VIPKid Facebook Groups

Social media can be a great thing. For those of us who work from home, it can provide a great sense of community. It can also be a great source of knowledge!

I want to offer my warning though. I tell new people that going to Facebook for answers can be like going to Web MD for a headache. If you’re not careful you can get overwhelmed and feel like it’s the end of the world!

To help get you started, I’m going to list the many groups that I belong to. Most require you to be a VIPKid teacher already, but all will have people willing to help you get started if you’re looking for a mentor. I’ll list my top four first, and then the rest in alphabetical order. More than likely, if you have an interest, there is probably a VIPKid group for you. If not, then I would encourage you to start one!

VIPKid Education (Official VIPKid Group)

This is the only page that VIPKid moderates. They have a “VIPKid Advocacy” team that includes VIPKid staffers as well as members of the builder’s program that are Community Ambassadors. This is a good source of “official” information. If there are outages or issues, there are often announcements here as well as in the Houtong. If you have a problem that you’ve been unsuccessful resolving via ticket, this might give you another avenue to get assistance. That said, with almost 30,000 members, there can be a lot of negativity. Sometimes teachers can feel unsupported, and it’s important to remember that with so many members, the VIPKid team can only moderate a certain amount.

VIPKid Positivity and Praise

As a perfect complement to the official page, I adore the VIPKid Positivity and Praise group. It’s easy to tell that the main purpose of this group is for positive support. The content is all uplifting, and if you are having a problem, you are promised kind, caring input. Mocking and rudeness would not be tolerated, although you never really have to worry about it. If you join this group, you are looking for positivity.

VIPKid Google Slides Group (Official)

I’m in this group almost every day. This group is actually larger than the “official” group, with over 33,000 members as I write this. This group is for teachers who use google slides as a teaching tool in their classrooms. This is an AMAZING tool, and it’s totally free. There are currently over 6,400 rewards and props for every (?) lesson with VIPKid. You get access to the Slidekick app and all of the files by being a member of this group, and there is also a free planner, feedback, and lots of resources to help you get started.

VIPKid – Videos and Props

This is a group of over 28,000 teachers, and it’s one of the best places to find printable props and rewards. This group was started by Jennifer Anderson, the “2-D Prop Queen” and it is an amazing source for things in your classroom.

Other VIPKid Facebook groups

In alphabetical order, here are the other groups that I am somewhat active in. There are a few groups that aren’t regularly updated that I didn’t include. This is just a drop in the bucket. There are many more amazing groups I encourage you to check out. But I hope this gives you a starting point!

