Teacher Essentials

As I scroll through Facebook, I often see posts from new teachers asking, “What _____ do you use?” We all want to be the best teachers possible, and why should we re-create the wheel when others have tried “all the things” already?

I have three disclaimers to give before I start sharing.

  1. You should not need to buy much to be a successful teacher. Yes, there are some basic technical requirements, but all of the props and things are optional. You probably have most of what you need around the house already.
  2. Most of the links I’m sharing are affiliate links, so I get paid something if you use them. I don’t know how much. So far I’ve earned a whopping $1.11 since I started with Amazon. 🙂 So I won’t get rich, but if you’re going to order something anyway, you can help a fellow teacher out!
  3. I will not share any links below for things that I don’t personally use in my classroom*. These are my recommendations, and I’ll stand by them!

*The two exceptions are my laptop and paper cutter. My laptop does not currently meet the requirements set by VIPKid, and although it works ok, the link I provide below has a slightly better processor than mine, but other specs are the same! The paper cutter I have actually got poor reviews, so I substituted a similar model with better reviews!

Technology

laptop

Before you purchase a laptop for use with VIPKid (or any teaching platform) be sure you check out the minimum system requirements. Here are the requirements for VIPKid.

I used a laptop that I already had purchased that does not have the i5 processor. However, I am about to purchase a new laptop, so I will make sure that it has the i5 processor recommended by VIPKid, so here’s what I will most likely purchase:

Dell Inspirion 15.6 Inch HD Touchscreen Laptop

Pros: It’s very inexpensive, as far as laptops go. I have had the lower version of this one since early 2017, and it has been easy to use. I have no trouble running the VIPKid PC app, multiple Chrome windows, and OBS (to display google slides.) I also love the touch screen functionality. It’s much easier to underline and circle with my finger than with a mouse!

Cons: Because it’s on the lower end of the Dell laptops, I fear that it may not last as long as others. The power source gives me trouble sometimes, so I must keep it plugged in to ensure uninterrupted use, but that’s a recent development in the last few months. If money were no object, I might upgrade to this one that has more memory and a backlit keyboard, but those are really conveniences not necessities.

headset

I use a Logitech USB headset. I couldn’t find an affiliate link for the one that I use, but here’s the regular link for it on Amazon. I generally by the least expensive Logitech USB headset that has a microphone. I have tried wireless ones, and I’ve tried other brands, but I always come back to these. I have two sets – one that stays in my classroom for teaching and one that I use on conference calls for work.

Pros: They are inexpensive, and they don’t hurt my ears (even though I wear glasses.) I have never had complaints about my voice volume or audio, and they last a very long time.

Cons: If you have a large classroom and are far away from your laptop, perhaps a wired solution isn’t the best. But the cord is rather long, so I can’t imagine a scenario when you would be that far away! 🙂

external camera

The camera in my laptop worked fine. I did not receive any complaints about it, and it met my needs. However, I always wanted my classroom (and my YouTube videos) to be a little bit brighter, so I decided to add an external camera. I have LOVED this one. It’s recommended by many, many teachers and also my husband!

Logitech C920 Camera

Pros: The use of an external camera (with no other changes) made my classroom and my face so much brighter! The images are crisper, and I just love them! I also downloaded the software that has great tilt and zoom features. Because I use OBS in my classroom, I don’t use the software during class, but I use it during my YouTube videos and for taking still pictures in my classroom.

Cons: Do NOT, I repeat, DO NOT use the microphone built into the camera. It has awful sound quality. But the camera rocks. Before I started using OBS, it would have been helpful to have a camera cover. For just a few dollars more, you can get this model that does.

The best testimonial I can give for this camera is in my live un-boxing video. Skip ahead to 1:45 to see the transformation when I plugged it in.

Classroom Supplies

lamination

My lamination adventure is a funny story. I did not buy this when I became a teacher. I already had it. And for the life of me, I could not figure out WHY I had it. My husband later reminded me that it was when we owned a restaurant. Perhaps we laminated menus? In any case, I use mostly digital rewards, but I do have some props and rewards that are 2-D, and I prefer to have them laminated. There’s a big debate over matte vs. shiny lamination pouches, but I’m cheap and I have never had trouble with the shiny ones, so I still stick with the basics. Here’s what I use:

Scotch Thermal Laminator

Scotch Thermal Laminating Pouches

paper cutter

The paper cutter that I use is actually a Westcott, and it’s not available on Amazon. Interestingly, it had pretty terrible reviews, although I never had any trouble with it.

