“What Ifs” in Teaching

I am always filled with “what ifs?”  Especially in teaching.  I started my application with Outschool a bit ago, but my “what ifs” filled me until two months had passed!  I realized if I had just done it when I started I could have been teaching this whole time.  Now that I have entered the platform I am STILL asking, “what if?”

“What if I make classes and no one signs up?”

“What if too MANY students sign up and I am overwhelmed?!”

“What if I have IT problems and I give the learners a bad experience?” 

We all have what ifs, but what can we do about them?  

I also work for VIPKid, and I had these same questions before I started with them.  It even took me a year before I finally applied!  It was Angela’s kind words and videos that convinced me I could do this, that it could change my life.  And it did!  I’m happier, I am supporting my family more, I can breathe easier.  I occasionally berate myself for not doing it sooner, for not solving my problems myself sooner. But I always say, “I can only do as much as I can do.”  I wasn’t ready, I couldn’t manage it. I am so happy I finally did.

As I was having all those, “what if” questions, I was still teaching my VIPKid classes. I had open timeslots that people weren’t booking.  I had some very busy days and was overwhelmed. I had IT issues and figured them out.  I was having a great time teaching WHILE experiencing all of those “What Ifs” from my Outschool concerns.  I realized that I CAN do it!

I’ve learned to write down my “what ifs”, to talk them out, and to get past my own self doubt (OK not really).  But I have learned that those are the steps I need to take when I am ready to tackle them.  I’m still working on planning my classes, I’m still figuring things out, but I have a plan. 

When I start to avoid things I know I want to do because of the “what ifs” and the “what abouts” I have learned to make a list.  I also do this for any type of everyday thing that I am distracting myself from.  I am a list maker.  Am I a list completer? Ha, no.  But it’s there, reminding me of what I can work on. 

Do something, a little thing, then check Facebook for the millionth time (I have also learned to set timers on my distractions!).  Move on to something else you can do.  Do what you can, when you can.  It will get done. And if it doesn’t, that’s okay.  Keep working on it.  

Here is a list helper I created.  It doesn’t have to be perfect, it doesn’t have to fit in the box.  It doesn’t have to be a big problem.  See if it can help you get past your “what ifs.”  I’ll keep trying to get past mine too. 

Will VIPKid Hire Me if I am _____? Will parents book ME?!

I have been asked this question a number of times, and searching the internet I can see that this is certainly a BIG question many people have.  Short answer, YES!  It is your teaching that everyone cares about.  

VIPKid is concerned with hiring teachers with clear, neutral North American accents. That is their concern when it comes to who you are outside of teaching. They market themselves to parents this way.  Parents choose VIPKid for this accent. Most teachers in China are from Australia or New Zealand.  Because of this most parents often would prefer that their child learn a North American accent outside of school.

I think we all worry about changing our hair, piercings, wearing a headcovering, or just what we look like.  Students may ask questions out of curiosity, but usually a simple, “yes, that is my scarf” or, “everyone is different in some way, how are you different from your mother?” will move the conversation forward.  My children are the same way, they just want to point something out.  They don’t have the same judgments that adults do.  I think that we all know that adults can be judgmental.  There are certainly parents who are prejudiced, people are the same all over the world.  But there are also parents who want a quality teacher.  Parents who will see your value rather than your appearance.  Your teaching matters.  Show them who you are, and they will love and value you.

A quick check on Instagram and Reddit will show you a large variety of teachers.  Will you see many who look the same? Sure!  But there are thousands of teachers out there, we are all different.  You can find support and advice from many different groups. There is a Facebook group for VIPKid Teachers of Color, VIPKid Asian teachers, older than 50+, and even one for Retired teachers.  Find one that supports you, that can help you with any questions or problems.  

I’ve also heard, “I’m not bubbly enough.” You don’t have to have an upbeat personality, you can be serious.  There are many parents who prefer this!  Younger students usually thrive with an upbeat, over the top energy, but you don’t have to be someone you aren’t.  Early in the morning it’s hard to turn on that energy and be exuberant for 25 minutes.  The two most important things your student needs from you is to cover the learning objective for the lesson, and to have fun!  

Personally, I am a 40 year old mom. Who at 5 in the morning often looks my age. I have a grey streak of hair I don’t hide.  I have colored the rest of my hair purple and rose gold in the past year.  I have tattoos that occasionally make an appearance.  I wore makeup the first two weeks and gave up. I’ve never had a parent or student say anything (positive or negative) regarding my appearance.  Mostly I get comments on energy (they don’t care that you just rolled out of bed and are half awake) or props I may or may not use.  They want the best learning experience for their child, and you can provide that.

The most important thing about being a teacher is how you teach.  Look professional, but you decide what that means!  You will find students and parents that love you for you.  They will love the way you teach, and talk to them.  When you are happy with who you are, you exude that from the inside.  Don’t hide who you are, embrace it!  Be a strong and positive teacher and you will do well. 

Jessica Hosey- Heitzman