Like Clockwork: A Day in the Life of a VIPKid Teacher

I distinctly remember making fun of my dad when I was younger. One evening, I heard him walk into the kitchen, and I told my aunt, “He’s going to stir his coffee three times, then go to the bathroom, then come in and ask if we want to play cards.” It happened just like that. As an adult, I could anticipate exactly what day and time he would call me on his commute to work. It was 7 minutes later than normal on days when he filled up his truck with gas. It was 12 minutes later than normal on car wash days.

Now, as an adult, I find comfort in his routines (as well as my own!) Yes, it’s true. I am as much a creature of habit as he ever was. For those of you considering a side-hustle, extra job, or even a new hobby, and you’re wondering how to fit it in, I thought I’d share my schedule! I realize I have the luxury of no small children at home, so that simplifies things. But if there’s something you truly want to do, there’s always a way to fit it in.

Monday

My alarm goes off at 4:20 am central time. I have my apple watch set to vibrate so I can hit snooze without waking my husband up. It goes off the second time at 4:29, giving me one minute to turn off my backup alarm. I hop out of bed, shower, and put on my makeup for the day. By 5:00, I’m dressed for teaching in my orange VIPKid shirt and jeans. I grab a diet coke and head upstairs to my office.

Once upstairs, I close the door so I don’t disturb my sleeping son, and I turn on my computer. Then I drink my diet coke, surf facebook or instagram for about 10 minutes, and dry my hair. At 5:15 (or 5:20 at the latest) I sign into my classroom, make sure my props are ready for class, and by 5:25 I have my headset on and am applying lipstick, ready to teach.

I teach three classes: 5:30, 6:00, and 6:30. From 6:55 – 7:30 I finish my diet coke, write feedback from my classes, and straighten up my classroom. I might also prep for my classes the next day so I don’t have to think about it later. (It only takes me about 10 or 15 minutes total to get ready – sometimes less.)

At 7:30, I go downstairs and get my dog Buster out of the bedroom where he and my husband are usually still snoozing. I feed him, let him out, and make my breakfast. I usually change into a non-orange shirt and then am ready to start my day.

At 8:00 am – I am ready to work at my day job. Because I work from home, I don’t have to worry about a commute. I teach from the small half-bath connected to my office, I can seamlessly switch from one to the other. I work until 5:00 on most weekdays, then I wrap up and head downstairs to get ready for dinner. I’m in the bedroom by 8:30 and reading or watching tv. I’m in bed alseep by 9:30. When I get less than seven hours of sleep, it’s not good for anyone.

Tuesday

Tuesday is almost identical to Monday, except… it’s TACO TUESDAY! Every Tuesday, a small group of friends made up of soccer parents, band parents, and church friends gets together to get $2 tacos each Tuesday. Our little band of friends has been as small as two and as large as ten, but regardless of size, we always have fun. Without kids and school events, it’s a little harder to stay social since our schedules aren’t filled with their activities. So this is our way of making sure we spend time with our friends and don’t lose touch.

Wednesday

Almost the same as Monday and Tuesday, except Wednesday is church day. I’ll be the first to admit that I have not been as regular going to church as I would like, but Wednesday service is actually my favorite service of the week. I find that when I’m the most stressed or overwhelmed, that’s when it’s most important to slow down and re-calibrate, and our Wednesday evening healing service is the perfect place to do that. It begins at 5:30, so I have to make sure to finish up work by at least 4:45 to have time to let Buster out before heading to church. It’s “come as you are” so I don’t have to change clothes. After church, we have Wednesday night supper, so unless it’s poppy seed chicken, we often eat there! Often, there are meetings and other programming on Wednesday night, so it’s usually straight to 8:30 chair time when we get home.

Thursday

Repeat Monday-Wednesday. (Are you seeing a pattern yet?) As you might know, the reason I started working with VIPKid is to help earn money for our new worship space at my church. We broke ground in May, and so it’s an exciting time at our little Chapel. I am the chair of the building committee, so every other Thursday we meet from about 6:00 – 8:00. I try to make my Thursday evenings time to work on building-committee related things. Then I grab fast food on the way home. Then guess what – it’s chair time!

