Tips for Newbie VIPKid Teachers
The following is a list of tips for new VIPKid teachers (and perhaps some good reminders for veteran teachers). I hope you will find these helpful. It can be overwhelming when you are first hired as a teacher.
Be Who You Are and The Right Students Will Find You - there are all kinds of teachers out there. You don't have to be just like the famous VIPKid teachers on YouTube. Just be yourself! You WILL find your teaching style and groove. When you do, you will begin to have students come back to you over and over! Students gravitate towards the teacher that best suits their learning style.
Props and Rewards Are Fun But Don't Buy Them ALL! - this one has been a learning curve for me because I am OBSESSED with Target and the Target Dollar Spot is the greatest thing ever! It is SO hard to not go crazy and buy all the props! Just remember you have to have a place to store them. Also, ask yourself, are these really that useful? It's ok and a good idea to say NO to buying all of the cute things.
Self Care Is So Important - I'm still working on this one. It's so easy to open slots. It sometimes can even feel like an addiction! It's especially inciting when you're offered monetary incentives to work 7 days per week! Don't forget to take care of yourself and to take time off! Sleep is important. I realized this last week when I took off 6 days! I hadn't taken more than 2 days off in a row in a year. Getting so much sleep felt so strange to me! I wasn't used to getting more than a few hours of sleep each night!
Learn The Raise Requirements Early! - When I first started working for VIPKid I wasn't even thinking about what it would take to earn a raise a year later! When I was on my 2nd contract I learned what the requirements are and wow, did I have work to do! I didn't realize how strict the requirements were and how behind I was! I had to bust my rear trying to earn that raise and only had a few months to do it! I'm so proud to say I DID earn my raise but it was hard work! I wish I had known what I needed to do from the beginning so that I wouldn't have had to cram so many PPT classes at the end of my contract.
Use Social Media With Caution - The VIPKid Facebook groups and Hutong are great and can be super useful. However, there can often be drama. Don't get sucked in. Take everything with a grain of salt. Remember to focus on your teaching. Don't compare yourself to other teachers. Remember that you are representing VIPKid and yourself so be careful what you say and do online.
Take Workshops/Utilize Resources - VIPKid has a variety of wonderful workshops for teachers, both new and veteran! These can be especially helpful to take when you are just starting out. While you wait for those bookings to come in, take a few workshops. You can find a monthly calendar of scheduled classes by going to the Resources > Libaray tab in your VIPKid online portal. A link to the schedule is posted on the left side. Workshops are broken down by date and category. Select the New Teachers Kick Off Workshop Schedule link and sign up! There are also tons of great articles and videos in the Library, to help with your teaching.
Set Multiple Alarms! - Teacher no shows are every VIPKid teacher's worst nightmare and can quickly end your contract if it happens multiple times. Avoid a teacher no show by setting multiple alarms! I have 2 alarms set on my phone. I also just purchased an external alarm clock. If you have trouble waking up, set your alarm clock and place it across the room so you are forced to get up to turn it off. Allow yourself enough time to get up, do your morning routine, and prepare your classroom for your first class.
Have a Backup Plan - There is nothing more stressful than being in the middle of a class and having your technology fail! Avoid teacher IT problems and/or possible teacher no shows by having a back up plan for your equipment and internet. I use my iPad as a backup with a hot spot if my internet goes out. I keep it charged and next to me at all times, just in case. I also have several battery powered LED lights in case I lose power and need to teach from the hotspot. Thankfully I have not had to use it yet, but it is such a comfort having it there just in case!
Teaching and Classroom Tips
Kids Are Kids. Have patience! - Is little Bao Bao just driving you crazy? Is he bouncing off the walls? I know it can sometimes seem frustrating that our most energetic students can't seem to sit still for 25 minutes. Have patience, Teacher. Try to remember that most of these kids have VERY busy lives with many activities. Sometimes their only 'down time' is during your class. Remember they are children and it can be hard to sit still for 25 minutes, especially if they are 3, 4, or 5 years old! Help them out by incorporating movement and energetic activities in your classroom! You only have 25 minutes with them so give them your best and most patient effort. =)
Don't Forget To Give Stars! - Students love getting stars, especially the younger students. Stars should be given each class. The students use these stars in exchange for "gems" or "stones" (similar to our tokens) that they can redeem for VIPKid swag. Students (and parents) get very upset when 5 stars are not given so be sure to give out those stars! Many new teachers don't know about the stars! You can find them in the top left corner of the classroom. If you accidentally forget to give stars, don't panic! You can go back into the classroom and add stars for up to an hour after class time.
Watch Your Face! - Students thrive in class when a teacher is full of energy, smiles, and praise! If your cheeks aren't tired by the end of your lesson then you probably didn't smile enough. Keep your energy up, make eye contact with the camera, smile, and have fun! Also, be sure to praise the students a lot for anything they do right! "Good job", "Well done" and "Excellent" are some of my favorites! Sometimes we don't realize the faces we make, especially when you transition between slides or activities. Watch the playbacks of your teaching and look at your face. Take note of your face and adjust if necessary!
