Thursday, July 27, 2017

My VIPKID Supplemental Supplies

My last post shared about getting started with the VIPKID company teaching Chinese children English online in a virtual classroom.  Please check it out for more information about the company and where I am in the process!

One of the requirements for VIPKID is to have supplemental materials.  My kiddos are older, so I didn't have a lot of beginning reading, phonics, and writing things around the house.  I also wanted to pursue this job to make money, not spend lots of it on teaching materials.  So, I went to the tried and true Dollar Tree to find the bulk of my materials.  Supplemental materials are needed for the teacher's background, letter recognition, writing, reinforcing, modeling, and incentives...and to make sure the kiddos are engaged and having fun!  That sounds like a lot, but it really isn't.

Since I will be teaching on a tiny part of a screen, it is essential to have a fun background, but one that isn't too busy or distracting.  I found the border at the Dollar Tree, the felt map at Target for $5, and printed off coloring pages (which my awesome kiddos colored for me).  I have left some blank spaces to add materials once I get into the groove of teaching.

Teacher Background

I will be teaching the lower-level classes.  These children will have very little or no English speaking skills at all.  The key is to think preschool/Kindergarten when shopping.  At the Dollar Tree, I purchased flash cards and letters and numbers made of foam, magnets, and cardboard.  My kiddos and I sorted these then placed them in a baggie and store them in a small tote.                                        

Alphabet Packet
Alphabet Tote

Ladybug Incentive
Now, I am interested to see how this part plays out with the kiddos.  VIPKID has it's own reward system where the children can earn up to 5 stars that are rewarded to them on their screen then banked in their account.  However, VIPKID encourages high level of praise for the students and they want teachers to implement their own incentive plan.  VIPKID provides some via powerpoint slides that can be printed out or used digitally.  I bought a few cake sheets and made my own incentive games...for example, I found a huge ladybug magnet to show the student as their token on the board.  The objective is to move the ladybug over the leaves to the flower.  The purpose for the kiddos is to keep them engaged and excited!

Race Car Incentive 
Animal Pyramid Incentive
I purchased a variety of other materials to help keep me organized and that I knew would come in handy.  Binder for VIPKID info, notes, and paperwork.  Big block calendar for keeping up with bookings (even though those are on the app and Teacher Portal).  Whiteboard, markers and eraser--every teacher loves those!  Sticky notes.  Pointer...all from Dollar Tree!  I didn't have a puppet, so I ordered one from Target with a long-lost gift card I found while cleaning!  Puppets are a colorful, easy, and fun way to get a kiddo's attention and to have them engage!  Easy books are also a simple and inexpensive visual to have on hand, along with play food, stuffed animals, and craft stick puppets!  (My kiddos and I used Pinterest to look up craft stick puppet printable and made over 100 puppets for animals, food, weather, and emotions!)

In the FAQ section on VIPKID's homepage, they have all the information about the technology requirements.  Obviously, you need a computer with camera capabilities or a webcam.  A headset with mic is recommended.  I did my Mock Lesson 1 with earbuds with a built in mic, and the feedback I received said some sounds were hard to hear and make out.  So, my "big purchase" for my classroom will be a headset.  On your computer (desktop or laptop), you will also need to have a wired DSL connection...remember, you are talking to China, so the better the connection, the better the class!  You'll also need a current operating system, Flash, and at least 4 GB of memory.

I know it sounds like a lot, but if you are a teacher, parent, or anyone who enjoys working with kiddos, the materials are easy to come by without spending a lot.  If you are interested in learning more about this company, please let me know or use my referral code below to checkout the VIPKID site!


Trying Something New with VIPKID

Trying Something New
After much prayer and affirmation, I made the decision to leave a job in October 2016.  While I didn't have anything lined up for after, I had complete faith that God was going to provide for my family and me.  He sure did!  Leaving that job changed the quality of life for our family for the better in countless ways.  My family became my priority once more, not the workplace.  I fully believe that God has designed me to be a wife and mama first...BUT, like most families, we still needed an income.  I was literally without a job for only two weeks before being asked to fulfill a maternity leave position at the school where my children attend (Francine Delany New School for Children).  Once that position was over, my husband hooked me up with another interim position at a school in the district where I grew up.  That position was extended until the end of the school year, and I was asked to return this upcoming school year!  WOO HOO!  While I had been looking for full-time work, it was God's timing that I didn't receive it.  Over this summer, I had to have an unplanned surgery that put me out of commission for 6, it was actually a blessing that I didn't have to take time off of a new job.

