Google Slides Magic

By now, you may know I love Google Slides. I usually default to the classic rewards and use them to extend on our lesson. Every once in a while, I will make a very unique, custom reward that I use for one specific student.

A couple of weeks ago, my sweet student Tracy brought some paper frogs she had drawn and cut out. They all wore clothes and crowns, and she said one was the mom, the dad and the baby. That same class, she brought her My Little Ponies to class with her.

As background, Mom used to get very upset when Tracy brought toys to class. In feedback, I explained we could use them, as long as Tracy just brought one or two toys, so Mom reluctantly agreed. As we used them more and more in class, Tracy got more excited about learning, and Mom got on board.

Fast forward… after this frog class, I thought it would be fun to make Tracy a special reward, so I wrote a story using Google Slides. I downloaded most of my images from my subscription to PNG tree, and I made up a story about the frog prince who lost his parents. Tracy is in the unit studying “feelings” so the topic was great to ask “How does he feel?”

Tracy was delighted to see that I had a custom story for her, and she recognized her toys from the last lesson!

In a rare occurrence, Mom wasn’t in class with her that week, but when I got the feedback, Mom thanked me for making the reward and asked if I could send her the pictures from the slides. (In China, they can’t get to Google Slides, even if I wanted to send her the full lesson.)Screenshot (1)

I took screenshots for her, and sent them via WeChat.

In our next class, as soon as I turned on the camera, Tracy held up a printed version of my story! She proceeded to read the entire thing to me, inserting the emotions she had learned to describe the characters. She and mom had been practicing all week until Tracy could read it on her own!

My heart just melted!

Here is a video I made so you could see how I first used it as a reward for Tracy, and then how she read it back to me. The audio is not very good from the playback, but it’s still adorable! Watch the cutest thing ever here: Google Slides Magic Video

Thank you to Google Slides and WeChat for making it possible to build such fulfilling relationships with families across the world.

If you would like more information about using Google Slides with VIPKid or are just interested in getting started in general, please let me know in the comments!

Happy teaching (and sliding!)

How to Take a Screenshot

Screenshots can be helpful to document student no-shows, IT issues, and much more.

If you are a teacher with VIPKid, you’ve probably been told at some point to “take a screenshot.” Screenshots can be helpful to document student no-shows, IT issues, and much more. But sometimes (especially if we are in the middle of a problem) it can be a challenge to remember how to take a screenshot!

Below are a few of the most common ways to take a screenshot. This is not a comprehensive list, but hopefully it will help you find a method that works for you.

PC

  1. Snipping Tool: Most PC’s have a tool built in called a “Snipping Tool.”  If you search for this program on your computer, it will come up, and you can pin it to your taskbar or make a shortcut on your desktop for it.  The pictures can then be saved as a .jpg file. Instructions for how to launch and use the snipping tool can be found on the Microsoft support site.
  2. “PrtScr” Button: Somewhere near the upper right corner of your keyboard, there should be a button marked “PrtScr.” (It might be abbreviated differently on your keyboard. Press ALT+PrtScr, and this will take a screenshot of the active window of your computer. You can then open a word document, powerpoint, or paint and type CTRL+V to paste the image into a file that you can save.
  3. Partial Screenshot: Hold down the Windows key+Shift+S, and it will allow you to use your mouse to draw a rectangle around the area you want to capture. It then copies it to the clipboard and you can paste into the program of your choice to save.

MAC

  1. Snip: There is an app you can download from the Mac App store called “Snip.” It works much like the Snipping Tool for Windows.
  2. Full Screenshot: Hold down Command+Shift+3, and this will take a screenshot of your active window and save it to your desktop.
  3. Partial Screenshot: Hold down Command+Shift+4; then use your mouse to draw a rectangle around the area you want to capture. It will automatically save it to your desktop.

iPad/iPhone

To take a screenshot on either an iPad or an iPhone, hold down the sleep/wake button, then immediately press and release either the volume up button or the round home button. Your screen should flash, and your device will save the screenshot of the entire screen as a photo.

Android

To take a screenshot on an android device, hold down the volume down button and the power button for 1-2 seconds. The entire screen should flash white, and your device will capture the entire screen and save it as a photo.

I hope you found this helpful. If you have other suggestions or tips that work for you, let me know in the comments!

The Five Secrets to Working From Home

Working from home is a great way for employers to save money on overhead and employees to benefit from flexibility and time.

At the risk of revealing how old I’ve really become, I’ll confess that I have been working from home on and off for the last (gasp) 20 years. The first time I worked from home, I was in my twenties, and I HATED it. I felt isolated and disconnected, and I struggled to maintain an appropriate work-life balance. Today, I LOVE working from home, and I truly value the flexibility it affords. Over time, I’ve learned a few insider secrets that made all the difference, so I thought I’d share those with you today. Read on to learn my top five secrets!

