Fitness Update – Week 2: One Step at a Time

Anything new can feel overwhelming, and it won’t always work out exactly as we have planned. But that’s ok. As long as we focus on progress and not perfection, we will ultimately be successful.

Many of you know that I recently started trying to intentionally improve my health. I thought I’d share a quick status update.

I’m not thrilled with my progress so far.

It isn’t about how much weight I’ve lost because I’ve only done it for a couple of weeks. (And I have lost about 3 pounds …) But it’s more about my own self-discipline. Due to a few “emergencies” in my 8-5 day job, my workouts have not been as consistent as I would hope. I’ve missed two days this week (although I’ll make up one of them this weekend.) I’ve done fairly well eating healthy, but my digestive system has had a few issues. I mean, who can blame it? After years of eating processed food, fast food, and hardly anything healthy, I’m sure my body is thinking “What is this green stuff that she’s putting into me?” And then there’s the ever-so-gradual replacement of a liquid diet of diet coke and wine, replaced with water and hot tea. That one can’t happen overnight, but I have made some progress there.

This is going to sound crazy, but I think what’s bothered me the most is that I haven’t been following the process and writing everything down. I have this great book that I bought. I’ve used it before, and my goals page is a work of art. It has cute goals written out very neatly in felt pen (with illustrations!) It shows how motivated I was at the beginning.

My Body for Life “dreams” – August, 2019

The first couple of days have everything filled in. I even bought a pack of multi-colored felt pens to encourage myself to write down my daily goals, foods, and exercises and comment on my progress. Since those first few rosy days, let’s just say it hasn’t happened.

Day 10, Body For Life… September 6, 2019

However… even though I am not being the fitness and health powerhouse I had hoped, I think there’s still progress to celebrate:

  • I have eaten healthier in these last 10 days than I have in a very long time. And I have reduced my calorie count. Perfection? No. Progress? Yes.
  • I have begun an exercise program. It’s too early to call it a habit, but I’m doing it. And at some point it WILL be a habit. I will probably never love it, but that’s ok.
  • I do have one spark of enjoyment that makes me look forward to my cardio days. I started doing what I call “Treadmill Time.” While I’m doing my cardio, I watch YouTube videos from some of my favorite VIPKid teachers, and then share little tidbits so others might benefit from them too! I have a lot of fun trying to decide who to watch and then binge-watching during my workouts!

So, on day 10, I think my takeaway is this. I’ll keep taking things one step at a time. I think this is important, whether with exercise, or if you are a new VIPKid teacher just starting out. Anything new can feel overwhelming, and it won’t always work out exactly as we have planned. But that’s ok. As long as we focus on progress and not perfection, we will ultimately be successful.

Now I’m off to pick out the color for my new felt tip pen for the day…

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Mid-Autumn Festival and VIPKid

When is it?

The Mid-Autumn Festival falls on the fifteenth day of the eighth month of the lunar calendar. That means that the calendar date changes each year.

In 2019, the date falls on September 13, so the festival is celebrated from Friday, September 13 through Sunday, September 15.

What is it?

The Mid-Autumn Festival is the second largest festival in China (second only to Chinese New Year.) It is celebrated in mid-autumn (hence the name.)

The Mid-Autumn Festival may also be called The Moon Festival or the Harvest Moon Festival (since the moon is at its fullest and brightest during this time of the year.)

History

The festival was historically focused on moon-based sacrificial ceremonies. It was a time to give thanks for plentiful harvests. There were also several legends associated with the festival.

  • Chang E flies to the moon: One of the most popular stories is centered around an archer (Hou Yi) who somehow inherited a special, sacred elixer. (The stories behind this vary.) His wife Chang E ended up drinking the elixer and flying to the moon!
  • The Jade Rabbit pounds herbs: It is said that the Jade Rabbit (jack rabbit) is Chang E’s companion on the moon. He continually pounds herbs to make pills in an attempt to find a combination that will send Chang E back to Earth so she can be reunited with her husband.
  • Woodsman Wu Gang chops the laurel tree: This is a legend where a woodsman attempts to chop down a self-healing laurel tree each day at the Moon Palace. The tree heals itself each evening, and he resumes his efforts the next day.
  • Zhu Yuanzhang’s mooncake uprising: Zhu Yuanzhang is the founder of the Ming Dynasty. He attempted to launch an uprising on the night of the Mid-Autumn festival, but communications proved to be challenging. They ended up hiding notes in mooncakes to distribute them, leading to Zhu and his rebel forces taking the capital of the Yuan Dynasty (now Beijing) and beginning the Ming Dynasty.