While looking for employment online, I used every site imaginable.  I submitted over 60 applications
 along with my resume and educational transcript.  In this digital world, the down side to applying online is you become just a form with statistics.  I only heard back from about half of the jobs, and the response was always "overeducated and overqualified"...translation, we don't want to pay you for your education or experience.  If any of those individuals, companies or schools would have talked with me, they would have known I have never been paid for my education or experience, and that I would have been very willing to negotiate fair compensation.  However, they just look at the form and move on.  There is no communication, no face-to-face.

While on one of my daily scrolling through's website, I saw several entries for a company called VIPKID.  I read the description and honestly thought "this sounds to good to be true", but my interest was definitely piqued.  I talked briefly with my husband about it, and we decided I should do a little researching to see what I could find...I found a lot.  VIPKID is a company based out of Beijing, China that hires qualified teachers from the United States and Canada to teach children English online.  There are several websites concerning job reviews--it's a simple Google search.  The majority of what I read all matched up.  Ok, I had heard from regular people like me, but what did the business world have to say.  TONS!  This concept of teaching English abroad while staying at home hit it big with many folks.  The following are some articles worth reading:

Instagram Advertisement 
After reading these articles and lots more, I started weeding through the world of You Tube to see what those guys were saying.  Again, much more positive feedback than negative.  I was talking with a friend of mind, and she had heard about VIPKID as well, and she was starting the process of working with them.  About that time, I was having surgery and a couple of weeks of inability to function normally.  I was looking through Instagram and saw that VIPKID was advertising on there as, I decided to contact the company for more information.

(As well all know, if it's on the internet, it must be true...)

On the VIPKID website, there is helpful information without even having to submit anything.  There is a blog with various contributors, and a FAQ section that deals with the nuts and bolts of it all.  The website is very organized.  Once you do contact them, you receive a checklist to walk you through the steps.  As a "list person", I appreciated the layout.  The VIPKID app also allows you to view the checklist.  The app doesn't really serve any other purpose until you are hired.  The picture on the right shows the steps to take---------------------------------------->
The "basic info" section is just that: name, address, education, etc., and it allows you to log in to the Teacher Portal.  The requirement for VIPKID is to have a Bachelor's Degree, but it doesn't have to be in education.  In this section, however, you do want to annotate ANY experience you have had working with kiddos: volunteering, tutoring, assisting, teaching, homeschooling, etc.  After submitting my basic information, I received an email within two hours asking me to interview.

VIPKID "Classroom"
Recording the Interview
The interview process allows two methods.  You can schedule an interview with a VIPKID team member, or you can record and send in an interview.  I chose the second option simply for ease during our crazy summer.  Once you say yes to the interview, VIPKID sends you links within the Teacher Portal of the lesson you will teach during the interview.  This lesson is truncated to allow you time to introduce yourself as well.  VIPKID makes the lessons and provides a powerpoint for you to follow.  VIPKID wants you to have supplemental supplies, like a whiteboard, magnetic letters/flashcards, puppets or stuffed animals.  This does not require spending a lot of money, and actually you can probably find things around the house to use.  I put together some supplemental supplies from a trip to the Dollar Tree (more on that later).  When you record your interview, you will be in the virtual classroom where the powerpoint takes up half of the screen, the picture of the "child" is in the top quarter, and you are in the bottom quarter (if you do a live interview, you will be conversing with an adult in that upper part of the screen).  After you introduce yourself, you rock-and-roll with the lesson!  Upon exiting the classroom, your interview is submitted. 

