VIPKID: “Do You Speak Mandarin?” And Other Common Questions About Teaching ESL Online

Hello, hello! Yes, it’s been a while since I have done a post on teaching with VIPKID. This post is very much overdue. It’s hard to believe I’m already quickly approaching the end of my first 6-month contract with VIPKID, and I’m happy to say that I’m planning on sticking around for a while.

My student-base continues to grow, and I’m also growing as a teacher throughout each interaction with my students. Like most teachers that start out, I was very skeptical as to what I was getting into, but I have to say I’ve been more than pleasantly surprised with VIPKID, and the company’s ability and willingness to continue to grow, develop, and change education for the benefit of all.

With that said, I’ve been very fortunate in being able to refer 3 other new teachers to VIKPKID during my first contract. VIPKID is continually hiring and seeking energetic, passionate, and adventurous teachers to step up and take on this opportunity to teach ESL online.

Below are some questions that I frequently get asked about my job. I thought it might be helpful just to break down each answer, and if you should have further questions about working for VIPKID, feel free to comment below this blog post, and I’ll be sure to respond to your question.

1) Do you have to know Mandarin Chinese to teach ESL for VIPKID?

A short and simple answer to this question is “no”. I wish I knew Mandarin- that would be awesome, but no, unfortunately I don’t. The good news is that you don’t have to know a single word of Mandarin Chinese in order to teach for VIPKID. Would it benefit you in the hiring process, and could you possibly get paid more for your qualifications? Absolutely! Also, VIPKID recently sent out information about trying to reach students in more rural areas of China, and they are specifically looking for English speakers who know and speak Mandarin. So, either way, if you know Mandarin or don’t know Mandarin, VIPKID could potentially hire you based on your education, background, and teaching experience.

2) If you don’t know Mandarin Chinese, how do the students understand what you’re saying?

This is a very good question! First off, I have a wide-range of students. Some start off knowing little or no English, while others have been taking English in school, they have had a private tutor, or their parents can speak English. With that said, there are several ways to help someone understand a language, even if you can’t translate it into their own. Most of the following information is talked about in the VIPKID initial training videos, but I’ll go into some detail about how teaching someone a different language can be fun and interesting without having knowledge of the student’s language.

TPR- Total Physical Response

Body language is key when learning a new language. As a teacher, I’m expected to use not only my mouth to speak, but my facial expressions, my arms, legs, and other parts of my body to help express a general idea across to my student.

In the above picture, you can clearly see that my hand is cupped over my ear. I also chose to stay silent, leaning in to the camera, so that my student would get the idea that I wanted him/her to respond. This is a simple example of TPR.

Props

Obviously, looking at a computer screen with a teacher speaking in a different language, especially for 25 minutes, could be a bit boring. That’s where props come in handy! Props can be a lot of fun in the classroom, and they can also help a student better understand the language. They are definitely a needed investment with VIPKID, but I have to say that most of my props I did not buy. They were gifts that my son received for birthdays, Christmas, and other holidays. So, if you have children, I’m sure that you will have plenty of props to incorporate into the classroom already. Different props and printables are also recommended for an additional reward system for the students. You can see an example of reward system and prop that I use in my classroom.

I have used this monkey prop for many lessons. Today, I was able to use him when showing a student different animal body parts.
This magnetic tin is a great reward system for building a face with the student when he/she is listening, following directions, and responding correctly throughout class. I also enjoy using this when explaining different parts of the face.

Speak Slowly, Speak Clearly, Be Patient, & Smile

Yes, there’s a lot compacted into speaking slowly, clearly, being patient, and smiling, but they are all important attributes for the job. Do I speak slowly with every student? No. Some students are more advanced, so I do adapt as needed with each class. Being patient can be more difficult, especially with a super chatty student that doesn’t want to listen, but it’s helpful to keep in mind that the class is only 25 minutes, and you do the best you can with the amount of time that you have.