Modern Day

Today, the festival is still celebrated by eating mooncakes. They are often given as gifts to wish someone a long and happy life. Families take time to appreciate the moon, honor family members who live far away, and sometimes celebrate with lanterns or dragon and lion dances, depending on their regions. People typically get one day off of work to celebrate, making the festival a long weekend in many regions.

Will I get bookings or cancellations?

I started with VIPKid last year around the time of the Mid-Autumn festival, so I do not have personal experience with bookings during this festival. In perusing the Facebook groups, it sounds as though it all depends on the students and their families. Some take the time off of classes, while others use the extra day off to book extra classes. Just be aware and try to be mindful of student schedule changes. As with most holidays, it’s best if you can open up short notice bookings and be as flexible as possible!

What can I do in class to celebrate?

Any time you can bring elements of a festival into your classroom, children and their families will appreciate your efforts! There are a few traditions that are easy to incorporate:

  • Mooncakes. Depending on your supermarket, you may be able to find actual mooncakes that you can eat “with” your students. If not, there are lots of mooncake rewards (digital or printable.) These can be fun to use around the time of the Mid-Autumn Festival. You can also use it for free talk, and ask your students if they made or ate Mooncakes! VIPKid even provides a mooncake reward system here!
  • Tradition. Especially if you teach older, higher-level children, this could be a good opportunity to compare traditions. Ask them to tell you If they grew up listening to the legends. Have them tell you their favorite one! You can share stories about “harvest festivals” in your country and foods that we eat. Holidays are always a good opportunity to share culture!
  • Decoration. If you enjoy decorating your classroom, there are some lovely images available for the Mid-Autumn Festival. The image on this blog post is from PNG Tree, but there are many beautiful images available.

What should I do to prepare?

There’s really not too much you need to do to prepare, unless you want to incorporate decorations or rewards into your classroom.  Be flexible, and be open to hearing if your students want to tell you about their own celebrations on this day. Most importantly, have fun!

If you are a current VIPKid teacher, keep your eyes open, because sometimes they will offer workshops about specific festivals. There are several Chinese culture workshops scheduled during September, so those might be a good place to start.

If you have suggestions of your own, please let me know in the comments, or let me know how this festival has been for you in the past!

If you are just getting started and would like help through the hiring process, please feel free to reach out. I’d love to help you through the application process with VIPKid!

Sources/More Information:

TravelChinaGuide.com

Wikipedia.com

CCTV.com

Being a Beginner

“Be willing to be a beginner every single morning.” – Meister Eckhart

Most of my blog posts are about teaching with VIPKid. Occasionally I branch off into my journey to get here. But today I wanted to share something a little bit more personal. I’ve decided to change my lifestyle and make a concentrated effort to get healthier.

As background, I’ve never been a very health-conscious person. I’ve gone through phases where I have exercised, and sometimes I eat better than others. But no one has ever looked at me and said, “Wow, what a healthy person.” A few years ago, I had a hysterectomy (in my 30’s) and went on hormones, and what was “a few pounds overweight” quickly started ballooning. (literally and figuratively!) I was still getting some exercise because I walked my dog Buster most mornings before work, and we were cooking some at home because our youngest kids were still living with us. We had to keep up some semblance of a good example! But even then, I was definitely not living my best life.

About a year ago, several things happened: our youngest two twins went to college. (Yes, one still lives with us … or at least we think he does. We don’t really see him much anymore.) That’s roughly when we stopped cooking at home. And I started teaching with VIPKid (which I LOVE!) BUT… the only downside is that I teach in the early mornings, right when I would walk Buster. So Buster (and I) have taken a bit of a backseat. My exercise dropped to almost zero, and my caffeine intake rose proportionately. I have realized that I have to make a change. I want more energy. I want to feel better. I want to be around longer. So I have to change.

