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

VIPKID Update: I Still Love My Job!

I am well within my third month of teaching with VIPKID as an online ESL teacher for students in China. AND I’m still absolutely loving it! If you missed my first post (It discusses what VIPKID entails, the hiring process, and what my 1st month looked like), you can click here.

You can also check out my 2nd YouTube video here. I’ve updated my online classroom, added some props, and I share how I prep. I’ll continue to use YouTube to discuss my VIPKID experience as well as other fun teaching techniques for the online classroom.

 

Simply Impressed

What impresses me the most about VIPKID is their willingness to listen, adapt, and grow as a company to better their program. The staff truly does a wonderful job in responding to concerns, addressing issues, and staying in communication with the teachers.

Communication is huge! And I am a communication nut- I love being “in the know” and having my questions or concerns answered ASAP. And VIPKID does a wonderful job with this.

If I’ve had any classroom, payment, or other issues, I simply submit a ticket through the teacher fresh desk (you’ll get an account once you’re signed on with VIPKID). Even if the person I’m initially in contact with can’t resolve the issue, they will get in touch with someone who can. And most of the issues I’ve had or questions I’ve had, have been answered within 24 hours.

One exception I’ve had with an issue taking longer is when I received a “teacher no show” for a class that didn’t show up on my schedule. I’m always on time for class, checking my schedule each day (several times a day), so I knew something was not right when I saw this come up on my booking schedule.

I was able to take a screen shot of what my schedule looked like, and how I did not have a class booked for the time that now indicated that I didn’t show up for class. Someone was immediately in touch with me about the issue, but it took a few days to resolve, and then it took until the end of the month for the $10 deduction in pay to get taken off my paycheck.

Because I took the screen shot and was able to submit evidence, this helped in clarifying the issue, and it was easily reconciled.

 

Screen Shot, Screen Shot, Screen Shot!

If you are teaching with VIPKID, I’ve learned to always take screen shots of anything that may seem off or odd. For instance, any time I have a student that does not show up for class, I always take a screen shot. I stay in the class for the required amount of time, and I screen shot myself in the classroom so that there is evidence that I was there, and that the student did not show up. I will also always screen shot conversations I have with the firemen (technology staff in the classroom) on any IT issues that may come up so that I have proof of our conversations.

Always look out for yourself! Do yourself a favor and screen shot your classes! If you’re new, you will eventually get the hang of this fairly quickly, but I’ve learned that screen shots help resolve any questions that may come up about a teacher or student being within a classroom on time or for the full class time. I use my computer’s “snipping tool”, and it easily will screen shot my screen. I can also use a screen shot on my phone with the app when needed.

I have seen some people upset that issues were not resolved in their favor. Personally, I have not had this happen (or at least yet). My recommendation is to stay calm, communicate with the education staff by opening a ticket, and check out the given teacher material as well as the teacher forum for answers. I love the teacher forum on fresh desk because it allows teachers to talk with other teachers about any and all topics. The topics range from weekly updates, to pay, to technology, to Chinese culture.

The fresh desk also allows teachers to submit screen shots of any lesson slides that may have errors that the education department needs to address. The education department usually responds within 48 hours to change any slides that are incorrect or that may need some changes.

The teacher forum is really a wonderful resource, and it gives teachers a sense of connection despite all of us working from home. It’s helped me tremendously with many questions that I’ve had as a new teacher, and there are many teachers that post helpful tips and tricks for the online classroom.

 

Safety

How safe is your personal information with a foreign company? That’s a very good question, and it’s not one that I can completely answer. I can tell you that I did get a weekly update last month that said that VIPKID had installed a new security feature that protects our personal checking account and bank information. But I still wonder exactly how safe my information is.

Obviously, I’ve taken that risk of giving them my personal information. I haven’t heard of any teachers on the forum complain about identity theft, stolen information, or being hacked. I realize the company is still very new (just 3 years old), but I’m hopeful that my information is secure.

I realize that may not be a good enough answer for someone still looking into VIPKID, but I may not be the best person to ask since I’m still very new. I’m also hopeful that VIPKID will continue to give us more information about the safety of our personal information that we’ve given them.

I’m very thankful that the staff continually communicates and updates teachers on any and all changes pertinent to us on a weekly basis.

