepared homework, but the other part was relieved because I couldn’t be arsed with giving him homework and I knew he wouldn’t come back for lessons after this. We talked about the coronavirus and what was happening in our countries. I never saw him again.

On the last day of the week, I had a full schedule. It was mostly non-eventful because it was with returning students, but my final class was with a Russian lady. I was dreading this lesson because not only was she demanding and awkward, she was also weird. When we were messaging each other on ITI, she liked how mysterious that I am and she’s really interested in talking to me. First, that was a weird thing to say. Second, I was actually a bit scared. I had no idea what to expect of the lesson, and I was hoping she didn’t look scary.

When the lesson was due to start, I was tempted to lie and say the camera on my laptop isn’t working and to do an audio lesson instead, but I didn’t. I regret that decision. The woman looked like a cross between Esther from the film Orphan and Lisbeth Salander. She was also sat in a dark room and didn’t say much, even when I was asking her questions. Her level of English wasn’t great, and I believed that she needs more than conversation lessons. She didn’t say anything other than stare at me. I was a bit nervous, and I thought she was going to give me abuse because of what I just told her. She didn’t. She just said thank you and bye. I also prayed she wouldn’t complete the lesson, but she did. No feedback was left thankfully, and she was swiftly blocked.

Lessons learned:

  • Don’t make assumptions about people and what they do.
  • If you have a lesson with a student and you don’t get a good feeling about it (e.g. French guy from Ireland), don’t be afraid to decline future lesson requests.
  • Don’t be hasty when you receive a package request from a student you haven’t had lessons with before. Book a 30-minute trial lesson with them first.
  • Try to keep your cool when dealing with student behaving badly.
  • Try to see past weirdos and find the funny side to it.

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