The mock class (aka the scariest part of the VIPKid hiring process). This was when I really started using all of the wonderful resources that were on the web for all to see because I had NO IDEA what I was doing. I hadn't learned TESOL strategies in school, I had no clue who Meg and Mike were, and I didn't know what I needed to be doing on all of the slides. I couldn't believe that there were full-fledged lessons that I had to learn to teach in front of a veteran VIPKid teacher.
There is a reason that in my blog post about the VIPKid hiring process, the lady about to be murdered in 'Psycho' is the visual that came to me. So, I decided to devise a battle plan. I was going to do everything possible to assure that I went into my mock class with all the tools to pass. That's what I am going to share with you today.
Just before we go into the tips and tricks.. some things you might want to know....
What exactly is a mock class? A mock class is a stage during the VIPKid hiring process where you teach a mock class mentor (aka a VIPKid teacher pretending to be a kiddo) a 10 minute lesson that demonstrates that you know how to use the platform and are also a competent teacher.
Can you fail a mock class? Yes, you can fail a mock class, but that doesn't mean that your teaching journey with VIPKid is over. In fact, it is quite common to not pass your mock class on the first go. A lot of teachers that had to do the mock class multiple times have said that it was actually helpful for them to have the extra practice with a 'student'- just make sure to utilise the mock class mentor's feedback in your next mock class!
How long is a mock class? I would carve out around 30 minutes from your schedule for your mock class. It is unlikely that it will take that long, but it's comforting to know that you have a bit of leeway. The first couple minutes, your mock class mentor will have a bit of conversation with you (building rapport) and then will ask you to go straight into teaching your lesson. You will teach for 10 minutes (yes, exactly 10 minutes) and then the rest of the time is for feedback.
Why can I only get certified in levels 2/3? Due to Coronavirus, VIPKid is only doing mock classes in levels 2 and 3 at the minute. (You can usually choose between levels 2/3 and 4/5.) Levels 2 and 3 are often referred to as 'the bread and butter of VIPKid'. Most students on the platform fall into those two levels, so it's a really good place to start. If you are interested in doing VIPKid but want to strictly teach the more advanced students, I suggest you still go through the mock class process. Once you are hired, you can acquire certifications in the other levels (and you can always request a certification be removed if you end up not liking it).
Do I prepare for lesson A or lesson B? You prepare for both! You will only learn at the very beginning of your mock class which lesson you will be teaching, so make sure that you are comfortable with both of the lessons.
Now for some more specifics....
TIP #1- TAKE YOUR TIME
Nobody says that you need to take your mock class the day after you pass your demo, in fact VIPKid advises against that (for good reason). Teaching online is a whole new experience for most teachers going through this process and a lot of things will not come naturally to you. I gave myself a week where I practiced teaching for at least an hour a day as well as looked into what other teachers were doing. I don't want to say 'wait until you are no longer nervous' (because, if you are like me- that's never going to happen), but you can definitely wait until you are comfortable with the content.
TIP #2- DO YOUR RESEARCH
If you are here reading this in preparation for your mock class, then congrats! You're already passing this step. I read countless blog posts, watched tips and tricks on Instagram, and watched full step-by-step mock class videos on YouTube. Bless those VIPKid YouTubers because I don't know if I could have done it without them. This not only helped me figure out what I needed to be teaching, but also helped me hone in on what kind of teacher I wanted to be.
Here are a few of my favourite resources:
There is also the mock class course that VIPKid provides. This class is around an hour and half and is held on Zoom. This is a great time to ask VIPKid teachers some questions that you have and gives you the opportunity to practice with others. I definitely learned tips and tricks in there that I wouldn't have learned elsewhere.
**If you decide to do this, make sure that you have at least a few hours between the course and your mock class. There was a woman in mine who was really overwhelmed because she had her mock class 10 minutes after the class ended and she felt grossly under-prepared. Plus you'll just want a chance to practice with the new information given.
TIP #3- PRACTICE, PRACTICE, PRACTICE
This is the most important step and the one that you will hear over and over from all of the current teachers. USE YOUR PRACTICE ROOM. Go into it with the camera on and teach the lesson out loud with all of your props and TPR (make sure your gestures/things are all in the camera frame). How else are you going to know that you can use all of the tools in the online classroom?
Make notes of things you want to do and say. I printed off the lesson and wrote out almost an exact script to start out with. I referenced it frequently the first 5 times or so, but slowly weaned off of it until I didn't need my notes at all. If you can, find someone to practice with you and ask them to make mistakes. When you practice by yourself you can anticipate the 'mistake', or you might not even think about mistakes at all. Once you have gone through each lesson a few times (without notes) and with minimal mistakes, you're ready to smash your mock class.
**Ask your referral teacher to run through the lesson with you over video call. This is a great time for one-on-one practice with another human. If you don't have a referral teacher yet, I would be tickled to be yours- I would 100% do some cringey video calls with you! Use this link /my code ABIGA0441 when you sign up. If you do, please email me at email@example.com so we can start your journey asap!
