5000 Classes: Things that have helped me along the way.

Hello everyone.

I hope this is helpful for both newbie teachers as well as veterans.  The video is a bit rushed but hopefully both the video and the written post make sense.

(1) I am my best prop and will continue to invest in me and me only.

This first one will be a little long… but bear with me.  It will all make sense.

There are specific public motivational speakers that I lean towards to give me that drive, grit, or creativity to try new things.  For working out, thickening your skin, or really digging deep and testing what you are made of, there’s no other person than David Goggins.  For working on improved memory, preventing digital dementia, preventing procrastination, and just developing better habits, Jim Kwik is my guy.

Ken RobinsonFor everything related to education, Ken Robinson is my favorite speaker by far.

In one of his numerous speeches that can be found on Youtube (I’ve seen em all), there was a two minute clip that really stuck with me…

Ken Robinson referenced a book called The Empty Space  by Peter Brook.  Within the book, Brook decides to look at the term “theater.”

What does “theater” mean to you?

Brook decided to dissect the concept of “theater.”  How much of “theater” can you take away and yet still be considered “theater?” What is considered the core fundamentals of “theater?”

You can take away the curtains.  The script.  The stage crew.  The lighting.  The director.  The building.  All of it.

“The only thing you can’t get rid of and still have theater is an actor… in a space, and somebody watching.  Because the actor performs the drama, and theater describes the relationship between the audience and the performance… so if we’re trying to make theater the most powerful experience it can be, we have to focus on that relationship between the performer and the audience.” – Ken Robinson 

Robinson then takes the same analogy and applies it to education.  At the heart of education should be a teacher and a learner.  Like theater, if you want to provide the most indelible and impactful experience, you must focus on the core fundamentals of education: teaching and learning.

I can have all the props in the world.  Manycam.  A flamboyant and colorful educational background.  But what good is it if I can’t engage students time and time again?  How far can props take you if students need off topic and extended discussions, while being engaged at the same time? Will these things save me when a curve ball is thrown from left field, decimating my lesson plan entirely?

We must remember to invest in our teaching skillset and ability.  Props may assist with learning, but let’s not go overboard with them.  I’ve even heard of some teachers who claim to use 30 – 40 props per class!  I can’t even fathom the thought…

(2) Do What Works For You

For the first 10 classes, I followed the typical suggestions: (1) Always make sure you have a smile on your face, (2) put your finger under your lip to signify when you’re speaking, and (3) putting your hand(s) behind your ear(s) to let the student know that it’s their turn to speak.

For the next 90 classes, I ditched that and used my board marker (that I use for the only reward system I’ve used for 440 days and counting) as a microphone.  I would frantically move my hand back and forth dozens of times per class.

For the next 4900 classes and counting, I have ditched everything.  I have open dialogue with students as if we are meeting face-to-face.  I will occasionally use my board marker as a microphone for the rare cases of getting a Level 2 Unit 1 student.  For 99.2% of students that I have seen, they seem to know when it’s their turn to speak and when it’s my turn to speak.

I also don’t smile all the time.  I enjoy teaching and I believe it shows in the classroom.  I don’t need to be Mr. Sunshine for all 25 minutes of each and every class.

I like VIPKID for having specific suggestions and guidelines.  Online education in this manner is still quite new and innovative.  I believe the same can be applied to the way we teach the students. I will continue to adapt and change my teaching style where I find necessary to do so.

(3) Bad Apples Are Inevitable.  Either Learn From Them or Look For Someone to Feel Sorry for You.

When I first started, we were unable to see parent feedback.  When this feature was finally implemented, I had 40 total feedback ratings.

37 five apples, 2 four apples, and a three apple rating.

I thought to myself, “Wow!  I satisfied 37 parents!”  That’s pretty good.  I felt proud of myself.

I believe this positive outlook and perspective has continued to help me even when I finally got stung with every apple possible to obtain.

I now have 2292 five apples, 16 four apples, that lone three apple, 1 two apple, and 2 one apples.

I have no reason to dwell on those ‘average’ or ‘bad’ apples.  In fact, I believe I deserved all of them… although I feel like the 1 apple rating should have been at least a 2 apple rating (the parent actually left positive feedback in the first sentence)!  I have always found something that I felt I could have done better, whether the feedback explicitly tells me so or not.  It’s like all these self-improvement books or motivational speakers:  They may give you that spark, but to make change, you gotta dig deep and find it yourself.  I hold myself accountable for everything.

16 parents thought my class was “good or average.”  I didn’t get injured, lose a loved one, or get called any derogatory names.  I still got paid the same as the other classes.

(4) Listen to Your Body

I personally really enjoy teaching with VIPKID.  I love the platform.  Sometimes it can be addicting!

For the first 25 weeks, I taught 85 or more classes per week for 22 of those 25 weeks.  I even had a stretch where I taught over 100 classes for 12 out of 13 weeks.  I peaked at 115 classes.  Although I was giving my body proper nutrition and exercise, my sleep schedule was sporadic.  There were days where I slept 6 – 7 hours and other days where I slept only 3 – 4 hours.  I felt like this was without question, taking a toll on my teaching ability and energy level.  There were days where I felt like I was running on fumes.

I have since reduced my workload and will occasionally take a few days off.  I feel like I have consistency with working out, nutrition, and getting adequate sleep.  I know we all have different reasons for teaching with VIPKID but sometimes taking a few days off to recuperate and give your body what it needs can make a world of difference.


(5) Have Fun!

Simple as that.  Might sound cliche but I always try to have a good time.




Have a good day everyone!










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