About Me

Today, I work as a staff manager for Windstream Enterprise. I manage a customer service team that spans three locations (plus a few other scattered employees here and there!) I also have project management/process improvement role that allows me to work with all of our leadership teams in many locations. In the mornings before my “day job” begins, I also teach English to students in China through VIPKid. Though these two jobs are very different, both share one amazing feature: my commute is one minute to walk upstairs.

About Working From Home

Working from home requires dedication, consistency, and boundaries. It is very easy to lose balance when you don’t have a traditional brick and mortar time clock. Some people find that they work all day and all night. If your workspace is the kitchen table, it’s altogether too easy to “hop on” and work a few emails while you make breakfast or eat dinner. This can quickly lead to burnout, not to mention frustration from your family. On the other hand, you can also err in the opposite direction. If you are supposed to be focusing on work but you stop to fold laundry, clean house, or do any one of the many other things that demand your attention – your productivity can take a hit.

The Five Secrets to Success

  1. Have a dedicated workspace with a door that closes. Working from the dining room table might seem like a convenient option; however, I can tell you from experience it is not. It worked great until:
    • I had to throw all of my work supplies into a basket when it was time for a dinner party, and then couldn’t find anything for the next week.
    • My kids were out of school and my family was visiting, and everyone decided they wanted to come in and “keep me company” while I was working.
    • My husband, who also worked from home, decided he would pace while on conference calls, regularly making the path from the kitchen to the living room (right through my “office”).
    • Once I moved my office upstairs, it worked much better for everyone involved!
  2. Shower. Shave. Get dressed. Yes, we’ve all heard the siren’s call of “working in your pj’s.” I might or might not be writing this blog post in my bunny slippers right now. And OCCASIONALLY, this is probably ok. But as a general rule, you are being paid to do a job, and so you owe it to your company and to yourself to give it 100%. That means being alert, focused, energized and engaged. When I’m in my pajamas (or yoga pants, or sweats and a t-shirt) I’m in Saturday morning mode. Sure, I can go through the motions. But I just don’t feel “on” like I do when I’ve gotten dressed for the day.  Don’t get me wrong; I don’t wear high heels and a business suit to work. I’m not sure I even own “professional” attire anymore. But I always shower, get dressed, and put on (minimal) makeup. Here’s my morning routine on  a workday:
    • 4:30 am – The alarm on my apple watch goes off. (It vibrates, so it doesn’t wake up Michael.)
    • 4:57 am – After 3 snoozes on my watch, I get up and turn off my backup alarm.
    • 5:00 am – Shower/Shampoo/Wake up.
    • 5:20 am – Get dressed, slap on some basic makeup, and put on the little jewelry that I wear.
    • 5:30 am – Grab a Diet Coke and head upstairs.
    • 5:35 am – Dry my hair while booting up my computer and checking facebook on my phone. Continue to Drink Diet coke.
    • 5:45 am – Set up my VIPKid classroom. Lay out the props I’ll be using in class, sign into the classroom, and make sure the classroom is working properly.
    • 5:55 am – Sit down in my classroom. Apply lipstick. Put on headset. I’m ready for class.
    • 6:00 am – Begin my first of three classes. Each class is 25 minutes, with five minutes in between to reset my classroom, write feedback, or grab another sip of Diet Coke.
    • 7:30 am – Finish my last class. Feed the dog, grab breakfast, and finish any feedback from my classes.
    • 8:00 am – Move my chair from my classroom to my office. Sit down in my office. Put on headset. I’m ready for work.
  3. Establish boundaries. For those of us who like routine (see above) this may be easy. My work laptop “lives” upstairs, so when I come down after work, I rarely continue to work. Sure, I can check my phone, but I won’t get sucked into a big project. Likewise, my laundry, housework, etc. is all downstairs, so I’m not tempted to work on other things during my work day. I don’t have a television in my office, so I’m not tempted to turn on any shows that might distract me. And my family knows that if my door is closed, they should not disturb me. With Windstream, I work with a great group of people who don’t mind the occasional cameo of a spouse or child on video behind me, so my door normally stays open.  But with VIPKid, maintaining a classroom free of distraction is paramount, so the door is closed during class. Those boundaries help me be successful in whichever job I am doing.
  4. Take breaks. In an office environment, there are natural “water cooler” moments built into the day. When I first started working at Windstream, my desk was right by the main elevator, so people always stopped by to say hi as they were coming and going. Now, it’s possible that the only one to come upstairs besides me is my dog!
    • Plan a lunch break, even if it’s just to go downstairs and make a sandwich.
    • Make an effort to leave the house. Walk around the block, go to the gas station to get a drink, or make dinner plans with friends.
    • Stand up between meetings or classes and stretch. Walk around the room or simply look away from your computer.
    • Schedule time for conversations. Two colleagues and I recently put a meeting on our calendars for Friday at 5:00. We jumped on a video call and did nothing but catch up. It was FANTASTIC! With VIPKid, look for local meetups so you can get to know other teachers near you. These are the types of interactions that you miss out on while working from home, but you don’t have to!
  5. Embrace (and invest in) technology. If you are going to be successful working from home, you MUST have reliable technology. If you provide your own equipment, be sure it is high quality and dependable. With VIPKid, I invested in an iPad to ensure that I have a way to teach if either my internet or power is out. Be sure you have reliable, high-speed internet that won’t be impacted if you and your hubby are both on video conferences (ahem, Michael.) or if your kids are in a Fortnite dance battle.  Find a headset that is comfortable and works for you. I wear a headset almost nonstop from 6 am until 5 pm. My preference is  a simple Logitech USB headset, but my husband prefers airpods. Whatever you choose, be sure you have good quality, reliable equipment and technology.