So… today I began the first 12-week program. I know it’s old school, but I’m following the old Body for Life process. The idea is simple, and I know I can be successful, because it’s a series of small, attainable goals.

  1. Eating better. You eat six small meals per day consisting of a small portion of protein and carbs in each meal plus vegetables to at least 2 meals. (Of course plenty of water.) And my favorite part: one free day per week. That helps me be strong, knowing I can eat anything on one day each week.
  2. Exercising. No, I’m not doing Crossfit or Boot Camps. I don’t even think I’m in enough shape to do a Dino Dash step bet yet. But I’ve started. I joined a gym and will work out six days per week alternating weights and aerobic exercise. No workout lasts more than 46 minutes, which is awesome. I have to modify because I can’t do it first thing in the morning on an empty stomach, but I can do it after work.
  3. Living Intentionally. I’m setting goals. I’m planning my meals and exercise. I’m thinking about how I can be successful.

So why write about it here? For one thing, I’m excited for this fresh start, and I wanted to share it. For another thing, so many of you who read and comment on my posts inspire me. You may not even realize you’ve made an impact, but you have! Finally, this is an added layer of accountability. By telling 30,000 of my closest friends and putting these intentions out into the world, I feel that I have an added responsibility to see this through.

There is a quote from Meister Eckhart that says, “Be willing to be a beginner every single morning.” I am excited to be beginning again with a new focus.

Don’t worry, my blog will still be about teaching, and cute kiddos, and amazing props, and all of those fun things. But the person behind the screen will just be a little healthier as she types.

Thanks for joining me on (another) journey!

Happy teaching, and exercising and eating healthier!

Amelia

How to Ask for 5-Apple Feedback

It is critical to be genuine, both in your teaching and in your feedback, so do what works for YOU!

I have written several blog posts about feedback, and in the last (almost) year that I’ve been teaching, my opinion hasn’t changed much. When people ask me, “Do you ask for feedback?” My answer is “sometimes.” It really depends on the student, the class, and the parents.

When do you ask for feedback?

I usually ask for feedback when I am teaching students for the first 1-3 times, or when I have a specific question that I would like the parents to answer. Here’s a snapshot of when I ask:

How do you ask for feedback?

I vary the way that I ask for feedback, but below are a few examples that I have used in each of the above categories! All of these are at the very end of my feedback, after I have given specific information about the student’s performance!

Trial Class Feedback

Bao Bao did a great job in class, and he will do very well with VIPKid! Did Bao Bao enjoy class? If you have any questions, you can contact your Learning Partner or ask me in your feedback. Receiving positive, 5-apple feedback is very important to VIPKid teachers, and it is a great way to be able to share ideas about Bao Bao’s classes! Thank you! Teacher Amelia U

First Class Feedback

Thank you for the opportunity to teach Bao Bao in class today. I hope she enjoyed it as much as I did! I would love to hear your comments about our class. VIPKid teachers always value feedback, but I especially enjoy learning about my new students’ families! Thank you! Teacher Amelia U

Second or Third Class Feedback

It was great to see Bao Bao again today. I can already see improvements from our last lesson. Keep going! If you have any suggestions or requests for our next class, please tell me in your feedback! Thank you! Teacher Amelia

Asking about Rewards

Today we played a game where “My Little Pony” characters were eating. This helped Bao Bao practice her new vocabulary using things that she enjoys! “Rainbow Dash eats!” I like extending on our lessons like this because it helps me ensure that Bao Bao understands and can apply what she is learning! If there are other toys, television shows, or movies that she likes, please let me know in your feedback, and I will try to incorporate them into upcoming lessons! Thank you – Teacher Amelia U

Asking for Feedback at Other Times

There may be other times that it’s appropriate to ask for feedback. You will get to know your students and their parents, and you’ll know what’s effective and appropriate. A few other examples might be:

  • I know that proper pronunciation is very important to you, so I took extra steps to practice “parallelogram” with Bao Bao. He was doing much better by the end of class! If you have any specific requests when you review the class, please let me know in the feedback! Thank you!
  • Did Bao Bao enjoy her reading course? I really enjoy teaching the supplemental courses, and I think that it will help Bao Bao continue to improve her reading skills in new ways. Please let me know if she enjoyed it in the feedback! Thank you!
  • I will not be teaching on September 2 because it is an American holiday. Feel free to send a priority booking request if there is another time you would like to schedule Bao Bao’s class. You could also leave me alternate times in the feedback and I will try to open classes if I am available. Thank you!

