VIPKid… the Whole Truth and Nothing but the Truth!

VIPKid… the Whole Truth and Nothing but the Truth!

Well, thanks to a friend’s Facebook post I have started a new adventure.  I am now teaching English to children in China.  No… seriously.  I am.

If you know me at all you know that I can’t stand to have only one thing on my plate.  Instead, I have plates on poles that I spin while standing on one foot attempting to balance them all perfectly not letting one single plate crash to the ground.

Scrolling through Facebook I notice a friend tagged me in a post about VIPKid.  VIP-what-huh?  I thought “That’s odd.  What is this and why am I being tagged?”.  I read her post talking about teaching Chinese kids English online.  Ok, that’s pretty cool, but she’s a teacher.  A professional teacher that knows what she’s doing.  That’s not me.  I’m an engineer.  I don’t have a teaching degree or any certifications, and I don’t want to recruit people.  Not my thing.  Looks really cool, but not my thing.

Fast forward and I keep seeing her posts about her students and they sound adorable.  I read on and she explained that all you need is a bachelor’s degree, webcam, laptop with a camera, or an iPad, a backdrop, and a headset with a microphone.  Hmmm… ok, I could do this.  Wait… how many people do I have to recruit to actually make money? None.  Ok, what is the quota of classes I have to teach to actually make money?  None.  Surely there’s something to this I’m missing…

Ever the skeptic, I checked out their website and watched a few YouTube videos.  Ok, it can’t be this easy.  I checked out some reviews.  They were all honest reviews and it seemed to all check out.  Fine.  I gave in.  This could be my next spinning plate to balance.  The good news is this one would actually make some extra cash instead of spending it.  This side gig is rewarding, fun, doesn’t cost anything to begin, and doesn’t feel like a job.  To all of those mommas out there, the hours are WHEN YOUR CHILD SLEEPS!  Finally, a mom friendly side gig (or main gig!) that is legitimate (yep… I’m looking at you, pyramid schemes disguised as “multi-level marketing businesses”).

If you’re interested in VIPKid, how to get hired, and how teaching classes has been so far (with an HONEST review), look no further… I’ll fill you in!  If there are any questions this blog doesn’t answer or you’d like me to mentor you through the VIPKid process, please drop me a line using the contact form at the bottom of this post.

This is a long post and if you’re like me and don’t want to read a novel to get the information you actually WANT to read, here’s a handy breakdown of what this post contains so you can skip to the part you’re actually interested in:

  1. Where to Begin (the Qualifications)
  2. The Demo or Smart Demo
  3. The Mock Class
  4. The Contract
  5. Booking Classes
  6. How Many Bookings Can I Expect?
  7. What Classes Should I REALLY Certify In?
  8. How Much Can I Actually Make Teaching for VIPKid?
  9. Would I Recommend VIPKid?

I’ll follow this post up with some other great VIPKid insights I’ve gained as well as classroom tips, tricks, and stories.

Where to Begin (the Qualifications)

VIPKid requires at least a Bachelor’s degree (ANY Bachelor’s degree… Underwater Basket Weaving?  Yep!  They accept it!) and at least a year’s experience “teaching” children.  Were you a coach?  A Sunday School teacher?  Did you say hi to a kid in the hallway once? Ok… maybe not the last one, but you get the gist here.  ANY experience counts… you don’t have to solely have teaching experience!

Alright, now that you know the qualifications, here’s how to see if you pass the initial qualifications: enter your information on their website OR you can use a referral link.  If you prefer to use my referral link, you will be listed as my referral and I will be able to provide tips and information throughout your process.  Please contact me using the form at the bottom of this blog if you plan on using my referral link and I would be happy to help!

The Demo or Smart Demo

If you qualify after the application process, you will be required to provide a full (5 minute) Demo or a shortened Smart Demo.

The Demo

The Demo is a shortened 5 minute demonstration of your teaching skills.  You can complete this demo and record your class (pretending you have a student in front of you) or you can present this demo live to a VIPKid staff member.  VIPKid looks at several things during a Demo:

  1. Speaking Speed and Language: Speak slowly and avoid using too many “ums, likes, uhs.” Read more about teacher talk here.
  2. TPR (Total Physical Response): Use body language to convey meaning. Read this intro to TPR on our blog or watch this TPR video.
  3. Modeling: Demonstrate what you want the student to do. Do you want the child to circle something? Draw a circle in the air as you speak.
  4. Repetition: It’s always helpful to repeat key words or sentences. Read more about repetition here. 

Nancy Taylor is a VIPKid brand ambassador and makes excellent videos to demonstrate and explain parts of the VIPKid hiring process as well as helpful classroom tips.  Here are her tips for the Demo:

The Smart Demo

The Smart Demo is a very quick, approximately 2 minute video taken on a mobile device with the following format:

  • Record a short video demo
  • Immediately receive feedback
  • Lesson tips are provided throughout the process

The same tips for the Demo apply to the Smart Demo.  Check out this video from Nancy Taylor for some helpful tips on the Smart Demo.

