China’s National Day and VIPKid

When is it?

Unlike many Chinese holidays and festivals, this one is not based on the lunar calendar. It has a fixed day every year – October 1!

In 2019, it will be celebrated October 1-7, but be aware that the weekends before and after will likely be mandatory work and school days.

What is it?

The full name of the holiday is “National Day of the People’s Republic of China.” It is a public holiday to honor the date that the PRC (People’s Republic of China) was founded in 1949. The holiday is celebrated in mainland China, Hong Kong, and Macau.

History

The first ceremony was held in Tianamen Square on October 1, 1949. The first public parade of the new People’s Liberation Army also took place in Tianamen Square, and that was also where the first address by the first Chairman happened. Many of the celebrations still happen in Beijing but are publicized on television.

Activities

The holiday’s activities actually begin the night before National Day. In past years, there was a wreath-laying ceremony done in remembrance of Chinese who perished, but beginning in 2014, this moved to a new “National Memorial Day” holiday held on the eve of National Day on September 30.

The morning of National Day, there is a 6am flag-raising ceremony. In 2019, the day will also marked with the National civil-military parade. This parade is one of the main highlights of the celebration in Beijing, and it used to be held yearly but now is held every 10th year. 2019 marks the 70th year of the PRC. The parade will be filled with key leaders in the Chinese government and will include a number of military weapons as part of the display.

According to ChinaHighlights.com, the event is celebrated October 1-7, which adjacent weekend days being mandatory workdays to help offset the time off. So you may find students traveling the first week in October, but home-bound while Mom and Dad work and they go to school the weekends before and after.

Will I get bookings or cancellations?

I was pretty new last year at this time, so I did not notice a difference. I also do not teach weekends. Based on what I’ve seen from other teachers, the biggest impact will be for those of you who book classes on the weekends. If your students are in school the weekends before and after the holiday, they might not be able to take their regularly-scheduled classes. During the holiday week, too, it’s possible their family will be traveling, so they might add, cancel, or change classes. As with most holidays in China, just be aware and try to be mindful of student schedule changes. To minimize impacts, it’s best if you can open up short notice bookings and be as flexible as possible!

What can I do in class to celebrate?

Any time you can bring elements of a festival into your classroom, children and their families will appreciate your efforts! I have heard of teachers adding red paper lanterns to their classroom to celebrate. There are also a few reward systems out there with Google Slides, so you could incorporate those into your class. Of course, it’s also a good opportunity to introduce as free-talk or icebreakers in your class. Questions could be:

  • Will you celebrate National Day?
  • Will you watch the parade on National Day?
  • Will you travel next week?

What should I do to prepare?

There’s really not too much you need to do to prepare, unless you want to incorporate decorations or rewards into your classroom.  Be flexible, and be open to hearing if your students want to tell you about their own celebrations on this day. Most importantly, have fun!

In 2019, there are two Chinese Culture workshops offered by VIPKid in the week leading up to National Day, so if you have questions or are looking for more information, that would be a good place to start! Check out the workshop schedule in the library for more info!

If you have suggestions of your own, please let me know in the comments, or let me know how this festival has been for you in the past!

If you are just getting started and would like help through the hiring process, please feel free to reach out. I’d love to help you through the application process with VIPKid!

Sources/More Information:

Wikipedia.com

China Highlights.com

YouTube video published by VIPKid: National Day with Belle from the Teacher Service Team!

Fitness Update – Week 2: One Step at a Time

Anything new can feel overwhelming, and it won’t always work out exactly as we have planned. But that’s ok. As long as we focus on progress and not perfection, we will ultimately be successful.

Many of you know that I recently started trying to intentionally improve my health. I thought I’d share a quick status update.

I’m not thrilled with my progress so far.

It isn’t about how much weight I’ve lost because I’ve only done it for a couple of weeks. (And I have lost about 3 pounds …) But it’s more about my own self-discipline. Due to a few “emergencies” in my 8-5 day job, my workouts have not been as consistent as I would hope. I’ve missed two days this week (although I’ll make up one of them this weekend.) I’ve done fairly well eating healthy, but my digestive system has had a few issues. I mean, who can blame it? After years of eating processed food, fast food, and hardly anything healthy, I’m sure my body is thinking “What is this green stuff that she’s putting into me?” And then there’s the ever-so-gradual replacement of a liquid diet of diet coke and wine, replaced with water and hot tea. That one can’t happen overnight, but I have made some progress there.

