Working with Less

So if you’re out there doing your research about working from home, especially as an English teacher, you might notice the same trend I do: over-freaking-complicating what’s physically needed to do this job. If you watch online videos about teaching online you’ll see crazy class set ups and hundreds of props. you don’t need that! It’s mostly about YOU.

Some teachers are out here making videos showing their classroom or office set-up, showing off impressive collections of props and a wide range of technology. One teacher I saw a set-up video from even had her classroom in a very nicely finished shed, with electricity and internet wired from the house to this separate space. Now it was a really nice space – she had a little kitchenette and space for guests to use it as a guest house. I could totally see myself absolutely loving a space like that, and I was definitely a little jealous.

She had whole drawer sets full of this type of toy or prop, and that type of flash card. She even had a filing cabinet with the printed out lesson plan for every lesson she’d ever taught. It made it easy for her to know what she’d need and quickly prep when she got booked for those lessons again.

Honestly – kudos to her because she’s killin’ it.

But as I watched it occurred to me that if I had watched hers and videos like hers before applying to be an online teacher I would of thought I couldn’t do this – I don’t have that kind of space. As someone in search of employment I didn’t have the money to create anything like that or buy all those props. I would of figured this career was for someone else.

Now, there are others out there making videos that show just how do-able it is. I’ve also seen “here’s my space” videos from teachers who are literally making their classroom in a closet. Hang a backdrop, tweek the lighting and BOOM! International classroom in the basement closet.

So there’s definitely a spectrum.

The Truth: These Videos come from Experienced Teachers

That’s not a bad thing but it’s definitely something you’ve gotta remember when you watch these. You might be just considering your application or preparing for an interview when you go down the rabbit hole of videos about classroom and space set ups, prop organization and more. It can be super intimidating because it seems like you would never be able to compete with the kind of resources and collections that are literally at the fingertips of these teachers.

Fear not – they didn’t go to target and buy it all in one haul. They built those collections while they built their careers and you will too.

When I got hired I went to chapters and bought one lavender coloured bunny from the kids section. I like things that are soft, and cute so it was kind of a treat for me too. I never really got over my affection for plush toys. I call her Flora.

I keep her by my desk with a hedgehog that Ben gave me one year for our anniversary because he knows about my affection of plush toys.

There’s also a Panda toy that mom got me one year when Telus sold them to raise money for a wildlife organization.

I have more but I don’t use them as much. I don’t need a different toy for every class and any given class doesn’t need more than 2 or 3 toys, if that, because they aren’t really what class is about.

I use a hand drawn set of music notes to show when it’s time to sing.

But most of the time for anything else I just use my hands or demonstrate on the platform. For example if I want my students to circle things, I circle them. If I want them to read, I underline.

I also keep whiteboards near me because sometimes it helps to draw the letters and do little reading games with them. Really anything else I use is a common desk item like a book, pen, or sometimes I use coloured markers to show colours and practice the names. Lamp, keyboard, ipad… nothing extraordinary. No super collection of reward systems. I cheer my kids on and then get back to the lesson. No bucket of action figures.

Honestly, you know what my students love? When I cheer and dance in my chair like a FOOL. It’s interesting, funny , and it clearly communicates to them that they did well and their teacher is happy. THAT’s what matters.

When the teacher is happy, so are the students!

So here I am, making just as much a career of it as the woman who built a separate classroom in her back yard.

I kind of get it though

I kind of get why these teachers create such elaborate set ups and why they show off just how elaborate they are. We as a society have a habit of seeing validity in complication. The more intricate the system, the harder it is for us to understand the more valid we consider the person who is understanding and doing the work. Think of scientific careers like doctors and astrophysicists, or the scholarly such as lawyers whose job it is to navigate systems that are so large and complex most of us need help using them.  Consider the validity we give these career choices over say, writer or even a traditional teacher. While we acknowledge that writing and teaching are respectable careers we tend to underestimate the difficulty of careers we understand and see as uncomplicated.