Friday

Wash, rinse, repeat. I don’t work or teach on the weekends, so I always enjoy Fridays as I look forward to 5:00. We almost always go out to dinner on Fridays, and we might run some other errands after work. We try to keep Friday evenings open to do whatever we want. After all, it’s the weekend! Many teachers opt to teach on Friday and Saturday nights (since these are weekend days in China) but I choose to keep these reserved for family time.

Weekends

I get to sleep in! Granted, when you’re used to getting up at 4:30, 7:00 is a luxury. And my dog wakes me up at his normal 7:30 if I’m not already awake. Weekend mornings are my quiet time. I usually sit in the living room (where I am right now!) Weekend mornings are my time to blog. I work on my social media pages, and sometimes I edit YouTube videos. I am an editor for the Google Slides VIPKid group on Facebook, and so I also try to edit 5-10 submissions each weekend. My dog sits on the couch, and we hang out in front of the fire. My husband usually gets up around 9 or 9:30 but we aren’t ready for breakfast and social interaction for a few more hours. Once we roll out around 11:00, we run errands or do whatever strikes our fancy on the weekends. We go to church at 5:00 Sunday night, so it allows us a lot of flexibility. I usually spend about 15 minutes preparing for my Monday classes, but that can be done really anytime.

Do you have a routine that works for you? Or are you more of a “short-notice” fly by the seat of your pants person? Either way, VIPKid can work for you. I love the flexibility it offers that works with almost any schedule. If you’d like to learn more, please send me a message!

VIPKid Time Off

It’s November. As a student, that marked the beginning of holiday season and lots of non-school days. Even as an adult working in corporate America, most of my companies had several holidays – Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s Day – so I was guaranteed to have a few short work weeks. This is all great, right?

Then came VIPKid. While I eagerly looked forward to Thanksgiving and Christmas, my students in China don’t celebrate these. So I was faced with a few dilemmas:

  • Do I take time off from teaching, or do I continue to keep my regular schedule?
  • If I do take time off, how should I tell my students’ parents?

Let me start by saying that there is no right answer. Every teacher is different, so you have to choose what’s best for you. But hopefully the below will help you make these decisions!

It’s also worth pointing out that with VIPKid, there are no limits to the time you can take off. You are an independent contractor, so you can open as many (or few) time slots as you wish.

Benefits of Teaching on a Holiday

If you are able to teach, there are some definite advantages. Many teachers DO take time off, so you are likely to have better bookings. If you are a new teacher, this is a great opportunity to find some new students who may not be able to book their usual teacher! Because fewer teachers are working, VIPKid also often has lucrative incentives, extra tokens, and more. Of course, it’s a great way to earn extra holiday spending money, and depending on your teaching schedule, you could potentially be done before your family even wakes up. And if you have a day job like I do, and you are off work, that’s an opportunity to teach extra classes.

Disadvantages of Teaching on a Holiday

For most of us, we teach early in the morning or late at night. So you are giving up your opportunity for extra rest over the holidays. Burnout is a very real thing, and time off is important for our health and well-being. You might be traveling over the holidays, or people might be traveling to visit you. Classrooms could be displaced, or you might need to teach from a new location. These aren’t show-stoppers, but they do usually result in extra work. Finally (and this is the big one for me) it takes time away from my family. I have three college-aged boys who are usually home around the holidays. Even though they would be asleep while I teach, I would likely wake them up with my awful singing! And there’s just something so luxurious about being able to lounge around and not have to get up when the rest of your family is doing the same.

How to Notify Your Students’ Parents

When I am going to be taking time off, I try to notify my parents two weeks in advance. I do three things:

  • Include my time off in my class feedback to any regular students.
  • Create a standard response to decline any priority booking requests I receive for those days.
  • Post an update in We Chat.

