Tuesday, January 16, 2018

What's It Really Like Being A VIPKID Teacher?

This post was kindly sponsored by Elizabeth Pope, a VIP teacher.

If you're involved in the online teaching community, you've heard of VIPKID. But if you're like me, you don't know exactly what it is or how it works. So when Elizabeth, a VIPKID teacher, reached out to me about sharing her experience, I had lots of questions! Read on to learn all about VIPKID and whether it might be a good fit for you.

Hello all, I’m Elizabeth! I’m a VIPKID teacher, a former classroom teacher, an accidental farm wife, and a stay-at-home mom! When I left my teaching job to move to the family farm and stay at home with my 3-year-old, I knew I would eventually want to be in the classroom again. After about a year of staying home, I began searching for an opportunity to earn a little money. In August 2017 I began teaching with a company called VIPKID and I fell in love with my students, with teaching, and with the company!

1. First of all, what exactly is VIPKID?

VIPKID is an online platform for teaching ESL-- it connects native English speakers with Chinese children learning English. Classes are conducted online through VIPKID’s “classroom”, which is basically like Skype. VIPKID provides their teachers with curriculum which is viewed by both the student and the teacher during the lesson, much like a powerpoint (that has teaching instructions at the bottom!). They do require that their teachers have a degree (in any area, mine is Business Administration) and a year of teaching experience, although it doesn’t have to be professional teaching experience.

2. How much planning do you have to do before a lesson? How much time do you find yourself spending on it outside your paid lessons?

I have been teaching with VIP for about 6 months, and when I first started I spent a lot of time looking over lessons before class. I prepped for my first class for like an hour, (I may have been a little excited!) but by the end of the first week I was only spending about 5 minutes looking over the material before class, and now I read the objectives right before I turn on my camera to teach my class! So, in the beginning you may find yourself looking over the material more, but as you get familiar with the curriculum you know what to expect and how to adjust to your student. You are required to write feedback (5-6 sentences) for the parents once class is over. Many teachers do this between classes, but I take notes and do all mine when I’m done teaching for the day. This really doesn’t take long-- on a regular day of teaching 5 classes I spend 5 minutes or less per class writing the feedback. The trick is to create a template that you use each time, but to take a few notes to personalize it and let the parents know that you were listening to what the student said. Overall I spend about 4-6 minutes outside of my paid lesson, but remember that was not the case when I first started.

3. What was the interview process like? Is it difficult to get hired?

Honesty is the best policy right?! The interview process is demanding, and hands down the most difficult part of the entire job. Luckily, if you give it your best effort the first time, chances are you won’t have to repeat it! Being hired is a 4 part process:

1. Application: This is just basic info and work history. I would recommend just giving them what they are looking for. They don’t want to know that you worked as a Wal-Mart greeter to pay your way through college, but they would consider it important that you taught private swim lessons when you were a lifeguard in high school!

 2. Interview: A live interview can be scheduled with the company over video chat. An English-speaking Chinese person will ask youabout your experience, and then you'll teach a very quick lesson to determine if you are a good fit, as well as your pay. They now also give you the option to submit a video interview. This is when you might seek out your referring teacher (that's me!) for some guidance. They can tell you what VIPKID is looking for and how to pass this interview, and even video chat with you in advance to give some pointers!

3. & 4. Mock Classes 1 & 2: This is just what is sounds like: a mock class. You are able to schedule your mock class and are set up with a current VIPKID “mock mentor” teacher who will visit with you for a few minutes, and then ask you to teach a lesson (which you will have beforehand). When you are done teaching, they'll give you some tips and you're given a chance to implement their feedback while you teach another short lesson.

Many people are overwhelmed by the interview process because it seems demanding! I’m not here to say the process is glittery rainbows and unicorns, but I will say that VIPKID does an awesome job making sure their teachers are prepared to start teaching classes the moment they are hired.

4. That does sound intense! Once you're hired, how is teaching online different from teaching in the classroom?

You get to teach. Which is why I absolutely fell in love with this company. I’m not planning the Junior class prom decorations, or answering emails, or working the concession stand, or planning lessons for 7 different classes, 160 different days,  20 different learning types…. I get to TEACH. I wake up about 30 minutes before my first class, grab a cup of coffee, orange shirt, and a little makeup. I log into my classroom, and focus all of my energy, attention, and love on one student for 25 minutes. I get to make that 25 minutes the best part of their day, and help them learn English in the process. I have the freedom to adjust each lesson to my student’s needs-- for example, if their understanding of the material is excellent but they need help with with pronunciation, I can adjust my teaching. If my student can read like a native English speaker, but doesn’t know what the words mean, I get to bring that text to life for them. I have absolutely built incredible relationships with these students from half a world away, and been invited to China for ice cream more than once! It’s the best feeling to know that they depend on me to be there to have fun with them, to focus on their needs, and to just teach!

