Cartoon princesses play such a huge role in the lives of our children. They are one of the dominant cultural influences for kids of all kinds, inclusive of gender, race, orientation, economic status, and more.
Sometimes, the messages they send are empowering and empathy-building. Other times, the messages are confusing or concerning for parents and kids alike.
On Outschool, I teach classes for teens and tweens about the messages about gender, equity, and diversity that can be found in the cartoon princess movies. These young people have incredible insights about the movies that have influenced them. I have often found myself wanting to engage in these same conversations with my peers!
That’s why I look forward to facilitating conversations about the same topic for adults.
What i have learned from Talking with Kids About Princesses
With my Outschool students, we talk about things like agency, consent, authentic representation of a diverse world, and much more. These kids discuss what the movies mean to them and how to navigate the experience of realizing that something you love has problematic messages. We also look at the changing trends in princess movies and how the films have become more inclusive and feminist over time. We celebrate what should be celebrated and critique what should be critiqued. This gives kids practice using a feminist lens to look at media and entertainment.
talking about this topic with adults
In this class that I’m offering for adults, the focus will shift. We’ll cover the following issues and ideas:
How were we influenced by princess movies when we were kids? (The good, the bad, and the in-between)
What messages are we introducing to our kids through princess movies, trips to princess-themed parks, and more?
What should be celebrated? What should be criticized?
How do we navigate issues of our children’s love for complex entertainment?
What is the responsibility of parents, teachers, and other adults who have influence over children to discuss topics like feminism, inclusion, and diversity?
Of course, we will also discuss the feminist values of the major princess narratives that children interact with on a regular basis!
How does class work?
My classes are designed for busy adults who want to participate in deep, enriching conversations with like-minded peers without having to commit a major amount of time or money.
We meet weekly for four weeks via Zoom. Each class lasts one hour.
There is no weekly homework, although I will occasionally provide optional supplemental reading materials.
Class is conversational with some in-class activities. I provide some introductory material, theories, or information, and then we discuss in our group.
A maximum of 10 students can enroll in each course.
This class costs $40.
Details for this upcoming class
Feminism & Cartoon Princesses will meet on Mondays from August 3-24 at 7pm (Eastern).
To register, send me a message through my contact page. You will receive instructions for how to pay, including options for PayPal, Venmo, and CashApp.
After payment is received, you will be sent an invitation to our recurring Zoom meeting, which will work for the rest of the class. Just log on at 7pm Eastern on August 3 and we’ll go from there!
I look forward to talking about this important topic with you!
I teach from an intersectional feminist perspective. These issues are non-negotiable in my instruction: Black lives matter. Trans men are men and trans women are women. Racism is real; reverse racism is not. As a white instructor, it is my responsibility to de-center white voices and feelings in our conversations and any supplemental readings. Diversity isn’t just important because it’s good for us to learn from each other; diversity is also about ensuring that people in marginalized groups benefit from a change in the power structure. A diverse community must include neurodivergent individuals. Talking about feminism from an intersectional perspective means talking about race, gender identity, LGBTQ+ concerns, neurodiversity, body positivity/neutrality, and disability/ableism.
I discovered Outschool in January, and it has been a bit of a game changer.
What is Outschool?
Outschool is an online platform that offers thousands of classes for kids ages 3-18. Most classes are taught live via Zoom. As an international site, there are classes at all hours of the day and night on pretty much every subject you can imagine. While its original focus was to provide opportunities for homeschooling families, anyone can sign up for classes. Parents pay per enrollment, so you can do as little as $5 or $6 on a short, 30-minute, 1-time session, or you can spend hundreds of dollars on classes that last for weeks or entire semesters. There are also drop-in clubs that are offered on a weekly subscription basis and classes that are complete asynchronously.
Our Experience as Outschool Learners
When we were planning my daughter’s Dungeons & Dragons themed 10th birthday party, a sponsored ad popped up in my Facebook feed: Introduction to Dungeons and Dragons, a live, online course for kids.
I asked my daughter about it, and she thought it sounded great. We signed up, and she had a really positive experience sitting in our living room one evening, listening to an enthusiastic teacher tell her (and about 10 other kids) all about the basics of D&D.
Since then, we’ve taken dozens of classes. When schools were closed to in-person lessons and I was suddenly working from home, I needed something to help my kids stay busy and stay engaged with the learning process. (Note: Our rural school district is full of students who don’t have reliable internet or devices, so our distance learning didn’t involve a whole lot of online instruction. Our teachers were amazing during this time, and I’m grateful for all the work they put into the end of the school year–but just to be clear, I wasn’t adding Outschool classes on top of a very busy elearning schedule.)