  • 3rd Shift Teacher’s Lounge – this is one of the smaller groups that I’m in; however, it’s a good one. With only 42 members, the admin of this group is one of the most business-minded people I know. She has very good advice about websites, branding, and social media in general. I’ve learned a lot from this small but mighty group.
  • All Things China for ESL Teachers – the admin of this group is Daniel Cai. He lives in Shenzhen and offers to answer any questions. It’s a great group to get translations or to ask questions about Chinese culture. He often posts sights and sounds from “a day in the life” so this is one of the more unique groups to get to know Chinese culture.
  • Christian VIPKid Teachers – This group has over 5,000 members. Some posts are normal questions/community posts while others are related specifically to topics of faith.
  • ESL Teacher Props and Gift Ordering Service – This is a great place to order swag for yourself or gifts for your students.
  • Feedback Panda Users – VIPKid – for those of us who adore Feedback Panda, this is a place to share tips or get answers.
  • Nancy Taylor’s VIPKid Teacher Group – This is another space where teachers offer peer-to-peer feedback on common questions.
  • OBSessed: VIPKid + OBS – this is a group specifically designed for teachers who use OBS to display digital effects in their classroom. There are probably other similar groups for teachers who use ManyCam, CamTwist, or other programs. But there are lots of tutorials and Q&A to help if you are starting to use this software.
  • Team Black Part Time VIPKid Teachers! – This group was formed during the paintbucket challenge by teachers who teach part time and so didn’t qualify for the more aggressive challenges. It’s a supportive environment for part-timers, but all are welcome!
  • VIPKid: 7 Baby Steps To Financial Freedom (the Dave Ramsey plan) – There are almost 4,000 members in this group. It’s specifically for VIPKid teachers who are following the Dave Ramsey plan. They are not open to discussion about other financial strategies, and the topics are all financial in nature. It’s a great place to find support if you are working through the program.
  • VIPKid – All About Taxes – this group gets really busy every spring. 🙂 I would caution you, please don’t take advice from Facebook over that of an accountant or tax professional. But if you are looking for info on what other teachers do, you can certainly take a peek here.
  • VIPKid Branding Yourself – This group was designed to help teachers who are trying to improve their branding. You can get good, objective feedback about your profile pictures, videos, and more.
  • VIPKid Chinese – Say What?? – This is a group with around 14,000 members. It was started by Ed Nace, who has written several books about effective communication as an ESL teacher. This is a great place to go for help interpreting unusual feedback or understanding more about Chinese culture.
  • VIPKid Community is one of the larger groups I’ve seen. It has almost 18,000 members. I haven’t seen any specific “goals” of this group, but it’s just another group for teachers to share ideas.
  • VIPKid Digital Nomads – I am not a digital nomad; however, my first two referrals are! One immediately moved to Spain, and the other hops around Europe (although she may be in Africa by now!) I come to this group for advice to help them.
  • VIPKid Health and Wellness – This is a group dedicated to helping teachers stay healthy. It’s hard to stay healthy when you are working an irregular schedule (sometimes nights.) This is an amazing group that offers exercise, eating, and general health tips.
  • VIPKid Meetup Hosts – If you are interested in hosting a meetup, this is a great place to get or share ideas!
  • VIPKid Meetups Unofficial – the group for those of us who love meetups!
  • VIPKid Mental Health and Wellness has over 1,000 members. It’s another very positive and supportive group. It’s a safe space for members to share personal problems and very real issues that they may be facing and get support from their fellow teachers.
  • VIPKid Online Teacher’s Lounge has almost 9,000 members. This is a relatively new group, and it was designed to be a drama-free place to share ideas.
  • VIPKid Referrers (Not So Anonymous) has around 1,600 members. It’s a place to keep up with the latest hiring processes, and some of the top referring teachers in the company share their tips and tricks. I find this a very helpful group if you are interested in referring new teachers.
  • VIPKid Teachers – Digital Effects Users is a group for those of us who use digital effects. That could include Google Slides, Stars 2 Apples, Many Cam, OBS, CamTwist, etc.
  • VIPKid Teachers: Tips and Tricks has around 11,000 members. The purpose of this group is to get and share tips and tricks for VIPKid lessons, the company, classroom setup, and organization.
  • VIPKid: Using Chinese Social Media – if you are interested in using WeChat or Weibo, this is a great starting point.
  • Where’s My Student? (VIPKid Teachers Only) – Honestly, I’ve never found another teacher in this group, but I keep hoping. When you join the group, you create a hashtag for yourself. You can then sign your T-2-T feedback with it. (I’m #TeacherAmeliaU.) That way if you share a student with another hashtag teacher, you can go to this group and find them to communicate!
  • VIPKid Regional groups – I’m going to lump these together because these will vary based on where you live. I am a member of four:

Did I miss any of your favorites? Let me know in the comments!

If you are a new teacher just starting out, don’t panic! You do not need to join any of these to be a successful VIPKid teacher. All the information you need is provided in the Houtong and the weekly updates sent by VIPKid. It’s just nice to know that communities are out there, though, if you want them! I should also give a shout out to **VIPKid Newbie Teacher Island ** – while I am not a member there, I know that they accept all teachers or prospective teachers, and I’m a big fan of the founder, Teacher Lauren. So it’s always going to be a good one to add to your list.

If you have any questions, please reach out and let me know. I’d be happy to help, wherever you are in the process. Just contact me!

Happy teaching!

Picture Perfect – The Value of a VIPKid External Camera

This week, many VIPKid teachers received an email explaining that the quality of their camera was not sufficient, and they were given thirty days to upgrade their camera.

While I understand that this can be frustrating, especially if your video looks good from your perspective, I wanted to share my experience when I added a new external web cam.

What cameras are recommended:

According to the VIPKid, email that has been sent out, they recommend one of the following:

  • Logitech HD Webcam C270
  • Logitech HD C310
  • Logitech C615 Full HD 1080p
  • Logitech HD Pro Webcam C920
  • Logitech HD Webcam C525
  • Logitech C922 Pro Stream Webcam
  • Logitech Webcam C930e
  • Logitech Webcam Pro 9000
  • Microsoft LifeCam Cinema HD Webcam
  • Microsoft LifeCam HD-3000 HD Webcam
  • Microsoft LifeCam Studio HD Webcam

What are the benefits of an external webcam?