The model below is similar – it is a rotary paper cutter (vs. a guillotine) and I like this because I am always afraid I will cut my finger off. This seems like a safer option to me.

CARL Professional Rotary Paper Trimmer

magnets

Jennifer Anderson turned me on to the benefits of small magnets and packing tape to attach things to my whiteboard in my classroom. I use these on stars and other 2-D reward systems. I also use them to change the background in my classroom. They are quick, easy, and inexpensive to use. Just be careful if you have small children or pets who might eat these. (I have neither.) Also, I tried to order the same magnets from Ali Express. Yes, they were cheaper, but despite my specifications, they were much smaller and took a very long time to arrive. I hate them. I will order these forever more.

10×2 round magnets

Packing tape

I’m sure any packing tape will do, but I like Scotch. You can buy the first one with the dispenser and then just buy refills for it.

Scotch Packing Tape

Organization

rolling utility cart

This was definitely a splurge, but I love it, and I use it every single day! Because I teach in a tiny half-bathroom, I don’t have a lot of space to stage props and things. I purchased this rolling utility cart that stays in my office until it’s time for class. I keep a box with all my 2-D stars on the bottom, and I set up props for my classes on the top two shelves. I have my scissors, lipstick, dry erase markers, etc. on the end within easy reach. I have my tape hanging on hooks. It works GREAT! After class, I roll it out of the way again!

Grammercy Cart by Recollections

Hanging wall organizer

This is inexpensive, but was a game-changer for me. I have two of these hanging out of sight (off-camera) in my classroom. I keep my most commonly used props here (animals, food, grammar, etc.) That way I can reach them without looking if I need to in class.


Godery 5-pocket Hanging Wall Organizer

You can check out a walk-through of my classroom organization on Instagram!

Props and Rewards

Like I said above, you don’t ever have to buy props and rewards. Between digital options and things you already have around your house, you can teach. But, I love to incorporate fun things with my classes. So if you are looking for a few fun extra’s check out these recommendations from The Prop Report! In each issue, I share pros and cons about each item and also a quick demo video that talks about how I use these in my ESL Classroom!

I hope you have found these suggestions helpful. As I think about other useful items that I have discovered since becoming a teacher, I’ll add them here! If you have questions or ideas of your own, please let me know in the comments!

Happy teaching!

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VIPKid Soft Cancellations

Well, it finally happened. I had to cancel my three classes one morning earlier this week. Without going into too many details, when I got up to teach my classes, I found that my son was very ill and we had to take him to the emergency room. (He’s ok now.) At the time, there was no question of not going. I knew that I had to cancel my classes. Fortunately, I had read up on the process before so I knew how to do it. Sometimes, in the midst of an emergency, it can be stressful enough that you don’t remember how to do things like this, so I thought I’d put together a quick help guide.

What is VIPKid’s cancellation policy?

If you are a current teacher, be sure to review the Cancellation and No-Show procedure online in the support center. Things may change, and my blog is NOT the definitive source. At the time I’m writing this, teachers may miss up to six appointments (appointment = up to 3 classes in the same day in Beijing) within a 6-month contract before our contracts are reviewed and we are at risk for contract termination. Depending on the situation, there may or may not be financial penalties incurred or an impact to your ability to earn a raise. Factors that can influence this are the reason for the absence and proper documentation as required by the policy.

How do you cancel a class?

I chose to cancel my class from the phone app. I went to the class (just like I was going to look at the student or the materials.) Then I clicked the three dots in the upper right hand corner and it gave me the option to cancel the class. It allowed me to choose a reason and also offer up an alternative timeslot that would be reserved for only that student (if they want to book it.) You can also do it from the PC app or the web portal by going to the “bookings” page and clicking on the class you need to cancel.

How do you apply for a soft or medium cancellation?

Soft or medium cancellations have less negative consequences for teachers. They do not count against your six for contract purposes, and they may or may not result in a financial penalty. You may request this change within 30 days of an occurrence. Again, VIPKid has a full support page dedicated to this process, so I encourage you to review this page before beginning. To request a change, log into the teacher portal via the PC app or a web browser. Choose the “All Classes” tab and then click on the orange button that says “Cancellations & No Shows & Change Finish Type.”

Place a check mark next to the classes you wish to request be changed, and then click on “Soft/Medium Cancellation.” You will then be prompted to input the reason and attach supporting documentation.

How can I make sure my request results in a successful soft or medium cancellation?

There are no guarantees. However, I do have a few tips to help increase your success chances.

