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!

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 Soft Cancellations

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

What is VIPKid’s cancellation policy?

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

How do you cancel a class?

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

How do you apply for a soft or medium cancellation?

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

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

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

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

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

Examples of “Soft Cancellation” Request

Current policy:

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

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

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

Bad example

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

Things to improve

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

better example

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

Class Date: 10/12/19

Class Time: 8:00 pm BJT

Student: Suzie

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

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

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