So sometimes there’s an urge to sort of demonstrate the validity of our career choices by making our careers fit a more complicated, difficult narrative.

“Look how I’ve organized the reward systems and over here are the lesson plans…” translates in to “Look how much equipment and paperwork is required.”

“See how I’ve arranged this space to optimize the light and….” turns in to “There’s more to this… This is where I work hard to support my family.”

I feel this temptation too. I want people to join me in this career because it’s been rewarding and I really, genuinely enjoy it. But it’s also tempting to put up barriers and push people to see that this isn’t a hobby or a passing phase. It’s work, the same as any other job in so many ways.

Ultimately, it takes balance.

It’s a career like any other. It demands a set of skills that, if you have, you’ll excel and without, you’ll struggle. It can mean long hours, waking up early and going to bed late. Sometimes it will be awesome and some days you’ll hate it.

What you don’t have to worry about to start out is having an elaborate set up.

So I’m here to say to you – you who may be considering or just starting on this path – don’t be intimidated by the veterans. Settle in to a little corner you’re comfortable in. Wear a covering, plain shirt. Bring a cup of tea and a smile. You can be great at this.

Learning to Practice Pride Every Day

The hardest part of coming out, for me, was realizing that it’s not quite the grand leap out of the closet that you expect. Even with social media, the message doesn’t reach everyone. Even if it did, there’s meeting new friends or colleagues and the assumptions they make (about me at least) are that I’m straight and monogamous.

The fact that I wear wedding rings and have a husband definitely gives people reason to make that assumption. None the less, it can be a bit jolting when casual conversation turns to family life and it turns out, mine isn’t quite what they expected.

In the few weeks or months after officially coming out on social media I wasn’t quite prepared for the situations where I would fine myself inadvertently in the middle of another “coming out” conversation. Especially since the people I had to “come out” to in these odd after-thought conversations were usually co-workers at my old retail job or someone else on the outer rings of my social existence. I don’t usually talk about my personal life at work – I make it a general practice not to – but from time to time it would slip. Now it isn’t strictly the conversations with coworkers specifically that were awkward, it’s the fact that in the grand scheme of my life and coming out these people weren’t important to me.  Once it was a nail lady who asked about my weekend plans and was super confused when I told her I had plans with my boyfriend while she was holding my ring finger and admiring the bling.

When we decided to come out we all created lists of who needed to know. Our parents and family of course.  Then there were the close friends who we wanted to tell personally, rather than letting them find out on social media. After we had these conversations to the best of our ability we figured out how to post and went ahead with the big leap of coming out publicly.  Truthfully we could of gone on forever with the private conversations and there were probably a few people we missed or didn’t contact in time but we were so excited to make our announcement. I took a lot of back and forth for us all to decide exactly how we wanted the announcement to go – we had to figure out what coming out meant to  us and what that looked like. When we finally felt ready, we weren’t patient.

After making it public on social media there were a few follow up conversations and messages from friends and family members we didn’t speak to previously.  Beyond that, it was relatively smooth. At least, none of the turbulence we experienced was completely unexpected, even if some of it was a little more intense than we anticipated.

Then sometimes the moment comes up where you’re about to say something and you hesitate because you don’t want to come out and explain everything. For example, when someone asks my weekend plans and I want to say “I’ll be at a derby with my boyfriend.” but I don’t want to get in to the whole thing.

True story: When I had that retail job I once bunch of underwear at the end of my shift. The coworker ringing me out said something about how happy my boyfriend would be when I got home and another coworker yelled over “Husband – she’s married!”. I laughed all the way home.

Seriously though, moments where being honest about something unrelated could lead to coming out are silently awkward.  There’s a lot of guilt about avoiding a conversation or avoiding having to acknowledge your relationships fully. It felt unfair to Tom or Maggie that I would acknowledge my relationship with Ben but potentially not talk about them the same way because it was easier.

I’ve gotten over that now, clearly.

