Learn about building online professional learning communities with Merry Cora, 51Talk Teaching Specialist. Interview conducted by Kerry Gallagher.
This teacher interview features Merry Cora, a 51Talk kids’ specialist. In this piece, she shares her experience working for 51Talk, and how she built an online professional learning community through respect and politeness. Cora also provides tips for new 51Talk teachers.
Working at 51Talk
Cora explains, “Over the course of just a couple of months with a student, it is wonderful to see how effective the 51 lessons and units are. Students young and old are learning English through 51Talk every day. I am so happy to be part of it all.”
Merry Cora has been working for 51Talk a little over eight months, and in that short time, she has cultivated her own professional learning community with one central concept-kindly manners! Cora continues, “I’ve always believed that if we would all be more polite the whole world would be a better place.” In her urban public school teaching position, Cora recalls politeness was demanded of the teachers, and any slip-up would result in immediate termination, regardless of the behavior of others. She does not face that fear at 51Talk. She finds the nicer she is to people, the nicer they are to her, and the nicer her day is.
Manners Make a Difference
Students and their families are most receptive to her manners. She notes when teachers are polite and effective—students will want that teacher forever. “The parents are very pleased with the additional attention to their child. I love my families. Having these people, half-way around the world in my life is very precious to me.” Cora’s only struggle with bookings is that she has more students than hours available. She has even created a chart to accommodate all of her regular students. Her students range from a lonely, young girl who wants to learn with her before school to an aspiring doctor who was eager to get back to her classroom after extensive entrance exams. While they vary developmentally, they have one thing in common. They all like to call her “Grandma.” This polite teacher persona paired with previous online experience allows her to be successful beyond her expectations.
Online Teaching and Freedom
Cora was having so much success with 51Talk that after a recent and unexpected surgery, she decided to put in for early retirement. She spoke of the moment where she sat on her couch, looked at her husband, and said, “I could do 51Talk full time. I could make 51Talk work. I could be free!” Weeks later she was transitioning from her tenured public school teaching position to opening as many teaching slots as possible. And just like that, her professional learning community started to blossom.
Tips for New Teachers
In the beginning, Cora made a conscious effort to maintain her professional learning community. She took all of the training courses available to her. Cora claims, “The trainers for different courses mean a great deal to me. I liked every one of them. The training was how I kept moving forward. I took as many training classes as possible. I quickly discovered it was a very good idea, as I learned many details that led to greater success. Also, I connected with other teachers, hearing of their problems and successes.” She advises, “Teachers should take every training class possible. Teachers don’t know what they don’t know. Not to mention, we make connections in ways one can’t even imagine.”
In these trainings, she learned how to power through tech issues, no pun intended, and mastered her online teaching techniques for distracted students with determined moms. The 51Talk trainers encouraged meaningful learning experiences, and most importantly they kept in touch. Cora added, “The people on the 51Admin Support team are the daily people I count on. I think they have very difficult jobs and I deeply appreciate their roles. We could not do what we do without them.” It was in her inter-company communication that she realized how typed messages go a lot further with a please and thank you. Again, she acknowledges the importance of keeping positive—only to get the same in return.
An Average Day at 51Talk
An average day for Cora is a 4:30 am early morning start, and she finishes before lunch. The schedule allows her to have a free early afternoon and evening to do what makes her happy. She squealed with joy when she said, “I can go out, go swimming, get fresh air, or have lunch with friends. And I occasionally teach evening lessons, too.” This freedom was lacking in her previous position, so Cora makes the most of it, often taking 5Talk on the road. She continues, “I love the flexibility I have with 51Talk. It is a big perk of this job. I can take care of my family and still make a very nice income.”
Create Realistic Goals and Expectations for Success
Sometimes, there are technical challenges. No matter what, Cora says not to let technology get in the way of rewarding learning experiences. If something goes wrong, just like with any job, there are specific protocols to follow. She claims, “We all need to earn a living.” It’s best for the whole professional learning community to keep a positive and composed attitude through issues.” Cora also suggests that teachers create realistic goals and expectations. Teachers simply can’t do everything in the first month, but they can plot it all out for the two weeks, two months, and two years from now–trainings completed, the number of lessons taught, service score, promotions, and earnings. This month, she is doubling her salary because life circumstances demanded it, but she knows that when she needs rest, she can take it and still exceed the monthly requirements with rewarding teaching experiences.
Grandma Merry Cora leaves us with this final thought, “I take the time to say thank you and good night. While I was taking trainings, I encouraged each of my fellow teachers as they came along. I do not allow the tech problems to stand in the way. If there is a problem to fix, I use logical, problem-solving strategies to get the job done. In truth, there is no time for messy emotions. That’s, maybe, just as well.”
It just goes to show that being polite and composed can go a long way in winning students and support over when building a rewarding professional learning community online.
Want to learn more about teaching for 51Talk?
You can find more information at this link.