  1. Most importantly, read the VIPKid support pages on the topic in the support center before submitting your request. They tell you step by step what to do, what is required, and what to expect.
  2. Wait until your emergency has passed to submit your request. You only have two opportunities to request that a cancellation be changed to soft/medium. If you are in a state of distress, you are more likely to make mistakes or omit important information. Remember, you have up to 30 days to submit your request. That said…
  3. Don’t wait until the very last minute. Once your emergency has passed, go ahead and submit the request. It does take some time to process (although mine was resolved within 2 days.) But it’s always better to allow a little extra time if possible.
  4. Keep your sentences short and simple. Avoid unnecessary details. Keep the request related to the verbiage in the policies. Be sure to list the class date, time, and student for clarity.

Examples of “Soft Cancellation” Request

Current policy:

Effective October 2019, here’s what the policy said about “serious illness.” Serious illnesses or diseases are sudden, health-related events that render a teacher incapable of teaching a class.

Note: Since the spectrum of illnesses, and the severity of cases, varies widely, only instances that require hospital visits are considered. If your child needs medical attention, please ensure that the documentation provided includes a shared last name (or supporting evidence).

Please note: All other illnesses (common flu, headaches, and stomach bugs) are not categorized as an applicable scenario for Soft Missed Appointments. However, they may apply to Medium   Appointments. Please send in a ticket to ask our agents. For Soft Missed Appointments, dentist visits, or notes from the school/office explaining that you are ill are not included in this definition of serious illness.

Bad example

I need to request that my class with Suzie have the finish type changed. My daughter woke up with a headache and nausea and we thought it might be a stomach flu. When the symptoms continued, we took her to the urgent care center. They suggested that it might be the flu, so we took her to the hospital and they wrote a note excusing her from school for the week. Please don’t let this count against my contract. I need this job and cannot afford to be penalized.

Things to improve

  • There are many details in here that are not required. It is not necessary to share the diagnoses or every step that you took in trying to reach that diagnosis.
  • There are several things listed that are not eligible for soft cancellations, even though a hospital visit is. Only list the most relevant facts.
  • The request doesn’t list the specific finish type or the class details.

better example

I need to request that the following class be changed to a soft cancellation:

Class Date: 10/12/19

Class Time: 8:00 pm BJT

Student: Suzie

Reason: My daughter, Amy Barker, was seriously ill and I had to take her to the hospital. We were at the hospital from 6:00 pm BJT until 11:00 pm BJT, forcing me to miss my class. I have attached the note from the hospital and her release papers that include a timestamp. Thank you!

I hope you don’t ever need to use this information, but if you do, I hope that it’s helpful. Once again, please always refer to the VIPKid support center for current processes and procedures. If you have questions, feel free to let me know in the comments, and I will do my best to help you find the answers!

A Tale of Three Teachers

On this third day of Blogtober/Vlogtober, I wanted to share a short story about three teachers who I introduced to VIPKid. With all of the changes in referring, I thought these experiences might help shed some light into what does and does not make a ‘good’ referral. Spoiler alert: If you prefer videos, you can skip to the end and watch my YouTube version!

Teacher One

I met this person in a Facebook group. The group had nothing to do with VIPKid, but another member (not this teacher) had asked about “work from home” jobs or jobs she could travel with. I responded with some general info about VIPKid, and this person was one of several who replied. After we chatted back and forth, she told me she wasn’t ready to start, but she would contact me when she was. I didn’t think much more about it, and a couple of months later, she said she was ready! I walked her through the application process and helped her through the hiring. As soon as she was hired, she moved to Spain, and we stay in touch today! Even though we are not a “real life” friend and have never met, I love her to death. We have built a relationship and so I was able to be a trusted helper to her through the process, and we remain in touch today!

Teacher Two

This person found my blog and reached out with some questions. She emailed me and said she was thinking about finding a mentor. I helped her through a few questions and then she added my teacher code and then we went through the hiring process. Ironically, she already lived overseas (and continues to today.) So once again, I have never met her face-to-face but I consider her a friend. Our first interaction was a conversation, not a blind referral.

Teacher Three

One day a new name popped up on my referral tracker. Today (in the new world) we won’t have full names or contact info for our referrals. Previously, we did, so I reached out to her to see if she needed help. She made it almost all the way through the process before she responded, and I did very little to help her. Once she was finally hired and had taught her first class, I asked her how she came to sign up using my code. She responded, “No offense, but I didn’t mean to. I have no idea.” She was trying to sign up with a friend’s code, but ended up with mine instead. The reason she never had any questions was that she was asking her friend, yet I was getting the bonus. (I did offer to send her friend the bonus money.) I’m sure what happened was that she read a blog or watched a video and clicked through to the application page. She probably completed the signup process using my link without realizing that it was *my* link and it would stop her from adding her friend’s referral code. It’s my opinion that THIS is the type of referral VIPKid is trying to prevent. No, you don’t have to be best friends or family with every person you refer, but our activities as a referring teacher should be more intentional not accidental.

