VIPKid – Teaching on the Road

My VIPKid journey has been filled with milestones. In fact, we earn different badges to celebrate the big ones. So far, after 1.5 contracts, I’ve earned a few:

  • 30/100/180 days as a teacher
  • 1st, 10th, 100th, and 500th classes taught
  • 1st, 50th, and 100th 5-apple ratings
  • 100th student taught

This morning I celebrated my own personal milestone: teaching my first class remotely. One of the most amazing benefits of teaching with VIPKid is the ability to teach from anywhere you have an Internet connection. Up until now, I just haven’t taken advantage of this.

My husband needed to come to New Orleans to renew his passport, so I tagged along for the ride. I actually closed my early morning times so I could sleep in, but I have my normal Monday morning 7am class (Rosie) who books like clockwork several weeks in advance. Today she had a mid-unit assessment scheduled, so we took the show on the road.

It just so happened that this was a very easy lesson for props. What did I bring? One ziplock bag that included:

  • My mini-whiteboard and a magnetic marker
  • Uno cards
  • He/She/It magnets

Because I was teaching a student I was very familiar with, I did not hang a special background. I sat in front of a blank wall with a picture on it. I was in front of a large window that offered plenty of light, plus I dragged a lamp nearby.

The results? An easy, effective class.

If you are thinking of taking your own classroom on the road, here are some suggestions:

  1. Consider using digital props and rewards. Google Slides is a great option for both, although there are other options available.
  2. Create a grab bag of versatile props that you can grab and take with you. I would suggest:
      A small, magnetic whiteboard and marker
      Magnetic stars that can attach to the whiteboard
      A small pronoun chart or print outs of pronouns
      Flash Cards (ABC’s, animals, numbers/math, and shapes)
      Key characters (Meg, Mike, Dino, and maybe the level 1 characters if you teach it)
      A simple backdrop (This could be a shower curtain, a blanket, or even a colorful gift bag that could be hung from the wall.)
      Some external, battery powered lighting (just in case.)
  1. Have fun! Just like with your classroom at home, if you are engaged and enjoying class, your students will too!

I also let Rosie’s mom know in advance I would be on the road so she wasn’t surprised. When I got set up, I sent her a picture of the day’s “classroom” on WeChat. After class, I got the sweet message below from her.

So, even though this isn’t a milestone “officially” with VIPKid, I consider this morning a success.

Have you taught successfully from the road? What’s your go-to list of traveling props? I’d love to hear about them in the comments! If you would like to keep up with my future trips I’ve started a dedicated feed on my instagram. I hope you will check it out!

If you are looking for an opportunity to have a job where you can travel as well, I’d love to help you get started with VIPKid. The first step is to apply. You can get a preview of all of the steps in the process here: VIPKid Application and Interview Process (Updated May 27, 2019). I would be happy to help you through the process. Just let me know!

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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!)

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!

 

Classroom Basics – Set up a VIPKid Classroom Without Breaking the Bank!

When I was interviewing and preparing for my mock class, I wanted to rush out and buy every teacher prop available. I love buying school supplies under normal circumstances, so with the idea of a “new classroom” in my mind, I was almost unstoppable!  However, I’m happy to report that I did not break the bank and was able to show some restraint.

If you are just getting started, there’s no need to spend a fortune in props and classroom decorations. Below are my top picks for things to get your classroom started.

Things You Already Have

  • Tape. Yes, just regular scotch tape. If you have some favorite reward systems, you can later invest in magnets, velcro, or some other adhesive, but for just starting out, tape works just fine. I use tape to decorate my walls and whiteboard, and I use it in virtually every reward system I prepare. It’s easy to use, and you probably already have a roll in your junk drawer!
  • Musical Item(s). Yes, I know that it’s vague. But this can be literally ANY musical item. If you can plan an instrument, that’s great. I can’t even read music, much less play an instrument, so an old kid’s harmonica is what I use. Before I start singing a song, I play a few discordant notes on the harmonica to get my student’s attention and set the stage for the song. A toy xylophone, kiddie piano, a pair of drumsticks, a kazoo, or even a whistle would probably work.  Just find something you’ll enjoy and get to playing!
  • Toys. On the subject of toys and fun, dig out some of your favorite old toys or game pieces. I have used stuffed animals, toy cars, card games, dice, and even a dog toy in my lessons. Be creative! If you are having fun, the kids will too.

You will be amazed at how many household items you will find that you can use in class. However, there will be a few things that are worth purchasing.

Things to Buy

  • Magnetic Letters.  These are inexpensive and versatile. They can be used for beginners when learning letters and letter sounds. They can be used in phonics practice for more advanced students. They can be used to customize your classroom decorations or help with verb conjugation. The possibilities are endless! You could probably get by with one set of capital letters, and two sets of lower case letters.
  • Small Whiteboard.  I picked one up for around $5.00 I think, and I use it all the time. I use it along with my magnetic letters, and I use it to write examples. It can be used to correct pronunciation (b vs buh) and to draw reward systems. This is one of my go-to items in the classroom.
  • Something You Love. I have to confess. I did make a major splurge recently, but in all honesty, I would have bought these with or without a classroom! I came across a few finger puppets that were custom made from Chicago artist Dan Crowley.  I absolutely adore all of his work, and so I purchased two puppets, a sun and a moon. I’ve had the chance to use them when teaching about the weather and “good morning” but really, I just love looking at them! (But they do look FANTASTIC over video in the classroom!) While I try to be frugal, if you find something that you just love, it’s ok to buy it. Why? Because if you are excited, your students will be too. And I love anything that helps my students love learning.

