Being a VIPKid Teacher in the UK
To work with VIPKid, you need to be an American or Canadian citizen, however you can be living anywhere in the world while you are teaching. This is amazing for people that are travelling full-time or want to make a little extra money while they are on vacation. In fact, some of my favourite VIPKid content is watching people teach on the beach in Hawaii or in their hotel bathrooms. It's so fascinating to see how people can pack up their classrooms and teach wherever they need to.
There is, however, a small percentage of VIPKid teachers who are permanently teaching from locations abroad and I happen to be one of them. For those of you who do not know me very well, I am from Iowa but I currently live in the North West of England. I married a British Citizen and plan on staying here indefinitely. Being an expat can be really isolating and difficult, and one of the things that I have struggled with is getting hired in the UK as an American citizen. While it will be denied, most companies here want to support their own over an expat, and so VIPKid has been a bit of a godsend for me. It's been one of those wonderful moments where I actually am rewarded for being from the States! If you want to know a bit more about me or my expat life, I would love for you to check out this other post.
I wanted to write a bit about what it's like being a VIPKid teacher in the UK as it can be a very different experience to being a teacher in the US or Canada. If you are currently living abroad and teaching online with VIPKid, I would love to hear what your experience is like and how it compares to the other teachers on the platform. Otherwise, I hope you learn a bit about what it's like being an American VIPKid teacher in England (and if you decide to come check out Big Ben or the Lake District for yourself someday, I'm certain that this will come in handy).
The most obvious difference between teaching in the UK and teaching in North America is the time difference. While most of you are waking up at the crack of dawn or staying up late to teach your students, my peak hours fall into the perfect work day. I usually open all of my slots from 8:00 am to 2:30 pm. With the time change coming up, my latest slot will actually be 1:30 pm, so I will need to decide if I want to open up at 7 or just lose a possible hour of teaching. That's the joy about this job, though, isn't it? I get to make that decision! Here is a little peak at what peak time and peak peak times are going to be next week for me! (How many times did I say 'peak'?)
Now, the question is whether this is a good thing or a bad thing. I am personally very grateful for the fact that I get to sleep until a decent time each morning. I also love that I can get in a good workout, a shower, and even make myself a decent breakfast before I need to sit down and start teaching most days. HOWEVER, if you love this job because you can do it while your kids are asleep, or because it fits around your 'day job' schedule, then this time frame obviously won't work best for you. It works great for me while I am trying to pursue this as my sole job, but I think it would be a lot harder to juggle around another job in this time zone. I also know a lot of people love that they kind of get their work out of the way first thing in the morning and then have the day to do what they want, where I don't have that same flexibility. That being said, I still finish in the early afternoon, so I do have a bit of time to myself (and i'm not dropping from exhaustion due to an early start time).
I do want to note as well, that I only have the one big window of time to teach, really. While I hear about a lot of teachers utilising their multiple windows of teaching times, I just have the one chunk of slots in the middle of the day. I personally prefer this, but I am sure there are a lot of people that would miss the flexibility of getting to choose whether to work in the morning or the evenings. Would you prefer teaching on the North American schedule or the UK schedule?
** Random UK time complaint... because I teach in the middle of the day, I get people ringing the doorbell or mowing their lawn all of the time right in the middle of a lesson. SO ANNOYING.
WORKSHOPS & MEETUPS
Since the majority of other teachers are in a different time zone, it can make it difficult to get as involved in the teacher community. Even while workshops and meetups are all held virtually at the minute, the times don't line up with what works best in my schedule. There was a really cool virtual meetup that popped up in my teacher portal but I realised that it started at 1:30 am my time... not exactly my cutest hour. When the world goes back to normal, though, there is such a small community of VIPKid teachers in the UK that it's unlikely a meetup will happen, and if there will be one... you bet it will be in London (about as far from me in England as you can get). One of my only gripes with this job is that I miss the adult socialisation and banter and it makes it even harder to get involved when you are over in England.
**I also want to note that I am really sad that they aren't offering the VIPKid swag to international teachers for the upcoming conference. I completely understand that it would cost more, but as a newbie teacher, I would have really reaped the benefit of some of that Dino merch. Due to the fact that the conference would be at a weird time for me, mixed with the lack of swag means that I probably will not participate in the virtual conference this year.
On the topic of swag, it's so hard to get things for your classroom over here! The official VIPKid Amazon shop is amazing, but in order to get any of it shipped over to the UK, it would cost almost as much as the prop or gear itself (if not more). That means that Dino goes from being a steep $20 to almost $40! Yikes! That's a lot of money (especially this early on in my teaching journey). This also goes for VIPKid gear from Etsy. I love so many of the VIPKid/Online ESL t-shirts and props on Etsy, but I just can't possibly afford the shipping. There is nothing VIPKid specific at all over here (on E-Bay, etc.) because there are no British VIPKid teachers, so it's left me a little bit stuck.
I have double-checked with the VIPKid community and luckily prizes that you get with your tokens (VIPKid swag, gift cards, etc.) will be shipped to you abroad, but in case you didn't know... Target is not a thing in the UK (I know, it's a crime) and Amazon UK/Starbucks will not be able to use gift cards with a dollar value since that is not the currency used here! Also, to rub salt into the wound, a girl that lives in Japan told me that it took almost 5 months to get her gift.... yikes.
If you are lucky enough to be in North America, here are some amazing places for VIPKid swag.
RETEACHING MYSELF AMERICAN ENGLISH
I have lived in the UK for over 3 years now, so my mindset has started to permanently shift over to that of a British persons. That means that all of the hard work that I did when I first moved here to learn the British terms (biscuit, chips, etc.) need to be completely undone when I am in the classroom with these kiddos learning American English. I had to practice my mock class over and over because I kept saying 'football' when it was 'soccer ball'. I also need to be careful that I am writing in American English when I am messaging the kids in the chat box or writing feedback to the parents. I once almost messaged a student to ask 'What is your favourite colour?' UGH! I worked as a secretary here before becoming an online teacher, so I really had the British spelling and slang hammered into me and I have to revert to American Abby when I am teaching. It is indeed very confusing.
**I also feel bad for the kids when they are still relatively early on in their English journey and they ask me a nice question like 'Are you American?'.... I can't say, 'Technically I am American but I live in a place called England that also speaks English but a bit differently.' That is way past basic language, past incidental language, and into confusing territory. Sometimes, i'll try to point it out on the map to help them understand, but most the time I will just nod and say 'Yes, I am American'.
Alright, I don't want to ramble much more as my blogs are always too long! But I must say, I had a lot of fun writing this one! It's a bit more niche, but hopefully that means that there's nothing quite like this out there. Like I said, I would love to hear from you if you are currently a VIPKid teacher living abroad... what is it like? What are some things you love and some things that bother you about living in your current country while teaching?
Not yet a VIPKid teacher, but love the sound of it? If you found my information helpful and you'd like to sign up, use my link here or my code ABIGA0441. Then, please email me at email@example.com so I know that you used my code and can help you out in any way that you need. Definitely let me know if you are a fellow American or Canadian in the UK and we can chat about how interesting the teacher journey is for us.
Hoping you are well and getting ready for Halloween in your classroom.