 

I Don’t Plan on Going Anywhere

There are so many attributes to this company that I love, and I’m absolutely thrilled to be a part of it. Teaching these kids is such a joy, and not only are the kids learning, but I’m growing as a teacher daily.

After teaching my first two months, I received feedback on 4 of my lessons. This was beneficial to me because teaching online is so different than teaching in a regular classroom. I was surprised by some of the feedback, but it was all good stuff that I needed to apply to my lessons. The staff truly cares about the quality of teachers and their curriculum, and it shows in how they run their business.

The community at VIPKID is so supportive and I’m happy to be teaching again through this platform!

 

Learn More:

Are you interested in VIPKID? Follow this link to apply (Yes, I get a small kickback if you use my link- Thank you)

Apply to VIPKID Here!

Do you still have questions about VIPKID? Feel free to comment below, and I’ll do my best to answer.

Everything within this blog post is related to my own experience with VIPKID and it is my opinion. I have not been paid by VIPKID to write this post.

Other Blog Posts on VIPKID

6 Month Blog Post on VIPKID

1 Month Blog Post on VIPKID

Visit My Online Classroom via YouTube 

Spotlight: Teaching with VIPKID

Thankful- His Ways Are Greater Than My Ways

Every time I try and plan out what to write for my next blog post, it usually immediately changes as soon as I start hitting away at the keys. I’ll often go completely in a different direction, and I believe that’s God directing me to take a different path other than the one I intended.

“As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts higher than your thoughts.” -Isaiah 55:9

In this month of Thanksgiving, I’m beyond thankful for the ability to write, read, learn, and share as I grow in this blogging process. I’m still very much new to all of this, and I appreciate all the gracious responses and comments as I continue to learn and grow as a writer.

 

Looking for a Job

As some of you may know from reading a previous post of mine, our family has been trying to save money. We are thankfully not in debt, besides our mortgage, but we’ve been praying about a solution to bring in more income during this time in our life.

My husband works A LOT, so I did not really want to put the burden on him to continue to look for more overtime. I also coach swimming in the evenings, on days that he is home. This is through a non-profit organization, so the income isn’t anything to brag about. I deeply enjoy coaching- the continuous learning, the relationships with swimmers and families, and the interactions with my fellow coaches. It is a very rewarding job, and I’m thankful to be able to continue to do it post baby.

Beyond coaching, I really did not want to leave the house for another job. I enjoy being home with my son, and it’s been a priority for our family to make that happen. But, being the “Type A” personality that I am, I had been conscientiously looking for different part time job opportunities, most of them being away from the home.

My background is teaching high school English, and I really didn’t want to go back to teaching full time. Other jobs that looked interesting, were all away from the home. I know there are plenty of stay-at-home moms that sell make-up, party products, jewelry, etc. from home, but this just doesn’t fit my personality.

As my husband and I continued to talk about finances (I know, fun, right?), I prayed as I searched the internet. I came across a blog that I had never read before and the blogger had mentioned an opportunity to teach English online to students in China through a company called VIPKID.

Skimming over the requirements, I was thrilled to see that this may be exactly what we were looking for. I could stay at home, the hours were great for a mom with a baby, and many of the teachers that were currently with the program had strong reviews about working for VIPKID.

I’m thankful to say I’ve been with VIPKID since mid-October 2016 (still a newbie), and so far it’s been a great experience! God fully opened up this opportunity to teach from home and online, and it’s beyond anything I could have imagined I’d be doing for a job!

 

My First Month’s Experience with VipKid

Initial Interview + Demo Class

From the start, I was very impressed with the hiring process for a VIPKID teacher. I submitted my resume to VIPKID and heard back within a day about their interest in setting up an online interview and demo class with me.

I was sent a 5-slide power point presentation on a mini lesson that I would teach after my interview with an employee in China. Through the VIPKID portal, I was able to set up an account and schedule a time to interview and teach the demo class.

For the interview, I purchased a new computer (which we needed), a headset, a computer camera, and a dry erase board for my demo class. I believe I also had a few props to incorporate into the mini lesson. My interviewer was a native Chinese-speaker, but she did speak English pretty well.