VIPKID does an incredible job with communication.  They are emailing helpful links, reminders, and encouragement throughout the entire process.  I have been really impressed with the email conversations I have had with actual people, not just automated responses.  Once the interview has
Teaching Prep Checklist
been reviewed, there is a HOST of videos, slides, and documents added to the Teacher Portal for studying for the next step--the Mock Lesson 1.  As a parent, I appreciate how thorough VIPKID is in looking for educators.  There is a lot of accountability and high expectations are in place.  Every step of the process is given a timeframe for completion; I imagine this helps weed out those who are serious and those who are just checking things out.  
In order to prepare for the Mock Lesson 1 (which you would do live with a VIPKID mentor during a time that you choose from the Teacher Portal), there is a quiz to take after viewing all of the given information.  The checklist for this portion is time-consuming, but is very thorough.  This information covers a myriad of questions about classes, timing, techniques, standards, curriculum, and pay.   It is a lot to digest!  Have no fear, you have more than one opportunity to take the quiz if needed!

Emailing Ninjas
Once the quiz is passed, you receive an invitation to set up your Mock Lesson 1.  Think of this as your dress rehearsal for the company.  The VIPKID mentor will be looking for your energy level, teaching techniques, ability to follow the lesson, and engagement level.  Again, the lesson is given to you ahead of time so that you can become familiar with it...and practice it.  The Mock Lesson 1 flow is a short introduction between the mentor and you, then the mentor assumes the identity of a 5 year-old Chinese child with zero English ability.  You teach the lesson to that child for 15 minutes.  After that, the mentor will offer feedback for your teaching and answer any questions you have.  Next, you will teach a 10 minute lesson to the mentor who has become an 8 year-old child with some English knowledge.  Once the 10 minutes are over, the mentor will offer you feedback again and give you helpful information for your next step.  The Mock Lesson 1 is sent to the head office for review, and there they decide if you are ready to start teaching or if you need to have Mock Lesson 2.  If you do have an additional lesson, it is not because of failure; it is simply in place to give you more practice using the mentor's feedback before teaching live in front of a child (and their parents, more than likely).  

After ALL of that, you will receive an email to go to the Teacher Portal for the "business end" of things.  This is when and where you can review your contract.  Your pay will be stated in the contract and the amount is based upon your interview, education, and experience.  You also are paid per 25-minute lesson, not by the hour.  There are incentives aplenty--for being on-time, for ending on-time, for the volume of classes taught, for teaching over the holidays, etc.  Also, the more classes you teach opens up the opportunity for additional certifications through the program--adding age levels to teach, becoming a mentor, leading workshops, etc.  This section also has a place for you to download, complete, scan, and load a W-9.  VIPKID doesn't hire you as an employee, but as an independent contractor.  They don't take out taxes; you have to talk that out with your tax genius.  This is also the section where you will submit 1 personal (professional) photo for your profile along with 2 casual photos, a 15-second introduction video, and a written bio for parents to view.  This is how you will get your bookings!  Parents will look up the profiles of teachers and choose based on what you have on your profile.  

Now, you are all caught up with me.  This is where I am in the process.  I just submitted all of the digital paperwork today.  I have been told that it can take about a month to get regular bookings.  I have also read and watched that the biggest negative to this job is the hours.  The good thing is, you get to pick your hours, the bad thing is the peak hours to work are on Beijing time...which where I live means Beijing kiddos are 12 hours ahead of me.  Their peak times for VIPKID are 6pm-10pm, which translates to 6am-10am my time.  There are other available hours and a few extra peak hours over the weekend.  I am going to give it a try and see if I can manage to book some classes before my other job and after my kiddos go to bed at night.  

If you are interested in learning more, I have so much more information; but, it is hard to get it all out there.  I have about 20 people in mind who I know would ROCK at this job!  Do your reviews, check out articles, head over to YouTube, and feel free to ask me!  I plan on keeping a blog going to share this experience.  I am hoping and praying that it is one that uses my skills and helps out our bank account--and, I am counting on it to be fun getting to teach little ones across the world!  If you are interested in checking out VIPKID, please click here to use my referral code!  (Accepted referrals are another financial incentive!!!)

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Credit Where Credit is Due

Cecely at Mission Children's
Hospital Lab
I am sitting at our dining room table completely overwhelmed by how good God is.  I will quickly admit that I have had many moments of questioning "why" or "how long" or "for what purpose" through the seasons of my life.  While I have never doubted God's love, I have struggled with understanding the circumstances in this life from time to time.  Recently, I have been focused on the health of our sweet daughter, Cecely.