This is going to sound crazy, but I think what’s bothered me the most is that I haven’t been following the process and writing everything down. I have this great book that I bought. I’ve used it before, and my goals page is a work of art. It has cute goals written out very neatly in felt pen (with illustrations!) It shows how motivated I was at the beginning.

My Body for Life “dreams” – August, 2019

The first couple of days have everything filled in. I even bought a pack of multi-colored felt pens to encourage myself to write down my daily goals, foods, and exercises and comment on my progress. Since those first few rosy days, let’s just say it hasn’t happened.

Day 10, Body For Life… September 6, 2019

However… even though I am not being the fitness and health powerhouse I had hoped, I think there’s still progress to celebrate:

  • I have eaten healthier in these last 10 days than I have in a very long time. And I have reduced my calorie count. Perfection? No. Progress? Yes.
  • I have begun an exercise program. It’s too early to call it a habit, but I’m doing it. And at some point it WILL be a habit. I will probably never love it, but that’s ok.
  • I do have one spark of enjoyment that makes me look forward to my cardio days. I started doing what I call “Treadmill Time.” While I’m doing my cardio, I watch YouTube videos from some of my favorite VIPKid teachers, and then share little tidbits so others might benefit from them too! I have a lot of fun trying to decide who to watch and then binge-watching during my workouts!

So, on day 10, I think my takeaway is this. I’ll keep taking things one step at a time. I think this is important, whether with exercise, or if you are a new VIPKid teacher just starting out. Anything new can feel overwhelming, and it won’t always work out exactly as we have planned. But that’s ok. As long as we focus on progress and not perfection, we will ultimately be successful.

Now I’m off to pick out the color for my new felt tip pen for the day…

Mid-Autumn Festival and VIPKid

When is it?

The Mid-Autumn Festival falls on the fifteenth day of the eighth month of the lunar calendar. That means that the calendar date changes each year.

In 2019, the date falls on September 13, so the festival is celebrated from Friday, September 13 through Sunday, September 15.

What is it?

The Mid-Autumn Festival is the second largest festival in China (second only to Chinese New Year.) It is celebrated in mid-autumn (hence the name.)

The Mid-Autumn Festival may also be called The Moon Festival or the Harvest Moon Festival (since the moon is at its fullest and brightest during this time of the year.)

History

The festival was historically focused on moon-based sacrificial ceremonies. It was a time to give thanks for plentiful harvests. There were also several legends associated with the festival.

  • Chang E flies to the moon: One of the most popular stories is centered around an archer (Hou Yi) who somehow inherited a special, sacred elixer. (The stories behind this vary.) His wife Chang E ended up drinking the elixer and flying to the moon!
  • The Jade Rabbit pounds herbs: It is said that the Jade Rabbit (jack rabbit) is Chang E’s companion on the moon. He continually pounds herbs to make pills in an attempt to find a combination that will send Chang E back to Earth so she can be reunited with her husband.
  • Woodsman Wu Gang chops the laurel tree: This is a legend where a woodsman attempts to chop down a self-healing laurel tree each day at the Moon Palace. The tree heals itself each evening, and he resumes his efforts the next day.
  • Zhu Yuanzhang’s mooncake uprising: Zhu Yuanzhang is the founder of the Ming Dynasty. He attempted to launch an uprising on the night of the Mid-Autumn festival, but communications proved to be challenging. They ended up hiding notes in mooncakes to distribute them, leading to Zhu and his rebel forces taking the capital of the Yuan Dynasty (now Beijing) and beginning the Ming Dynasty.

Modern Day

Today, the festival is still celebrated by eating mooncakes. They are often given as gifts to wish someone a long and happy life. Families take time to appreciate the moon, honor family members who live far away, and sometimes celebrate with lanterns or dragon and lion dances, depending on their regions. People typically get one day off of work to celebrate, making the festival a long weekend in many regions.

Will I get bookings or cancellations?

I started with VIPKid last year around the time of the Mid-Autumn festival, so I do not have personal experience with bookings during this festival. In perusing the Facebook groups, it sounds as though it all depends on the students and their families. Some take the time off of classes, while others use the extra day off to book extra classes. Just be aware and try to be mindful of student schedule changes. As with most holidays, it’s best if you can open up short notice bookings and be as flexible as possible!

What can I do in class to celebrate?