She discussed the basics about the company, asked me about my experience, and discussed my pay based on my qualifications. I have taught in the past and I do hold a teaching certificate, but a teaching certificate is not needed to teach with VipKid.

The minimum requirement is a Bachelor’s Degree, and one’s pay is based off of one’s qualifications and certifications. So, this would be a great opportunity for someone who just graduated from college but is having a hard time finding a teaching job. It’s also a great opportunity for a stay-at-home mom (like me), or anyone that’s wanting to bring in some extra income. This job gives a person the opportunity to teach abroad from home.

 

Practicum Evaluation

After my initial pass with the interview and demo class, I was given additional resources and videos to look over and study. I was also given another full 25-minute lesson with power point sides which I would use to teach during the practicum evaluation. I had 3 days to finish the videos, and I was told to be prepared to teach two practicums within a 10-day time frame. I believe it was also this time that I was given a teaching contract for six months, which I was to look over and sign if I agreed upon the requirements and pay, which I did.

My practicum evaluator was from the United States, but she was currently residing in France, so she was a native English-speaker. We briefly discussed the videos from my training, and she addressed any questions or concerns I had about the program, etc. I then taught the 25-minute lesson.

My practicum evaluator stopped me around the half-way mark to ask how I thought the lesson was going, and to give me some feedback. We then continued the lesson until the end where she gave me additional feedback.

The practicum evaluator was not able to tell me whether or not I was hired by VipKid. She did let me know that I would hear from them via e-mail on whether or not I would be hired or need to do a second practicum.

Thankfully, I was hired right away and didn’t have to do a second practicum!

 

Additional Teacher Training

After I was hired, there were additional and very important training videos to watch. I then had to take a quiz over the videos.

Most of the videos discuss how VIPKID operates, how they create their lesson plan format, what to do if there’s IT issues while teaching, how to teach a trial class, etc. There was a large amount of information to go over and videos to watch. I would highly recommend going over these training videos and downloading the information to look over several times.

I had read some reviews where people complained about the hiring process taking two weeks or that the training was long. I agree, it did take a little while, but it was not bad at all. Clearly, this company wants quality teachers which I respect, so I think it is well worth the effort to go through the interview, demo, practicum, and additional training for the job. For me, it solidified that this company is legitimate and cares about the overall package they represent.

 

My Classroom & Teaching Hours

Teach English as a Second Language Online!
This is me in my online classroom.

Since starting my position of teaching from home, I’ve created my own little online classroom. I have my computer facing a wall so that I can use the wall for a whiteboard and a reward system for students. I’ve also been using plenty of props. A lot of the props are simply my one year old son’s toys, but I have bought a few things specifically for teaching from home.

Most of the hours for VIPKID are early in the morning during the week, and then Fridays and Saturdays offer some evening teaching hours. I live in the U.S., so depending on where you live, it will vary on the time you would be teaching.

VIPKID is considered a part time job, so I would estimate it’s pretty difficult to teach full time with the hours provided by them. I teach anywhere from 2-4 hours a day, roughly 5 days a week. The minimum hours that one is allowed to teach is 7.5 hours per week during peak lesson times. The peak lesson times are usually a 5-6 hour time block in the mornings, and then a 4-5 hour time block in the evenings on Fridays and Saturdays.

As for full time work with the company, through the online forum, I’ve disovered that some teachers ARE teaching full time. BUT, most of them live in an area of the world where they are on Beijing time, or somewhere close to it. Working full time in the U.S. may be a little rough if you have family, as you’d be working overnight and early mornings most of the time.

The company does offer lots of hours for bookings, but those bookings may dip during certain times of the year due to Chinese holidays, American holidays, the students who book with you, etc.

I can’t say enough good things about how happy I am with this job so far and with this opportunity to do what I enjoy while still being able to stay home with my son.

I’m hoping to do a three month follow up blog post on working with VipKid, so be on the lookout for that in the near future.

If you’re interested in teaching with VipKid, or if you just want to find out more information, follow this link VipKid Recruitment. I guarantee it’s worth exploring!

Other Blog Posts on VIPKID

6 Month Blog Post on VIPKID

3 Month Blog Post on VIPKID

If you’d like to view my online classroom, follow this link Amber’s Online Classroom.