The next step in the VIPKid hiring process is the Mock Class.  The Mock Class allows applicants to demonstrate the VIPKid tools they have learned in a Mock Class setting with a mentor.

The Mock Class

For the Mock Class portion of the VIPKid hiring process, applicants will teach a class to a mentor.  This class is a PowerPoint that is approximately 10 slides long.  Think of the Mock Class as job training.  Most applicants do not pass their first Mock Class, but go on to complete 2, 3, or more Mock Classes.  Mock Classes are scheduled with a mentor who will pretend to be a student, observe your teaching, then provide feedback on how you completed the lesson.  The Mock Class only lasts about 30 minutes and if you do not pass the first time, you schedule another 30 minute time block until you pass

Here are a few tips for the Mock Class:

  • Reward system and supplementary tools: use them to motivate students and support the overall lesson objectives
  • Modeling: ensure that modeling follows the “I do- we do- you do” sequence. Use hand gestures, interactive functions, and props when modeling.
  • Lesson Objectives: meet the lesson objectives that are laid out in the beginning of the lesson (E.g. Vocabulary, sentence frames, HFW, phonics, math, social studies, etc.)
  • TPR: use body language to explain the vocabulary
  • Speaking Speed and Language: Teacher output (speaking speed, difficulty and complexity of language) is appropriate for the student’s level and incidental language (filler language, etc) is avoided or minimized.
  • Extension: Teacher extends the lesson content according to the student’s language proficiency level by adding level-appropriate new knowledge or drawing on what the student has previously learned.
  • Phonics: learn how to do TPR for phonics

There are two level options for new hires to certify for at VIPKid.  There is the 2/3 level certification as well as a level 4/5 certification.  Applicants may choose one level option or complete both.  If you complete both you don’t have to go through the hassle of certifying for two separate levels after you pass a Mock Class, but you will be certified for all four levels.  If you only choose to complete and pass one Mock Class you will have to qualify to certify for each other level separately later, which can take longer and be a bit more of a hassle (see my section about Certifications).

VIPKid provides Mock Class PowerPoint slides for applicants to prepare for each demo.  VIPKid also provides lesson objectives for mock classes A & B.  I will warn you, I didn’t find the objectives particularly helpful, but the PowerPoint slides are amazing to practice from.  They are the exact lesson and you can practice pacing, TPR, and prepare props for each lesson.

Mock Class Levels 2/3

You can download VIPKid’s Mock Class slides for levels 2/3 here: Mock Class 2/3 PowerPoint Slides

Here are Nancy Taylor‘s sample Mock Classes for both A & B.  I found that these helped me prepare the most for the Mock Class.

Mock Class Levels 4/5

Here is a sample and tips for passing the Level 4/5 Mock Class from Nancy Taylor:

The Mock Class mentors are very informative and helpful.  Their job is to make sure you’re prepared for your first VIPKid class.  If you do have to schedule multiple Mock Classes, don’t be discouraged!  Think of it as getting more practice and you’ll be more prepared for your first class!  Once you pass your Mock Class you’ll be prompted by VIPKid to sign your contract.

The Contract

After being contacted by VIPKid that the Mock Class has been passed, they’ll allow you to sign your contract.  To complete your contract you must submit the following:

  • Contact information
  • Profile photo – something professional that will grab the attention of parents booking classes
  • Featured photos – fun photos that show your personality
  • Introductory video – a fun video that will help parents see your teaching style and will encourage them to book you for classes (check out Nancy Taylor’s tutorial for making a video using your iPhone below)
  • About me – add information that will tell parents more about you, your teaching style, and what you hope to do to help their children learn English
  • VIPKid Certification – all applicants must obtain the VIPKid Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL) certification prior to signing a contract (you can read more about the VIPKid TESOL in the Certifications section of this post)
  • Degree information – VIPKid only accepts a photo of your degree
  • Certifications – list any teaching certifications you may have

Screen Shot 2020-06-14 at 5.03.16 PM

Your contract will include your base pay (VIPKid uses incentives in a tiered system) information as well.  Once your contract is signed, your base pay is set and you are ready to teach!

Booking Classes

Once your contract is signed there will be a short window of time that booking will be unavailable to you (around an hour or so).  Once this window of time ends, you may begin booking your classes.  Booking slots may be opened and marked “Short Notice”.  Short Notice denotes that you are willing to teach a course with less than 24 hours notice up to an hour before the class begins.

Screen Shot 2020-06-14 at 9.39.51 PM

If you choose to become certified in trials (trial classes for those interested in signing up for VIPKid), there is an option to turn on a function called Trial Rebooking.  If a trial student doesn’t show up to class, you may be moved to a new classroom with a new student at a moment’s notice.  This function is great to ensure you have a student to teach and receive full pay.  If you’d prefer to get some practice before being rebooked at a moment’s notice, this function may be turned off in Account Center in the Teacher Portal.

Screen Shot 2020-06-14 at 9.52.00 PM

Just make sure that whatever slots you open you are able to teach at those times.  There are penalties (financial and potentially harmful to your contract renewal or dismissal) for canceling a class or not showing up for class.