Any time you can bring elements of a festival into your classroom, children and their families will appreciate your efforts! There are a few traditions that are easy to incorporate:

  • Mooncakes. Depending on your supermarket, you may be able to find actual mooncakes that you can eat “with” your students. If not, there are lots of mooncake rewards (digital or printable.) These can be fun to use around the time of the Mid-Autumn Festival. You can also use it for free talk, and ask your students if they made or ate Mooncakes! VIPKid even provides a mooncake reward system here!
  • Tradition. Especially if you teach older, higher-level children, this could be a good opportunity to compare traditions. Ask them to tell you If they grew up listening to the legends. Have them tell you their favorite one! You can share stories about “harvest festivals” in your country and foods that we eat. Holidays are always a good opportunity to share culture!
  • Decoration. If you enjoy decorating your classroom, there are some lovely images available for the Mid-Autumn Festival. The image on this blog post is from PNG Tree, but there are many beautiful images available.

What should I do to prepare?

There’s really not too much you need to do to prepare, unless you want to incorporate decorations or rewards into your classroom.  Be flexible, and be open to hearing if your students want to tell you about their own celebrations on this day. Most importantly, have fun!

If you are a current VIPKid teacher, keep your eyes open, because sometimes they will offer workshops about specific festivals. There are several Chinese culture workshops scheduled during September, so those might be a good place to start.

If you have suggestions of your own, please let me know in the comments, or let me know how this festival has been for you in the past!

If you are just getting started and would like help through the hiring process, please feel free to reach out. I’d love to help you through the application process with VIPKid!

Sources/More Information:

TravelChinaGuide.com

Wikipedia.com

CCTV.com

Being a Beginner

“Be willing to be a beginner every single morning.” – Meister Eckhart

Most of my blog posts are about teaching with VIPKid. Occasionally I branch off into my journey to get here. But today I wanted to share something a little bit more personal. I’ve decided to change my lifestyle and make a concentrated effort to get healthier.

As background, I’ve never been a very health-conscious person. I’ve gone through phases where I have exercised, and sometimes I eat better than others. But no one has ever looked at me and said, “Wow, what a healthy person.” A few years ago, I had a hysterectomy (in my 30’s) and went on hormones, and what was “a few pounds overweight” quickly started ballooning. (literally and figuratively!) I was still getting some exercise because I walked my dog Buster most mornings before work, and we were cooking some at home because our youngest kids were still living with us. We had to keep up some semblance of a good example! But even then, I was definitely not living my best life.

About a year ago, several things happened: our youngest two twins went to college. (Yes, one still lives with us … or at least we think he does. We don’t really see him much anymore.) That’s roughly when we stopped cooking at home. And I started teaching with VIPKid (which I LOVE!) BUT… the only downside is that I teach in the early mornings, right when I would walk Buster. So Buster (and I) have taken a bit of a backseat. My exercise dropped to almost zero, and my caffeine intake rose proportionately. I have realized that I have to make a change. I want more energy. I want to feel better. I want to be around longer. So I have to change.

So… today I began the first 12-week program. I know it’s old school, but I’m following the old Body for Life process. The idea is simple, and I know I can be successful, because it’s a series of small, attainable goals.

  1. Eating better. You eat six small meals per day consisting of a small portion of protein and carbs in each meal plus vegetables to at least 2 meals. (Of course plenty of water.) And my favorite part: one free day per week. That helps me be strong, knowing I can eat anything on one day each week.
  2. Exercising. No, I’m not doing Crossfit or Boot Camps. I don’t even think I’m in enough shape to do a Dino Dash step bet yet. But I’ve started. I joined a gym and will work out six days per week alternating weights and aerobic exercise. No workout lasts more than 46 minutes, which is awesome. I have to modify because I can’t do it first thing in the morning on an empty stomach, but I can do it after work.
  3. Living Intentionally. I’m setting goals. I’m planning my meals and exercise. I’m thinking about how I can be successful.

So why write about it here? For one thing, I’m excited for this fresh start, and I wanted to share it. For another thing, so many of you who read and comment on my posts inspire me. You may not even realize you’ve made an impact, but you have! Finally, this is an added layer of accountability. By telling 30,000 of my closest friends and putting these intentions out into the world, I feel that I have an added responsibility to see this through.

There is a quote from Meister Eckhart that says, “Be willing to be a beginner every single morning.” I am excited to be beginning again with a new focus.

Don’t worry, my blog will still be about teaching, and cute kiddos, and amazing props, and all of those fun things. But the person behind the screen will just be a little healthier as she types.