Half/Time Tutoring — Reading and Math for Little Ones: This is probably our biggest Outschool investment, but I use Outschool referral credits to help offset the cost. (More on those in a bit!) In this class, teacher Midge Spencer does an incredible job of working with our 6-year-old in a one-on-one setting to keep him involved in learning to read. I don’t feel qualified to teach early literacy at all, and so I was nervous when the school year ended abruptly and my almost-reading kindergartener was suddenly without the kind of instruction he had been receiving from his wonderful teachers at school. Midge Spencer to the rescue! When he is in her class, he pays attention, cooperates, and stays actively engaged with the lesson. He’s a pretty rambunctious, excitable kid, so watching him pay attention to ANYTHING for 30 minutes at a time is so cool to watch. She keeps his attention, redirects as necessary, and provides very clear instruction. I love her teaching and I feel so lucky to have found her!
My Experience as an Outschool Teacher
As soon as my daughter took that first class, I wanted to teach on the platform! I love teaching–planning lessons, organizing activities, talking with learners of all ages, explaining concepts.
As an English professor for more than 10 years (9 of which have been spent at a small liberal arts university that I love), I have enjoyed a lot of academic freedom in my classroom. Outschool seemed like a cool opportunity to do even more teaching, but with some of that same freedom, unlike other online teaching sites I’ve looked at.
Here is a breakdown of what I’ve learned from my Outschool teaching experience:
The Application Process
Applying is easy. Maybe too easy?
Because Outschool prioritizes learning in a non-traditional environment, they also welcome and celebrate non-traditional teachers. There are no degree or credential requirements for teaching on the site. On the one hand, that can be really cool, as I’m not really looking for someone with an advanced degree when I choose a class for my kindergartener about how cool toads are.
I think the drawback is that some people who are good at marketing themselves can probably talk their way into an Outschool teaching position and not have the teaching chops to provide good classes. My guess is that these teachers burn out quickly or receive bad reviews from dissatisfied parents, so this isn’t a huge concern for me. It’s just something to be aware of.
When you apply, you have to do a background check, create your profile, and create your first class. I also participated in an onboarding call with a veteran teacher, which was very helpful. Since I started, the amount of training for new teachers has also increased. However, the training appears to be optional, since the teacher Facebook group tends to be full of the same questions over and over that are answered in the training.
Something to note: I recently learned that there are some big-name “recruiters” with massive online platforms are pushing people to apply to teach on Outschool so that they can make a ton of money through referrals. If a new teacher signs up under your referral link, you get $200 when they earn their first $100. A massive influx of new teachers has provided tons of great new classes, but it is coinciding with a natural decline in enrollments during the summer months, and so there is increased competition for a smaller number of students.
Getting Started as a teacher
Unless you are incredibly lucky, you will not immediately have a ton of full classes or a full-time schedule on Outschool. You just won’t. For a brief period of time, when schools first closed and Outschool was giving away free classes to families affected by Coronavirus closures, lots of teachers experienced a huge influx in students. (I did, too!)
I started teaching with the intention of teaching just a few classes a month. I already work full time as an English professor; I don’t need another huge time commitment taking away from my main focus as a professor! My plan is to teach primarily in the summer months with an occasional class during the school year in order to stay active on the platform.
Still, during school closures, I was able to offer classes at more competitive times because my schedules was less restrictive than usual. This allowed me to teach a lot of students in a short period of time.
This is the advice I followed when I got started, and I think it’s still super useful:
Parents are not very willing to take a big financial risk on a brand new teacher. Instead of offering expensive, multi-week classes when you first get started, offer one-time classes that are safely within the recommended hourly rate.
Be willing to teach to just 1 or 2 students when you first get started, and beyond. You won’t make as much money, but you will build a following and earn reviews that will help your credibility.
Offer something that makes you stand out; find your niche. However, don’t be so niche that there isn’t a market for your class.
Share your classes with friends and family.
Join the various teaching and parenting Facebook groups where you are allowed to promote your classes and talk about what you’re teaching.
How much will you get paid?
It really depends on a number of factors. The website advertises $40/hr, which I think is pretty accurate. You’ll hear stories of teachers who make thousands of dollars a week, and that is certainly possible, but it’s not the norm. The good news is that there isn’t a huge workload that goes into the classes. It’s not like an MLM where you have to spend money to make money (and of course, with MLMs, you’re much more likely to lose money than make any.)