5. That sounds awesome and really freeing, but of course prospective teachers will also want to know what the pay is like!

When I started my goal was to make an extra $500 each month to pay for our boat. I’ve ended up making anywhere from $1,200-$2,500 each month since I started!

VIPKID advertises pay between $14-$22/hour, but let me break that down for you:

Base pay for each 30 minute time block is $7-$9/class ($14-$18/hour). You get this for showing up to class and basically existing. Your base pay is determined during the interview stage of the hiring process and is based on your interview demo lesson, your experience, and your education.

In addition to your base pay you earn the following:

  • $1 incentive per class for being in the class on time
  • $1 incentive per class for teaching over 45 classes a month (which is easily attainable)
  • $2 bonus per class if they are booked with less than 24 hours notice (you can click a button that allows parents to book your class “last minute”, but they still must book at least an hour before the class begins)

6. How many hours or lessons do you need teach a week?

VIP truly lets their teachers choose how much or little they want to teach. There is no minimum or maximum number of classes that they require their teachers to complete each week. I personally teach about 5 classes a day, 6 days a week. When my family planned a ski trip over Christmas break I was able to take a week off, no questions asked. Leading up to that ski trip I crammed as many classes as I could into my schedule so I could actually afford to ski!

7. I know a lot of full-time classroom teachers do VIPKID part-time. Is it possible to teach just on weekends?

Absolutely. In fact, weekends are one of the most popular times for students to book classes. That’s the beauty of this job-- you set up your own schedule, and it can change from week to week. I included a picture of my schedule below. On it you see some time slots are a dark orange and some are a lighter orange. Any of those orange classes are great times to be available because they are the times most in demand by students. In the summer there is an even wider range of “in demand” times since the students are on summer break. Please note that these times are Central Standard Time.

8. Are there any big cultural differences you find teaching Chinese children vs. American children?

The biggest cultural difference is how valued education is in China. My students are held to very high expectations when it comes to their education. One of my favorite students that I teach on Saturdays says I’m his last lesson of the day, after private lessons for Math, Chinese, Piano, and Violin-- plus a day’s worth of homework! Many American children spend their weekends playing on a sports team. I have honestly never had a Chinese student tell me they did anything but homework on the weekends!

There are a few other interesting things I’ve learned about their culture since teaching, such as the fact that many students live with their parents AND grandparents. My students love to grab the iPad and introduce me to their kitchen, their bathroom, their little brother, mom, dad, and almost always a grandparent! I have also noticed this winter many students were wearing their heavy coats during class... in front of their computer, at home! By chatting with some other VIPKID teachers I found out that the South half of China is not equipped with central heating facilities! Eesh! Count me out on that one, I can’t imagine not having heat!

For the most part, Chinese children are much the same as American children. They are motivated by rewards, and they have good and bad days just like everyone!

9. How many students do you typically teach? Do you get assigned students or do parents choose you specifically?

All VIPKID classes are 1 to 1, although many of the younger students have parents sit in on the lesson just to help redirect their focus if needed. The parents have the freedom to book any teacher they choose. This means you have some responsibility to present yourself well in your profile (parents can see this before they book a class with you) and of course to teach a great class! I love it when the parent re-books you immediately after class, since you know it means you did a great job and the child had fun. It is also nice that you can build up a schedule of regular students that like you.

10. What's their level of English proficiency when they start with you?

Each student’s level of English proficiency varies. VIPKID’s curriculum is divided into 6 level: in level 1 students know zero English, in level 6 students are extremely proficient. When you go through the hiring process your hiring team then approves you to teach the levels that they feel you will be the most successful teaching. When I was hired, I could teach levels 3, 4, & 5. After I taught 100 classes I was then able to take a class and quiz to be certified in level 6 and level 2.

If you're not already a VIPKID teacher and teaching English from home seems like a good fit for you this is my referral link. I appreciate your support and would be absolutely thrilled to help guide you through the hiring process! Shoot me an email over at elizabethhpope32@gmail.com if you would like more information!

Elizabeth, thank you so much for answering my questions and explaining VIPKID to The Designer Teacher readers!

Saturday, January 6, 2018

4 Ideas for Celebrating Valentine's Day in the Classroom

This post contains affiliate links.

