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!

Attending a VIPKid Meetup

There’s just something about being able to have a live, face-to-face conversation with someone!

VIPKid has been one of the most fun and rewarding things I’ve ever done. And they pay me for it! But let’s face it, people just don’t understand it!  How many times have we heard:

  • Wait, do you speak Chinese?
  • You do it on your computer?
  • You sound like you’re talking to your students again…
  • That better not be another picture of a cute kid!

Even those who are most supportive of us just don’t understand what it’s like to form these bonds with students and their parents across the globe.

Because our students are not in a brick and mortar school, we can’t just pop into the teacher’s lounge when we want to talk to someone.  So where do you go for support, help, or collaboration?

Many of us turn to online communities, which are GREAT.  (I’ll list some of my favorites in an upcoming blog post.) But there’s just something about being able to have a live, face-to-face conversation with someone.

Fortunately, VIPKid realizes this and encourages teachers to participate in local meetups!

What is a meetup?

Straight from the VIPKid suport center, “Meetups are a great way for teachers to gather and share their ideas or teaching experience with one another. Attending one can not only improve your daily routine, but the useful tips and getting to know other teachers will certainly provide a boost to your teaching business that only require a positive outlook and basic social skills!”

How can you find a meetup near you?

VIPKid lists all meetups on their community events page. You can search by city/state or zip code to find a meetup in your area.

What can you do at a meetup?

Anything you want! In all seriousness, every meet up is different. Meetups are hosted by VIPKid teachers, and so they will be different based on personality, location, time of year, and attendees.  I have been to two meetups, and both were fun but very different.

My first meetup was hosted by Teacher Beth. It was hosted at a Mexican restaurant and we ate dinner. The atmosphere was informal, and it gave teachers (and a few prospective teachers) a chance to talk to one another, get to know each other, and share stories about their classes. Of course, there was a swag giveaway, and I won my first Dino!

My second meetup was just this month and hosted by Teacher Kimberly. This one was in a private room at a coffee shop. A few of the same teachers were there, but many new ones. This one included an icebreaker, plus some targeted discussions about tips for new teachers, the Teacher App, the application process, recruiting, and even a demo of Google Slides. Kimberly had made goody bags for all attendees, and –  you guessed it – there was swag! (This time I won a cute dragon Dino and a Dino-topped pencil!)

Both of the meetups resulted in new, local friendships and a lot of fun.

A few common themes that I’ve seen before include:

  • Prop Swaps: Teachers can bring extra or gently used props they no longer need and trade with others. It’s a great way to get new ideas for props or re-home some of your own!
  • Crafting or Painting Parties: These are fun, and they can serve double duty as classroom decorations after you’re finished.
  • Escape Rooms: I’m planning my first meetup in August, and it will include an escape room. Why? Because they are super fun! It’s also a good chance to work together and teambuild.
  • Meals: Of course, we all have to eat. Why not grab a bite and swap stories at the same time?
  • Family Fun: Theme parks, picnics, bowling, and parks can all make for a family-friendly day where everyone can have fun. Not only can teachers have fun sharing stories, but their kids can commiserate about mom or dad stealing their toys as props, and spouses can share their favorite (or least favorite) VIPKid tales too!
  • Festivals, Museums, or Tours: We all enjoy learning about other cultures. Often, teachers will get together for local Chinese festivals or others. It’s a great chance to learn and have fun with your fellow teachers.

Really, the sky is the limit. The goal is to have fun and enjoy spending time with your fellow teachers (and of course, get some cool new VIPKid swag.)

Can prospective teachers attend a VIPKid meetup?

Absolutely! Just keep in mind that they are designed for existing teachers, so if you are interested in an actual recruiting event or something that is designed for prospective teachers, Coaching Days might be more appropriate.

Like I mentioned, I will be hosting my first meetup in August, so I’d love any tips and tricks. I’ll be sure to blog about it along the way. And if you’re local, I’d love to see you there!

Happy teaching (and meeting!)

dino dragon 2

The Virtual Water Cooler: Staying Social While Working from Home

Working from home, we miss out on those quick “water cooler” discussions where we bump into someone and chat for a few minutes.