When NOT to Ask for Feedback

If you are not willing to listen with an open mind to your parents’ feedback, then please don’t ask. If you don’t want to consider new reward ideas, then don’t ask. It is a HUGE pet peeve of mine when people ask for my advice and then blatantly disregard it. So please… only ask for feedback if you really want to hear it!

It is critical to be genuine, both in your teaching and in your feedback, so do what works for YOU! The above examples are what works for me. If you don’t feel comfortable asking for feedback, then don’t! Because that will show through to the parents.

Do I think that asking for feedback makes a difference in your apple rating? No, probably not. I’ve asked. I’ve not asked. And the feedback ebbs and flows regardless. So again, do what works for you. If you are interested in my other thoughts on feedback, you can check them out here:

If you are a new teacher looking to get started, I would love to help you through the hiring process! You can get started here with the application process. Once you are in the system, I can work with you 1:1 to help get hired!

VIPKid Teacher Tags

Teacher tags are meant to help parents find teachers who will meet their expectations.

When a new teacher completes the hiring and mock class certification process, VIPKid adds up to five teacher tags to our profile. These tags are all positive, and they are meant to help parents find teachers who are a good fit for their child.

How do I know what my teacher tags are?

These are not visible anywhere on our profile; however, if you want to know what your teacher tags are, you can create a ticket in the support center, and VIPKid will tell you.

What tags are available?

I do not have the official list from VIPKid; however, I have something even better! Below is a list of possible teacher tags assembled by Ed Nace (and reprinted with permission.)

The list includes two types of tags. One is related to your academic expertise in the classroom, and the other is related to your personality. He lists an English translation of the tag, the actual Chinese characters/words, and then a basic explanation of the words since translations are not always true to the intention of the word. In case you aren’t familiar with Ed Nace (and why this list is awesome!) Ed and his family lived in China for eight years, and he is a veteran ESL teacher. He’s written some amazing books that help de-mystify Chinese culture, parent feedback, and teaching techniques. He’s saved me many times with his books. You can learn more at https://ednace.com/.

List and translations courtesy of Ed Nace. Learn more at ednace.com.

How many tags do I get?

Each teacher may have up to five tags assigned. If you have opened a ticket and have fewer than five, I do suggest adding more. Having a full set of tags will give the parents a more comprehensive view of your personality.

Should I change my teacher tags?

If you already have five, my answer is “probably not.” (This is my own personal opinion.) “But Amelia, you said in your Booking Boosters post that changing my tags could help me get bookings!” Yes, that is true; however, I suggest using it as a last resort if you have exhausted all other ideas and still aren’t getting bookings.

The reason I personally have chosen not to change my tags is that we may not have the same interpretation of our style as a Chinese parent would. For example, I think I am very detail-oriented. But compared to people in China, is that still true?

Years ago, I was very active in Toastmasters International. I participated in my local, area, and regional clubs and activities. I consistently got high scores in vocal variety, emotion, and intonation. I (and my Toastmasters peers) considered this one of my strong suits! However, I had the opportunity to speak in several Toastmasters meetings in the Philippines and in India. While they were very welcoming and provided positive feedback overall, vocal variety was my weakest area! Their perspectives and mine were simply not aligned because we were evaluating based on a different set of cultural norms.

Teacher tags are meant to help parents find teachers who will meet their expectations. If we accidentally mis-categorize ourselves since we are describing ourselves through an American lens, we are setting the parents up for potential disappointment. And disappointment could possibly lead to less than five apples. Because of that, I have chosen to leave my tags as applied by VIPKid. They know their parents better than I do!

I hope you found this helpful! Have you asked about your teacher tags? Were you surprised by them? Let me know in the comments!

Booking Boosters for VIPKid

If you are asking the question, “How can I get more VIPKid bookings?” You are not alone. And before I give any suggestions, let me assure you that you have not done anything wrong! There are many factors that can go into VIPKid bookings, and low bookings can affect any of us: new teachers, tenured teachers, and everyone in between! But don’t worry, there are some easy things that you can do that have the potential to help bring in bookings.

