Six Months with VIPKid
Welcome back, friends! It has been awhile since I have sat down to talk about this wonderful thing I get to call a job. As of Monday, I have officially been working for VIPKid for 6 whole months and I have signed my second contract so I can continue to work with the wonderful kiddos that I have met on this journey. While this is still a job with ups and downs, I can honestly say that I have never been so happy working before. I get the fulfilment that one gets from teaching- knowing that you are making an impact, I have the opportunity to 'travel' to China every single morning and learn about a different culture, I have met and built relationships with sweet children, their families, as well as fellow online ESL teachers, and all of this I get to do from the comfort of my dining room table on a schedule that I create for myself. So, without further ado.... Six things that I have learned in my first 6 months with this job.
6.) Trial Classes are a Gift from the Online ESL Teaching Gods and Goddesses.
My first 3 weeks or so with VIPKid, I thought I had made a big mistake by signing up with the company. It's not an easy hiring process, and after all of the work I had put in, I was upset every morning when I would wake up to no classes to teach. I went to countless workshops, updated my profile, and I also blogged A LOT, which is why there were so many consistent post from me at the beginning. However, it all changed a few days after I received my 'Trial' certification. For those who do not know, VIPKid offers a variety of courses. There are different levels, supplementary courses, and then there are trial classes. Any child wanting to sign up with VIPKid receives 3 free classes and that's what trials are. They are specially designed and 'gamified' to make the learning experience extra fun and engaging and VIPKid has around 6 different trials for learners coming in at different levels. Trials were a game changer for me. Because VIPKid are booking these classes instead of parents, I was able to send a ticket in and they sent LOADS of trials my way. I went from having 3-5 classes a week to having that amount a day just in trials. For 2-3 weeks I taught almost entirely trials and, let me tell you, I knew those 6 lessons like the back of my hand. It was kind of amazing, because when you first start you are overwhelmed with the amount of content and how best to teach it, but trials allow you the opportunity to really know a handful of lessons and master them. By the end of my first full month with VIPKid, I had made up to $60 extra from trial sign ups and my schedule was starting to fill up with trial kiddos that I had taught and other students who had finally found my profile. I still teach a handful of trials every week and my love for them has not faded. If you are new to the company and wanting more bookings, take a look into getting your trial certification!
5.) Personal Development & Research is not just a Willy-Nilly Side Thing, but Part of the Job.
ESL teaching is such a wonderful job because it doesn't require a lot of certifications, degrees, or bells and whistles. While VIPKid requires a college degree, there are other online ESL companies that do not. You do not need a licensed teaching certificate, and in my opinion, the most important thing is your ability to be patient and to make a connection with the kiddos. This all being said, it is still a job. It is still something that requires a skill set and a honing of abilities, just like anything else in life! I personally do not understand how people can go into each teaching day without even glancing at their lessons and the concepts they're teaching (keep in mind that VIPKid creates the lessons, so you don't need to create them yourself). I do not spend loads of time planning out every single activity, but I click through my slides to ensure I understand the grammar that I am teaching and I will often read through previous teacher's tips and thoughts to spice up the classroom. I also will attend workshops now and again to make sure that I am keeping things fresh, utilising the latest ESL research, and being culturally aware when interacting with the families. I would also recommend touching base with other online ESL teacher friends to share ideas and continue to work towards making your class the best it can be. This job shouldn't be all that you are, but it is a big chunk of your identity and knowing as much as you can about it will help you feel more confident and will also show your love and dedication for what you do!
4.) Classroom Realia, Props, and Rewards are Great, but They Got Nothing on You.
I have a handful of things that I use for pretty much every class. I have a fake microphone, a rough picture of a star that I scribbled on a piece of paper and taped to a skewer, cut outs of Meg, Mike, and Anna, my stuffed Dino, alphabet flashcards, my Google Slides app and a whiteboard. If I had to pack up my entire classroom into a tote bag, I would have no problem doing that and I LOVE that about myself. I don't personally have the budget or the space to hold onto much more than that, and I find that I don't need to. VIPKid has pictures of the items you are talking about on screen, and if you don't want to have a giant bin of plastic food for props, it's easy enough to doodle a picture of grapes on your whiteboard or to pull up a picture from the Google Slides group. The kids don't really care. Do you know what they do care about? That you are a great teacher who is guiding them through the content and encouraging them to do their best.... and also getting 5 stars, probably. This is 100% not shaming anyone who has a giant Dino collection and an entire chest of drawers full of toys and props, I am sure the kids LOVE what you have to offer, but I just want to be the little voice of reason that tells you that you don't need all of that fancy shmancy stuff to be a good teacher. If you are to get anything, though.... get yourself a good star wand or set of stars to show in class (this is a reward that is tangible for them), a whiteboard, something that acts as a microphone (even if it is just printed) to help demonstrate who should talk, and for the love of all that is great, download the Google Slides app and get involved with the Facebook group. There is a wonderful team of teachers that has provided props and rewards that relate to each and every lesson FOR FREE that you can just have on your phone. Boom. Mic drop. You're gonna smash it.
3.) Your Teaching Journey isn't Going to be Flawless. Sorry, Bruh.