TIP #4- KNOW WHAT THEY ARE LOOKING FOR
VIPKid are looking for specific things when they are assessing you in your mock class. Some of these are talked about often and others I don't hear anyone talking about, so let's delve in:
Common Knowledge Tips
Use TPR (Total Physical Response)- TPR is the hand gestures that you use in order to communicate with a child that knows little-to-no English. There is I-TPR which stands for 'Instructional TPR'. This is pointing to your mouth when you want them to listen to what you are saying, cupping your ear when you want them to speak, or showing how you drag-and-drop or draw a line with a gesture, etc. They also want E-TPR or 'Educational TPR'. This is when you gesture to help them understand the words you are teaching. In the mock class I used E-TPR for 'ball' and 'throw' by cupping my hands and (you guessed it) pretending to throw. While it might seem self-explanatory, it's important to practice and get comfortable with.
2. Use props- While you very well may decide to not use props in your classroom, the mock-class mentor will be expecting some. I would suggest having at least one 2D and one 3D prop available for each lesson. You don't need to be fancy, it just helps you look prepared.
3. Speak slowly- As a general rule of thumb, if you feel like you are talking too slowly, you're probably speaking just the right speed. Imagine learning Mandarin and the teacher was talking a mile a minute! Slow and steady wins the race.
4. Smile- Even if you are nervous, you should look happy and relaxed to the student.
5. Positively correct mistakes- There is a reason that I said you should practice correcting mistakes. Your mock mentor will make some and will expect to be corrected on all of them, HOWEVER you should not look upset or exasperated/ be negative at all. Simply tell them the correct way to pronounce ,or say the sentence or word that isn't quite right, and have them repeat it again.
6. Make sure they are speaking in full sentences- If your mock class mentor responds to the question 'What is your name?' with 'Jake', they expect you to encourage them to say 'My name is Jake.'
7. Timing, timing, timing- You should be spending approximately one minute teaching per slide. They will cut you off as soon as it hits 10 minutes, so practice getting in as much content as you can. That being said, don't panic if the timing isn't perfect. I didn't get to my last 2 slides and still passed first time- just do your best!
8. Put effort into your classroom- Have a simple but colourful background that is conducive to learning. Once again, you don't need to have anything fancy, but just a show of effort.
9. Be positively positive- You should be constantly praising the student. The more 'good jobs' and virtual high fives they get, the more excited they'll be.
10. Your lighting, your camera position, and internet connection are all just as important for a mock as they are for a real class- make sure that you are well-lit, center stage, and plugged into your internet for your mock.
Lesser Known Tips
Keep incidental language to a minimum- Make an effort to simply say 'draw a line' instead of 'can you draw a line?'. I know it seems almost rude, but one teacher said 'think of it as Simon Says'. This takes a lot of practice, but keeping those extra words out is much simpler for an early language learner.
When correcting a mistake, draw notice to the exact issue- If the students says 'run' instead of 'runs', underline the s on the screen to show the student the exact issue. If the word isn't written on the screen, put emphasis on it when re-iterating 'runsssss' or write it on a whiteboard.
Make sure to give at least one star to the student- on top of your other rewards, students will expect to receive stars throughout the class. Make sure to send at least one star to your mock class mentor so they know you can utilise that tool.
Show the student the reward slide, but use your own- The mock class mentor will expect you to use the reward slide provided to assist your student in learning 'drag & drop' but will be really impressed if you have a different supplemental reward. Make sure you are handing out rewards around every other slide.
When giving a reward, have the student do something- It's not enough to just hold up a reward! Have them count with you, or pretend they are eating your reward- make sure they are involved.
Don't use props when teaching a new word- I have never heard anyone else talk about this, but I got 'scolded' for holding up a ball when teaching the word 'ball'. Use E-TPR instead (and make sure the student does it back).
Use the student's name ALL THE TIME- It shouldn't just be 'draw a line', but 'draw a line, Jake'.
Ask at least 2 questions on the intro slide- They put a lot of focus on building rapport. The tried and true are 'How old are you?' and 'How are you?'
Wearing an orange t-shirt, wearing makeup, and having a headset gets you brownie points- true story.
TIP #5- BE YOURSELF
During your mock class, your mentor will be making notes about the things that you do well and will be giving you TAGS that will draw parents to you when you are on the platform (think Instagram).
My tags are:
Teaching Skills: Facial expressions, student encouragement, and TPR
Strengths: Conversational practice, and phonics.
Parents can look into these specifically, or if they like someone with similar tags to you, you might be recommended to them. If you are not yourself during your mock class, your tags might not fit you at all. While most people you will find online are super energetic and fun (there aren't many introverted YouTubers), there ARE some parents that are looking for more serious or studious teachers as well. If you are yourself, the right kind of students for YOU will come knocking at your door. Well... booking your time slots.
Okay, I am going to stop there! That is plenty to think about before going into your mock class (if not too much). I hope that this proves useful to you as you enter into the most intimidating part of the process. Guess what, though?! Once you finish this, you are on the home stretch to becoming a VIPKid teacher!!
I wish you the absolute best of luck and once again, don't be afraid to reach out at firstname.lastname@example.org - I am more than happy to help out.