A smile is pretty much plastered on my face throughout class. I learned this lesson the hard way after my first evaluation. My evaluator had mentioned that I looked bored and too serious throughout a lesson with an older student. As I went back to re-watch myself, I noticed that I smiled very infrequently throughout the lesson, and I seemed too intense.

Thankfully, I learned from that initial evaluation, and now a smile is on my face throughout almost all of class. This is so important because the student can’t see your whole body, they just see the upper half of your chest and then your face. Smiling is key to show that you want to be there, you’re excited about teaching, and having this interaction with the student. I find that I even tend to smile more throughout my day, and that’s not a joke, I really do! Obviously, each teacher has their own unique personality, and you’ll click with some students and maybe not some others, but you’re teaching style will shine through and students will be drawn to you when you’re passionate about what you’re doing.

3) Do you have to have ESL experience to teach with VIPKID? What are the qualifications?

In order to teach with VIPKID, you need a Bachelor’s degree, and teaching experience is highly recommended. I do have a friend who is still within her first month of teaching with VIPKID. She does not have a teaching background, but she does have experience being in a classroom as a teacher’s aide. I have not heard of anyone getting hired that does not have a Bachelor’s degree or higher education. This is a must. As for ESL experience, I did not have any as I entered the position, but there are training videos that everyone is required to watch and then take a short quiz over in order to be hired. There are also two teacher mock-classes that must take place before a teacher is hired. This all aides and assists each interviewee in understanding what it takes to not only teach ESL, but to teach ESL online.

As for higher education and continuing education, VIPKID is doing a wonderful job setting up workshops that are available for teachers to grow in their knowledge of teaching online. There’s also opportunities for teachers to gain an ESL certificate through higher education with VIPKID. I’m not a part of this program, so I can’t give much feedback on it, but I have heard some teachers say they are happy that VIPKID is providing them with this opportunity to grow in education as they work. I also appreciate that VIPKID has added videos and workshops discussing Chinese culture. This is really helpful to any teacher that is not a native of China. I’ve only watched one video on the education system. And I’m looking forward to watching more.

4) How do you sit that long in front of a computer?

Well, I only sit a maximum of 3 hours in front of my computer, and I do take breaks by standing up, running up the stairs really quickly between classes, and using the restroom if needed. But, some teachers teach standing up. I’ve also seen teachers sitting on fitness stability balls, so whatever floats your boat. And I would probably make these adjustments if I was teaching more than 3 hours as well. So, however you want to set up your online classroom is fine. I even saw a bike computer station on Amazon, so I’m sure if you wanted to go that route, you’d be able to as long as you could teach effectively.

5) Is VIPKID just a part-time job?

Yes, kind of. I work part time. The hours are early morning and/or in the evening. I choose to get up early and teach. I will rarely teach in the evenings. But, depending on where you live in the world, and your time zone, you may be able to teach during the day. Or, if your schedule permits, you could teach an 11-13 hour day/night if you should choose. I do know some people that have and still do this. There was an incentive that started last September 2016 for who could get the most classes taught in a 3-month time frame, so yes, some people did go nuts with that. With that said, some people do live in the same time zone as China, so they are able to teach during normal work hours.

VIPKID hires teachers on a 6-month contract. When I was hired, teachers were required to teach a minimum of 7.5 hours a week during peak hours, which is in the evening, Beijing time. This was never a problem for me, and I do usually easily exceed 7.5 hours a week. I haven’t read it in an update yet, but I have received a notification e-mail about a change stating that the 7.5 hour minimum is no longer required, but just recommended.

The beauty of the job is that I can set my own schedule and take days off as needed. VIPKID also allows for a 2-week unpaid vacation during the 6-month contract. These weeks are not supposed to be consecutive. I haven’t heard of anyone complaining about this; it seems completely reasonable to me, and if the minimum requirement per week is only 7.5 hours, then you could easily squeeze that in 2-3 days in one week during peak hours.

Does This Sound Like a Job For You?

If you’re interested in teaching for VIPKID or you’d like to know more information, please feel free to comment below.

