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!

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It’s a Small World

“Even though I’ve read that the world population has doubled in the last fifty years, in some ways this world is smaller than ever. “

Most of my blog posts are specific to my time with VIPKid. My goal with my blog is to share my experience and to help other teachers get the information they need to be successful.

But to know why I value my time as a teacher so much, it might help to know a little bit more about where I came from. So, if you’re interested, join me on a crazy trip down memory lane to see how on earth I landed here!

Where I began…

I grew up in a small town in Missouri, about three or four hours south of either Kansas City or Saint Louis, depending on which way you were looking. My class was exceptionally small. There were seventeen of us. Even in my small, small school, that was considered unusual. My family always encouraged me to think big, but for many years, I didn’t know what that meant.

My roaring 20’s…

During college, I started working in the contact center industry. If you haven’t heard that term before, think about all of the companies you do business with. If you need to contact them, there’s someone available to help you. I say “contact center” because that contact might be a phone call, an email, a chat, or even a Tweet. You might be speaking to someone in sales, customer service, or technical support. And I have been involved with all of the above.

I began as an outbound telemarketing agent for MCI. I was one of the people who called you (or most likely your parents) to ask, “Have you thought about switching your long distance service?” Today, my job is more of a project and process manager, working with teams behind the scenes to make sure things run smoothly. But the bottom line is: my job is to help people. No matter what specifically I’m doing, I always tell people that I’m in customer service, because that’s why we do what we do. My teams are here to support our customers. Period.

Seeing the world…

At one point in my late 20’s, I had begun traveling within the US for work, but I had not yet begun traveling internationally. In fact, I didn’t even have a passport. I was talking with a colleague who worked at Reuter’s. She lives in London, and I said to her, “I wish I could travel internationally.” She gave me a blank stare and said, “Why don’t you?” The next week I applied for a passport, and the rest is history.

One of the most amazing parts of working in customer service has been the opportunity to travel. I can’t even begin to choose a favorite place or a favorite trip. There are simply too many. But a few of my most memorable trips (not including personal travel) include:

  • Visiting Frank Lloyd Wright’s skyscraper in Bartlesville, Oklahoma.
  • Riding donkeys to the top of a volcano in Tagaytay, Philippines.
  • Eating the “worst bbq in Texas” at Rudy’s in San Antonio.
  • Visiting the Taj Mahal at sunset and Fatehpur Sikri in Agra, India
  • Being unintentionally “locked in” to a team builder at Stone Mountain, Georgia when the power went out following a hurricane.
  • Exploring Niagra Falls with fellow trainers on an 0ff-weekend in upstate New York.

The list could honestly go on and on. Just sitting here and thinking about these different places, and more importantly, the people who were with me, has brought back so many amazing memories! Don’t get me wrong. I’ve always worked hard, but on the weekends, I played hard too. I always thought “What a loss it would be to not experience everything a place has to offer.”

What I’ve learned…

Every one of those experiences above took place with people that I’ve worked with. I’ve spent hours with them on video calls and phone calls. When I was lucky, I spent time with them in person. They are amazing people, and I am lucky to call them my friends and colleagues.

Too often, people hear the words “outsourcing” or even “customer service” and they immediately bristle. It brings out an emotional reaction in some due to political beliefs, and to others because they have had a bad experience – somewhere, sometime, with someone. If there is one thing that I’ve learned, it’s that it doesn’t *really* matter where someone lives. I can assure you that the person on the other end of the phone, email, chat, or Tweet almost always wants to help you. I’ve been that person. And while it’s true that everyone has bad days, by and large, when we help you, it makes us feel good. It makes our jobs easier. It lets us know we’ve accomplished something good. We know we have made a small difference in a world that can be filled with stress.

It doesn’t stop at work…

In my personal life, I’ve also been blessed to travel. I have made five trips to Honduras where I have gotten to know the amazing people in the village of San Joaquin. I’ve visited Christopher Columbus’s home and dined in a cave in the Dominican Republic. We lived in Canada for three years, and I learned all about milk in a bag. I had the wonderful opportunity to visit England (twice) to see a former colleague and friend. (The definite high points were walking through a crop circle and visiting Stonehenge. And of course there have been several amazing camping trips, beach trips, and cruises with my wonderful family.

If I have learned one thing, in all of these places, people are people. We all have good days. We all have bad days. We all have problems. We all get sick. We all want to do good. We all love others.

My time in China…

All of these roads have led me to where I am today. I still work with amazing people around the world in my day job. I still travel with my family as often as possible. And now, I have a new place on my bucket list thanks to VIPKid. As of the writing of this post, I have yet to “really” visit China. But I will one day. I feel like I’m there every single day when I teach my students with VIPKid. These sweet families bring me into their homes and entrust me with their most prized possessions: their children. I have gone to Grandma and Grandpa’s house on vacation. I’ve made dumplings (Zongzi) during the Dragon Boat festival. I’ve heard students practice their instruments, read their poems, and sing their songs. These kids are just like ours.

I’m even more lucky because several of my VIPKid referrals live internationally. One moved to Madrid, Spain after she was hired. The other applied while living in Denmark. I get the chance to live vicariously through both of them every day. It’s amazing to have a team of people who can literally live anywhere in the world. There was one day that I had the opportunity to start my morning teaching in China. Then I spoke to both referrals (one in Spain and one in Denmark.) Later, I spoke to a fellow teacher who lives in Berlin; then during my workday, I talked with my ‘day job’ team members in South Carolina, Florida, Jamaica, Honduras and India.

It’s a small world

Even though I’ve read that the world population has doubled in the last fifty years, in some ways this world is smaller than ever. I am blessed and thankful to have had the opportunity to see so much of it. My bucket list is far from complete, but I can honestly say that it’s already overflowing.

What’s on your list? Where will you go next? What’s stopping you?

Clockwise from top: The volcano at Tagaytay, a pool in Cancun (maybe?), a crop circle somewhere in the English countryside, and Niagra Falls.