ITI – April 2020: Part Two

It’s a new week, and most of my schedule is full of regular students. I only had about three new students booked in, so the feeling of dread wasn’t too bad. The first new student was a guy from China who was stan about all things British. He was a nice guy and answered questions I was going to ask him before I had the chance to, which I took as a good sign because it means his English is good and he can hold a conversation (something that’s key in my conversation lessons). However, I found the way he talked really distracting. He sounded like a creepy robot. I don’t know if it was the connection, or he had watched too many episodes of Black Mirror. Despite this, I told him I’m happy to give him future lessons. Whether he’ll come back for lessons, I don’t know, and honestly, I don’t care. I’ve learned not to take it personally when I have lessons with students, and they don’t come back. The rest of the day was teaching regular students, and it flew by.

I only had three lessons the next day, and I had a long break in the afternoon which I was going to use to do laundry. Before this break, I had a trial lesson with a potential student who booked last minute. I sent her a placement test so I could see her current English level and asked for her Skype ID because I couldn’t find her (I also gave her my ID so she could find me). I had no response from her, and I was already starting to dread the lesson. Five minutes before class and making myself look like an absolute weirdo by messaging people with the same name saying, “Hello, it’s SET, your ITI teacher”, I finally got her ID, so I added her and started the lesson. The student was a fifteen year old from Tashkent, and she was lovely, but a little shy. I had my hesitations on whether I could give her future lessons because I was worried she would find my lessons overwhelming, so I was honest and said that she should find a professional teacher who may be more accommodating. I spent the next few minutes hoping she won’t complete the lesson, but she did, and thankfully no feedback. Phew. The student who was booked in for this evening asked to have the lesson scheduled earlier, which was about a half-hour after the class with the Uzbek student. I had nothing scheduled, so I was happy to give her the lesson earlier, plus it meant I finished early, and who doesn’t love an early finish?

I’m getting ready to increase the prices of my lessons for several factors, which include: hitting 100 lessons, demand in bookings and the intention to increase prices every quarter. I’ve been agonising about whether to increase the price for all of my students or new students only. I put a notice on my profile that in 2 weeks, the price will increase and I was telling my regular students to book packages before the last day of the month (30th April). One student did, but the other seemed nervous. He booked lessons with me when I offered a 20% discount on them, and I was hesitant about whether he would book lessons with me again because they were too expensive. This made me very indecisive, and I’m usually a decisive person. I didn’t want to penalise my current students because of the demand for lessons. I also didn’t want them to have lessons elsewhere, because it would make me feel bad, plus I gained a good rapport with them, more so than the Russian guy I mentioned in my previous entry. I was worried that I would get upset even though I told myself not to take it personally if students decide not to have lessons with me again.

I was also concerned about the one student who booked a package with me after I told her about my price increase because I gave students two weeks notice to book packages with me and I was certain she would use it up before the deadline (30th April). Maybe I shouldn’t have given notice so soon. Maybe I should have given them one week’s notice so the package would cover them for most of May and it would delay them having to pay the new price? I was starting to get frustrated with myself because I was so indecisive, and I was worried that I was making myself look unprofessional due to my indecisiveness and constantly changing things around.

Halfway through the week, I was starting to feel down. The students who said they’d book another package with me hadn’t done so, and I was starting to feel like I’m failing at online teaching. Maybe doing freelance work isn’t a good idea? It’s unstable because some days or weeks you’ll be working non stop and have an income, but there’ll be other days or weeks where you won’t have any work and thus no income. I was struggling to think of the benefits freelance work has which include working whatever hours you want and deciding which student you want to teach and which one you don’t want to teach. I made the mistake of going on ITI’s teacher search and see where I am on the list. I was quite high up the list and was usually in the top 20 of UK teachers, but I noticed that I wasn’t there anymore and I couldn’t find myself after going through numerous pages. I didn’t understand why this was happening. I got paranoid and started thinking ITI did this because I was contacting them too much over rescheduling lessons due to illness or was it something more realistic like they show the teachers with the most available at the top of the list. I reduced my working hours for a few weeks, and I don’t work in the mornings, only afternoons and evenings. I tried to figure out different ways to get back on the first page of the search results at the very least. I remember being active on the ITI community and doing multiple notebook corrections as a student. Maybe doing this will help me go up the rankings again? But did I really want to spend my time doing this when I could be doing other things such as updating my teaching video or doing life admin which I was very much behind?

All these thoughts left me in a bad mood, and at one point, I snapped at one of my regular students because she told me she wanted to work on idiomatic expressions right before the class, leaving me no time to prepare for this. I told her that I’m happy to do this with her, but I am not doing it today because I haven’t been given enough time to prepare for it, and I’m not doing such work in a conversation practice lesson anymore. It was also made worse because there was a miscommunication over what she was doing that day. It was to do with her being a lecturer and having to assess students in their examinations or something. However, she said it in such a confusing way that I didn’t know what was going on. I was over it all. I don’t remember what we talked about, but I was just waiting for 8 pm to arrive.

I had two more classes, and they flew by. The topics of conversation in those classes were both weird and also humbling. In the first one, we talked about British accents, new cameras and then talked about serial killers. I have no idea how it got to that point, but it did. We’re going to talk about that more in the next lesson. The final one was on a lighter note, and we talked about empathy. It was really interesting to hear what empathy means to them, and we talked about all kinds of examples. I really enjoyed that lesson and it ended the week nicely.

Lessons learned:

  • Don’t be afraid to tell a potential student that you’re unsure if you can give them lessons, even if they seem like a nice student. If in doubt, don’t do it.
  • Be more prepared, organised and decisive when increasing your prices. Consider increasing prices for new students rather than current students.
  • If the student decides not to return because your lessons are too expensive for them, don’t take it personally. You may have regular students who are happy to pay more for your lessons, and you could have more bookings because to some students, teachers who charge more are better quality teachers (may not always be the case regarding teacher quality).
  • Stand your ground with new lesson policies. If a student books a conversation practice lesson with you, do conversation practice only. If a student wants to work on an area of English, they’re unsure of, or they want help with how to write a CV, tell them to book a General English class or Q&A session.
  • When standing your ground, maintain your composure.
  • Stop slagging off naughty or weird students no matter how much you love and trust your favourite students.
  • On the note of favourite students, try not to play favourites.
  • Don’t compare yourself to other teachers on the website. While it’s good to see yourself near the top of the teacher search result, it isn’t essential. What matters most is that you retain the current students that you have.

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