The pay structure is straightforward:
You set the prices for your classes, within a recommended price range ($10-15 per student, per class hour). So, when I offer a fun, social, 1-hr class like my Writing About Animals: Discussion Class, I will typically charge $10 per student. (For a more rigorous/academic one-hour course like Feminism & Frozen, I’ll charge $12.)
Outschool takes a 30% cut.
So, for that one-time class, if I charge $10 and have 6 students enrolled, I keep 70% of that $60 and end up with a PayPal balance of $42. It’s your responsibility as a teacher to keep your own records for taxes. (I put 30% of my Outschool income into a savings account for taxes next year, just to be careful.)
Of course, if I only had 1 student in that class, I would only make $7 for that class. If I spend a lot of time on prep work, I have to take that into consideration as well.
Multi-day classes, which meet for several weeks in a row, are priced for the total class, but you can use the same approach to figure out what to charge: what do you want to charge per student, per hour? Some examples of my multi-day courses, which I generally assign a $10-13 fee. That means it costs about $50 to take one of my 4-week courses.
It takes time to develop a following and get students.
The 30% fee is a little steep, but then again, you don’t really have to do any of your own marketing if you don’t want to. Your presence on the platform is a recruitment tool itself. Once you see Outschool’s cut come out and you set aside your taxes, your take-home pay can be underwhelming until you get your footing.
(By the way, Outschool spends a LOT of money on targeted advertising. If someone ends up finding your course on the site, there is a good chance that they will be reminded of it every time they sign onto Facebook or Instagram through targeted advertising.)
The online teaching community can be a little intense.
If you’re accustomed to higher education, it can be an adjustment to suddenly interact with students’ parents regularly!
There is definitely a learning curve for figuring out how to offer classes, list the times, choose cover pictures that you have the right to use, respond to parent concerns, understand the rating system, etc.
There are definitely some perks in addition to self-employment.
Every time you refer someone to the site and they take their first class–anyone’s class, not just yours–you get a $20 credit that you can use towards your own kids’ classes. All you have to do is share links to classes. I’ve gotten hundreds of dollars in free classes for my kids this way!
There are so many cool classes for kids to take.
So many of the students are really amazing! The best part about teaching on Outschool is that I get to spend time talking to so many great kids about important topics like writing and feminism.
You don’t put any money into it! You do have to put time into creating and planning your classes, and there are some administrative tasks like replying to parent emails and class requests, but there are no unexpected costs involved.
You can decide how much you want to teach. During the summer, I’m offering several classes a week, but during the school year, when I’m back to work, I’ll easily be able to reduce my course load.
Who should teach on Outschool?
I think this is really important: the people who will have the most success on Outschool are GOOD TEACHERS.
Whether you’re a teacher by trade or by passion or both, Outschool classes seem to be the most successful when they are taught by people who understand course design, classroom management, distance learning strategies, and how to engage with a wide variety of students.
If you have questions about signing up to teach, feel free to contact me or post below! I’ll do my best to answer your questions. I am just one of many thousands of teachers, but I’ve been on the platform for about five months (since before school closures) and feel pretty confident in navigating the system.
Update: This class is now full. If you are interested in signing up for a future class on this topic, please use the contact link below to send me a message and we can talk!
After giving it a lot of thought, I have decided to launch a series of live discussion classes for adults. I’m kicking this off by offering a 4-week class on diversity and YA lit! This is a class for adults–specifically, adults like me: people who are busy with tons of responsibilities but who crave intellectual conversation about literature and culture with like-minded peers!
Here is what you need to know:
Live classes. This class will consist of four 60-minute Zoom chats with everyone who is enrolled. They will take place on Monday evenings in June.
Max capacity: 8 people. This isn’t going to be some Zoom webinar. This is a small, conversational group. Minimum enrollment: 3 people.
Dates: Mondays, June 1/8/15/22, 7pm EST. (If this time doesn’t work for you, contact me and let me know what works better. We may be able to work something out!)
Homework: None. You don’t have to read anything. Don’t have to write anything. Just show up ready to discuss the role of diversity in YA and middle grade literature. You don’t even have to be an expert in the genre! If you have an interest in YA lit, middle grade lit, or teaching, or diversity theories, you can join us! This class is all about discussing ideas. Each class will include a short presentation and then focus on discussing these ideas.
Cost: $40. But if you sign up with a friend, you both get a $10 discount and can take the class for $30 instead.