While most days I am excited to wake up and teach, just like with any other job in the universe, there are some days when I literally want to cancel all of my classes and I feel this giant sense of 'UGH' resting on my shoulders as I slump down the stairs to my desk. I also, very loudly, want to say that I am 100% a teacher that enjoys a good student no-show (if you don't know, a student-no-show is when a student doesn't show up to class and you still get paid monies!!! WOO!). I just feel like it's really important that this honesty is out there. Unless you are not human, there will be days where you feel like your classes are giant dumpster fires and your students make you want to rip your hair out. Welcome to the wild world of working with actual human beings and technology. I also want to use this section to talk about company policies and how some of them SUCK BOOTY. Yes, I said it... booty. While VIPKid has created this wonderful platform that allows me to interact with some of my favourite small people on the planet, they also have policies in place that make me shrivel up inside. They have teacher ratings where parents can leave their feedback for teachers. While I think that this is a great system and that feedback is important, there are unfortunate consequences for teachers that get less than perfect ratings. This winds me up because teachers have off days, people get upset for small reasons, and miscommunication is bound to happen in a situation where there is not a shared language, and yet teachers are considered 'unsatisfactory' if they are rated a 3-star or lower. This will affect their ability to receive new students or get new certifications. Also, VIPKid's cancellation policy is actual garbage. You are allowed to cancel 6 classes every 6 months, and if you miss more than that, goodbye VIPKid. I have heard horror stories of teachers working through medical emergencies or the loss of loved ones because they are scared to lose their contract. I just think they need to keep in mind that life happens and maybe dial back the intensity. This all being said, you ARE allowed these 6 classes off. If you are ill, your internet died on you, etc, use this buffer to take care of yourself. I love VIPKid and the opportunities it has allowed me, but it isn't all sunshine and rainbows. Do yourself a favour and don't do what I did, which was melt into a puddle of existential crisis when my internet started cutting out and tell myself that I was a horrible teacher every day after receiving a 3-apple feedback a few weeks into teaching. You are a valuable teacher even though VIPKid policies don't necessarily reflect that.
2.) Teaching Online Doesn't Mean You Won't Have a Social Life, You Party Animal.
One of the biggest things that held me back from pursuing this job earlier is how isolating I thought it was going to be. I am already an introverted expat, I don't need any other road blocks stopping me from making friends. How the heck was I going to meet people while I was holed up in a corner of my house all day during a world-wide pandemic? Great news... it's actually pretty easy! I decided to make an Instagram account to try and help people with getting hired with VIPKid (as I would receive a small bonus and the internet helped me out SO much when I was starting off). As it would turn out, literally nobody has shown interest in getting hired with the company through me and yet I found something even better! An entire community of teachers all over the world who teach online with different companies doing exactly what I do. It's honestly magical. I have met a handful of teachers that I would honest-to-goodness now call close friends. There is something really amazing about being able to discuss the best and worst part of your working day with someone that really understands what you are going through. They know what it's like to get bad parent feedback, they know what it's like to teach a kid who is on the toilet, they know when it is Lunar New Year and can guide you on how to send New Year Wishes to your regulars, and they are a wonderful sounding board for ideas and concerns that you encounter with your lessons on the daily. They are also just amazing people. I have taken cooking classes, discussed travel with fellow teachers, attended many teacher parties, gotten involved in a teacher pen pal program, attended teacher game nights, and I have even started my own online teacher book club where we get together (on Zoom) every month to discuss our monthly read. I have not been this social since high school when I over-extended myself and tried out every extra-curricular that the school offered. If you are a newbie teacher or you have been with the company for awhile but are wanting more social opportunities, please join us on Instagram. It's the most wholesome and uplifting community and I am so glad that it is now part of my life.
1.) You are a Unique Individual and, SURPRISE, that Transfers to Teaching Too!
This is, in my opinion, the most important thing to remember with this job (ESPECIALLY if you are new). While I love looking at people's stats and celebrating milestones with my teacher friends, I think that it is always important to remember to not compare yourself with other teachers. We all have different lives and goals that we are trying to meet. I remember thinking 'Woe is me' when I first started and would look at teachers who would talk about being 100% booked. It's important to keep in perspective that if a teacher says they are 'fully-booked' this could mean that they open up two slots a day and both are booked! You, just never know what is going on in their lives or their classrooms. I still struggle with this! I have been lamenting over the fact that I seem to struggle to keep regulars while others only ever teach regulars (this is a great example of when it is nice to have friends in the community, because they helped me see that there are positives to my situation as well)! I think it's also important to highlight your personal strengths and points of interest in your profile so you are attracting the kind of students that you want. A lot of the people in the ESL community are energetic and engaging, but if that is not you, that is okay! There is a sub-section of students that would prefer a more gentle and patient teacher. If you are super witty and expressive, make sure to showcase that! If you want the studious older students that are great conversationalists, of if you want the rambunctious four year olds that dance the whole lesson, show that! The most important thing is to be yourself and the students that are meant to find you will do!
Alright, I think that about covers it! I would love to hear what things you have learned during your time teaching online. Please leave a comment so we can discuss, and come and join me over @teacher_acw on Instagram to become a part of the Online Teacher Community... if you think this sounds like a job you'd love, check out the paragraph below!
If you are interested in pursuing a job where you get to wear pajama pants to class and get to make super cute kids laugh all day... you can sign up with my link HERE or use my code ABIGA0441 when you sign up. If you do, please reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org so I can ensure you have all the tools you need to be successful in being hired with VIPKid. I'd love to work with you and be a part of your journey to finding true happiness in your career life.