The most surprising benefit to me was the impact the camera had on my lighting. Even without making any changes to the light at all, my face and my classroom appeared much brighter on camera!

I also noticed a difference with sharpness, especially with items in my background. Numbers and letters were much more readable when I used my external camera.

Another benefit I realized a few months later was that I could download the free Logitech software and also take better still-frame photos and record better YouTube videos as well! The software (which I don’t use in the classroom) includes tilt, zoom, and other fun features.

What difference does it make, really?

Well, since a picture is worth 1,000 words, see for yourself! The big reveal is at around 1:45 (spoiler alert!)

If you need to upgrade your camera, I suggest checking for black Friday/cyber Monday sales (or Amazon Prime Day, like I did) but here’s an affiliate link if you would rather point and click than shop around:

https://tinyurl.com/y248n6xe

I know that it’s never fun to learn you have to spend money on something extra; however, I’d like you to think about it from your students’ perspective. They only see you in that tiny little window. Don’t you want to be as clear as possible for them to see?

Hopefully, if you find yourself in the market for a webcam, this will be helpful and make you feel a little bit better about the investment.

If you have any questions, please let me know in the comments!

Happy teaching!

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 one exception is my paper cutter. 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.

Here’s what I use:

Dell Inspirion 15.6 Inch HD Touchscreen Laptop

Pros: It’s very inexpensive, as far as laptops go. 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: 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!

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. In addition, you can select some tags of your own, making the total tags available six! When a parent leaves you five-apple feedback, they will see your self-selected tags and be given the option to endorse one or more of them.

How do I know what my teacher tags are?

In the teacher portal, click on “My Info” and then “tags.” You will see your tags in each of three categories: Teaching Skills, Strengths, and Personality.

What tags are available?

VIPKid has posted the list of potential teacher tags in the Support Center. Check it out here! In the meantime, you can also review the below list of possible teacher tags assembled by Ed Nace (and reprinted with permission.) VIPKid recently updated their teacher tags, so some of these may no longer be available, but this gives some good insight – especially into those related to personality.

Ed’s 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 six tags assigned. If you have fewer than that, 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 the maximum number, 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 and the parents. My only change was to add a tag in the area of “strengths” where I didn’t have any. That were visible. I chose to add the two that were already endorsed by parents. That way, when parents view my tags, they’ll see that other parents agree, and hopefully their expectations will be aligned.

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

Slidekick: Rewards

There are so many ways you can use Slidekick to quickly and easily identify the best reward for your student.

This is the second post in a 5-part series all about Slidekick, the app developed by a VIPKid teacher, for VIPKid teachers.

Be sure you check out Issue 1 (Getting Started) to get the basics!

I LOVE using Google Slides for rewards. While there are a lot of great ways you can use slides, this one is my ABSOLUTE FAVORITE!  As of this moment, there are 5,347 rewards loaded in Slidekick spanning 35 different categories. (And because I’m an editor in the group, I can see many, many more just waiting for editing and approval!)

Within Slidekick, there are several ways you can search for rewards specifically.

Option 1: Search by reward keyword.

  1. At the bottom of the app, click on the star that’s labelled “Rewards.”
  2. Click on “View All Rewards” at the top of the screen.
  3. Use the search bar at the top to type in keywords.
    • These could be lesson-specific like “food,” “animals,” “India” etc.
    • Or they could be interest-based like “Batman,” “lego,” or “princess.”

It’s usually best to use one keyword to narrow it down; sometimes multiple keywords don’t return great results. For example, instead of searching for “Spiderman, Ironman, and Hulk” try searching for “Superhero.”

Option 2: Search by reward type.

There are so many different reward types here. To search for a certain reward type:

  1. At the bottom of the app, click on the star that’s labelled “Rewards.”
  2. Click on “View Reward Categories” at the top of the screen.
  3. Click on the reward type that you want to use, and you can browse all rewards of that type.