Sample Feedback Message

I should begin by saying that I do not speak Chinese. There are several Facebook groups that offer translation services if you want a more thorough explanation for your parents. The below is my simple version. I have run it through an online translation tool and it translates fairly accurately.

“November 28th is Thanksgiving Day in the United States. I will not teach between November 27th and November 29th because I will be with my family. I apologize for any inconvenience. Happy Thanksgiving!”

For Thanksgiving 2019, I will begin using this message on Monday, November 11. Parents are given the opportunity to schedule their next class as soon as their current class is finished. Since most have already booked for the following week, they will likely be requesting times for Thanksgiving week. Additionally, this will allow me to send them the same message two times in feedback (if I teach their student once per week.)

Sample Priority Booking Request Response

You do not have to respond to booking requests. However, I normally try to. Here is an example of how I would respond on a day that I have taken as a holiday:

“I am sorry I cannot accept your booking request. November 28th is Thanksgiving Day in the United States. I will not teach between November 27th and November 29th because I will be with my family. I will be available to teach again beginning Monday, December 2nd. Thank you!”

Sample We Chat Message

In We Chat, I tend to provide more details. I have a personal relationship with parents I’ve connected with on We Chat, and I know they will ask questions if something doesn’t translate well. Below is what I plan to post this week. I might post it a few times with different and fun Bitmoji pictures!

“My schedule will be different during the last week of November because of the Thanksgiving festival in America. I will be spending time with my family and eating special meals with them. I will only be available to teach Monday, November 25th and Tuesday, November 26th that week. My regular schedule will resume in December. Thank you for understanding. Happy Thanksgiving!”

Do you plan to take time off during the holidays? If so, I’d love to hear your tips in the comments!

As always, if you have any questions, please let me know.

If you are looking for a job that’s flexible enough to let you take time off when you want to, VIPKid could be a great fit for you! Please contact me, and I would love to help you get started!

Adding a VIPKid Referral Code

When you sign up through a VIPKid mentor, you get 1:1 guidance and support through the hiring process and beyond, and we get a little bonus once you teach your first class.

When you are just getting started as a new teacher applying with VIPKid, there are two ways you can sign up with an existing teacher as your “referring teacher.”

  1. You can sign up using a referral link. This automatically associates you with the referring teacher, and we’ll be notified of your application. As of October 1, VIPKid teachers are no longer allowed to share our referral links or codes in a public space like this, but you can contact a teacher directly if you would like their help.
  2. You can sign up using a referral code.

To do this is simple:

If you do not yet have a VIPKid teacher account

  1. From the registration page, click on “Sign Up.
  2. Click on “If you have a referral code, click here.”
  3. Input your referring teacher’s code in the box that appears. Complete the remaining information and click the “Sign Up” button.

If you already have a VIPKid teacher account

  1. Once you are logged in, click on “My Account.”
  2. Click on “Add Referral Code” (available until the time you sign your contract with VIPKid!)
  3. Add the referral code of your mentoring teacher.

If you aren’t sure what a referring teacher is, or if you want one or not, remember VIPKid’s objective is for you to have the opportunity to work with a friend or trusted acquaintance who is already a teacher. You get 1:1 guidance and support through the hiring process and beyond, and we get a bonus once you teach your first class. Most importantly, it’s totally free to you! We are here to help you.

In the meantime, best of luck, happy applying, and happy teaching!

One Year and 100 Blog Posts Later…

This is my 100th blog post. And since September 18 marks the one year anniversary of when I signed my first contract with VIPKid, it’s only fitting that this post be a first year check-in. Consider this my behind the scenes “VIPKid tell-all!” I’ll share the answers to three questions people don’t usually ask me, but I’m sure they’ve wondered.

How much money can you make with VIPKid?

How much money you make with VIPKid depends on a lot of factors. Are you working part time, or full time? How long have you been doing it? Do you work enough to qualify for a raise?