Theories we’ll be discussing: Who does diversity benefit? Why do children need diverse books in their lives? What is the importance of the #ownvoices movement? What are “windows and mirrors?” What are the successes and failures of today’s YA/middle grade publishing industry? Is your own reading list diverse?
Can teenagers join? Yes.
Important note: This class is taught from an intersectional feminist perspective. Diversity is important not just for the whole, but for the individuals who are part of groups that have been discriminated against. White privilege is real and white fragility isn’t a reason to avoid hard conversations. Justice is often about more than just equality. Racism is real. Reverse racism is not. Black Lives Matter. Ableism is a problem. Neurodiversity is important. Every individual has value. Anti-trans views are not welcome in the class. This isn’t a class where we try to teach you that diversity is important; this is a class for people who believe in and understand the importance of diversity and want to discuss how that belief impacts their engagement with the YA lit world.
How to sign up: Contact me to sign up. I will update this post if all 8 spots have been filled. Payment can be made through PayPal, Venmo, Zelle, Facebook Pay, or the CashApp. Zoom invitations will be sent out through email.
I understand the intent behind those “reject productivity during a pandemic” memes and posts. I think that’s probably a really important message for some people to hear.
If you need to hear these things, please hear them! I’ll back you up to anybody who needs to hear it from someone else:
You don’t have to make your kids do every single elearning assignment.
If you’re a teacher or a professor, you can be more lenient in your grading than you usually are.
Be kind to yourself during this time; this is chaos and trauma and uncertainty, and it’s okay to move slower and accomplish less.
If a little bit of mess doesn’t bother you, it’s okay to be a little messy right now.
You don’t have to go to Zoom church, Zoom happy hour, Zoom game night if you don’t want to.
You don’t need to learn a new language, pick up a new hobby, work on a side hustle, or re-invent your self. (Or re-start your blog, Liz.)
All that said, I worry that there’s another message that has gotten lost in all of the “don’t be productive” commentary: it is okay if you’re really busy right now.
With all this encouragement to slow down, rest, and try to take this time to re-center and rediscover your love for your family and so on, it’s also good to acknowledge that some of us have a WHOLE LOT OF STUFF TO DO.
I have college students who are depending on me to provide clear, consistent instructions and feedback on their work.
I have bills that need to be paid through my freelance work as a writer and an Outschool teacher.
I have kids who need help coping with this new situation we’re in and will continue to be in for the next several months, from what I can tell. They don’t see their friends, everything they love to do is cancelled, their cousins are at once a mile and a world away, and they need structure and some activities and one-on-one time.
I have a yard to take care of and a garden to plant. I have weeds to get rid of and honeysuckle to try to eradicate. I have a brush pile that needs to be burned. At the start of this, I had chickens in the garage who needed a new, safe run outdoors and I had to finish it before they could move out.
I think better when my house isn’t a total disaster, and now, with 4 of us home all day, every day, the work load of keeping things picked up has skyrocketed. Laundry still exists. I gotta figure out the grocery situation every week. Everybody needs to eat.
My husband is chronically ill, so a lot of day-to-day responsibilities fall to me.
I don’t have the luxury of rejecting productivity right now.
And I bet a lot of my friends don’t have that luxury, either.
So if you are someone who needs to hear that it’s okay to relax your expectations of yourself and turn down opportunities that are overwhelming right now, please make sure you do that! But if you’re busy and overwhelmed, and you feel like there’s nothing else you can give up, that’s okay, too.
You’re not a failure if you’re not thriving in this new schedule that some of your friends say is awesome. You’re not screwing this up because there hasn’t been a rediscovery of your inner person while in quarantine. You’re not a traitor to your own well-being by staying on top of your responsibilities during this time.
You’re awesome. You’ve got this. Embrace the lessons you need to embrace right now, and remember that some of the advice out there is not targeted toward you, and so you can read it and set it aside.
Quick backstory, for those who don’t know us: My husband is 38 and has several chronic respiratory diseases, including some severe ones. He’s on 24/7 supplemental oxygen, so we are taking isolation guidelines very seriously.
Questions you ask yourself while grocery shopping during isolation:
Why are some things from Aldi so good, and some things are so terrible? (Good: cheap brie. Bad: the granola bars that made my 6-year-old come to me one day and say, super sweetly, “Mom, will you promise me somping? It’s that will you promise me not ever don’t buy those granola bars from Aldi ever again? Please?”)
Why does Meijer up the prices just to let me use Instacart?
