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Schoolhouse helped me perfect my teaching skills for my future career! | Team Spotlight: Kareena

By Hafsah M | Sunday, August 7, 2022

Get to know Kareena through this interview! This week is her two year anniversary at Schoolhouse! She gives plenty of great advice here and reminiscences about her times at Schoolhouse.

1. Tell us a little bit about yourself.

Hi, I am Kareena, a founding tutor here at schoolhouse.world since August 2020. I am a senior at the University of Illinois at Chicago, preparing to be a teacher. I have many specializations within that so I can teach all subjects, up until the 8th grade. I also have a minor in psychology and instructional design and training. However, at Schoolhouse, instead of typical sessions, I primarily tutor adult learners (shout out to Carl) and host Tutor Learning Circles. I am also involved in multiple teams and behind the scenes projects.

2. You’re a founding tutor, so you’ve been here since the early days of Schoolhouse. How did you learn about Schoolhouse and what made you decide to join it?

Early in the summer of 2020, I watched Sal’s YouTube video introducing schoolhouse.world and after spending hours on the application perfecting it, I turned it in. Genuinely speaking, I had forgotten about it, as I did not think I would get in. However, I received an email on the way to a family member’s birthday dinner that I was accepted as a tutor by Mariah, becoming one of the first fifty tutors to be on the platform. All I can remember from that moment is that I was freaking out, as I was in utter shock. I honestly thought it was a glitch. I told my parents as we were leaving, but I remember in the car wondering to myself that I had so many commitments and if I should add this to my plate. That’s when I told myself I was going to be working with Sal Khan, the guy whose videos I had been listening to since 2010, so I should not let this opportunity go to waste. I’m so grateful I did not and I have been here since August 8th.

3. What volunteer teams here are you a part of?

I am a part of almost everything whether behind the scenes or in front of it as I have contributed in various ways to each of them, which makes me an honorary team lead of all the teams. Formally, I am a part of the Certification (both the Honorary and Traditional teams), Auditing, Onboarding Buddies, India, Community Engagement, and User Support teams. Additionally, I will say I am a part of other things that are behind the scenes, which are not official teams but rather projects that have been implemented on the platform such as series.

4. You’ve been a very active volunteer here right since the start. What motivates you to devote so much time to being a highly active member of the community?

Knowing that we have a fantastic community and supportive product team that lets me participate in many behind-the-scenes projects pushes me to be the best version of myself. I also am trying to push myself to be more extroverted as the pandemic caused me to only talk to a few friends and shut out the rest of the world. Lastly, I think because I’ve been here since the early days it was easier to hop onto projects and help out and just getting to know the tight-knit community since it was so small.

5. What’s been a memorable experience at Schoolhouse for you?

I could recall many such as the first snow day (a day when the Schoolhouse website is down), getting to know the product team more than full time people who work at Schoolhouse but as friends and mentors, working with Carl, hopefully meeting Emi, Ada, and Karina in person in a few months, Sync with Sals, becoming best friends with Ananyaa, the list is endless.

6. How has Schoolhouse impacted you? What did you learn from your experiences here?

Schoolhouse has not only given me the chance to perfect my teaching skills for my future career, but also the chance to try out different projects that I can implement in different aspects of my life. For example, I didn’t realize I loved creating training modules until I was working with Bailey, one of our Schoolhouse mentors, on it. Even educational technology didn’t really seem appealing to me as I was never one to be good with technology, but working on these projects has taught me that I can be good at it. I thought every session had to have slides and be as close to perfect as it could be but I’ve learned that’s not the case and sometimes it's okay to wing it. Lastly, I think I have also learned that all of these opportunities, whether they are tedious or simple, help shape the bigger vision of Schoolhouse.

7. What has been one challenge for you while tutoring? How have you tried to overcome it?

I just think about how to find my self-confidence and know that I’m capable of being a great tutor, and friend to others. I was initially very nervous to start tutoring, and I did mock sessions to prepare myself; I would even go as far as schedule texts so I could edit them if needed. However, over 150 sessions later, I learned to go with the flow and have fun even for messages. Just send them and if worse comes to worst, they can be edited for clarity. Regarding friendships, I now know who I can open up to and who I should be more cautious of and that just comes with time. I also like to share this story with a lot of new tutors, that for the first few sessions I had no learners, the fourth session I had a fellow tutor Emi who I thought was a learner, join my session and act out in crazy ways and it made me doubt my abilities to tutor, however, after learning they were a tutor, we became terrific friends. We recently had the opportunity to meet in person, which was amazing since we had talked for over a year on zoom.

8. You’ve been hosting tutor learning circles as fun sessions for tutors to meet each other and ask questions, and sometimes having product team members join as guests. One of these sessions were for the SAT bootcamp tutors and turned out to be one of the largest sessions ever on Schoolhouse. Why did you decide to start these sessions and what have you liked about them?

I cannot take all the credit for it because it was Mariah’s (our community head transitioning into safety lead) idea. She used to do these zoom sessions for team leads so they could talk about issues they were facing with being team leads and to get to know her on a personal level. Despite not being one, I was invited to join, and I loved it so much I had a genuine feeling like I wanted to do one. So, come January, she asked me to take over and host them on the Schoolhouse website for any tutor to join. I said sure I would be happy to, even though I was a bit hesitant. It started with simple hangouts, but I realized that a lot of the tutors don’t know the product team to the extent I do. So I decided to start inviting them, and it’s been lots of fun for me to moderate them and for the tutors to learn about them. I think I like them because I get to see other tutors who I may have met on Slack but never on a call. I like to share my experiences and tips with others in the hopes they have fun and enjoy their time at Schoolhouse.

9. What do you like to do in your free time?

I read, write, journal, work on research, and occasionally go on runs depending on the weather. However, on weekends, I try my best to spend as much time as I can with friends and family by trying out new restaurants and going on fun adventures.

10. Do you have any words of advice for tutors here?

Honestly, talk to other tutors. Who knows, you might meet your best friend (shoutout to Ananyaa) and figure out what you are good at and try your best. Go to their sessions and observe how they tutor so you can get ideas on what to implement in your sessions. Mine just happened to be Carl's sessions and tutor learning circles. I maybe went to ten sessions before I started my mock ones. I don’t want to promote myself, but come to one of the tutor learning circles and meet people. Share your wisdom with the world. Also as tutors, we know that our work takes time to reveal its impact. It's like we're planting trees. We're not going to see fruit the first day we plant it. (I know that from looking back at my first few sessions). Teaching matters so much, whether we see it in the moment or not. On tough days, it can help to look back at the notes we get from students (in Schoolhouse's case the feedback we've received from our learners and other tutors). It can also connect our teacher friends (friends we've made at Schoolhouse) to remember we are a part of something bigger and soon the tree will be full of that particular fruit, with maybe a few different varieties. So even if your impact may seem small and insignificant now it's going to be essential in someone’s journey of learning.

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