First, the “big 6” booking boosters that I’ve talked about before are:

  1. Be sure you are opening your schedule for the correct weeks. (If you’re fuzzy on the frenzy timing, review my post about VIPKid Booking Schedules.
  2. Review your profile picture.
  3. Review your featured photos and intro video.
  4. Take workshops.
  5. Add certifications (especially trials!)
  6. Open short notice bookings.

You can read more about all of these in my first post about bookings, Getting Bookings with VIPKid.

If you have tried all of those without luck, there are some other options.

Send e-cards to prior students.

Remember, e-cards go to students, not their parents, so just keep your audience in mind when you write them. A simple, “Hi Bao Bao! I enjoyed having class with you last month. I hope you are doing well. See you soon!” is sufficient. You don’t want to go into great detail about what times you are available to teach or anything. Just make it a fun card for your student. If you aren’t sure how to send an e-card, I have a walk-through here: How to Send an e-card with VIPKid.

Open a ticket for low bookings.

VIPKid will sometimes help teachers increase their bookings. In the support center, you can create a new ticket. There are a few different options. I would start with the first: Issue = No Booking or Issue = Low Booking. If you try this and have not had success in a week’s time, then I would open a second ticket: Issue = Teacher Voice. In either scenario, VIPKid can get your information over to Learning Partners who may be looking for a new teacher to recommend to their students. Be sure to include your teacher show name! (The one with the letters after it!)

Open your schedule further in advance.

Always be sure your schedule is open at least two weeks in advance. That is the standard window, and many parents try to rebook for two weeks out immediately following their last class. But if you can (and are sure you can teach!) then try to open a consistent schedule for at least a month in advance. If a parent is looking for a “regular” teacher who can teach their child on an ongoing basis, they will want to be sure that your schedules are compatible.

Participate in VIPKid promotional activities.

VIPKid often offers different promotions that can help get your profile in front of parents. The current activity that is in its last few weeks this August (2019) is the Teacher Showroom. It’s an opportunity to upload an additional short video. As of August 13, VIPKid said they had 4,000 entries. While this seems like a lot, 4,000 out of around 70,000 teachers is not that many. Less than 6 percent of VIPKid’s teachers participated, so if new parents are scrolling through trying to find their perfect match, you’ve just increased your odds of being seen!

Check your teacher tags.

Honestly, I’m not a big fan of this technique. (Check out VIPKid Teacher Tags to see why.) But if all else fails, you could consider opening a ticket regarding your teacher tags. When you go through your interview and mock classes, certain “tags” are added to your profile that are visible to teachers. I have not ever seen any official information from VIPKid on these, but I’ve heard that you can have up to five attached to your profile. The general idea is that parents can see areas of specialty or personality traits to help decide if you will be a good fit for their child. There are a few things you can do with teacher tags to potentially affect your bookings.

  1. First, you need to submit a ticket to get a list of your teacher tags. They are not visible to us, but VIPKid will tell you via ticket.
  2. Next, if you don’t have five, you can request to add a fifth.
  3. Finally, If you feel that the tags are not representative of your personality, you can request to change them. No tags should really have more benefit than others; however, it is possible that if your tags are not aligned with your real teaching style, it could impact repeat bookings.

Reach out to parents on social media.

If you use WeChat or Weibo, you can post something for parents to see. Be sure that it translates well to Chinese and that it’s respectful. I have even seen teachers post about specific days: “I have several classes available on Friday! What students will I see?” You could gently suggest that parents consider recommending you to their friends.

There is no “one right way” to get bookings with VIPKid, but I hope you have found these suggestions helpful.

Have you tried any of these techniques? Let me know how they worked in the comments!

And of course, if you are a new teacher or looking for a mentor to help you get started, I would be happy to help. My referral code is AMELI0055 and you can get started right away with the VIPKid application. Happy teaching!

VIPKid Week 2 and the Early Months

Remember that everyone’s VIPKid journey is different. No two teachers will ever have the exact same schedule or experience, and that’s ok!

You’ve made it through the gauntlet we know as the VIPKid hiring process. You got the elusive “first booking.” Maybe you had several bookings! And then … what?

This post is designed to help fill in the blanks for what comes next.