Cecely was born prematurely and diagnosed with a mild form of Cerebral Palsy when she was 4 years old.  Her symptoms were slurred speech (due to lack of muscle tone in the jaw), tremors in her arms and legs, the drawing in of her left leg and arm (especially when fatigued), and extreme rigidity in her muscles.  As Cecely went through elementary school, we discovered she had academic developmental delay due to the CP.  We went through many ups and downs in getting her the help she needed to be successful in the classroom.

Two of the siblings with Cecely.
These symptoms caused social problems for her in elementary school as well.  I am an advocate of teaching children the difference between bullying and having a conflict with another student.  Cecely was bullied.  She was targeted by one girl in particular who reveled in calling Cecely names, refusing to sit near her, and making fun of her.  She also would hold the stall door on Cecely in the bathroom, pin her down in the bathroom, and other mean things.  I spent A LOT of time at the school that year.  THANKFULLY, Cecely has been in a wonderful school for 2 years that is accepting and protective of her.  The academic support team is superb.  Finally, Cecely feels confident at school and LOVES it.

Over the past year, Cecely began complaining of new symptoms, mainly severe leg pain.  She would be in pain to the extent that walking was becoming difficult and tearful.  We scheduled a check-up with her neurologist who originally diagnosed her.  At that visit, the doctor said he was "baffled" by what we were telling him.  CP is a stagnant disease, meaning the symptoms Cecely was born with would be the same symptoms forever.  She should not pick up new symptoms.  He ordered a CT scan and MRI where he and another neurologist discovered that Cecely has an atypical form of CP.  They also discovered a pattern of mineral deposits in her brain that raised questions.  The neurologist recommended that we visit a genetic doctor to get more information.
Daddy Brian and Cecely

We visited Dr. Allen at Fullerton Genetics in Asheville.  The facility is wonderful.  The staff is the greatest.  Our check in nurse was like a grandma--very sweet and cheerful.  She actually encouraged our entire family to go into the exam room with Cecely.  I loved this, because all of the kids could hear and see what the doctors and Brian and I were discussing; and, the kids were able to ask questions and even answer some.  The lady who came in to do the genetic interview before the doctor was amazing.  She had a million questions (I don't think I am exaggerating on this one) about my family, Cecely's dad's family, and Cecely's birth story.  The entire time I was talking, she was making a map and furiously taking notes...all with the loveliest disposition.  Dr.  Allen came in next, and he was fantastic!  He was comical while being extremely informative.  He ordered a series of tests for Cecely.  We were off to the lab, then off to wait.

A few weeks later, we heard back from the genetics doctor office about Cecely's lab work.  The results for the first panel of testing were all normal.  This was good and bad...good to know what she didn't have, and bad to not know what she did have.  The appointments to the neurologist, the MRI, the CT scan, the genetics doctor and the lab had brought in a pretty heavy medical bill.  The genetics office told us that there was another wave of testing, but that it had to be approved by insurance before proceeding because it is a $5,000 expense.  Brian, Mark (Cecely's dad), and I agreed to wait and see what insurance would do before going further.  We knew we would do whatever it takes for answers for our girl.  The bottom line is, we want to know why she is in pain and what we can do to help her.

My not-so-little girl.
And, here is why I am sitting at our dining room table in awe of our God.  We have been praying for Cecely and all of the medical odds and ends for a year.  We have had our family, friends, and church family joining us in specific prayers for our baby girl.  To God be the glory--I just got off of the phone with the genetics office who told me our out-of-pocket-exspense for this $5,000 testing would be $0!!!  God is good!  He answers prayers!  Knowing this will not be another financial toll on our family is a huge relief.  And, knowing that we are steps closer to getting help for Cecely is another blessing!  SO--THANK YOU to our wonderful family and friends for lifting up our family in prayer. Keep those prayers coming, because HE answers them.  Please let us know how we can pray for you!

On a side note from a bragging Mom, please check out Cecely's Corner on Instagram, Facebook, and You Tube.  Cecely started a social media campaign to tell her stories, to learn the stories of other people, to encourage people with disabilities, and to educate and encourage people who have someone they love who has a disability.  Please go to these sites and like and share her page.  Watching her videos will give you an instant lift in your spirit!

Click here to view Cecely's Corner on You Tube