This morning, I taught my 413th class with VIPKID. It’s hard to believe. Here are ten things I’ve learned along the way.
Some classes last 7 minutes. Some last about 70.
I have a few students who I just love. I look forward to seeing them, and class is a blast. Or I meet a new student who is just all around awesome. Maybe they want to talk to you about their day. Maybe they want to show you something they made. These are the seven minute classes. Then, there are classes that feel never-ending. This could be for one of several reasons: the kid is misbehaving, the kid is mute, the lesson is super boring/difficult, the kid is super slow and you have another class to get to. Point being, rarely does a class actually feel like 25 minutes. (27-29 if you’re me. I can NEVER finish at 25.)
Completely opposite reactions to the same reward is totally normal.
I love doing rewards! Some teacher don’t like them, or they don’t even bother with them. But I must say, I love matching rewards to the student’s interests–once you find out what they like–or matching to the lesson topic. I like creating rewards too. As it turns out, sometimes I am much more excited about the reward than the student. There are some students who just do not smile. They show no emotion despite the reward, whatever it may be. And that’s OK. Because the next kid you show that reward to is going to love it. I’m always curious to see the reactions. You never know what to expect.
Write down slide numbers.
I haven’t really learned this, because I think I’ve done this from the start, so think of this as a tip. On a Post-It, I jot down important slide numbers before class. (I do it the night before, generally.) This way, if you’re running out of time–always!–you can jump to the end if necessary. I don’t like to skip slides, but sometimes it’s unavoidable, especially if you already know the kiddo is a slow reader, for example. What I do is look for slides that are too repetitive. Some of the slides are the same basic information as the slide before it, so to cut it isn’t a huge loss. I may also write the number of a slide that takes longer than others so I’ll know to leave extra time to complete it. For Phonics classes, I write number for the reader and homework. For MC, I’ll write the Goodbye slide and project slides–those can always be explained in feedback. Knowing the numbers ahead of time has saved me in so many classes!
Keep a spreadsheet.
From the beginning, I started a basic table–I don’t do Excel, yikes–with class date/time, student’s name/age, level/lesson, feedback, anything I want to remember (likes cats, slow reader, helicopter mom, etc.), reward, and parent feedback. Aside from being basically a journal of my VIPKID journey, I use it for two main reasons: I can copy/paste the feedback for a class I’ve already taught, and I can see what reward I’ve already used with someone in particular. So helpful!
Plan thenight before.
It took me a while to get a good set-up that works for me, and everyone is different, but I like to have everything ready to go the night before. I use cookie sheets for the stuff I need for each class, and I use a cooling rack–yes, a cooling rack– to organize them by class. It pretty much looks like a bakery in my classroom. I’ll write the name, time, and level with a dry erase marker as well. Organization is key.
Add back-to-back classes gradually.
The thought of doing two classes in a row used to scare me. Now, it’s nothing. I gradually added classes when I thought I could handle it. Sure, we all want as many classes as possible. Money is good, but my sanity is more important. At this point, I can comfortably do five in a row. I opened six in a row for next week, but none of that new time slot booked! I think six will be my limit though, if I can find a time slot that works. I decided to go later rather than earlier, but if I want six, I’m going to have to open 6:30 am. Woe is me.
Use a lens cover.
Whether it be a Post-It note or a homemade toilet paper roll lens cover, I highly recommend using one. My number one reason to have one: When you’re frantically trying to end one class and get to your next one before time runs out (just me? OK), put the cover on your camera so you can open it right away, as soon as you enter the classroom. Then you can do whatever it is you do without being seen–and you’re not late for class! For me, I’m switching the kiddo’s name on my background, I’m switching rewards around, I’m taking a drink of water, whatever.
Dollar Tree rules.
If you have not yet discovered the magic that is Dollar Tree, get in your car right now. I live in a pretty small town, but we do have a Dollar Tree, and I stop there a little too often. This place will save you so much money! But…you’ll also spend so much money because of what you can find there. I plan to do an entire post dedicated to DT, but for now, I’m recommending the teacher section for background decorations, then check out the stickers/books/puzzles/toy aisles in general. You can find/make some really awesome rewards. I’ll be posting more about this!
Celebrating milestones is important. How you celebrate is up to you, but don’t forget to acknowledge your awesomeness. Rewarding the kids is part of the job, but so should rewarding yourself. Five apple feedback? A student breakthrough? An awesome frenzy? Finishing classes on time? Reward!
I love being a VIPKID teacher. If you read any of my Teacher Tuesday posts, you know this. However, I will also admit this job stresses me out. I’m not as stressed as when I first started (back in April). But I worry about everything it seems. Content: I stress over how to present a certain slide. I think, how am I going to convey this skill? How will I finish these slides in time? Giving feedback: I stress over making sure it sounds intelligible when translated. I care too much about that perhaps. Just today, I had a UA with a pretty low score, and I stressed over how to write feedback for a student who acted like he had never seen any of this material before. Receiving feedback: I’m pretty sure this is the norm, but I still hold my breath when I get new feedback. As of now, I have 149 five apple ratings. The time will come when my streak will break. It will sting. But you have to move on. Learn from it and keep going. The phone app: I don’t even want to know the number of times I check that app. I can’t even talk about it. The point of all of this is that I’m gradually learning to relax. Everything is OK. I’m doing a good job. I love what I’m doing. That’s what’s important.
How about you? What have you learned? What is something you would tell yourself when you first started teaching?