Thanks for joining me on (another) journey!

Happy teaching, and exercising and eating healthier!

Amelia

How to Ask for 5-Apple Feedback

It is critical to be genuine, both in your teaching and in your feedback, so do what works for YOU!

I have written several blog posts about feedback, and in the last (almost) year that I’ve been teaching, my opinion hasn’t changed much. When people ask me, “Do you ask for feedback?” My answer is “sometimes.” It really depends on the student, the class, and the parents.

When do you ask for feedback?

I usually ask for feedback when I am teaching students for the first 1-3 times, or when I have a specific question that I would like the parents to answer. Here’s a snapshot of when I ask:

How do you ask for feedback?

I vary the way that I ask for feedback, but below are a few examples that I have used in each of the above categories! All of these are at the very end of my feedback, after I have given specific information about the student’s performance!

Trial Class Feedback

Bao Bao did a great job in class, and he will do very well with VIPKid! Did Bao Bao enjoy class? If you have any questions, you can contact your Learning Partner or ask me in your feedback. Receiving positive, 5-apple feedback is very important to VIPKid teachers, and it is a great way to be able to share ideas about Bao Bao’s classes! Thank you! Teacher Amelia U

First Class Feedback

Thank you for the opportunity to teach Bao Bao in class today. I hope she enjoyed it as much as I did! I would love to hear your comments about our class. VIPKid teachers always value feedback, but I especially enjoy learning about my new students’ families! Thank you! Teacher Amelia U

Second or Third Class Feedback

It was great to see Bao Bao again today. I can already see improvements from our last lesson. Keep going! If you have any suggestions or requests for our next class, please tell me in your feedback! Thank you! Teacher Amelia

Asking about Rewards

Today we played a game where “My Little Pony” characters were eating. This helped Bao Bao practice her new vocabulary using things that she enjoys! “Rainbow Dash eats!” I like extending on our lessons like this because it helps me ensure that Bao Bao understands and can apply what she is learning! If there are other toys, television shows, or movies that she likes, please let me know in your feedback, and I will try to incorporate them into upcoming lessons! Thank you – Teacher Amelia U

Asking for Feedback at Other Times

There may be other times that it’s appropriate to ask for feedback. You will get to know your students and their parents, and you’ll know what’s effective and appropriate. A few other examples might be:

  • I know that proper pronunciation is very important to you, so I took extra steps to practice “parallelogram” with Bao Bao. He was doing much better by the end of class! If you have any specific requests when you review the class, please let me know in the feedback! Thank you!
  • Did Bao Bao enjoy her reading course? I really enjoy teaching the supplemental courses, and I think that it will help Bao Bao continue to improve her reading skills in new ways. Please let me know if she enjoyed it in the feedback! Thank you!
  • I will not be teaching on September 2 because it is an American holiday. Feel free to send a priority booking request if there is another time you would like to schedule Bao Bao’s class. You could also leave me alternate times in the feedback and I will try to open classes if I am available. Thank you!

When NOT to Ask for Feedback

If you are not willing to listen with an open mind to your parents’ feedback, then please don’t ask. If you don’t want to consider new reward ideas, then don’t ask. It is a HUGE pet peeve of mine when people ask for my advice and then blatantly disregard it. So please… only ask for feedback if you really want to hear it!

It is critical to be genuine, both in your teaching and in your feedback, so do what works for YOU! The above examples are what works for me. If you don’t feel comfortable asking for feedback, then don’t! Because that will show through to the parents.

Do I think that asking for feedback makes a difference in your apple rating? No, probably not. I’ve asked. I’ve not asked. And the feedback ebbs and flows regardless. So again, do what works for you. If you are interested in my other thoughts on feedback, you can check them out here:

If you are a new teacher looking to get started, I would love to help you through the hiring process! Feel free to contact me with questions!

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!

Booking Boosters for VIPKid

If you are asking the question, “How can I get more VIPKid bookings?” You are not alone. And before I give any suggestions, let me assure you that you have not done anything wrong! There are many factors that can go into VIPKid bookings, and low bookings can affect any of us: new teachers, tenured teachers, and everyone in between! But don’t worry, there are some easy things that you can do that have the potential to help bring in bookings.

