ITI – March 2020: Part Two

I was halfway through March and another full schedule. I had no idea what was going to come my way.

I decided to offer a 20% discount for lessons to entice bookings. It worked. The first two days weren’t too bad, but the rest of the week was ridiculous. I was teaching all day and had very little breaks in between lessons.

My week started with new students having trial lessons with me, most of whom were polite enough and understanding, but I had a Spanish guy who got defensive when I asked him to do a placement test. He didn’t know why I was asking him to do one, and he said that he’s intermediate level. I explained why I ask new students to do a placement test, and I told him he only had to do vocabulary and grammar because those are the most important factors in my conversation classes. He ended up doing all of them, even though I only wanted him to do grammar and vocab. I didn’t mind because it gave me more of an idea of where he’s at with his English. I had the class with him, and I asked him my standard questions (e.g. tell me about yourself, why do you want to learn English, etc.), and then we talked about his scores. He was disappointed because he thought he was at an intermediate level. I told him a lot of students think that they’re intermediate, but realistically, they’re not. Bit harsh of me, but going by my current experiences, it’s true. He was at beginner level for vocabulary and pre-intermediate for grammar. He had a score of intermediate level for listening, but during the lesson, he struggled to answer some of my questions which made me wonder if he really is intermediate or if my accent is too strong for him to understand. After that, we talked about his English lessons, and I advised him to see a professional teacher who can better help him improve his vocabulary level. He asked me to repeat what I said so I did, even though I knew he understood what I had just said. I could tell he was not pleased and he has probably never been told no by a teacher before. There’s a first time for everything, pal. Bye. Another “Please don’t complete the lesson” feeling came by, but he completed it. No feedback left, phew.

I went straight to bed after that lesson because I was tired, and the next two days were going to be brutal. I was teaching non-stop, and most of the students were new, so I didn’t know what I was going to expect. It was a mixed bag experience-wise. I had a few students who were really nice and could speak easily with me, but I also had students who were weird, awkward and downright rude.

The first new student of the day was a guy from Ukraine (E Kharkiv). I remember asking him to complete a placement test before the trial lesson and said he’s not sure if he’ll do it, but he’ll try. He never did. I called him on Skype, and he didn’t answer. I left him a message asking him to call me when he’s ready. Ten minutes had gone by, and I sent him a message asking him if he would like to reschedule the class. He called me straight after that, couldn’t get his camera to work and said, “I can’t see you. The camera isn’t working for some reason, let me call you back.”

I said, “No, you are not going to call me back. We’re going to have the class, and we only have 15 minutes because I have a lesson straight after this and I am not going to show up late for that. If you want to have the full half-hour, you have to reschedule.” He half-heartedly apologised, said that it was his fault for being late. I proceeded with my questions and about midway through, he laughed and said that I’m too formal. Did he honestly just say that? I told him I’m providing a service to students, and to provide a good service, you have to be managing expectations and be professional. Surely as a customer, you want some kind of formality when receiving some kind of service? What an arsehole.

I had a fifteen-minute break before my next class, and I was fed up of listening to his heckling, so I told him that the lesson is over and if he wants to have the full half hour with me, he has to reschedule. After I got off the phone, I went for a drink to cool down. I was not amused. He then sent a lesson request and wanted a 60-minute conversation class, even though I told him to book a 30-minute class. Is he taking the piss, or is he just plain stupid? I declined the request and blocked him.

The next lesson after was okay, and then it was time to have my lesson with an Italian lawyer who had become a regular student, but I was absolutely dreading this lesson. About a week before, she asked me to proofread a court document she had to send to the court. I recommended her to have a lesson with a teacher on ITI who offers proofreading services because they have experience of doing this kind of work, while I’m a newly qualified teacher and have no formal proofreading experience. She said she doesn’t want to have lessons with another teacher and that she has faith in me. Don’t get me wrong, I was flattered by this, but I know my limits, and I had experienced a flare-up a few days before, and I was still trying to get over it. I did it, and I sent it to her. At the very start of the lesson, I told her I have proofread the document and have sent it to her. I then told her that if she wants help like that again, she needs to see someone with proofreading experience. When I look back now, I quite literally read her the riot act. I remember she just sat there and stared at me, and I thought, “She’s going to hit back and contest what I’ve just said.” She didn’t, she apologised and thanked me for being honest with her.” I gave her a list of teachers who offer proofreading services, and she was okay with that. Once the riot act was read, we talked about what the court case was about, and I asked about her line of work which was related to women’s rights. It was interesting, and I enjoyed the class even though it started with a serious tone.

The last two lessons were with two Ukrainians, a guy from Kharkiv and a girl from Kiev. The first one was with the guy—my word. There was so much miscommunication. He told me some places he’d visited, and I asked him about Ireland because I thought he had visited there. He said he hadn’t, but I said that you told me you had visited Ireland and Greece. It turned out he had visited one of the islands in Greece. Once he told me that, I told him how to describe visiting an island in a country. After that, I advised that he should see a professional teacher who can help him improve his vocabulary. According to his placement test, he was at beginner for vocabulary, and I think pre-intermediate for grammar. He said, “Are you saying that I should see another teacher?” I said, “To put it simply, yes.” I was a bit nervous by this point because he didn’t look happy, and I was a bit nervous anyway because he looked like a football hooligan and I thought if this class was happening in real life, he might beat the shit out of me. Another “please don’t complete the lesson and leave feedback” moment came by, but he didn’t. Three days later, he still hadn’t completed it on ITI and the lesson auto-completed. Phew.

My final lesson of the day was with a girl living in Kiev. She was really nice and her English was good. The one thing I did find amusing was she looked a bit like Greta Thunberg. I wasn’t sure if she was going to come back for lessons because I did make a comment about having a guy before her saying he’s from Ukraine and was a bit rude, which may have sounded like I think Ukrainian people are rude etc. That is not true. I know a few Ukrainian people in Spain, and they are lovely and hospitable. She came back for lessons and booked a package.

Lessons learned:

  • Stand your ground when a student isn’t happy with you telling them that they should see another teacher. You get to decide who you want and don’t want to teach.
  • Continue trying to keep your cool when students are behaving badly.
  • Stand your ground when telling students what you can and can’t do with your teaching. If you decide to do something for them one time, tell them that it will be the only time you will assist them in that and stick by that.
  • Stop slagging off students to other people.

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