Did 3 weeks of 100+ classes before having to attend a wedding overseas followed by moving right afterwards.  Starting to get back on schedule.

Data for blog

My tips for this update:

(1) Find what you are good at and double down on it.

I see posts all the time of teachers finding themselves with excess time and reading a storybook to kids, playing hangman, or playing tic-tac-toe.  To this day, out of 2337 classes that I have taught, I’ve never read a storybook, played hangman once, and only play tic-tac-toe with 1 regular student because he goes apeshit when its time to play (it helps that his mom doesn’t mind either).  I personally find little to no value in doing these things if you have extra time.  This is just my personal opinion, especially since parents are paying as much as they are for these lessons.  Furthermore, I just can’t picture myself reading Dr. Seuss or any other children’s book to my students.  If you are the type of teacher that enjoys reading storybooks or teaching/playing games when there is extra time, great!  Every teacher has their own unique style to personalize the learning experiences of these wonderful students and I fully respect that.

There are two things that I believe have helped me, perhaps even differentiate myself from the crowd.  (1) I often change my voice between a masculine and feminine voice, sometimes at will and without even thinking about it.  At first I originally would do this for role-play.  Now I do this unconsciously and at any time.  I’ve gotten a lot of praise from parents mentioning how much it attracts the students to maintain focus.  (2) I find ways to have extended and off topic discussions.  I believe this is especially valuable and beneficial, in particular for assessment classes.  There are a lot of assessments in which students will finish them very quickly and you have to be ready for that.  I find any opportunity possible to extend and ask questions to the students during assessments.  I’ve gotten pretty darn good at it as well (humble brag).

 

(2) Assessments that I believe require preparation for students finishing early!

Below are Level 2/3 assessments that I believe DEFINITELY require extended conversation or some type of activity/game/storybook:

Level 2 Assessments:

Unit 3 Lesson 6: Don’t get me started on how difficult Lessons 1-5 are for these beginner students.  I’ve found that most students, however, go through this assessment rather quickly.  Levels 1 and 2 are fairly simple, while Level 5 is extremely short.

Unit 4 Lesson 6: Similar to Unit 3 Lesson 6, the math and grammar sections are very short and not really much of a challenge… even for students who may have struggled in the lessons prior to this assessment.

Unit 8 Lessons 6 and 12: These will definitely need to be stretched as far as you can stretch them.  If you are just going through slide by slide without any interaction or discussions, I guarantee you that the students will finish within 15 minutes.  I personally feel like Unit 3 (School Phrases) and Unit 8 (Colors) should be swapped.

Unit 12 Lesson 6: The phonics blends and math section are a cakewalk for students at this level.  Extension will be needed for this assessment.

 

Level 3 Assessments:

Unit 3 Lessons 6 and 12: This entire Unit isn’t very difficult for students that I’ve taught.  Students can do these in their sleep.  You will need to extend and stretch these assessment as much as possible.

Unit 7 Lesson 6: I feel like this is the worst assessment of any Level 2 or 3 assessment in terms of content.  It hardly covers any of the tedious word form and standard form numbers that students learn during lessons 1 – 5.  It also barely covers possessive adjectives or any of the difficult /oo/ or /ou/ phonics sounds that students learn.  I’ve never had to stretch an assessment as much as this one.  Be prepared!

 

 

(3) Seriously, stop complaining about 4 apple parent feedback.

Unless you are below a 4.0 rating, there should be no complaining.  None.  Zero.  Parents are paying over $20+ for each 25 minute class.  They are the customer.  Learning English for these students in Asian countries isn’t a game.  For many of these students, English is seen as status and power rather than a way of communicating.  Many job requirements and promotions require a specific English score on language exams.  Unfortunately, many of these English language learners are focused to learn English for extrinsic purposes and benefits.  It personally pissed me off to see how English is taught when I was overseas.  Even if a parent gave you 4 apples, you still got paid right?  Did their 4 apple no comment feedback leave some type of emotional scar?  Am I missing something here?