First, the “big 6” booking boosters that I’ve talked about before are:

  1. Be sure you are opening your schedule for the correct weeks. (If you’re fuzzy on the frenzy timing, review my post about VIPKid Booking Schedules.
  2. Review your profile picture.
  3. Review your featured photos and intro video.
  4. Take workshops.
  5. Add certifications (especially trials!)
  6. Open short notice bookings.

You can read more about all of these in my first post about bookings, Getting Bookings with VIPKid.

If you have tried all of those without luck, there are some other options.

Send e-cards to prior students.

Remember, e-cards go to students, not their parents. With the latest update, you must use pre-formatted templates, but there are several that are relevant. There’s a “Book Me” card that includes a “Book Me” message, an “I miss you” message, a “See you soon,” message and a “Happy to see you” message. There are also some good ones under “See you in class” and “Thanks.” If you aren’t sure how to send an e-card, I have a walk-through here: How to Send an e-card with VIPKid.

Open a ticket for low bookings.

VIPKid will sometimes help teachers increase their bookings. In the support center, you can create a new ticket. There are a few different options. I would start with the first: Issue = No Booking or Issue = Low Booking. If you try this and have not had success in a week’s time, then I would open a second ticket: Issue = Teacher Voice. In either scenario, VIPKid can get your information over to Learning Partners who may be looking for a new teacher to recommend to their students. Be sure to include your teacher show name! (The one with the letters after it!)

Open your schedule further in advance.

Always be sure your schedule is open at least two weeks in advance. That is the standard window, and many parents try to rebook for two weeks out immediately following their last class. But if you can (and are sure you can teach!) then try to open a consistent schedule for at least a month in advance. If a parent is looking for a “regular” teacher who can teach their child on an ongoing basis, they will want to be sure that your schedules are compatible.

Participate in VIPKid promotional activities.

VIPKid often offers different promotions that can help get your profile in front of parents. The current activity that is in its last few weeks this August (2019) is the Teacher Showroom. It’s an opportunity to upload an additional short video. As of August 13, VIPKid said they had 4,000 entries. While this seems like a lot, 4,000 out of around 70,000 teachers is not that many. Less than 6 percent of VIPKid’s teachers participated, so if new parents are scrolling through trying to find their perfect match, you’ve just increased your odds of being seen!

Check your teacher tags.

Honestly, I’m not a big fan of this technique. (Check out VIPKid Teacher Tags to see why.) But if all else fails, you could consider updating your teacher tags. When you go through your interview and mock classes, certain “tags” are added to your profile that are visible to teachers. Parents can also add them, or you can select your own (up to six.) The general idea is that parents can see areas of specialty or personality traits to help decide if you will be a good fit for their child. There are a few things you can do with teacher tags to potentially affect your bookings.

  1. First, you can review your tags in the teacher portal or PC App under “My Info” and then “teacher tags.”
  2. Next, if you don’t have six visible, you can edit them and update them (once every thirty days.)
  3. Finally, If you feel that the tags are not representative of your personality, you can change them. No tags should really have more benefit than others; however, it is possible that if your tags are not aligned with your real teaching style, it could impact repeat bookings.

Reach out to parents on social media.

If you use WeChat or Weibo, you can post something for parents to see. Be sure that it translates well to Chinese and that it’s respectful. I have even seen teachers post about specific days: “I have several classes available on Friday! What students will I see?” You could gently suggest that parents consider recommending you to their friends.

There is no “one right way” to get bookings with VIPKid, but I hope you have found these suggestions helpful.

Have you tried any of these techniques? Let me know how they worked in the comments!

And of course, if you are a new teacher I would be happy to help. You can get started right away with the VIPKid application and I will be happy to answer any questions I can. Happy teaching!

VIPKid Week 2 and the Early Months

Remember that everyone’s VIPKid journey is different. No two teachers will ever have the exact same schedule or experience, and that’s ok!

You’ve made it through the gauntlet we know as the VIPKid hiring process. You got the elusive “first booking.” Maybe you had several bookings! And then … what?

This post is designed to help fill in the blanks for what comes next.

Open your schedule.

Students and their parents have the opportunity to book you again right after class. Make sure you have the next two weeks open to fully take advantage of this! I usually include my availability in the future when I send my feedback.

For example, “In our next lesson, I would like to keep working with Bao Bao on “this” and “that.” I have a fun game that I think he will enjoy that will help reinforce this. If you would like to book our next class, I have this same time available next week! Thank you! Teacher Amelia U

Check for feedback.