If you follow my blog or know me personally, you know that I love working from home. I’ve written about The Five Secrets to Working From Home, and I apply them every day since I work from home for my main job in customer service and also my side hustle teaching English online.

However, working remotely, especially if you do “shift work” in early or late hours, can be very lonely. If you live by yourself, it’s easy to go days without ever seeing someone else. In my case, I live with my husband and one of my sons. If my husband is traveling for work, it’s not uncommon for my son to leave for school or work while I’m teaching in the morning, and come back after I go to bed at night.

Fortunately, this doesn’t have to result in isolation or lonliness. I have three easy suggestions for how to stay connected socially in a work-from-home environment.

Meet up.

With VIPKid, teachers organize local meetups. There is a page posted in VIPKid’s online community where you can search for local meetups, or you can host your own. Many companies do the same, hosting Friday afternoon happy hours where remote employees can come together to bond. This is my #1 tip because there is nothing quite like face-to-face time with your colleagues. They understand what you deal with on a day-to-day basis and can relate to you better than most people. If your company doesn’t offer something like this, start it yourself! Perhaps you are the only employee in your area, so this isn’t possible. If so, check out meetup.com. It’s totally free, and when I signed on today, two different networking events related to my industry immediately popped up. You could also look for other types of clubs to participate in after hours. I am a big fan of Toastmasters International. It allows you to improve your public speaking and leadership skills while networking on a local, regional, state, or even national level.

Host a virtual lunch date.

If you can’t meet up face-to-face, you can still introduce some social time in your schedule. Do you get a lunch break? Have lunch with a friend over video! If you don’t want to eat on camera (I get it.) Schedule a 5:00 Friday video call. Work talk is banned. I did this with two of my closest friends from work. We scheduled it on our calendars as though it were a “real” meeting, and we caught up on our families and lives.  It was so much fun, and it was a great way to start our weekend. Working from home, we miss out on those quick “water cooler” discussions where we bump into someone and chat for a few minutes. It’s important to nurture those relationships, even if we have to be creative to do so. If your company doesn’t provide video conferencing like OfficeSuite, Microsoft Teams, or Skype, check out a free software like Zoom and do it yourself!

Connect online.

My honors project for my degree in communications was predicting how the internet was going to change our tried and true communications models. At the time that I wrote it, we really had no idea just how much they would really change. (For perspective, this was pre-Facebook, pre-Linked In, and yes… pre-MySpace. I’m old.)

Today, there are so many ways to connect virtually. You can pick one based on your own personal communication style:

  • Linked In: This is my top choice for professional relationships. Not only can you “post” and share updates with one another, but you can blog, do recommendations, and join groups based on your interests.
  • Facebook: There are so many options on Facebook, and I bet you can find a group to fit any circumstances! I am a member of at least six different VIPKid groups and have even created my own (Amelia VIPKid – Teacher Central).
  • Twitter: My oldest son is a man of few words, so the idea of short and sweet messages has always appealed to him.
  • Instagram: If you are more visual in nature, Instagram is a great way to connect with photos and videos. It’s especially easy to connect if you use hashtags to target your audience and follow others.
  • Pinterest: It’s not just for crafters! You can find an almost addictive amount of ideas all neatly organized by enterprise on Pinterest.
  • You Tube: This is a favorite platform of many VIPKid teachers. It’s not my favorite because I don’t love how I come across in videos. But some people love it!
  • Snapchat: Yes, I’ll confess. I enjoy Snapchat. I don’t use it much but I get a kick out of the different filters. If you are a creative type, this can be a good way to bond and/or create content that your fellow co-workers can enjoy.

Ultimately, you need to find a method or a platform that works for you. Working remotely, it might take some intentional efforts to stay connected socially, but trust me when I say that it’s worth it.

Have you found other ways to stay connected while working from home? I’d love to hear your ideas in the comments!

Are you hoping to break into the “work from home” world? Let me know how I can help. VIPKid is always hiring and I would be happy to assist!

The Five Secrets to Working From Home

Working from home is a great way for employers to save money on overhead and employees to benefit from flexibility and time.

