VIPKID: 6 things I had to learn to teach my first 100 lessons

VIPKID: 6 things I had to learn to teach my first 100 lessons

This post contains my VIPKID referral link and code. This post was not sponsored by VIPKID.

Photo Credit:  D. Williams

Photo Credit: D. Williams

When I decided to apply for VIPKID, I wasn’t sure how it was going to go. Even though I have teaching experience, I am an introvert. The idea of turning on my camera so strangers on the other side of the world could see me and hear me speak was pretty daunting. Before I knew it, though, I’d taught my first 100 classes.

The learning curve was steep

Many of the qualities I needed as a brick and mortar teacher have served me well in the VIPKID classroom, but teaching ESL one-on-one online is a different beast. Of course, I had to learn how to teach the slides in the curriculum. I also had to learn about a bunch of other stuff I never thought I’d need to know. Here are a few things I figured out over the course of my first 100 classes.

  1. Lighting

I can’t tell you how long it took me to figure this out. I spent so much time setting this up for my mocks. When I found a permanent position for my classroom, I had to work with an entirely new lighting situation.

It’s still not exactly the way I want it, but there are no longer weird shadows. No, “I am the leprechaun,” moments for me here. My temporary solution involves several lamps, an overhead light, and a white sheet. I had all this stuff in my possession before applying, but I had to learn how to use what was available.

Your lighting setup does not have to look like this. Mine certainly doesn’t. (Photo credit:  Alexander Dummer )

Your lighting setup does not have to look like this. Mine certainly doesn’t. (Photo credit: Alexander Dummer)

2. How to play to the camera

When I taught in public school, I was a big fan of using proximity to manage the classroom. I might walk closer to a student’s desk to get them to pay attention without calling them out. I also liked to pass objects around so that kids could experience those things up close. That doesn’t exactly work online, but I can still change my proximity (or my prop’s proximity) to the camera for educational, managerial, or comedic effect.

I also had to learn how to avoid looking at my own ridiculous mug and make eye contact with the student. I’d never had to think about this before. It’s not a natural skill, but even I am figuring it out. Which leads me to my next point…

3. What shade of lipstick is best

Okay, I am not a makeup wearer by any stretch. When I used to wear makeup, it was in the form of very heavy black eyeliner and very black nail polish to go with my very black wardrobe. My inner goth is still there, but when I am teaching, I try to make a point of looking as alive as possible.

When I am positioned in front of a bunch of lights and broadcast over the interweb, I definitely look like one of the undead. Looking less than alive can translate as “tired” on camera, which I don’t want (even if it’s true sometimes).

After watching some videos, remembering that someone’s southern mama once told me I was a “winter,” and finding a lipstick tube decorated with a cat’s head, I discovered an appropriate shade. One morning I wasn’t feeling so great, and I forgot to wear it. On the playback, I looked like I had one foot in the grave. To be clear, I am not saying everyone has to wear lipstick. For me, it’s essential.

Prop explosion! The student doesn’t see this, but after 3 back to back classes, my desk gets crazy. Hey, I’m a work in progress.

Prop explosion! The student doesn’t see this, but after 3 back to back classes, my desk gets crazy. Hey, I’m a work in progress.

4. How to keep my props organized

When I started this job, I made the same mistake I made as a brand new brick and mortar teacher. I thought I had to have everything all at once. Accumulating the right props can take some time. Figuring out what I need and how to keep it within arm’s reach was a challenge. I can’t say I have things just right yet, but I’ve developed some tricks that work for me. Keeping it all nice and neat for back-to-back classes is a definite area for growth. Check out my behind the scenes photo for proof of the struggle.

5. How to teach ESL online the VIPKID way

When I was applying, I realized I was going to need a lot of help figuring out how to give the best quality lessons for my VIPKID students. Luckily, there are so many great videos and workshops within the VIPKID platform. Some of the teachers on this platform have done so much to give back in terms of resources. I LOVE the Collaborative Lesson Bank and Teacher Jennifer’s group for VIPKID Props. I couldn’t have passed my interview without seeing Teacher Nancy’s examples.

6. It’s not about me

I had terrible stage fright when I first started teaching on this platform. I was intimidated and afraid of doing something wrong. Then, I attended a helpful workshop by Teacher Stephen M. He ended up calling on me to be an example for the workshop. He taught me that I need to stop making it about it me. I needed to really listen to what the kids are saying instead of try to anticipate everything that they might say.

The lesson he taught me had the incredible side effect of forcing me to stop fretting over myself. It’s about the child’s experience. This is not a job that you can or should do with fear. Teach with love. Make it about them.

Even if the class is a complete dumpster fire (which will probably happen at some point for a number of reasons), know that it’s only going to be a 25 minute dumpster fire. In the grand scheme of a lifetime, that’s not too long. However, a class executed well can make a lifelong difference. Ac-Cent-Tuate the positive!

Achievement Unlocked!

Achievement Unlocked!

Happy Teaching!

When my 100th class rolled around, I could hardly believe it. I’d taught different trials and converted a few. I’d taught about the days of the week, and animals, and Peru. It seems like I’ve just gotten here, but the numbers don’t lie. This was my first milestone.

Something magical happened over the course of the first 100 classes for me. My fear turned to wonder. I love singing “The Hello Song.” A child who is too nervous to speak is an opportunity to connect, not an obstacle. I listen to Mister Rogers “It’s a beautiful day in this neighborhood,“ every morning and take it to heart. I look at the letter A like it’s a marvel.

Bonus thing I learned:

Teaching for VIPKID has some serious side effects. Your heart may change. It may become bigger. You may see your language and your culture through new eyes — the eyes of children separated from you by an ocean. You will learn that you can build a bridge over that ocean if you teach with love.

The day I decided to apply for VIPKID was the luckiest day! I could never have predicted how much it would expand my view of the world. If you’d like to apply and you’d like some support, I’d love to be your referrer. You can use my referral link or code (ANGEL0305) to get started. I’d be happy to lend some support, so please get in touch.