As I mentioned in the last update, find ways to improve.  There isn’t always going to be someone holding your hand along the way telling you ways in which you can improve.  Be honest with yourself.  Assess yourself objectively.  Find ways to improve.  I always hold myself accountable.  I’m not competing with anybody but myself.

Have a great week everyone!

 

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So I got a bit lazy and skipped over Day 120 so I will pick up from where I last left off.  I finally decided to change my profile picture!

My schedule for the last 80 days:

April 10th-16th:             109 students (77 boys / 32 girls)
April 17th-23rd:             110 students (71 boys / 39 girls)
April 24th -28th:             87 students (56 boys / 31 girls)
May 1st-May 7th:           115 students (76 boys / 39 girls) 84% repeats
May 8th – May 14th:      110 students (73 boys / 37 girls) 76% repeats
May 15th – May 21st:     108 students (75 boys / 33 girls) 83% repeats
May 22nd – May 28th:   109 students ( 72 boys / 37 girls) 88% repeats
May 29th – June 4th:      109 students (80 boys / 29 girls) 95% repeats
June 5th – June 11th:     106 students (80 boys / 26 girls) 92% repeats
June 12th – June 18th:     85 students (57 boys / 28 girls) 92% repeats
June 19th – June 25th:     30 students (24 boys / 6 girls)   77% repeats  – Busy

I will also be moving back to South Korea near the end of July to continue doing this full time!  I can’t do anymore of this 7:30am-2pm sleep schedule anymore!  I also miss the busy and perpetual lifestyle of the ‘Land of the Morning Calm’.


I will leave this update with a few tips that I believe has continued to help me teach with a stress-free and optimistic mindset while at the same time finding time to improve myself.

Video Addressing Repetitive and Unnecessary Complaints.

(1) Student Feedback!  Really dig deep and personalize each and every feedback!  Every student brings something different to the table and we should read between the lines to scope out what students offer and how they demonstrate their understanding of the material.  To this day I still personalize each and every feedback.  I don’t have a word document of common, generic sentences that I simply copy and paste into student feedback.  In every class, I always include something that I feel like that particular student did that stood out.  There’s always something!  Find something personal to discuss besides that said student completing X Y and Z.

 

 

(2) Stop whining, moaning, and complaining about apples. The number of teachers who complain about getting their first four apple rating as if it dictates their life like a puppeteer is appalling.   I honestly believe, and this applies to every teacher, that we get an ego boost from all these five apple ratings that when we get that 4 apple rating, we zoom in on it to the point that we are completely oblivious, visually impaired, and unaware of the hundreds of other parents that we have pleased.  Furthermore, it skews our sense of reality and what we believe the standard should be.  I personally feel that I taught more 5/5 apple classes that were not worthy of 5/5 apple ratings (in my view) than vise-versa.

When I first started at VIPKID, parent feedback was unavailable.  After it was visible to teachers, my first 40 feedback included 2 “four apple ratings” and a “dissatisfactory rating”.  I thought to myself “that’s pretty good! I’m surprised 37 parents thought my classes were worthy of 5/5 apples”.  Now you go on Facebook and you see teachers with dozens and dozens of five apple ratings cry wolf the moment they get a four apple rating, reacting with words such as “heart shattering” and “devastating”.  Soldiers who fight for our country, get blown up or survive and have to get their limbs amputated is “heart shattering” and “devastating”.  To this day, I have 778 “five apple ratings”, 7 “four apple ratings”, and that lone dissatisfactory.  I have a 40% parent feedback rate, but I never ask for feedback.  This is not me trying to brag about how good I am as a teacher.  Use feedback for it’s purpose: feedback.  There aren’t always going to be handouts that direct us on how to improve.  We need to find out for ourselves.  Out of those 778 five apple ratings, I truly believe a good percentage of those were not five apple performances.  This is just a subjective opinion, however, as many parents obviously saw otherwise.  I also believe I deserved all of those four apple ratings and that dissatisfactory.