Bonus Buy

  • A Laminator. I’m not sure why, but I already had a laminator. However, if you are hired, you can invest in a decent home laminator for $25-$35, and the plastic sheets cost about $11 online from Amazon. I use my laminator all the time, from making reward systems to decorating my classroom. I print, laminate, and attach pictures of animals to those pointy kitchen skewers I hate to cook with, and voila – instant puppet. If you don’t have a whiteboard, you can also use a laminated piece of paper as a makeshift whiteboard. I probably wouldn’t purchase a laminator just for the interview process, but if you are looking for a way you can start building up re-usable supplies for your classroom, this is a good place to start.

If you’d like to see more about the basics I use, I put together a quick video that shows these items in my classroom. As always, if you print pictures off the Internet, make sure you have permission to use the image.

Good luck setting up your classroom. If you have questions or suggestions, feel free to leave them in the comments or contact me.

Of course if you are ready to get started with VIPKid and are looking for a mentor, feel free to reach out and use my referral link.

person holding pink piggy coin bank
Photo by rawpixel.com on Pexels.com

Is VIPKid worth my time?

If you are just starting your journey with VIPKid, or you’re considering whether or not to apply, this is probably one of the first questions you will ask yourself.

 

The answer is YES!

When I first clicked on the link to learn about VIPKid, I had several questions. I was afraid to start something when I didn’t know if it would be worthwhile.

Will I like it?

One of my biggest fears is that I wouldn’t like teaching in this format. Would I be able to connect with the students in a “virtual classroom?” Would I get bored with the materials? Would I be too sleepy to enjoy my classes?

I’m happy to report that I LOVE teaching with VIPKid!

  • Technology: In today’s digital world, it’s just as easy to connect with a child over the airwaves as it is when you’re sitting right next to them. As an added bonus, they are as excited to get a glimpse into our world as we are into theirs! Technology has not been an issue at all, and even when there have been a few hiccups, we all laugh about it and work together to get them solved.
  • Content: The materials are great! One of my favorite things about the VIPKid curriculum is that it’s easy to customize the material based on your student. If you have a beginner student who is struggling, you can simplify or adjust how they interact on each slide. If you have a superstar student who is finding the lesson too easy, there are plenty of opportunities to extend the lesson and make it more interesting and engaging for them. If your student is on-level, you can use the lesson plan as-is. Every single session is different because every single student is different.
  • Hours: YAWN. I am not a morning person! For years, even as an adult, I had a rule that no one could call me before noon because I might be sleeping. If you had told me then that I would be waking up in the wee hours of the morning to teach, I would have laughed in your face! Because I live in the United States, the prime teaching hours are early morning (which are evening/after school hours in China.) The hottest hours (known as PPT timeslots) are 6:00 am, 6:30, 7:00, and 7:30 (central time.) As a general rule, I open 5:30 – 7:00, and I use the last 30 minutes to complete feedback on my classes before I begin my day job. Since I began teaching, I’ve found my eyes popping open around 4:30 am because I’m excited to begin! I don’t need that much time to prepare, but it’s nice getting my day started on such a positive note.

Will I be good at it?

This was a big concern for me, because I’m a little bit of a perfectionist. Because I don’t have elementary school classroom experience, nor do I have formal experience teaching English as a second language, I was worried that I would not be good at it.  The only thing worse than not enjoying teaching would be if I wasn’t helping the kids!

Fortunately, there are many resources available to help new teachers. As I’m sure you’ve seen, there are plenty of teachers with posts like these, videos, and more since referrals are such an easy way to earn extra cash! But VIPKid also has great resources available. There are many workshops available on almost any topic you can imagine. There are specific tools and techniques that you can learn to make you more effective. We’ll dive more into TPR (total physical response), modeling, props and “realia” and more in other posts. You will also get feedback from your interview and mock classes, so you can continue to improve.

Will any parents hire me?

So VIPKid has said I’m qualified to teach, but what if no one chooses me? I imagined months of sleepless mornings as I tried to build up my client base, and I worried that I would get lost in the sea of VIPKid teachers who are already teaching.

I’m happy to report that in my first month of teaching (only part time, remember) I taught over 20 students with many more booked. Each week more of my available timeslots are filled and I get more advanced bookings. My students quickly became a mixture of repeat students, new students, and trial classes, and more parents began following my profile. In that first month, I also got my first two “five apple” ratings!

So yes, parents will hire you. I’ll share specific tips and tricks for getting bookings, but just know that the process does work.

I was very happy that my initial worries and questions were quickly addressed. If you have any questions of your own, please reach out! I’d love to help. You can contact me here or ask me questions in the comments. If you’re ready to get started, I’d love to be your mentor, so please consider using my referral link when you apply and let me help you along the way!

“The most fruitful and worthwhile thing I have ever done has been to teach.” – Harvey Dunn