YouTube Videos from my Channel

Click Here for My Other Blog Posts on VIPKID

3 Month Blog Post with VIPKID

1 Month Blog Post with VIPKID

Did this information help you? I’d be very honored and grateful if you used my link when applying for VIPKID. I do get a small kickback by you using the link provided.

Link to Submit Resume with VIPKID

This Lenten Season

When you discover that you are the unworthy recipient of God’s lavish grace, you cannot help but share it with others. -Gloria Furman

It is after you have realized that there is a real Moral Law, and a Power behind the law, and you have broken that law and put yourself wrong with that Power- it is after all this, and not a moment sooner, that Christianity begins to talk. -C.S. Lewis

You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God. -Matthew 16:16

 

Hello, March!

Yes, I can’t believe that it is March 2017, already! Time has truly flown by, and it’s hard to believe my son will be a year and half later this month. My husband and I are having lots of fun with this stage between years one and two.

I love that he calls me “mama” and my husband, “dada”. He waves and says “hi” and “bye-bye”. I also love that he reaches his little arms up to me anytime he wants help with his toys.

This little guy loves pots and pans, so we ordered him his own set.

He and our dog have established a special bond. My son finds it hilarious that my dog will follow him anytime he has food in his hand. He will now entice our dog and bait him into following him around the house until my dog licks him and nibbles at his hand to pry the food from it.

At first, I was deeply concerned that our dog would hurt our son as he tried to get the food from his hand, but they both find it so amusing and my dog has been so gentle with him, that it is quite hilarious to watch.

At 1.5 years old, there’s definitely more large and stinky diapers (if you catch my drift), and the temper tantrums come more often when he doesn’t get what he wants. Toys are literally strewn all across my floors daily.

This momma also ends up cleaning more messes at the hands of sticky fingers. From food thrown on the floor, to spilled milk flung across the room, and crushed puffs in the car seat and pack-n-play, it’s a daily adventure.

It’s an adventure I wouldn’t have any other way. We are beyond thankful to have this little guy in our life.

 

Fasting

This year, my husband and I have decided to take part in lent together by fasting and giving up sugar. Ahh! Yes, sugar!

To be more specific, we are choosing to give up desserts, pop (or as some strange people call it, soda, haha), and sugary snacks. I’m also choosing to eliminate sugar in my coffee; my husband doesn’t drink it, so this doesn’t apply to him.

 

Please note that as I go into detail about what my husband and I have chosen to give up for lent, it is not in an attempt to brag, and it’s not done in a prideful attempt for others to see “how sacrificial we are”. But rather, we choose to fast and participate in lent for a deeper reason- to have our hearts and minds re-directed back to Jesus.

 

My husband and I have never chosen to fast in the same way before. I’m looking forward to having an accountability partner who will be choosing to fast in the same area.

On a personal note, I have also decided to give up my phone and television each day until 9 AM. For some of you reading this, that may seem extremely easy, but my schedule is a little different now that I’m teaching ESL early in the mornings. I’m usually up at 3 or 4 AM teaching for 1.5-3 hours, and then taking care of my little guy.

It’s really easy for me to scan through e-mails early in the morning, have the television on the in the background of whatever task I’m doing around the house, and reach for my phone if I need to look something up, or respond to a message. Thankfully, this ‘quieter’ time in the morning is allowing me to start my day differently.

 

I’m sure some moms can relate with me on this one-  some days it seems like the clock will never hit 9AM. Giving up my phone and television for the morning hours have actually been more difficult for me these first few days over giving up sugar. And I’m a chocolate-fiend, so that’s saying a lot!

I already had an “oops” the other morning when I woke up, checked my teaching schedule, and then began to read through and respond to e-mails via my phone. But, it was a good reminder of what I had chosen to give up and why I had chosen to give up my phone during the morning hours.

It left me thinking about how I could start my day differently.