We are not perfect.  Use feedback to improve yourself.  Learn about what things you can do to make your delivery and teaching methods stronger.  Stop crying about what 1 parent thought about your teaching performance to the social media world.  Move on and continue to improve.  Remember, parents are paying roughly $1 per minute for these classes.  There is so much pressure in China for students to perform at the highest levels.  What would your expectations be, as a parent, if you were paying $1 per minute for your child to learn a language that would play a large part in determining their social, economic, and financial future?

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If you have any questions, please feel free to ask.  Thank you for reading and enjoy the rest of your week!

Good evening everyone.  I wanted to try this blogging this out and make an update every 40 days regarding my experience with VIPKID.

How I heard about VIPKID:

To keep a long story short, I was transitioning back to the states after a 5-6 year stint teaching in South Korea.  I received several emails from a recruiter about VIPKID while traveling before returning back stateside.  I originally thought nothing of it because when you’re traveling, you want to be enjoying the moment without worrying so much about what’s to come.

After returning back and five weeks of reaching out to connections and applying to jobs to no avail, I decided to give VIPKID a shot.  Without going into too much detail, I passed the initial demo interview and eventually moved on to pass both mock interviews.  I found it funny that originally I came back to the states wanting to exit the ESL/EFL teaching scene… and here I found myself two months later coming back full circle.

My schedule from the first classes until now:

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Jan 20th – Jan 22nd:  13 students (13 boys / 0 girls)
Jan 23rd – Jan 29th:  35 students (29 boys / 6 girls)
Jan 30th – Feb  5th:  47 students (37 boys / 10 girls)
Feb  6th – Feb 12th: 85 students (61 boys / 24 girls)
Feb 13th – Feb 19th: 105 students (68 boys / 37 girls)
Feb 20th – Feb 26th: 105 students (72 boys / 33 girls)

I have a weird schedule and sleep pattern in comparison to most people at VIPKID.  Being from the west coast (we get the worst of it in my opinion), I sleep from 6am – 1pm.  I have regulars from the first available time slots (usually 5:00 – 7:30pm)  and have no problems getting bookings from 11:30pm – 5:30am.  Fortunately I usually have the energy to plow through, get my feedback done before 6am, and then pass out.  I would say that 75% of my schedule now consists of regulars.  I’ve heard other teachers having difficulty with bookings and unfortunately it seems random and inconsistent.


Things I’ve done that I feel like have worked for me thus far.

My intent here is not to glorify myself on all of what I’ve felt I’ve done right, but rather to list what I believe has worked out for me (aside from keeping a consistent schedule).

A bio that focuses explicitly on education only.

I think my experience in Korea really helped with this after witnessing the grueling education system on the other side of the planet.  I mention that many educational facilitates are fixated on the mindset of “Did I teach what I needed to teach for today?” rather than “Did the students understand today’s lesson?”  This is of course, more often than not, no fault of the teachers but more of the policies that are unfortunately tied around the curriculum/teachers.  Anyone who has taught in Korea has witnessed this and kids that don’t understand are unfortunately left in the dust with limited intervention support.  I’m sure this occurs in other parts of the world as well.  I also mention that it’s important to allow kids the opportunity to demonstrate their knowledge that is most comfortable for them (I’ll briefly go into detail below).  Finally, I state that I’m not perfect and hope to not only improve the confidence and overall language skills of ELLs (English language learners), but also improve my teaching skills as well.  I don’t mention anything about my personal interests or hobbies.

Not always stopping kids from being well, kids.  

When a kid is acting a way that may be deemed unacceptable in normal circumstances, I try to let the situation play out and see where it leads.  I have students who instead of circling the answers, draw flowers and trees over the answers but at the same time demonstrated their understanding, students who feel the need to jump up and down while talking at the same time, a regular student that I see almost daily who enjoys typing what she sees while saying the answer (she’s only 6), and a few screamers/shouters who say everything as if they are falling off a cliff.  I try to be a bit open and flexible about the way students portray their understanding and try to view things from their point of view.  I also make sure to make a note of that in the parent’s feedback.