At the risk of revealing how old I’ve really become, I’ll confess that I have been working from home on and off for the last (gasp) 20 years. The first time I worked from home, I was in my twenties, and I HATED it. I felt isolated and disconnected, and I struggled to maintain an appropriate work-life balance. Today, I LOVE working from home, and I truly value the flexibility it affords. Over time, I’ve learned a few insider secrets that made all the difference, so I thought I’d share those with you today. Read on to learn my top five secrets!

About Me

Today, I work as a staff manager for Windstream Enterprise. I manage a customer service team that spans three locations (plus a few other scattered employees here and there!) I also have project management/process improvement role that allows me to work with all of our leadership teams in many locations. In the mornings before my “day job” begins, I also teach English to students in China through VIPKid. Though these two jobs are very different, both share one amazing feature: my commute is one minute to walk upstairs.

About Working From Home

Working from home requires dedication, consistency, and boundaries. It is very easy to lose balance when you don’t have a traditional brick and mortar time clock. Some people find that they work all day and all night. If your workspace is the kitchen table, it’s altogether too easy to “hop on” and work a few emails while you make breakfast or eat dinner. This can quickly lead to burnout, not to mention frustration from your family. On the other hand, you can also err in the opposite direction. If you are supposed to be focusing on work but you stop to fold laundry, clean house, or do any one of the many other things that demand your attention – your productivity can take a hit.

The Five Secrets to Success

  1. Have a dedicated workspace with a door that closes. Working from the dining room table might seem like a convenient option; however, I can tell you from experience it is not. It worked great until:
    • I had to throw all of my work supplies into a basket when it was time for a dinner party, and then couldn’t find anything for the next week.
    • My kids were out of school and my family was visiting, and everyone decided they wanted to come in and “keep me company” while I was working.
    • My husband, who also worked from home, decided he would pace while on conference calls, regularly making the path from the kitchen to the living room (right through my “office”).
    • Once I moved my office upstairs, it worked much better for everyone involved!
  2. Shower. Shave. Get dressed. Yes, we’ve all heard the siren’s call of “working in your pj’s.” I might or might not be writing this blog post in my bunny slippers right now. And OCCASIONALLY, this is probably ok. But as a general rule, you are being paid to do a job, and so you owe it to your company and to yourself to give it 100%. That means being alert, focused, energized and engaged. When I’m in my pajamas (or yoga pants, or sweats and a t-shirt) I’m in Saturday morning mode. Sure, I can go through the motions. But I just don’t feel “on” like I do when I’ve gotten dressed for the day.  Don’t get me wrong; I don’t wear high heels and a business suit to work. I’m not sure I even own “professional” attire anymore. But I always shower, get dressed, and put on (minimal) makeup. Here’s my morning routine on  a workday:
    • 4:30 am – The alarm on my apple watch goes off. (It vibrates, so it doesn’t wake up Michael.)
    • 4:57 am – After 3 snoozes on my watch, I get up and turn off my backup alarm.
    • 5:00 am – Shower/Shampoo/Wake up.
    • 5:20 am – Get dressed, slap on some basic makeup, and put on the little jewelry that I wear.
    • 5:30 am – Grab a Diet Coke and head upstairs.
    • 5:35 am – Dry my hair while booting up my computer and checking facebook on my phone. Continue to Drink Diet coke.
    • 5:45 am – Set up my VIPKid classroom. Lay out the props I’ll be using in class, sign into the classroom, and make sure the classroom is working properly.
    • 5:55 am – Sit down in my classroom. Apply lipstick. Put on headset. I’m ready for class.
    • 6:00 am – Begin my first of three classes. Each class is 25 minutes, with five minutes in between to reset my classroom, write feedback, or grab another sip of Diet Coke.
    • 7:30 am – Finish my last class. Feed the dog, grab breakfast, and finish any feedback from my classes.
    • 8:00 am – Move my chair from my classroom to my office. Sit down in my office. Put on headset. I’m ready for work.
  3. Establish boundaries. For those of us who like routine (see above) this may be easy. My work laptop “lives” upstairs, so when I come down after work, I rarely continue to work. Sure, I can check my phone, but I won’t get sucked into a big project. Likewise, my laundry, housework, etc. is all downstairs, so I’m not tempted to work on other things during my work day. I don’t have a television in my office, so I’m not tempted to turn on any shows that might distract me. And my family knows that if my door is closed, they should not disturb me. With Windstream, I work with a great group of people who don’t mind the occasional cameo of a spouse or child on video behind me, so my door normally stays open.  But with VIPKid, maintaining a classroom free of distraction is paramount, so the door is closed during class. Those boundaries help me be successful in whichever job I am doing.
  4. Take breaks. In an office environment, there are natural “water cooler” moments built into the day. When I first started working at Windstream, my desk was right by the main elevator, so people always stopped by to say hi as they were coming and going. Now, it’s possible that the only one to come upstairs besides me is my dog!
    • Plan a lunch break, even if it’s just to go downstairs and make a sandwich.
    • Make an effort to leave the house. Walk around the block, go to the gas station to get a drink, or make dinner plans with friends.
    • Stand up between meetings or classes and stretch. Walk around the room or simply look away from your computer.
    • Schedule time for conversations. Two colleagues and I recently put a meeting on our calendars for Friday at 5:00. We jumped on a video call and did nothing but catch up. It was FANTASTIC! With VIPKid, look for local meetups so you can get to know other teachers near you. These are the types of interactions that you miss out on while working from home, but you don’t have to!
  5. Embrace (and invest in) technology. If you are going to be successful working from home, you MUST have reliable technology. If you provide your own equipment, be sure it is high quality and dependable. With VIPKid, I invested in an iPad to ensure that I have a way to teach if either my internet or power is out. Be sure you have reliable, high-speed internet that won’t be impacted if you and your hubby are both on video conferences (ahem, Michael.) or if your kids are in a Fortnite dance battle.  Find a headset that is comfortable and works for you. I wear a headset almost nonstop from 6 am until 5 pm. My preference is  a simple Logitech USB headset, but my husband prefers airpods. Whatever you choose, be sure you have good quality, reliable equipment and technology.

