In just two days I have three new students. I don’t market, I no longer post ads or on ESL forums, I have gotten all of my students in the last year through word of mouth. My students tell their colleague, or aunt, or friends. We have a trial. I fit them into my schedule. Every time I say I am going to clear my schedule and work less I don’t. I’m certain if I don’t make money at every possible chance that it won’t be there in the future. That’s the fear of having to be without. But I continue to ask myself, “without what?” I make enough to eat, keep a roof over my head, pay my student loans, my phone bill, life insurance, dine out, go to events, take the taxi or the bus, put money in my savings, and the list goes on and on but I still have that mentality that if I’m not sleeping I should be working. Plus, these new additions, I think, will be enjoyable.
So, how did I end up with three new students? It happened working at the café for the past two days.
Here’s the backstory. My AirBnB host decided to upgrade their internet service and their provider cut off their internet. I woke up early, prepped my lessons for my first class and noticed I couldn’t connect. Now, they know I teach online, my host even sat in while I was teaching a lesson so when I knocked on their door to ask what was going on they understood my panic. My host explained what happened and offered to take me to the closest café that had internet AND keep my mini while I worked. For this free internet all I had to do was purchase a baked good or coffee. Due to the café being so loud inside, I found a small table outside and started teaching my classes for the day. I had two one hour classes, one at 8 am and the other at 11 am.
When I teach my classes I tend to get a bit animated, even though my students cannot see me you’d think they were right in front of me…and I speak with my hands. I also point to my mouth when I’m trying to get them to repeat a word, again, they can’t see me, so I can just imagine how I look to passersby.
Anyways, this lead to some interesting conversations between my classes on both days. An older man came out and sat at the same table as me. I politely looked at him and smiled, really I was thinking, “Can’t he see I’m working? There’s plenty of places for him to sit.” I continued to stare intentionally at my computer screen and avoided looking u and hoped, that with my headphones and the lack of eye contact he wouldn’t start speaking to me while I was in the middle of teaching. As soon as the class ended, I removed my headphones and smiled at the man. He asked me what I was doing and I explained that I was teaching English through Skype. He was fascinated and told me that he had taught math and physics for a few years in both Germany and Britain. We had a conversation about online learning technology and I told him I used to teach math online but I didn’t enjoy it. He then asked if he could take classes with me because he wanted to start speaking English again and couldn’t remember anything beyond mathematical terms (even though we had a perfectly clear and understandable conversation). He also gave me some math suggestions that I can use with my mini. I hope I can get him engaged enough with online teaching and learning because I would love to exchange English lessons for a few math lessons, hell, maybe even physics.
The next day, during my break, a woman approached me. A similar conversation ensued. She is originally from the Netherlands, married a man from Germany, but they met in New York. Her husband speaks Dutch but she cannot speak German and they both want their children to learn English because they will be moving to Philadelphia in January. After the exchange of information, I agreed to provide lessons to both her children.
I guess if I ever run out of students I know where to go. I’ve had the most interesting conversations with strangers. I usually keep to myself and when I meet new people I don’t speak much. The majority of my conversations with strangers have been struck up because of my mini. She is intrigued by everyone and every time she hears someone speak English she asks them where they’re from or she’s pulling me to meet a new friend’s parent. Everyone she meets is her ‘new friend.’ She even has a new bestie named Melanie and when we don’t have anything planned for the evening, they meet at the park after she gets out of school. She just moved her from Cuba with her mother in August and insist that my AirBnB host is Jayla’s grandma. I’m enjoying making these international friendships and I’m going to work on talking to strangers more often.