Is it ethically acceptable to shop with Instacart right now when they’re not taking care of their workers? Yes, as long as I tip well?
Is it ethical to let someone else take the health risk for you by paying them to do your shopping?
Why doesn’t Aldi let me shop the fun aisle through Instacart? Do you know how much I would buy from their fun aisle right now? It’s SPRING! They are probably stocked with planters and gardening clogs and interesting seeds and yard decorations and fun summer kids’ toys!
What am I going to cook for the next 14,000 meals? Probably just more spaghetti and burgers.
Why are there reports that the Muncie Wal-Mart parking lot is packed with people, and that the Muncie Lowes is full of families, no observations of social distancing, no limits to number of people in the stores? Don’t people realize what this is going to do?
Am I contributing to that by placing my order TODAY? Should I place my order tomorrow? Next week? I made it 10 days without needing to re-stock, but there are definitely some things we’re running low on.
Why do I miss grocery shopping so much?
Is it really okay to skip the disinfecting process for groceries? Reliable sources say it’s not necessary, but I remember what it felt like three weeks ago when I was convinced for two hours that my allergies were actually COVID, and how I tried to think of what else I could have done to keep Ben and the kids safe, and if I get peace of mind from cleaning the groceries, does it matter?
Why does it make me feel like crying to pick between a few different candies so that my kids can have a fun little treat during the week?
Committing random acts of colonialism around the world as an ill-informed teenage missionary. (Yeah, sorry about that.)
Getting married & moving across the country.
Coming to terms with my husband’s countless respiratory diseases and what it means to be the healthy partner in a marriage governed by chronic illness.
Having a baby!
Moving back home and getting my dream job of being an English professor.
Having another baby and trying to get him to sleep through the night. Then he’s a toddler and trying to get him to sleep through the night. Then he’s a pre-schooler and trying to get him to sleep through the night.
Then he’s a kindergartener and have you ever been so tired in your life.
Those sleepless nights added up, and it became years of sporadic diary entries, a half-hearted attempt to document some important moments: a summer of hospitalizations for my husband, the first time I took the kids on a solo road trip, the time I took my daughter to the Women’s March to protest the inauguration of a disgusting excuse for a president, the time my mom and I took the kids to France for a month and spent the summer hiking with a donkey, playing in castle ruins, watching plays in French, and cheering at the Tour de France.
Yes, my diaries used to be exciting. ‘Cause I’m a stupidly lucky person with a stupidly lucky life that is full of love and good conversations.
And now, poor diary, you are a spiral-bound notebook with lines (my high school self would be MORTIFIED), and your entries look something like this:
Today I taught some classes.
Today my kids took some classes.
We went on another walk again.
I saw some ducks.
We cleaned the living room/kitchen/bedroom/garage/bathroom.
Nobody yelled at each other much.
I made spaghetti/leftovers/chicken tenders/salad/pizza/burgers.
Running low on boxed wine.
Ben slept most of the day; it’s spring time. That’s normal.
But then I posted something on Facebook. I wrote down the things that had really happened lately. The things that hadn’t made it into my Pandemic Diary:
I ordered deodorant online and it says it’s arrived but I’ve never found it. Do I care? Not sure.
My coffee filters haven’t arrived either and I DO care about that.
Phantom of the Opera starts live streaming at 2pm EST today, if my brain is still working and I’ve converted the time correctly.
Oscar says he’s out of clean pants and is wearing tiny Hawaiian shorts that are shorter than his boxer brief underwear. Which are too small for him.
I need to help Ada feel excited about something, so I bought her some fun Wings of Fire and John Wick tshirts that she can earn by meeting whatever goal she wants to set, even if that goal is something absurd and silly.
My third and last box of wine is almost empty. God help me. (yeah, I drink box wine. IT’S A PANDEMIC.)
I dreamed last night that the president of our university convened a Zoom faculty meeting to discuss the importance of not swearing so much. Debbie from work was asked to go on CNN to talk about swearing on college campuses, but I don’t remember what she said, just that she made us look good.
My new chickens are dumber than my old chickens and I’m not sure how to feel about that.
And at the end of my list, I felt better.
I liked what I had written. And my friends liked what I had written. And a bunch of them asked me to write some more. And Marci Rae Johnson said I should blog again. When Marci Rae Johnson tells you to do something, you really don’t have any other choice.
And so today, diary, I dusted off my old blog, archived all the posts, tried to learn the new WordPress site editing system (not sure I like it), and sat down to write it all down.
So, Marci, here goes. I’ll either thank you later or blame you.