For this month I promised to reflect on Pride month and come up with some musings.  As I was thinking about how to do this I’ve been thinking about how excited I am that this is my first Pride month being completely out. In that string of thoughts it occurred to me that coming out was a plural experience. And a plural experience that I was not always prepared for, at that.

Having that unexpected series of conversations and experiences has helped me come to practice pride every day. It’s made me realize that when we decided we wanted to come out on social media we really wanted more. We wanted the openness and honesty that had always been part of how we lived our lives and related to others to continue being part of our lives. With this we committed to pride as a daily action.

Almost a year in to it though, it does get easier. When I decided to blog about this life I think I had to commit to practicing pride every day. I love my life so much, how can I avoid celebrating that?

Carmen

How to Find Followers and Be Loved by Everyone

 

Everyone’s working hard and we want to be noticed and appreciated – we want to see our hard work pay off!  We see success in rising stats and so the key question becomes: How do I get followers? How do I become popular?!

I wish there was a simple answer like follow steps 1-3 and BOOM! You’ll reach your wildest dreams! But in a world dictated by algorithms and with everyone being careful and thoughtful about what and who they follow or subscribe to, it’s a little tricker than 1, 2, 3.

I post my tips and lessons as I learn them – I don’t have mind blowing numbers to show off as reasons you should listen to me.  What I have is a genuine experience that I’m sharing as it happens (Imagine, the original purpose of a blog!)

So here are my tips and strategies for finding followers and being loved by everyone.  Maybe when I’m famous I’ll rewrite this post and let you know if it works 😉

You have to collaborate to be successful, but you do have to participate. 

You see, creating great content is only part of the battle.  You don’t have to collaborate and share credit but you do have to interact with others.  How do you expect people to find and appreciate your content if you’re simply posting it and waiting for the big rush of applause and appreciation?  When they say you have to put yourself out there it isn’t about putting your content out there – it’s actually putting you out there and making connections.

Go find, like, follow and comment others who might be interested in your work. Find your audience and invite them in to see what you’re doing.  (And show a little love for them – you know how hard the grind is, after all!)
Pro tip: Do this on multiple platforms! Running a wordpress blog? Go like and comment on other blog posts.  Working on upping your instagram game? You know what to do – double tap and show some love! Looking to be the next twitter superstar? Twitter is a giant conversation platform – don’t just talk to yourself 😉

How much do you love it when you connect to someone, or to a company because they make you feel like a person instead of a customer?  When you are waiting for people to stumble across your content and appreciate it you’re thinking of them as customers or follower stats – not people.  In a fast-moving society where we often feel kind of lost in the masses, we have come to value personal connections.  So provide that!  Provide what you crave!

Support doesn’t cost you anything!

All the practical reasons aside – going out and giving those likes, follows and comments doesn’t cost you anything! Okay, so actually finding people who belong to your target audience and connecting with meaningful comments does take time. But you can work that into your workflow.  It’s actually an enjoyable part of my day so I use seeking and connecting with others who might like my work as a way to break up the heavier lifting.  If I am stuck in my writing I can work my social media a bit. If I am dizzy from the research I can find some new people to follow.  Work the different social media platforms you want to grow on into your daily workflow and watch how much making the first move helps you grow!

Just remember… Don’t be an asshole! Don’t start getting spammy and desperate leaving lazy comments that are just emoji’s or one word like “Great”. It doesn’t feel personal or thoughtful.  You want to invite people to connect with you so it’s worth being a decent member of the online community in the process!

Open your mind – what’s the vision when you say working for yourself is the dream?

So here’s the thing – a lot of people say they want to work for themselves but everyone has a different vision of what that means.  For me, it means the freedom to work from anywhere (usually from home), and to be fluid and ever changing in what I do.  I can control the content I produce and in the vision where I create my own line of products they are my design and I can change up the style as I feel like it.

So as you go seeking an audience don’t forget to look inwards and keep a clear vision of what you want.  It’s easy to get so caught up being someone who will attract followers and likes that you lose sight of who you are and what you want to be doing.

Carmen