  • My husband and I once calculated that if you made an average of $8.00 per 25-minute class and worked “full time” – 40 hours per week, you would make around $42,000 per year teaching classes. It’s important to remember that if you are looking to do this full time, you have to grow your business. It takes time to get to a point where your schedule is consistently filled.
  • I work VERY part time. I only teach 3 classes per day, and only Monday-Friday. Last fall I did teach up to five classes per day, but I scaled back in February and have kept it at three. Here’s a breakdown of what I’ve made, working 1.5 – 2.5 hours per day M-F.

What are the worst parts of working for VIPKid?

There are three things that I struggle with when it comes to VIPKid. Don’t get me wrong, there are plenty of things that people find to complain about. No company and no experience is perfect, but these are the big ones for me.

  1. Class Attendance. Many people complain about VIPKid’s strict attendance policy. You can only have six missed appointments per contract without risk of a contract termination. (If you are an existing teacher, you can read the policy here.) I understand the policy – trust me, there are some mornings when my alarm goes off that I might just stay in bed if there weren’t a strict policy in place. But it does lend itself to teaching while sick or through other difficult life circumstances. Yes, there are ways that you can apply for “soft” or “medium” cancellations that come with fewer consequences, but in most cases, I find myself simply pushing through. And honestly, I don’t want to let my students down. They have been looking forward to our class all day, or maybe even all week. I don’t want to be the one to let them down.
  2. Setting Boundaries. When you enjoy something as much as I enjoy VIPKid, it’s sometimes hard to “turn it off.” Even when I’m not teaching, I’m often blogging, or watching videos, or editing videos. But it’s important to set boundaries – both with how I spend my time and also with spending money. No, I don’t need ALL the cute props I see.
  3. Learning Social Media. This may sound silly, because I’ve been using social media for a long time. And I should start by saying, you don’t have to use social media to teach. It is NOT a part of the job. But if you are interested in the recruiting side of the business (which I am) or growing with the “builders program” to take on new roles within VIPKid, then social media can help. On one hand, I’ve enjoyed learning new things, but on the other, it can be overwhelming to learn how to effectively use You Tube, Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest for business. And don’t even get me started on video editing! I try, but I’m still much better with words than with videos! So it’s been a challenge, but one that I do sometimes enjoy.

What is the best part of working with VIPKid?

This one is easy. The best part of working with VIPKid is getting to know these amazing students and their families. A close second is learning about the culture in China. After one year with VIPKid, I would say 2/3 of my classes are filled with “regular” students that I have taught multiple times. My most taught student is Emma, and I’ve taught her 64 times in the last year. She just recently overtook Erica (my very first student!) I look forward to seeing Tracy, Rosie, Eric, and Alina at their regularly scheduled times each week. There is NO END to the number of “cute and amazing kid” stories that I have. (Ask Michael, he’ll tell you.) I adore it when my students pull out a musical instrument to show me what they are learning, or when mom sends me a video of their daughter learning how to make dumplings with her grandma. I ADORE the people that VIPKid has brought into my life, and I will forever be grateful!

What’s the verdict?

This will come to no surprise, but I would ABSOLUTELY recommend VIPKid. I have no regrets and no intention of ending my teaching career. When I began, it was a way for me to earn a little extra money for our capital campaign at church. Now, I cannot imagine life without teaching. I have come to embrace the name “Teacher Amelia” and all that comes along with it.

If you’ve been tagging along with me for the last year, thanks for putting up with all of my stories and musings! I hope you will celebrate these milestones with me this month!

If you are new to VIPKid or have been thinking about starting out, DO IT! When you are ready, here’s how to apply (along with some helpful hints!)

I would be remiss if I didn’t give a solid honorable mention (maybe even a tie!) to my amazing referrals. Right up there with my students and learning about their families and cultures, I have truly enjoyed helping new teachers get started. I’ve lived vicariously through them as they’ve moved to Spain, Poland, Israel and more. I’ve had the chance to cheer them on in their careers (both with VIPKid and their “day jobs.” I’ve become closer to friends I’ve already known and gotten to know totally new people. Oh, and I learned about elephant snot. (Teachers use many tools in their classrooms. I’m just sayin’.)