If you haven’t gotten any, don’t sweat it! (Everyone is different. Check here to see How does your VIPKid apple rating measure up?) If you did get feedback, I encourage you to respond to it. (You can do this through the PC App or the web portal, but not by phone.) I’m sure it’s positive, 5-apple feedback and so a simple thank you is sufficient. A few options I’ve used are:

  • Thank you for taking the time to leave feedback. Receiving positive feedback is very important to VIPKid teachers, and I really appreciate it!
  • Thank you for the 5-apple feedback! Bao Bao did a great job in class, and I can’t wait to see him again!
  • Thank you for leaving me 5-apples! I appreciate your feedback and I hope to see Bao Bao soon. If you would like to schedule another class, I am available next Friday!

If for some reason it isn’t 5-apple feedback, resist the urge to be confrontational in a response. You can see how to dispute bad feedback here.

Send e-cards to students you want to rebook!

The feedback is your way of communicating with parents. E-cards are your way to communicate with the students. With that in mind, stay away from scheduling conversation and keep it high level and positive.

  • I had fun in our class last week Bao Bao! Are you doing your homework? I hope to see you in class soon! – Teacher Amelia U
  • I hope you enjoyed our class last week! Next time I have a fun Ultraman game that we can play while you learn English. See you soon! – Teacher Amelia U

Always use your teacher show name.

You may have noticed in both my feedback and e-cards I used my show name (that name with the initial after it.) This is just in case the parents have lost me in the sea of teachers and don’t know how to find me TO rebook. When little Bao Bao shows them the adorable e-card that I sent them, it will remind them and they can find me to rebook!

Watch your replay.

Did you know you can go back into the PC App and watch your class replay? It won’t be available immediately, but it is usually there a few hours after class. Watch the replay with an open mind, and ask yourself:

  • What did I do well?
  • What should I do differently?
  • Did it look like I was having fun?
  • Did it look like my student was having fun?
  • How much time was I talking? (Remember, our goal is to have the student talk 50-80% of the time, depending on their level!)
  • Were there times that I cut off my student before they could fully answer?
  • How was my timing?
  • Did I use a good mixture of props to help enhance the learning?

I like referring to the Teacher Applicant Performance Indicator during the playback. Even though it’s intended to help during the hiring process, I find it’s a useful self-evaluation tool as well.

Then based on your own self-evaluation…

Take workshops.

I know by this point you are probably tired of hearing me say that. BUT, even if you took workshops prior to teaching classes (good for you!) you did not have any real experience to build on. If you found yourself struggling in a particular area as you watched your playback, you can go to a workshop with that class in mind and perhaps learn tools and techniques to adjust. It will also show VIPKid that you are taking your own self-improvement seriously and that you want to be the very best teacher possible.

If you aren’t sure where to go to find workshops then check out the VIPKid Library and Certification Center. You’ll be amazed!

Contact the learning partner (if appropriate.)

Last but not least, if you have any meaningful feedback on the students, it can also help to send feedback to the learning partner. You can do this at the time of the class through the class feedback (in the very bottom section.) But you can also do this via a ticket in the support center. I’ve seen some teachers asking on social media, “What do I say to the learning partner?” If you have to ask that question, it’s a good sign that you should not be sending in a ticket. It is a waste of your time and theirs to send feedback with nothing meaningful to say. But if you do have something (positive or negative) that you feel is important, then this is a good way to start building relationships with the LP’s. You probably won’t hear back, but if they pass along your feedback to the parents, you could get a repeat booking. Or the LP could book you for other students.

No matter what, remember that everyone’s VIPKid journey is different. No two teachers will ever have the exact same schedule or experience, and that’s ok! Remember to have fun and focus on your students, and everything else will fall into place.

If you have questions or suggestions of your own, please let me know in the feedback!

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 Unit Assessments

Unit assessments have gone from one of my most feared classes to my favorite.

Just when I thought I had my pacing mastered (1 slide per minute = a 25 minute class,) I opened my schedule and saw it…

a unit assessment!

What is a Unit Assessment? It is an assessment that gauges how well the student has mastered the information in a unit. These are introduced at the halfway point and in the last lesson of the unit. (In level one, that means they have an assessment in lessons 4 and 8. In all other units, the assessments are in lessons 6 and 12.)

As a new ESL teacher, the unit assessments lead to a number of questions:

  • 50 slides? How will I cover 50 slides in 25 minutes?
  • What if I get done early?
  • What if I can’t finish?
  • What is the project? Do they know about it?
  • Do I still need to have a secondary reward?
  • Should I help them if they don’t know the answer?
  • How do I grade them?