Ultimately, you need to figure out what works for you. This might be the most important secret to working at home. Everyone is different, and what works for me, might not work for you. What worked in my old house no longer worked once I moved. So try different things until you find a routine and a process that allows you to be effective, efficient, and engaged.

Working from home is a great way for employers to save money on overhead and employees to benefit from flexibility and time. I have grown to love it, and have transitioned from the occasional “work from home” employee to a full-time “Remote Home Office” status.

I would love to hear from my fellow telecommuters. What do you love? What challenges do you face? Let me know in the comments!

If you don’t yet work from home and would like to try it out, VIPKid is always hiring. I’d love to help you get started, so feel free to get started by completing the VIPKid application, and let me know how I can help!

 

How to Request a VIPKid Finish Type Change

We all love our students and want them to have a great experience, so it’s always disappointing when things don’t work the way we planned.

This is the blog post that I never wanted to write.  The fact that I am writing it tells you that I have had some type of problem in one of my VIPKid classes. The fact that you’re reading it tells me you might have had a similar problem, so I hope this helps!

What is a finish type?

As I explain in the VIPKid Dictionary, each class is marked with a disposition by VIPKid upon completion.  For a teacher to be paid, the finish type must be one of the following:

  • AS_SCHEDULED
  • STUDENT_NO_SHOW
  • STUDENT_IT_PROBLEM
  • SYSTEM_PROBLEM

If you have a problem in class, a cancellation, or an IT issue that is deemed to be the teacher’s responsibility, you won’t get paid. The outcomes of negative finish code are different, depending on the circumstances, but suffice to say that some are worse for teachers than others.

Why would I want to change one?

This morning in class, I had an issue with my app during class. It completely froze and temporarily rendered my laptop immobile. Thankfully, I had my handy backup iPad handy, so I simply switched to the iPad and finished my class. Unfortunately, while the app on my laptop was locked, it still showed that I was in the original classroom, thus preventing me from entering the new classroom. I immediately began using my phone to troubleshoot with a VIPKid fireman, but by the time I successfully entered the second student’s classroom, another fireman had marked the class as TEACHER_NO_SHOW. (This is bad.) 😦 So, I want to change it to a SYSTEM_PROBLEM (ideally) or at least a TEACHER_IT.

How do I request a finish type change?

  1. Within your PC app or Teacher Portal, click on “Class” then “Classrooms.”
  2. Click on “All Classes.” This will display a screen like you see below.
  3. Click on the large orange button that says “Cancellations & No Shows & Change Finish Type.”
  4. Small check boxes will appear next to each of your classes. Place a check mark in the box for the class that you would like to change.
  5. Scroll to the bottom of the screen and click the “Request to Change Finish Type” button.

 

finish code steps

finish code steps 2

At that point, it will ask you to fill out a brief form. It will ask:

  • What finish code do you want to change the class to?
  • What is the reason for changing the finish type?
  • Notes (More on this later)
  • Photocopies of supporting documentation (More on this later)

Once you have filled in the form as completely as possible, click the orange “submit” button at the bottom of the form.

finish code steps 3

How do I have the best chance to get my finish type changed?