I’m going to resist the urge to talk about them all. (That’s a topic for another blog series.) Instead, I’ll list just a few of my favorites. A few of my favorite reward types are:

  • Find a Star (FAS): Students select a number (or vocab word, or picture.) Some of the options will reveal a star, while others will reveal a picture or gif. You can see an example of this in action in my blog post about Using Google Slides with VIPKid.
  • Pick One: This is similar to FAS, but there are usually two options to choose from. The student chooses one and a picture, gif, or scene is revealed. Sometimes there are stars incorporated into these, and sometimes there are not.
  • Candyland: This is my favorite for my younger students who might not be comfortable making decisions in class. In Candyland, students “spin” the wheel and land on different colored spaces. Each space correlates to something related to the lesson, and then there’s a gif that’s related.
  • UA Maps: These are special rewards designed that align with the “maps” or gameboards in the lessons for Unit Assessments.

Option 3: Search by Lesson

Some people choose the reward based on the student, while others choose it as a way to extend upon the lesson. If you are looking for the latter, there’s a slightly different process to find your reward.

  1. At the bottom of the app, click “lessons.”
  2. Either scroll through the list or use the search bar to find the lesson you will be teaching.
  3. Click on the lesson.
  4. Click on “Extension Rewards.”
  5. Scroll through the list of recommended rewards for this lesson.

It’s important to note that not all of the possible rewards for a lesson will be listed. So if you don’t see one that suits your desired needs, try searching under “rewards” for the lesson number or keyword.

There are so many ways you can use Slidekick to quickly and easily identify the best reward for your student. I encourage you to play around in the app and try it out for yourself.

If you’re looking for more, be sure you come back for the rest of the series! Or you can always see it in action on YouTube as well!

In the next three issues, we’ll dive deeper into:

  • Issue 3: Props & Lessons
  • Issue 4: Rapport
  • Issue 5: Bringing it all Together

In the meantime, be sure to visit the Google Slides Facebook group to get started.

If you have questions, please feel free to let me know in the comments.  Until then – happy teaching, and happy sliding!

Slidekick: Getting Started

This is the first post in a 5-part series all about Slidekick, the app developed by a VIPKid teacher, for VIPKid teachers.

What is Slidekick?

Slidekick is an app that was developed to help VIPKid teachers find, organize, and use Google Slides in ESL classrooms.

Where can I get Slidekick?

It is not available in any app store, and it is not for sale.  You can only get it by being a member of the VIPKid teacher community, and the easiest way to connect is through Facebook.

Once you join the Facebook group, go to “Announcements” and check out the Slide Guide. There, you will find a link to download Slidekick (along with many other useful resources!)

The first time you download it on each device (phone, laptop, iPad, etc.) you will be asked to provide an email address.  You’ll be emailed a code that you need to input in order to proceed with the download. Occasionally, you’ll be prompted to get another code, but for the most part, I stay logged in without going through this additional step.

How much does Slidekick cost?

Nothing. Nada. Zip. Slidekick (and all VIPKid Google Slides) are free for use in the VIPKid classroom.

What can I do with Slidekick?

You’ll learn more about how to use Slidekick in the next four blog posts; however, here’s a sneak peek at what’s in store!

  • News and Updates from your Google Slides admin team.
  • About the VIPKid #GS Group – learn the history of this phenomenal group of people and resources!
  • Who’s Who in Google Slides: Find out who the admins, moderators, and editors are. Thank or tip them for their work in Google Slides.
  • #GS Admin Team: Meet the Sliders behind this group and find out more about these amazing individuals.
  • Create & Contribute: Find templates and resources to help you create your own Google Slides creations! Upload them right from the app!
  • Join Us! Join the Google Slides admin team for recorded and live training sessions!
  • Rewards: Search by category or topic for specific rewards to use in class.
  • Lessons: Search by lesson for props, extension rewards, feedback templates, and lesson notes!

You will NOT be able to display slides from within Slidekick. There are other options that are recommended (also in the Slide Guide!) for the options people use to display the slides.

In the next four issues, we’ll dive deeper into:

  • Issue 2: Rewards
  • Issue 3: Props & Lessons
  • Issue 4: Rapport
  • Issue 5: Bringing it all Together

In the meantime, be sure to visit the Google Slides Facebook group to get started.

If you’d like to see a quick walk-through on screen, check out the accompanying YouTube video:

Slidekick – Episode 1

Slidekick 1 thumbnail

If you have questions, please feel free to let me know in the comments.  In the meantime – happy teaching, and happy sliding!