Ultimately, you need to figure out what works for you. This might be the most important secret to working at home. Everyone is different, and what works for me, might not work for you. What worked in my old house no longer worked once I moved. So try different things until you find a routine and a process that allows you to be effective, efficient, and engaged.

Working from home is a great way for employers to save money on overhead and employees to benefit from flexibility and time. I have grown to love it, and have transitioned from the occasional “work from home” employee to a full-time “Remote Home Office” status.

I would love to hear from my fellow telecommuters. What do you love? What challenges do you face? Let me know in the comments!

If you don’t yet work from home and would like to try it out, VIPKid is always hiring. I’d love to help you get started, so feel free to get started by completing the VIPKid application, and let me know how I can help!

 

VIPKid and Daylight Saving Time (Spring Forward)

Last fall, I was a shiny, new VIPKid teacher. I was worried about Daylight Saving Time, and didn’t know what to expect. After surviving my first “fall back” shift, I wrote an article about VIPKid and Daylight Savings Time (Fall Back) .

Tomorrow, we are set to “spring forward” and this time, I have a lot less stress about the situation.

So what is changing for me?

As you might know, I only work super-part time. I have a day job that I begin at 8am Central Time each weekday, so my schedule has been 5:00 am – 7:30 am Central Time. This equates to 7:00 pm – 9:30 pm in Bejing. Once we spring forward, if I were to keep the same times open in Bejing time, MY time would be 6:00 am – 8:30 am Central Standard Time, which now overlaps with my day job.

What did I do?

At the risk of sounding a bit anticlimactic, I did nothing. I am keeping 5:00 am – 7:30 am Central Daylight Time open. For my students, that now represents 6:00 pm – 8:30 pm in Bejing. The time is already updated in the VIPKid portal, so as long as you set your clocks with the time change, 5am is really 5am. You don’t have to do the math!

What will happen to my schedule?

My schedule is crazy for the first week after Daylight Saving Time anyway, because it’s spring break week, so I am only working a few days. So my first “frenzy” (when parents book classes two weeks in advance) will happen this weekend.  It’s possible that I will lose a few regular students who prefer that later timeslot; however, many will shift with me.

What did I do to prepare?