Open your schedule.

Students and their parents have the opportunity to book you again right after class. Make sure you have the next two weeks open to fully take advantage of this! I usually include my availability in the future when I send my feedback.

For example, “In our next lesson, I would like to keep working with Bao Bao on “this” and “that.” I have a fun game that I think he will enjoy that will help reinforce this. If you would like to book our next class, I have this same time available next week! Thank you! Teacher Amelia U

Check for feedback.

If you haven’t gotten any, don’t sweat it! (Everyone is different. Check here to see How does your VIPKid apple rating measure up?) If you did get feedback, I encourage you to respond to it. (You can do this through the PC App or the web portal, but not by phone.) I’m sure it’s positive, 5-apple feedback and so a simple thank you is sufficient. A few options I’ve used are:

  • Thank you for taking the time to leave feedback. Receiving positive feedback is very important to VIPKid teachers, and I really appreciate it!
  • Thank you for the 5-apple feedback! Bao Bao did a great job in class, and I can’t wait to see him again!
  • Thank you for leaving me 5-apples! I appreciate your feedback and I hope to see Bao Bao soon. If you would like to schedule another class, I am available next Friday!

If for some reason it isn’t 5-apple feedback, resist the urge to be confrontational in a response. You can see how to dispute bad feedback here.

Send e-cards to students you want to rebook!

The feedback is your way of communicating with parents. E-cards are your way to communicate with the students. With that in mind, stay away from scheduling conversation and keep it high level and positive.

  • I had fun in our class last week Bao Bao! Are you doing your homework? I hope to see you in class soon! – Teacher Amelia U
  • I hope you enjoyed our class last week! Next time I have a fun Ultraman game that we can play while you learn English. See you soon! – Teacher Amelia U

Always use your teacher show name.

You may have noticed in both my feedback and e-cards I used my show name (that name with the initial after it.) This is just in case the parents have lost me in the sea of teachers and don’t know how to find me TO rebook. When little Bao Bao shows them the adorable e-card that I sent them, it will remind them and they can find me to rebook!

Watch your replay.

Did you know you can go back into the PC App and watch your class replay? It won’t be available immediately, but it is usually there a few hours after class. Watch the replay with an open mind, and ask yourself:

  • What did I do well?
  • What should I do differently?
  • Did it look like I was having fun?
  • Did it look like my student was having fun?
  • How much time was I talking? (Remember, our goal is to have the student talk 50-80% of the time, depending on their level!)
  • Were there times that I cut off my student before they could fully answer?
  • How was my timing?
  • Did I use a good mixture of props to help enhance the learning?

I like referring to the Teacher Applicant Performance Indicator during the playback. Even though it’s intended to help during the hiring process, I find it’s a useful self-evaluation tool as well.

Then based on your own self-evaluation…

Take workshops.

I know by this point you are probably tired of hearing me say that. BUT, even if you took workshops prior to teaching classes (good for you!) you did not have any real experience to build on. If you found yourself struggling in a particular area as you watched your playback, you can go to a workshop with that class in mind and perhaps learn tools and techniques to adjust. It will also show VIPKid that you are taking your own self-improvement seriously and that you want to be the very best teacher possible.

If you aren’t sure where to go to find workshops then check out the VIPKid Library and Certification Center. You’ll be amazed!

Contact the learning partner (if appropriate.)

Last but not least, if you have any meaningful feedback on the students, it can also help to send feedback to the learning partner. You can do this at the time of the class through the class feedback (in the very bottom section.) But you can also do this via a ticket in the support center. I’ve seen some teachers asking on social media, “What do I say to the learning partner?” If you have to ask that question, it’s a good sign that you should not be sending in a ticket. It is a waste of your time and theirs to send feedback with nothing meaningful to say. But if you do have something (positive or negative) that you feel is important, then this is a good way to start building relationships with the LP’s. You probably won’t hear back, but if they pass along your feedback to the parents, you could get a repeat booking. Or the LP could book you for other students.

No matter what, remember that everyone’s VIPKid journey is different. No two teachers will ever have the exact same schedule or experience, and that’s ok! Remember to have fun and focus on your students, and everything else will fall into place.

If you have questions or suggestions of your own, please let me know in the feedback!

Happy teaching!