Watch Your Pacing - This is something that can take a little practice and will improve as you start teaching regularly. It is very important that you finish all slides in the lesson. If you skip slides you run the risk of getting a bad parent review. Review the teaching tips for each slide. There is usually a suggestion on how long to teach each slide.
Start and End Class On Time - Start class on time, but never early. Also, end class at the 25:00 mark. It's ok to go to 28 minutes, especially if there is an IT issue, but don't teach past that. There are several reasons for this. First, if you teach past 28 minutes the parents will expect this as the norm, which then makes it a problem for other teachers who teach for 25 minutes. Second, the 5 minutes between classes are important for your own sanity and preparation! You can use that time to run to the bathroom, stretch, set up for the next class, or grab a drink, etc. Trust me - you will want and NEED those 5 minutes, especially if you teach multiple back to back classes in a row!
Cover Your Camera! - Remember that everything is recorded in the classroom! You can easily make a camera cover. I made mine out of a toilet paper roll and some tissue paper. (Find a step-by-step tutorial on how to make your own by clicking here!) You can even put a sticky note over your camera. Once you hit the 'start' button for class you are being recorded so watch what you say and do! I have a mute button on my headset and it's been a lifesaver for those times when I need to clear my throat or quickly say something to my family before class starts.
Take Screenshots - Always cover yourself by keeping documentation of everything! When I am sitting in class and a student is late (this happens often in trial classes), I write in the chat box every 5 minutes (5:00 - student late, 10:00 - student late, etc), uncover my camera (to show I was in class waiting), and take a screenshot. Also screenshot any time you have a discussion with the fireman about IT or other issues. This documentation could be really important if you have to submit proof to VIPKid for any reason. Better to be safe than sorry.
Prop Usage - Use a variety of props in the lesson but don't go crazy. This is up to your own personal style and taste. Remember, props should enhance the lesson. Once you get into your teaching groove you will figure out which props you use most. Keep those handy and near for your lessons.
Watch Playbacks of Your Lessons - You can really learn a lot about your teaching by watching some playback videos of your classes that you've taught with students. Take notes and find areas where you glow and need to grow. Sometimes we do things we don't even realize (like I touch my face a lot). Also, watch the sample videos of other teachers by clicking the 'materials' section of each booked class. It's so interesting to see what other teachers do! You may find something useful you can incorporate into your teaching.
Don't Be Offended If Your Regulars Try Other Teachers - This is HARD! When you get attached to your students it's very easy to feel jealous and protective of them. Our students are actually encouraged by VIPKid to try other teachers. Try not to get too upset about it and make sure when they have class with you that you give it your best so they'll come back. If they don't, that's ok, too. Sometimes students click with other teachers and we have to move on. Sometimes it's simply because of a scheduling conflict. Being an actor has taught me to have a thick skin. Most of the time, it's not about me. YOU ARE A GOOD TEACHER!
Take Teacher-to-Teacher (T2T) Feedback With a Grain of Salt - I consider the T2T feedback section like the teacher's lounge at a brick & mortar school. When I was a classroom teacher I tried to avoid the teacher's lounge because teachers always talked bad about students and I didn't want that clouding my judgement! Remember, just because one teacher had a terrible time teaching Bao Bao doesn't mean you will! There are all kinds of extenuating circumstances that could make a class go bad (or well, for that matter). I do appreciate constructive feedback from teachers, like: Bao Bao struggles with pronunciation. He loves puppets. She likes Hello Kitty. She needs practice with the mouse. Watch your pacing because he is slow to repeat, etc. That is the kind of feedback I strive to leave for other teachers (and for myself to help me remember). Also, don't forget that T2T is optional and some teachers don't leave any comments at all.
Organize Your Feedback - Everyone has their own method for leaving feedback for parents. I have my own system of keeping a spreadsheet with generic feedback of each lesson. I use that as a starting base and then customize it to each student's strengths/weaknesses or notes for parents. I highly suggest you read Ed Nance's book: Loud and Clear. It's a great book that helps you learn what feedback parents like and how to improve your apple rating! Check it out! Also, some people prefer Feedback Panda, a program designed to streamline your feedback. Whatever method you choose stay organized and keep notes. It will save you lots of time!
Know Synthetic Phonics - It is SO important that you know proper synthetic phonics! You will especially teach these in your lower level classes. Please take the time to review what proper synthetic phonics sound like.
Here is a great video to demonstrate:
13. Learn the Chinese ABC Song & Finger Counting System -
You may find yourself surprised that your Chinese students sing the ABC song unlike what you're used to. Instead of singing "LMNOP" jumbled together, the Chinese version is more spread out: "LMN.....OPQ".
I REALLY like it! It makes SO much sense!
Take a look at this video to hear both the American and the Chinese versions of
the ABC song:
Finger Counting System:
The Chinese also have their own system of counting on one hand. You will often find your students hold up a sign with their hand to represent a number. Learn this system! Not only will it help you understand your student, but it will help you communicate with them! This especially comes in hand when you teach those brand new level 1 students and ask, "How old are you?"
If you have an great tips for new teachers please leave me a comment and let me know!
--VIPKid Teacher Erin