  1. Leave good notes. This is the section where you explain what happened. As you might imagine, not all notes are created equally, so:
    • Use simple, concise language. This is a ticket, not a blog post. 🙂
    • Avoid incidental language. Just like this can confuse a student, this could confuse a help desk agent as well.
    • Stick to the facts. You will probably be upset, but try not to let that confuse the facts of what happened.
  2. Upload good quality screenshots with timestamps. When you begin having system issues, it’s a good idea to immediately start taking screenshots. Likewise, take screenshots of any conversations you have with firemen. I usually keep any screenshots until after all payouts for the month have been made; then I delete them. For the example above, I attached eight screenshots. I had six screenshots of my conversation with the fireman on my phone and two in the classroom that was marked as a TEACHER_NO_SHOW attempting to communicate with that fireman. I would have felt better if I had a screenshot of the app frozen in the original classroom, but in my haste to switch to the iPad, I failed to get a screenshot.
  3. Be thorough and patient. You do have three attempts to change a finish code on a class, so if you are unsuccessful the first time, check your notes and your screenshots, determine if you can word your request differently, and re-submit.

We all love our students and want them to have a great experience, so it’s always disappointing when things don’t work the way we planned. But one incident will not ruin your career with VIPKid or your reputation with parents, so try not to be too upset. Learn from the issue and work on what you can do next time to prevent the same issue again.

I hope you never have to use this particular blog post, but if you do, I’m always here for a friendly ear. Let me know how yours turned out in the comments!

VIPKid – Preparing for Mock Class (Lower Level)

There is no better way to meet VIPKid’s expectations than to clearly know what those expectations are.

Congratulations on deciding to certify for lower level classes with VIPKid! This certification will allow you to teach Level 2 Interactive (the most popular level with VIPKid!) as well as Level 3. Always remember that there are materials provided in the teacher portal that can help you prepare for, and review, the course curriculum at any time. To get started, here’s what you need to know. Please note, this is current effective March 2019.

Before you begin, I suggest reviewing the VIPKid Teacher Applicant Performance Indicator. VIPKid will send this to you before your mock class, and your mentor can also provide you with a copy. This will tell you exactly what your VIPKid mock class mentor will be scoring you on. There is no better way to meet VIPKid’s expectations than to clearly know what those expectations are.

1. Prepare for both lessons. There will be two different lessons (A&B) provided in the classroom.  Your mock class mentor will choose one of the two lessons for you to teach during your mock class, so please be sure you prepare for both!

2. Review the objectives for both lessons.

  • For <u>option A</u>, the goal is to teach the words “ball,” “throw,” and to blend phonemes z/r/s/h (onset) with -ip (rime.) You want to avoid a lot of words that don’t specifically support these objectives
  • For <u>option B</u>, the goal is to teach the nouns “kite” and “doll” and the verb “fly.” You will also be teaching target sentences “Do you fly a kite? Do you throw a ball? Do you swing in a swing?” with the goal being to have the student answer “Yes, I ______,” or “No, I don’t ______.”

3. Plan your reward system for both lessons.

Rewards are a hot topic with many teachers. There is a built-in reward system in all VIPKid curriculum. With Interactive Level 2, the reward is interactive, and the student can manipulate the items on the screen as part of their reward. If you ask 100 teachers how they use (or should use) the rewards, you will get 100 different answers. Honestly, that’s one of the great benefits of VIPKid is that students can learn differently with different teachers! My suggestion for the mock class is to build a custom reward that can be used WITH the interactive reward slide. That way, all your bases are covered. An ideal reward system:

  • Is fun!
  • Is visible at all times during class!
  • Supports the learning objectives!
  • Engages the student!

Be creative… if you love it, so will your students (and your mock class mentor!)  For specific ideas on how to get started, check out these posts:

4. Plan your props for both lessons.

It is important to have props that you bring to class to reinforce each lesson. It is recommended that you use at least three props, and at least two different types of props. Here are examples of different types of props:

  • Printed or Drawn (2D) props: flash cards, printed pictures, drawn pictures
  • Realia or 3D props: real items from your home that relate to the lesson, toy versions of items in the lesson
  • Digital props: gifs, google slides images that you display
  • Other props: whiteboard, magnetic letters

You will want to plan your props for both lessons in advance and practice with them on camera. It’s important to practice on camera so you are comfortable holding items closer to the camera or further away. Most laptops allow you to record sessions directly from your built in camera which is great for you to watch yourself and adjust.

Similar to rewards, find and use props that YOU enjoy. If you are excited about them, your students will be. Here are some ideas to get you started:

5. Anticipate Possible Errors

As you are planning your props, it’s a good time to anticipate what errors a student might make. If you are in a live mock class with a mock class mentor, I promise they WILL make mistakes just to ensure you catch them and are comfortable correcting them. If you are recording a demo, you will want to pretend that your student made a mistake to demonstrate how you could correct an error. Props are a great (and positive) way to help correct errors.

