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"Try new things and take risks!" | Team Spotlight: Karen

By Daeun K on September 3, 2021

Karen Ji is one of the most experienced tutors here at Yet, even last year, she wouldn’t have imagined herself virtually tutoring hundreds of learners. In fact, she started off on just like any of us: a student wishing to learn. After months of being active on Schoolhouse as a learner, she decided to step up and become a tutor herself. Now, she has held 130+ sessions and has helped countless learners just like her grow in learning. Let’s hear from Karen herself on her journey with up until now.

##How did you find out about, and what motivated you to join?

I found out about Schoolhouse in July of last year when I realized that I’ll be taking online classes. I really wanted some help, especially with Calculus, so I went to Khan Academy. I was looking up AP Calculus help, and in the AP Calculus description, I found a description on It said something about launching free live tutoring on Schoolhouse. So, I first joined as a learner to get AP Calculus help, but I didn’t start tutoring until January of 2021.

I wanted to become a tutor when I joined, but I didn’t think I could. I thought there would be really big qualifications; it looked too intimidating. So, I didn’t think about becoming a tutor until January. I thought of the Founding tutor opportunity as something like, “This is your one chance, if you join at that time, you can become a founding tutor” and thought I might as well try. I didn’t think I had the time or qualifications, but I realized that becoming a tutor wasn’t as difficult as I thought it would be.

##As of now, you've held 131 sessions on What motivates you best to keep participating in the community?

It’s how connected Schoolhouse is that keeps me motivated. In sessions, there are people from all over the place. Some people wake up in India at 2 am to attend sessions since my time zone is completely on the other side of the world. Learners will say, “this was helpful for me” or “can you do something about this,” and I think it’s really, really amazing to think that people are so motivated to learn outside of school.

##What has been one memorable experience in

Last school year, I was doing AP Calculus sessions, and there were these three people who came to every single session. They participated a lot, and at the end, they were like, “these sessions were so helpful for me. I learned a lot and I’m gonna miss you.” And I thought, “Oh my God, I don’t even know what she looks like, but I feel like I can connect with them so well,” and it just meant a lot.

Also, in another funny incident, I remember people were asking for resources for SAT. Someone sent a Youtube link in the chat saying this was a really good Calculus resource. I probably shouldn’t have replied, because he rickrolled me! And I thought that was so funny, because it’s always so serious in sessions and you usually don’t rickroll people. With this, I realized that everyone is just a normal high school student, and we all just want to have fun. Now I know before I share a link, I have to go check it!

##What are some challenges you face with online teaching? How do you try to overcome those?

The biggest challenge I faced before I got my drawing tablet was writing on the screen. I would use my mouse and it would look really ugly, or I would try putting paper over my phone and writing on the paper. That didn’t work out very well because my phone battery would drain really fast. But now, I just use my drawing tablet.

Another challenge is getting everyone to participate or figuring out who’s paying attention and who’s not, especially since I can’t see anyone. I like to cold call on people, but I feel bad for doing that sometimes. But that’s how I get people to participate.

##How has your experience at impacted you? Did you learn anything new?

The main way schoolhouse has impacted me was broadening my worldview because I don’t think I realized how big the world was. That might sound childish, but I really didn’t think about it. When I think about California or other places, I think, “oh my gosh, crazy…” Because I’m from Georgia. I think California’s another world. But it’s not like that in reality. People everywhere are just people. I realized that we’re really similar, we’re all human, and we all just want to learn and that’s the biggest thing I learned.

It also made me a much more confident person. When I first joined a schoolhouse session as a learner, I signed up for an AP Calculus Q&A session. I signed up, and I bailed out 30 minutes before the session. I was like, “I’m not gonna meet someone online!” But now I’m a lot more confident and comfortable with talking on zoom to people.

##What do you hope to achieve in the future in

Honestly, I don't know. I want to have the commitment to do a full year series or something like that. Right now, it’s very hard for me to teach from scratch, especially the basics of things, but I really want to learn how to do that and be able to provide for people. When I do review sessions, some people come in wanting to learn from scratch, and I feel bad that I can’t accommodate them. I also want to connect with more people.

##Do you have any advice to give to new or future tutors?

The biggest advice would be to understand your audience or your learners, like they teach you in AP Lang. Just realize everyone is just a human being; that was the main takeaway from Schoolhouse for me. That we’re all just middle schoolers, high schoolers, and adults, but we all just want to learn, and it’ll be a lot more comfortable if you could be approachable, so be more approachable.

##Any advice for other members in our community?

Try new things and take risks. I would not have imagined me doing this. For me, joining schoolhouse was an on-the-whim decision, but it was definitely worth it. Even when joining the blog team, I thought, “I’m going to join this just because I feel like it right now,” but it has certainly been rewarding.

We thank Karen for her service to our learners and all her contribution to the Schoolhouse community. We hope to continue to work with her, and we’re excited to see what more she has to show us in the future. peer tutoring, for free.


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