  • A few weeks before the time change, I left comments in my feedback advising my regular students that my schedule would be changing. I apologized for the inconvenience and assured them that I still wanted to teach their son/daughter.
  • If those later timeslots did not book in the frenzy, I started closing them. (If this were my primary income, I might not have done this.) My goal in closing them was twofold: a) to get an idea of what students this would impact by watching for priority booking requests and b) to prevent getting any new regulars that I fell in love with that had to have that timeslot!

If you are worried about the time change, please don’t be. Students will come and go, and their schedules change (just like our kids’ schedules change!) This may be a good opportunity to find some new regulars, and if you have flexibility to teach at different times, perhaps you could accommodate some students who need to find a new teacher! And you never know, you might just catch some amazing sunrise snapshots between classes!

If you have any questions, please let me know in the comments, and I would be happy to help.

Happy teaching!

sunrise1

Worst VIPKid Video Ever

When I decided to apply for VIPKid, I was nervous. Once I started watching YouTube videos, I was petrified.

You’ve all seen them – the cute, adorable, well-spoken, lively teachers. The ones with the perfect classroom and the ideal camera angle. The ones with the endless wardrobes of orange shirts in a variety of flattering styles. The ones who can balance a baby on one hip while teaching a class and making a perfect video with flashy animation bouncing across the screen all at the same time. They are perfect.

I watched these and thought, “That’s not me!”

But then I got hired. Then I got a class. Then I got some regular students. Then it was me. Maybe it wasn’t as pretty, but guess what? It didn’t matter.

What does matter?

  1. I am motivated. This was something I *wanted* to do.
  2. I am not afraid of hard work. Teaching isn’t something you can fake. It’s too important.
  3. I care about my students. Their success is important to me.
  4. I want to have fun. When I have fun, so do they.

There isn’t a single student or parent out there who cares if my YouTube videos have animation, so neither do I.

If you’re thinking about giving VIPKid a try, just do it. If I can help, I would love to. Here’s my referral link.

In the meantime, if you want to see the ugly truth, below is probably the very worst VIPKid video ever. But it doesn’t matter. 🙂

The Worst VIPKid Video Ever

worst picture ever

What’s a VIPKid referral anyway?

By now, if you’ve read any of my blog posts or watched any of my videos, you’ve seen me talking about my referral link. So what is it, and why should you use it?

In short, by using a referral link, you are connecting one on one with a VIPKid mentor. This is not an employee; it’s a fellow teacher.  It’s someone who has been through the process and is willing to show you the ropes.

When I went through the process in September 2018, I didn’t have a mentor. This was especially unfortunate, because the process was changing AS I WAS INTERVIEWING (!) and so many of the videos didn’t really align with my experience. In hindsight, it would have been great to have someone I could lean on for questions and feedback through the process.

So – what can you expect from me, if you decide you would like me to be your mentor?

A. I will support you via email.

We all love email! It’s quick and easy and available all the time. If you have questions, shoot them over to me, and I’ll be happy to respond!  Just contact me here.  I’ll shoot you my email address. (Or it’s also in the photo and video at the end of this post.) I’ll do my best to respond within 24 hours!

B. I will review your demo class/mock class.

I was so nervous to present to the interviewer! I would have loved to be able to do a dry run and get some pre-feedback before the actual interview.

C. I will set up a 1:1 video call with you.

If you’re local, let’s just get together! If not, let’s zoom! There’s nothing that puts your mind quite at ease like just having a conversation with someone who has successfully completed what you are doing. It’s a great chance to set aside 30 minutes to get any questions answered and talk through the process.

D. I will add you to my brand new private Facebook group, Amelia VIPKID – Teacher Central!

What’s so special about a Facebook group? I’m glad you asked! This is basically a newcomer’s guide to VIPKid. It’s organized in such a way that it’s a roadmap. It’s quick and easy to refer to. I’ve structured the content into 16 units (and counting.) Some of the posts are a five-minute read, while others link to a longer blog post or video. (Speaking of videos, check this one out, where you can get a tour!

This page is very much a work in progress, and it will continue to grow with new information, so stay tuned!

There are plenty of good mentors out there to help you along your VIPKid journey. I hope this is helpful in understanding the process a little bit more and learning how I (or another) mentor can assist!

Happy teaching!

mentor support