It was about 2.5-3 weeks ago when I first heard about the tutoring company Cambly. I had been struggling to acquire a English ESL teaching job in a desirable city in China. I had 2 recruiters at different occasions tell me at point blank that no school’s wanted to hire me because I had an Asian face. I was thinking WTF! Seriously. That’s some racist shit right there. My own people from China telling me that I wouldn’t be welcomed there because I looked Chinese. What kind of backwards ignorant way of thinking is this? Needless to say, I was pissed off and wanted to tell both of the recruiters to go f%$# themselves!
After continuing to get the run around from recruiters and schools, I happened upon a posting from a teaching English abroad website. The posting was looking for English tutors to just chat and tutor students from the comfort of their own home. I thought wow, this could be a good opportunity to get some work experience under my belt while making a little money on the side as well. I quickly went on their website and signed up as a tutor. The hiring process for Cambly involved me recording a video clip telling the staff there why I should be hired as a tutor. Up until this point, I had never done any video recordings using a webcam about myself. It felt very weird talking about myself into a webcam and I had to do several different takes before I was ready to submit my video introduction video. After this was done, I needed to wait for the administers to approve me as a tutor.
It took 2 weeks before I was a approved, and this was after I had sent them an email to inquire about the status of my application. Once I was approved, I looked around at their user interface and guidelines. Apparently you need to sign up for shifts in order to have a guaranteed payment for working. It’s only a measly 15 minutes that you are paid though if you don’t have any students to work with during your shift.
Most of the good shift times were already taken and only the crappy shift hours were left (like 1am-6am or some other bullshit time). Needless to say, I didn’t take the job too seriously and hardly signed up for any shifts. I didn’t get much students during my first week on the job, in fact I missed one of my shifts because I completely forgot about it. I woke up the next morning to a nice little email from Cambly asking why I wasn’t on during my shift 🙂
After another depressing week of trying to locate work in this shithole of a city that I live in and coming up empty handed, I decided to give Cambly another shot. This time I took it a bit more seriously. I signed up for several more shifts with at least 2 hrs per a shift a night. On my first couple of nights back on Cambly, I barely received any calls from students and if I did answer any calls, it was mostly from free users. Free users get 5 minutes of free tutoring time, which isn’t exactly a lot of time for the tutors to try and connect with the students or showcase them their teaching abilities. I remember the first time that I taught in Cambly during that first week. I kind of just froze up not knowing what to say or do. It was just so sudden. I clicked on the student that was requesting a tutor and then all of a sudden a screen popped up with my webcam video at the top and the student’s webcam video right in the middle. I kind of just looked at my computer screen staring at the student for a good 10-15 seconds lol. Then I knew I had to say something otherwise I was wasting the students time. After going through several of these free users, I managed to luck out and pick up 3 calls simultaneously one day during my shift. All three students were paid subscription members and were eager to learn. My first student of that night was an elderly Korean business man who owned his own company. His English was very bad, and I could barely carry a normal conversation with him. It also didn’t help that he couldn’t give me much to work with as well, as most of his answers were like one word answers lol. Needless to say I really struggled working with him and our 30 minute long session felt like hours. It felt like I was prying nails with my teeth or something trying to keep the conversation going. At the end of the session, I felt disappointed in myself as a teacher and that I let my student down :(.
Up next was another Korean gentleman. He was much younger then my previous student and his grasp of English was also much better. This time around I was determined not to produce the same results. I kept on firing questions after questions making sure that I never ran out of things to say to him. Near the second half of our session, the student became very interested in my background and ethnicity and kept on asking me questions related to my ethnicity, so we focused our conversation on that topic until the session was over.
Finally my last student called in. She was a young Colombian woman. Initially we had a very difficult time communicating because her grasp of English was also very limited, even more so then the first student I had that night. However, I managed to somehow keep the conversation not only interesting and also fun. I realized at that point, that I shouldn’t try to be so structured and robotic in my lessons but instead focus on just relaxing and having fun. I joked around a lot with her and even teased her a little bit and she seemed to really enjoy the lesson and was laughing non-stop. I have to admit, it felt really good like I was providing a lot of value to the student while making learning fun for her at the same time. At the end of the session, I could tell she went away from that tutoring session happy as did I. I quickly followed up with each student that night via message. I knew in order to get some regular students and also provide some more stable regular income, I needed to have a staple of regular students on my roster. So I fired off a message to each and everyone of my students that night. Oh what a night!