1. Encourage students to reflect on what they love about themselves, their school, and their community with this on-trend cactus bulletin board.

2. Keep the cactus theme going with these pun-tastic notes & cards. Students can choose a family member or friend they admire to write to. 

3. Read aloud the beautiful book Somebody Loves You, Mr. Hatch. It's all about the difference kindness can make in someone's life, and it's perfect for Valentine's Day! 

4. Make your students feel extra special with a fun pencil from Target and these free printable tags.

Here's hoping your kids aren't too candy-crazed and your coffee is strong! 

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

5 Tips for Starting a Teacher Instagram

I think Instagram is the new Pinterest, at least for teachers! The teacher instagram community is so vibrant and full of fun teaching ideas. Are you looking to get involved? Here are a few tips:

1. Start a separate account. Your personal friends and family probably don't want to see 500 pictures of your classroom, and your new online teaching friends may not need to see so many pictures of your pet. I'm much more comfortable posting about #teacherlife when I know my IRL friends and family are only following along if they want to be.

2. Make friends. The most fun part about instagram is getting to know teachers all over the country and world! Don't be shy to comment or respond to stories. The teacher instagram world is generally super friendly. On the other hand, don't be surprised if your teacher celebrity crush with 90k followers isn't able to respond to your comment! Some of my favorite accounts to follow are pretty small, so don't be afraid to branch out!

3. Be yourself. Even though I love the instagram community, sometimes it can be feel like an echo chamber. It can be tempting when you're first starting out to just post what everyone else is posting-- flair pens! Rae Dunn! coffee! And if you love those things, that's fine! But I bet you have a lot more to contribute than that. Personally, I'm really passionate about social justice and self care, so those are two things I post about a lot. 

4. Use hashtags. Ever notice instagrammers using a long list of hashtags at the end of their caption or in a separate comment? That's so people checking out the hashtags can find their posts. #teachersofinstagram and #teachersfollowteachers are two of the most popular hashtags to use, but try using more specific ones as well. Try #bulletinboard if you're posting a picture of, ahem, a bulletin board, or #teacherselfie if you need to show off your new teacher tee.

5. Post stories. If you're new to instagram, stories are quick videos or images that only last 24 hours. They show up as little circles at the top of your feed-- just click your picture to record. Stories are a fun and impromptu way to share without the pressure of it being permanently in your insta feed. They're also a great way to start conversations! Ask people to reply to your story with their opinion or answer to a question.

Looking for some new teacher-friends to follow? Check out my lists of Socially Conscious Teachers and Politically Active Teachers to Follow on Instagram

See you on insta!

Friday, December 22, 2017

9 Posts to Help You Reach Your Teacher Wellness Goals

From self care to healthy eating, these blog posts by teachers for teachers will help you crush your wellness goals!

1. 40 Acts of Self Care for Teachers New to self care? Check out these 40 ideas to help you get started. 

2. Learn Self Care Secrets from a (Formerly) Burned Out Special Education Teacher

3. Have anxiety? Check out 7 Tips for Teachers with Anxiety.

4. Learn all about the Mind, Body and Breath Connection.

5. Breakfast is the most important meal of the day, right? Try these 5 Healthy Breakfast Ideas for Teachers.

6. Learn all about Gratitude Journaling

7. Do you struggle with setting work/life boundaries? Try these 5 Affirmations for Teachers Who Do Too Much

8. Even the healthiest teachers still sometimes catch a cold! Check out these All Natural Essentials to Help Combat a Classroom Cold.

9. You could even try a Tumeric Healing Potion!

Follow me on Instagram and Facebook for more teacher wellness tips. Be well, teacher-friends!

5 Tips for Prepping Teaching Materials at Home

If you're an elementary or special education teacher, you probably spend a fair bit of time prepping-- so why not make it as efficient and fun as possible? 

This post contains affiliate links.
1. Get Organized.
While I completely understand not wanting school stuff to take up space in your home, you'll save yourself time by actually dedicating a space to your prep materials. If you're lucky enough to have a home office, consider organizing with a few shelves and baskets for easy access. If you prep at the kitchen table, or ahem, the floor, try a rolling cart or small shelf for your supplies. I'm obsessed with this organizer I got on Amazon for my Astrobrights, but there are always ton of options at Target, or even better-- The Container Store 😍

2. Buy in bulk.
There's nothing more frustrating than running out of supplies part way through a project. Sure, you can make a Target run, but you'll find yourself paying a ton more for items like laminating sheets and sticky velcro if you buy them in small amounts. Here are a few of the items I always buy in bulk from Amazon:
Cardstock  Laminating Sheets  Book Rings  Velcro Dots