Letting kids lead.

One of the proudest moments of my time teaching overseas was letting a 12-year-old girl teach the class using only English (I let her teach two times in total).  She would without question be considered a teacher’s pet to many.  She was so outspoken, accurate and assertive during class that I thought the hell with it and decided one day to let her teach.  Let me say that when she lead the class, it was absolutely flawless.  Her demeanor, attitude, the way she conducted the class, the way she corrected students in a non-aggressive manner.  My Korean co-teacher was also quite flabbergasted as well. With the students at VIPKID, I gauge whether I believe students can shoulder the responsibility of leading and give them as much of the power as they can handle.  I also enjoy playing the role of the student, making deliberate mistakes, and seeing if the student can catch these mistakes.

Simplicity and focusing on building rapport.

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My station

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My background

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My reward system – I let students know that if they do a good job, I will give them 4 stars and draw a picture bit by bit.  If they can correctly guess the picture, I will give them their final star.  I let some of my regulars draw their own pictures when they earn stars and I try to guess what they are drawing.

At first glance, the background of my teaching station along with my reward’s system may seem lifeless and bland.  I like to keep things simple.  I have no fancy decorations and almost no self-made props.  I focus strictly on the teaching and the learning part.  I’m a huge Ken Robinson fan and one of my favorite quotes from him involves the focal point of strictly the teaching part of education: “If there’s no teaching and learning going on there is no education.  So if we’re going to improve education we have to improve that.  And everything else has to take a place around it and not get into the middle of it.”  Though I feel like props are excellent for enhancing the learning experience, I also feel like it can hinder learning if overdone or if the teacher is too wrapped up in them.

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This is how I keep track of the pictures I draw among other things.  I’ve been a bit lazy inputting assessment scores and parent feedback.

Thorough and meaningful feedback.

This is what I believe really helped me and is probably the most important factor that has worked for me.  I personalize each and every feedback and do not use any cookie cutter, copy&paste, or generic feedback.  If a student excelled in class, I always mention where/what slide/which part.  If the student did something memorable or has a particular interest that I find awesome, I include that as well.  I’m a huge LEGO fan and I always make it a part to have 60-90 seconds to share some of our LEGO sets and mention that in the feedback.  A lot of these LEGO fans have become regulars.  One of the things I really look for is if a student’s fluency level is better than their accuracy, I point this out as a very positive thing in the feedback  Education in most parts of Asia are zoned in on accuracy (using correct grammar, sentence structure, vocabulary) and do not focus much on fluency, especially after elementary school.  I personally think it’s a shame knowing a lot of these kids build up their confidence and overall English language abilities in elementary school only to have it crushed when they enter middle school and start focus on testing and non-practical usages of English.  If a student is confident in their fluency (producing language smoothly and with confidence) I believe that accuracy will follow.  If it is flipped the other way around, students may be so centered into trying to be grammatically correct that output never occurs and thus confidence remains flat.  I feel like parents are aware that opportunities of practicing fluency are limited and mentioning a student has good fluency is a very positive and optimistic comment.  I don’t say it because it’s what I think I want the parents to hear, but rather I mention it because I believe it.  Sometimes I’ll even watch the replay and recall some areas where students shined or areas that I believe they need to improve in.  Now I’m not suggesting that everyone should do this as we all have lives and priorities to take care of.  However, spending a few extra minutes personalizing feedback, in addition to the overall performance of the class, could make the difference between a one-and-done and a regular.

Questions and/or comments. 

If you have any questions or comments I will be happy to answer them whether you are a current VIPKID teacher or are thinking of applying.  You can apply here. Enjoy the rest of your weekend everyone!