I’ve already noticed that I’m more in-tune with the need to start and continue the day in prayer, to stay in-tune with God throughout my day. This has helped me to re-direct my priorities for the day for my family.

 

Why We Choose to Fast

First off, we don’t choose to fast because of a religious obligation.

We also don’t choose to fast because of pressure from friends, family, our church, or elsewhere. I don’t ask my husband to fast, and he doesn’t ask me to fast. There’s no guilt-tripping.

We also don’t choose to fast from foods to “get skinny”, haha. While this could be a result of fasting, this is never the intention of why we choose to fast. Personally, giving up food during the day is not an option for me due to health reasons, but I can eliminate the not-so-good stuff from my diet.

My fasting is NOT about, “look-at-me, look-at-me sacrificing!”

And it’s not about gaining a reward from God for going 40 days without sugar. “Amber, you are amazing! You get a gold star for all your sacrifice and you advance to level 23.” Haha, please note the intended sarcasm in the previous sentence.

If these are the reasons for fasting, then it becomes a type of self-worship. It becomes an attempt to better ourselves without the all-powerful, all-knowing, all-wise Father and Creator. Fasting then becomes a prideful sacrifice rather than a willing sacrifice to point us back to a greater purpose.

 

My husband and I choose to fast because we strongly believe that by giving up something that takes up our time, and letting go of something that we enjoy, it will then give us greater opportunity to be pointed back to Jesus.

For anyone that has had a broken limb, you can fully understand that when you go about your day you’re easily reminded of all the areas where you’re unable to use this limb.

For example, if you were to break your arm, you can no longer drive a car, put on clothes easily, cook dinner, wash your hair, pick up your children, etc. The reminder of not having mobility in your arm and how important your arm is to your day-to-day life is everywhere.

This is why we fast. We want to be reminded of our needed dependence on our Lord and Savior. And in return, there is often a breakthrough in our own lives that will come about because of this fasting.

 

Our fasting reminds us what was already done on the cross for us, and where our attention should be directed as we go about our days.

When I take sugar out of my diet for 40 days, anytime I have a craving for sugar, anytime I see those chocolate chip cookies in the grocery store and almost pick them up to put them in the cart, I’m reminded of why I’m fasting. I’m reminded of Jesus.

It’s not about me proving that I’m worthy enough or good enough to be called a child of God. Because I’m not worthy enough. I’m not good enough. I’m not even close to good enough.

God didn’t leverage my character and my good deeds in order for me to have a relationship with Him. And thank you God for that!

He leveraged his character- His Son. I’m reconciled not because of what I’ve done, but because of what He’s already done for me.

Because of God’s grace, through the righteousness and blood of Jesus, I’m made good enough. And I’m only made good enough because of the faith placed in the One who saves. The precious lamb of God died and overcame death so that I could be reconciled with my Father in heaven.

I need this constant reminder to die to myself daily and live a life of servant-hood. Because we all know how easy it is to live for ourselves, to get caught up in what “we” want, to overlook loving others, rather than living in the light and love that we are called to as believers.

It’s easy to be selfish.

Fasting points me back to the cross. It reminds me of my dependence on my Lord and Savior. It reminds me of my brokenness. It reminds me that I’m flawed, sinful, and my heart continually craves to rebel against the very God that created me.

And nothing. Absolutely nothing that I can do of my own accord will ever make me good enough to be in relationship with the holy God.

God chose to intervene on my behalf.

He chose to intervene in love.

He chose to humble himself.

He chose to show love in the greatest way possible- by sending his Son to live among men, willfully die by the hands of men, and then rise from the dead so that our sins would be forever washed away. Our debt is paid for.

I choose to fast because I constantly need to be reminded that I am only fully living when my life is humbly put before the cross daily.

Anything good that comes from me is not to gain favor from God or because of my own will, but rather what pours forth in love is all a reflection and response to what God has so graciously done in and through me.

So as I go forward in this Lenten season, I’m reminded of the gracious gift that was given to me in love and pray to draw closer to my Father in heaven.