In today’s blog post, I thought I would tackle a few of the most common questions for you.

UA Timing

I think this is the most common question I hear. On one hand, there are almost double the number of slides as a normal MC lesson. On the other hand, 100% of the material is review, so often kids can fly through it since there is less “teaching.” Here are a few tips to help you master the timing of a UA.

  • Don’t panic. Many of the slides are section breaks with no discussion required.
  • Review the UA in advance. Get a feel for how many sections there are and how many questions are in each section. I tend to monitor my pacing by sections rather than slides with the UA. For example, if there are six sections, I should be finishing up section 3 when I am halfway through class. BUT – remember, not all sections are created equally. If you have a student who did a really complex project, you may allocate more time in that section and less in another.
  • Be ready to extend. Don’t wait until the end of a lesson to find out you have a lot of extra time to kill. That won’t be productive. If you see that your student is well prepared and doing well in the assessment, extend as you go. This has three benefits:
    • You will keep them engaged throughout the lesson.
    • There’s less risk of mom and dad complaining that you finished the lesson too early.
    • It provides great content for your feedback. (“Not only did Bao Bao answer the assessment questions about XYZ correctly, but he also demonstrated his understanding with new examples I gave him in class!”)
  • If you have a student who is struggling with the content, do your very best not to skip slides. Instead, move quickly through the section breaks. Don’t spend much time on the “game.” You read the storyline rather than having the student read it. But always try to complete all of the actual assessment.

The UA Project

The UA Project is “homework” that is done outside of class in levels 2 and above. This is a topic I’ll probably go back and write an entire blog post about. For today, I just want to touch on the basics.

  • Yes, the students already know about it. It is first introduced in lesson 5. It is also reviewed in lessons 6 and 11. The students and their parents also have information about the project in their materials from VIPKid.
  • No, not all students complete the project. In fact, I would guess that most do not.
  • It’s possible that some have uploaded it in the portal already. There is a “Project Demo” button that gives them that option; however, I’ve only seen one student ever use it. In most cases, just ask the student to show you their homework, and they will hold it up to the camera.
  • If they did not do it, you have a few options. In order of my personal preference:
    • You can have the student complete the project live with you in class. They can draw or write on the blank slide or a piece of paper and do it quickly. If I do this, I generally give them half credit for the project.
    • You can wait, and if time allows, have them complete it at the end of the class. This is good because you run less risk of taking up too much class time; however, I sometimes forget to return to it.
    • You can give them zero points and move on. I usually use this only as a last resort. Realistically, these kids do so much in their lives. They often have 12 hour days in school plus extracurricular activities. Then they learn English on top of that! As a momma, I know some weeks we simply couldn’t get everything done. I might choose the English homework too.

UA Rewards

It’s never required by VIPKid to have a secondary reward. However, I do recommend it. For UA’s, you can use their built-in game concept or do a reward of your own. I personally like to make a game board on my whiteboard using UNO cards. If I have time, I will print custom stars that match the UA theme, but often I just use my tried and true Dino stars. I also LOVE the UA maps in Google Slides. These usually follow the theme of the UA game, but at the end of each section there’s a cute gif or picture. My flow is simply “Yay! Good job!” I hold up my phone and show the animation to display the gif and go to the next level; then say “You get a star!”  I stick my star on my game board behind me and move on to “Level 2 – BEGIN!”

UA Grading and Progress

I always do my best to grade accurately (but positively.) They aren’t trying to get into an Ivy League school with these results, BUT I think it’s very important for parents to understand how their child is progressing.

Here are a few things to remember about grading and progress:

  • If they are struggling, you can absolutely help them. Our primary goal is to teach, so consider these assessments “open book” (or at least “open teacher.” 🙂
  • Every exercise has a sliding scale for grading, and most include an option for “Student completed XYZ with teacher assistance.”
  • The only times I give zero points are when the student fails to participate on a slide at all, or perhaps they still cannot complete the activity, even with teacher assistance. It is very rare that this happens. Usually, the student is able to complete the activities with help.

Unit assessments have gone from one of my most feared classes to my favorite. I love the flow. I love seeing the progress that my students have made. And I even love the cheesy game stories!

How do you feel about Unit Assessments? Do you have other questions you would like to see answered? Let me know in the comments!

game board