In May of this year, I was hired to teach English with VIPKID: a company located thousands of miles away in Beijing, China. VIPKID is an online American English education program for Chinese students though the use of webcam and the company’s prepared Powerpoint slides. For 25 minutes, I get to help an elementary school child learn the joys and difficulties of the ever-so-complicated English language.
My summer “classroom.”
So how have my first 100 days been? Honestly, they’ve been great! 100 days zipped by in no time. I’ve been teaching an average of 6 hours a day (every day) with 3 hours in the morning and 3 or more at night. This averages out to 12+ classes a day and $20/hour. In my first 100 (ish) days, I’ve taught 453 classes, 242 students, and 11,325 minutes of teaching (I’m not obsessive, the VIPKID app keeps track for you, haha).I’ve tutored many different levels with children ages 4-11. Some of my students make it obvious that their parents decided VIPKID would be their destined summer activity while others can’t WAIT for you to arrive in the classroom. With 242 students now under my belt, I’ve compiled a list of the different learners and personalities who have entered and reentered my classroom. Sometimes I teach a student once and other times I’ll have the same student 5 times a week.
Here are the students I’ve worked with who keep class interesting, frustrating, rewarding, and exciting:
The “parrot” student
My former roommate from Madrid and fellow VIPKID teacher and I had some funny conversations about the different students we come across in class. One type of student that we both teach is what we call a “parrot” student where they repeat anything and everything you say. If you ask them a question, they repeat it. If you tell them something, they repeat it. It’s frustrating, but using your props like a stuffed animal is handy to act out the pattern of a conversation. It’s SO exciting when they will finally answer you back correctly!
The delayed student
Patience is essential if you want to teach – especially online where you can only interact on a computer screen. The other day I was trying to explain superlative adjectives to an older student and I was about to give up and move to the next slide when he suddenly said, “My mom is fat…my grandpa is fatter, BUT my DAD is the fattest!” I couldn’t help myself and burst out laughing as he sat there with a proud grin on his face. It took him a minute, but he managed to relate the lesson to his own life.
The blank stare student
Even with props, slides, and a teacher presenting new information, it’s normal to have some overwhelmed students in class. Many of VIPKID’s students have not interacted with a foreigner before, so you are sometimes simply a variety show for them. When it feels like nothing is getting across to your student, just remember that they are still listening to you and are gathering more information than you may realize.
The show-and-tell student
Every once in a while I will have class with a student who is over-the-moon to show you all their worldly possessions. Some want to show me their artwork while others will frantically ask you to “WAIT, teacher!” while they run to the next room and retrieve a stuffed animal or toy. It’s fun to see them get so excited and use whatever English skills they have to share a part of their life with you.
The sick student
One of the great things about teaching online is the nonexistent interaction with SICK students. I got sick an annoying number of times teaching elementary school kids in Madrid and now my healthy streak is extending with virtual students.
The one step ahead student
Enthusiasm is awesome, but sometimes it becomes too much when you need a student to slowww downnn and learn proper phonetics. I have a couple of students who try to read everything on the slide before I can even explain what we are doing.
The pissed student
I’ve only had one student so far who gave ZERO f*#&@ about English class. I think his mother shut off the television right before we started which made him even more angry. I was actually impressed that he maintained a completely enraged face the entire 25 minutes of class. No reward system, funny song, or activity would cheer this one up! On the other hand, I have a relative from China who told me that most Chinese children are pressured to go above and beyond in their studies which gives them little to no down-time. Knowing this inspires me to make class as interesting and fun as possible.
The unaware student
Some students enter the classroom and cannot figure out where where the camera is or where their bodies are supposed to be. Sometimes, the nearby parents will try to correct their positioning, but little by little their heads will drift away again and I’ll go back to staring at the top of their heads.
The excited student
The best classes are with the students who consider learning English the best thing that’s ever happened to them! They go above and beyond to participate, show you things, ask you questions, and hold conversations outside of the curriculum. I have one student who uses up every last second of class and we often run over the 25 minutes to half an hour before I am forced to say goodbye. “See you next time, teacher!” is often the best thing I will hear all day. 🙂
Every student is different and not every student can be categorized like this, but these are just some of my personal observations since beginning my job as an online teacher. I’ve had such a rewarding experience so far, and I look forward to seeing where it will lead next!
If you have any questions or would like to apply to VIPKID, let me know via the “contact” tab or fill out your application today!
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