3. Use HP Instant Ink.
You know what's actually more frustrating than running out of laminating sheets? Running out of ink. Seriously, the worst. I've been using HP Instant Ink for two years now, and it's made my teacher life so much easier. Once you sign up, you just pay a set amount a month for a certain amount of pages, whether they're color or black and white. When you're running low on ink, HP will automatically send you another cartridge in the mail. Oh, and if you go over your amount of pages, you can still print, it's just a few more cents per page. I do the $9.99 month for 300 pages and and it's SO worth it. I was paying around $30 a month for ink cartridges before, so that's a big savings. Plus, I never have to worry about running out of ink and I don't have to feel guilty about printing those full-color products or photos. If you sign up through my referral link, we'll both get a free month!

4. Invest in Quality Tools.
Yes, you could use your kitchen scissors to cut apart laminate for the rest of your life, but why not just buy a $30 paper cutter and be done with it?! I know we all try and save money where we can, but remember that your time is worth something too! If your paper cutter saves you an hour a week, or even an hour a month, it'll pay for itself within a few uses. Consider purchasing a nice hole punch and laminator too!

5. Make Prepping Fun.
I actually enjoy prepping materials most of the time, believe it or not! I pour myself some coffee (or wine, depending on the hour!), put on an audiobook or podcast, and get to work. I find I actually work faster when I'm listening to something engaging, because I'm not getting bored and checking Facebook or Instagram.

Happy Prepping!

Sunday, December 10, 2017

9 Holiday Gifts for Students from Teachers

Need holiday gifts for your class? Look no further-- one of these 9 ideas will surely suit your students!
This post contains affiliate links.

1. I bet your students would love a personalized water bottle!

2. These playdough snowmen could not be cuter!

3. Or make personalized snowmen mugs! 

4. I would make the tags say "Happy Holidays" instead, but chapstick is a great idea!

5. These tootsie roll pop reindeer are sweet and simple if your school allows sugar.

6. Glow sticks are always a hit!

7. A pair of gloves is an always-needed gift.

8. I love these sweet bracelets! You could make your own or buy them to save time.

9. Just tape a pencil onto these free tags and you have a simple gift ready to go!

Looking for more gift guides?

10 Gifts for $10 and Under for Paraprofessionals and Aides
Self Care Gift Guide for Teachers
Trendy Teacher Gift Guide

Saturday, December 9, 2017

Help! My student has bedbugs!

This post contains affiliate links.

You notice a student has red bites, you find a tiny reddish brown bug crawling on said student, and a few google searches later you realize it: your student has bedbugs. The word "bedbugs" can send even the most stoic teacher into a panic. But take a deep breath-- I got through it, and so will you!

First of all, alert your administration and social worker. They may already have steps in place, such as sending home a letter to the class and calling an exterminator.

In the meantime, protect yourself. Because no one is sleeping in your classroom (hopefully!), it's unlikely that your classroom itself will become infested. However, that doesn't mean you couldn't pick up an actual bug from the student and transfer it to your home. When I consulted with an exterminator, he had a couple recommendations for teachers exposed to bedbugs. As soon as you get home, take off the clothes you wore at school and place them in a sealed bag. Don't wear or touch them again until they've been in the dryer on high heat for 30 minutes-- I did an hour to be safe. Don't put anything on your bed, ever! You can also pull your bed away from the walls, making it an "island." Place the bedposts in steep bowls (or buy these). This way, no bugs can get in your bed unless you yourself transfer them there. Which you won't do, because you're not putting anything on the bed!

Okay, back to school. Bedbugs prefer fabric, so pack up any excess pillows or curtains for the time being. Put them in the dryer for 30 minutes plus, and then store them until your student is bedbug-free. 

Bedbugs don't live on humans (they just bite them while they're sleeping), so while you might find a bug or two on your student, it's more likely that bugs would be on their backpack or clothes. You can have all students place their backpacks and coats in separate trash bags when they enter the classroom, and keep the bags sealed until it's time to go home. If one student has them, it's likely that bedbugs are going through the community, and more students may have them as well. 

Keep in mind that having bedbugs does not mean the home is "dirty" or the student is uncared for. In big cities particularly, apartment buildings become infested and are very difficult to de-bedbug. Your student may be tired due to being woken up by itchy bites, so be patient. 

If worse comes to worst, and you do get bedbugs, remember it's not the end of the world! If you catch them early and follow the advice of your exterminator, they should be gone within a few weeks. You've got this!
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