Here are a few ideas on common errors you might anticipate in each of your certification classes:

6. Plan your TPR for both lessons.

TPR is one of the fundamental building blocks of ESL. For most of us, it doesn’t come naturally, so it is important than you plan TPR and practice it. When I was first preparing to become an ESL teacher, I followed a three step process.

  1. Plan. I reviewed each slide and practiced different TPR techniques that I could use on each one. This got me comfortable making the motions.
  2. Practice. I practiced this TPR any time I had the chance. (My prime platform was my shower!) I didn’t memorize it all, but I got used to the common gestures I planned to use. The more you make the movements, the easier they will become.
  3. Preview. I recorded myself using my webcam practicing my TPR. That helped me get used to how big my gestures needed to be while still remaining on the camera. I found out which gestures looked the most precise and crisp and I was able to change those that did not convey a clear meaning. I can’t stress enough how helpful this step is. If you record yourself, your mentor can watch it and give you feedback, but you’ll also be amazed at how much you will notice. For example, even just waving goodbye looks so much better when you hold your hand stiff with your fingers together! The only way you can know this is by watching yourself in action!

7. Download the Teacher App and update your laptop’s flash and Chrome. VIPKid recommends using the Teacher App for all classroom activities, and it is also my tool of choice. If there is a problem, teaching through the Chrome browser is a good alternative, so have all of this updated and ready before you begin.  It also wouldn’t hurt to restart your computer or ipad.

8. Allow yourself time to go into the classroom and practice before you begin. VIPKid will give you access to a practice classroom, and I suggest using this so you get comfortable in the VIPKid environment. This will become second nature to you once you have taught a few classes, but it’s great to get your feet wet before your certification.

9. Set up your “classroom.” You do not need to spend a lot of money to do this, but you will want to put some thought into where you will be doing your mock class certification.

  • The background that will be visible in the video frame should create a learning atmosphere. VIPKid defines this as having visible props, an uncluttered, designated area, and having a space optimized for teaching.
  • You will want to be sitting or standing an appropriate distance from the camera so you can be clearly visible at all times, and your camera should be at eye level so it feels as though you are making eye contact with your student.
  • Lighting should be balanced with no shadows or significant glares on you or your props.

10. Review the application performance indicator (again.)  This is so important, it bears repeating.  There is no better way to meet VIPKid’s expectations than to clearly know what those expectations are. I was new to teaching in a formal class environment, and new to ESL, but I prepared extensively using this tool, and My VIPKid Interview Results were great. I passed my mock class certification the first time. I say this not to brag, but to help reassure you if you are feeling uncertain or overwhelmed.

The preparation time doesn’t have to be extensive, just intentional.  I hope that this guide helped you get ready for the process, and I would be happy to personally guide you as your mentor.  If you are interested, please apply using my referral link or add my referral code (AMELI0055) to your application.

Good luck!

 

How to Send an e-card with VIPKid

When I was a little girl, I LOVED to check the mail. Of course, that’s because I would only get letters and cards and not any of the bills that fill my mailbox as an adult. Nonetheless, when I learned that we could send our students e-cards through VIPKids, I jumped on the chance.

Below, I have shared the step-by-step instructions for how to send an e-card.  Please note, you must use the phone app to send these. I have not found a way to send them through the portal

Step 1: Find Your Student

Open the phone list, and go to your list of classes. If the student you are looking for isn’t on the first page, scroll down until you see “All Bookings,” and click it to expand the list and be able to search by day.  Once you find a class with your student, click on it to open that specific class.  Then click on your student’s name to open the student screen.

card - 1

2. Enter the “Gift” Screen

At the top of the screen there is a gift box. Click on the yellow gift box to “Send a Gift.”

card - 2

3. Choose “Send a Card”

From this screen, you can either request the student’s mailing address (so you can send them a “real” gift, or you can send them an e-card.  To send an e-card, click the orange “Send a Card” button at the bottom of the screen.

card - 3

4. Select Your Card and Customize It.

At the bottom of your screen, you can scroll through a list of available e-cards. Some are free (meaning they don’t require any tokens) while some cost 5 tokens to spend. Use your finger to scroll through the cards at the bottom to find one that you like. Once you have selected one, type in your custom message at the top, and then click “Send.”  There will be a popup confirming how many (if any) tokens the card will cost and confirming that you want to send it. The student will then be automatically notified of their card!

card - 4

 

If you have any questions about how to send cards, or when it might or might not be appropriate, feel free to ask in the comments! Otherwise, enjoy!