Remember, we are teachers, first and foremost. Yes, we get a bonus if we have a successful referral get hired and begin teaching, but the goal is to share the opportunity with those we can help and who will make fantastic teachers. The goal is NOT to throw our referral code out into the world and see what sticks.

So if you are having some anxiety about the new process, think of my tale of three teachers, and perhaps it will help.

Happy teaching, and happy referring!

VIPKid Business Cards

With the recent changes in VIPKid recruiting policies, there has been a lot of discussion about what is (and is not) appropriate. A quick disclaimer: If you are a VIPKid teacher, please refer to the Teacher App or portal for the official policy! The below is just how I’ve interpreted a piece of it!

One of the biggest changes is that VIPKid says, ” Referral codes and links must be shared with third parties that you know personally, such as your friends and family. You agree to not solicit, spam, or mass email anyone who you do not personally know with your Referral code or link.” Obviously, that leaves those of us in cyber-space a little bit detached. Does it stop you from getting help? No – absolutely not. But signing up with a code will not enable you to talk 1:1 with another teacher. That makes good old-fashioned communication even more important.

To help prepare for this, I had some business cards printed up today. I included:

  • My logo (MINE – not VIPKid’s!)
  • My name, of course
  • My title (English/ESL Teacher, VIPKid) I am a teacher, NOT a recruiter, hiring coach, etc.
  • My contact information

I did NOT include my referral code. Under the new policy, if someone wants to sign up and work with me 1:1, we will be talking or communicating already, and I can send them the link that way.

When I placed my order, I was ambitious. I ordered 200 business cards. Like many teachers, I was a little uncertain about the future of referring. But 200 cards should last a good, long time.

If you believe in fate, premonition, or just dumb luck, you’ll appreciate what happened next. When I picked up my order, they printed 2,000 business cards not 200. What a deal! Some may say that it was an employee not paying attention, but I say it’s the universe telling me to keep going! It might take me a few years to work through all those cards, but I’ll have plenty to last a while (and they are in line with the new policies!)

Whatever the reason, I’m grateful. If anyone is looking for an easy template, I can share what I did. In the meantime, if you (or anyone you know) is looking to start teaching online, I’ve got a card I can give you!

What’s in a name?

October is apparently called by many names. It’s “Vlogtober” which I’ve already completely failed.

It’s also known as “Blogtober” which I might be mildly more successful at. In both cases, the goal is to blog, or vlog, every day of the month. Now, even if my video had not been a total bust, I have already mentally prepared myself to fail both of these challenges. I don’t think there’s any way that I will have the time or the energy to post every.single.day. BUT, I think I can do a little better than my normal weekly blog post and monthly video. Thanks for joining me as I kick things off.

With all of these names floating around, you may have also noticed that the name of my blog changed. This page used to be called “Amelia VIPKid.” Effective October 1st, VIPKid teachers are no longer allowed to use “VIPKid” in our own personal domains, social media accounts, etc. And to be honest, “Teacher Amelia” has a nicer ring to it anyway. So from now on, you can find me here at teacheramelia.com.

You may also notice that my teacher referral code is slowly vanishing from all of my accounts and my posts. Along with the new branding guidelines, another big change was rolled out with VIPKid on October 1. Teachers are asked to only refer people that we know “in real life” (aka – friends and family.) Referring had become somewhat big business with some VIPKid teachers (not me, sadly.) As with anything, some teachers did an amazing job while others may not have followed the same protocol and held the same standards that VIPKid would have.

I’m certainly not privy to the reasons behind this change, but I can’t say that I blame the company. So if you are a new teacher and you’re looking for a helpful hand, of course – ask me any questions and I’ll try to help. Just don’t expect to find a referral link here!

October is shaping up to be a busy and blog-filled month. I’ve got a lot of personal things going on, and I’ll share some of them with you in the upcoming days and weeks. But ultimately, the blog will still be centralized around VIPKid because that’s what I’m here for. If you have any special requests – things that you’d like to see or questions you’d like me to answer – let me know in the comments!

Happy teaching, blogging, vlogging, or whatever you want to do this month!

Teacher Amelia