So join us. You’ll be glad you did!

How to Win with the Smart Demo

The smart demo is a great way to quickly move to the next phase, but it doesn’t replace being prepared.

As you are preparing to complete the Smart Demo, there are a few things you can practice to ensure your interview is a winner!

Repeat the target word two different times.

Introduce the word, touching your chin to indicate they should watch and listen. Then, cup your ear and wait for your imaginary student to respond. Then repeat.

Use TPR.

If you aren’t yet comfortable using TPR, now is the time to practice.  You will want to use both instructional TPR and regular TPR to help convey your meanings. When you see your slide you need to teach, be thinking of different motions that you can use!

Speak slowly and allow the student time to respond.

Yes, I know there’s not really a student. But if there were, you would need to leave  time for them to listen and answer. So slow down!

Demonstrate error correction.

You will want to pretend that the student made a mistake. It is important to show that you can stay positive but still correct an error.

Encourage, encourage encourage!

Stay upbeat. Acknowledge good responses (you can use thumbs up, smiles, nods, clapping, or whatever feels natural to you. Just make sure you are encouraging your student.

Make sure any props are relevant.

If you do use props in your smart demo, make sure they are relevant and help your students learn. Pay attention to what you are using, and be intentional. Things like whiteboards, magnetic letters and flash cards can all be very versatile and used in a number of ways!

The smart demo is a great way to quickly move to the next phase, but it doesn’t replace being prepared.  So practice and plan, and if you have any questions, please let me know in the comments!

If you’d like to see some ideas in action, check out this video!

Thanks! And happy teaching!

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!

VIPKid Booking Schedules

As you get ready to open up your schedule for VIPKid, it’s important that you understand how the booking process works.

Congratulations! You’ve been hired! You immediately open up times for parents to book for the very next day, but… crickets. Where are they?

The answer is simple. They are in classes they’ve already booked with other teachers!

As you get ready to open up your schedule for VIPKid, it’s important that you understand how the booking process works. For maximum results, always keep your schedule opened for at least three weeks in advance, as long as you are certain you’re available to teach then.

What’s the standard booking window?

The “normal” booking process for most parents is two weeks out. The system opens up general booking at noon on Monday (Beijing time) which is overnight Sunday night for many of us.  You may hear this referred to as “the frenzy.”  At this time, most parents are booking not for THAT week, but for the following week. (See the picture at the beginning of this post for an example.) Immediately following a class, if you have time slots open in two weeks (this is three weeks after the frenzy) parents will be asked if they would like to book a class that week. That’s why it is in your best interest to open timeslots at least three weeks in advance, as long as you are certain you can teach then.

What are “interested students” and when can they book?

According to the VIPKid Support Center ,students or their parents can select up to five teachers, and their corresponding time slots, each week as “regular teachers”. If a student chooses you to be a regular teacher, you will see a notification on your Bookings page that you have an “Interested Student”. You will not see their names, just that someone has an interest. This will only be visible for timeslots that you have not yet opened up for the week after next. Bookings for your “interested students” will open four hours before the frenzy, on Mondays at 8:00 am (BJT.) The system will sort the student preferences and match them with your available timeslots. If your slot is open, there is a high likelihood that the time will be booked, either by one of your interested students or perhaps another student, although it is not guaranteed.

What are priority bookings?

Priority bookings are a way for students to request specific times from their teachers, even if those timeslots are not available. When you receive a priority booking request from a student or their parents, you may accept, refuse, or simply not respond and the request will expire.

I hope you found this helpful. If you have questions about your schedule or are looking for feedback, let me know in the comments!

You may also find these posts helpful as you learn more about scheduling:

If you are just getting started and would like help during the hiring process, I would love to be your mentor! Feel free to apply using my referral link using these VIPKid application tips.

I would be happy to help!