How Many Bookings Can I Expect?

There is no easy answer for this one.  I had around 6-7 classes my first and second month as a VIPKid teacher.  Apparently, this isn’t the norm-it’s usually much lower and some teachers don’t receive any bookings at all their first few months.  My third month I only taught one or two classes, but during this time the entire country was navigating COVID-19.  This was a terrible time to be a newbie because not only were brick and mortar teachers home and opening more slots (of course students will choose veteran teachers!), but bookings were down in China due to the children returning to school and their normal lives at this point.  Add to all of this chaos the thousands of new hires due to people in America looking for any work from home opportunities they could find.

Last month I taught approximately 20-25 classes and this month I will be teaching many more as my schedule is almost full.  I noticed a large increase in bookings when I certified to teach trials and gained more experience.  The more classes you certify for, the better chance your schedule will be booked.

VIPKid just recently changed their pay incentive system for veteran teachers.  Newer teachers (which is the category I fall in) seem to be booked more often, since we’re technically receiving less pay.  This hasn’t been outright stated, but from what I’ve observed in teacher groups this seems to be the case.  Just as the number of classes I’m teaching seem to increase, it seems that I have observed more veteran, higher paid teachers receiving fewer bookings and sometimes zero bookings.

All of this being said, this isn’t an instantaneous money maker.  It takes time to market yourself and build up regular students or become comfortable teaching trials to gain new students.

What Classes Should I REALLY Certify In?

All. Of. Them.  No, really.  Whatever is available to certify in, certify in it.  If you decide you don’t like teaching a particular type of class you can send a ticket to VIPKid to have that certification removed if you don’t care for that type of class.

Certifications will only become available if you’ve received an advanced certification in a prior level, taught a certain number of classes, or received a certain amount of 5 Apple feedback from parents.

An Advanced Certification is received after teaching five classes of a newly certified level.  After five classes are taught, VIPKid will review one of the five classes taught and if the teacher passes, they’ll receive an Advanced Certification for that level and may teach as many courses in that level as they receive bookings for.

If there is a level or supplementary course a teacher would like to become certified in, the certifications will be listed under Resources ⇒ Certifications.

Screen Shot 2020-06-16 at 2.49.00 PM

Major Course and Supplementary courses will be the first certifications any VIPKid may qualify for.  Clicking on the course will provide details about what is necessary to qualify for the certification at the bottom of the page.

There are also TESOL and TEFL Edu Courses available.  These should be certifications that all VIPKid teachers obtain.  Parents can see that teachers have certified for all of them and they will be more likely to book classes with teachers who hold these certifications.

Screen Shot 2020-06-16 at 3.05.52 PM

How Much Money Can I Actually Make Teaching for VIPKid?

The answer to this question is similar to the question, “How Many Classes Can I Expect to Book?”.  It just depends on how many slots are left open consistently, how many courses you’re certified for, and how many bookings you’re getting.

VIPKid has incentives for finishing courses as scheduled.  These incentives are applied in a Tier system on top of a teacher’s base pay.  Teacher Chelsey breaks down the different tiers in her Incentive Chart.

Screen Shot 2020-06-16 at 3.22.34 PM
Photo Credit: Teacher Chelsey

VIPKid also provides short notice incentives.  If a teacher opens short notice slots, they may be booked for a class with less than a 24 hour notice up to within one hour of the scheduled class.  If a short notice class is completed as scheduled, teachers receive an extra $2 on top of their base pay.

If teachers certify in trials, teach a trial class, then a student signs up for VIPKid, teachers receive a $5 incentive.  This is why trials are great to teach because you not only might have a potential new regular student (yay regular bookings!), but you will also receive an extra $5 if they sign up for VIPKid.

If you’d like to get a feel for what I made my first few months with VIPKid, here is a breakdown:

  • Month 1: $60.20
  • Month 2: $60.20
  • Month 3: $13.30
  • Month 4: $264.60
  • Month 5 (current month, half way through the month): $401.40

Since my bookings started picking up a lot this month, I closed a lot of slots so I could give myself a bit of a break.  My goal is to make around $700/month with VIPKid.  If bookings are consistent, this will be easily achievable.

Would I Recommend VIPKid?

YES.  Yes, yes, and… yes.  I am not dependent on the income from VIPKid, so the fluctuation in bookings, the slow start, and the current impact coronavirus and relationship with China doesn’t deter me from making extra money while my bookings are currently increasing.  The pay is decent for a 25 minute course I can teach before my kids wake up or after they go to sleep at night.

The prep for classes is fairly minimal.  I enjoy grabbing props to use for lessons, preparing what reward I will give my students, and seeing their smiling faces when they come on the camera every class.  Are there some that don’t want to be there?  Absolutely!  But when you turn a child around and they begin to actively participate and enjoy class it’s great.  You also have to remember… it’s a 25 minute class.  It will be over shortly if it doesn’t go so well and you get another shot during the next class.

Once you get a rhythm down it’s easy to be excited about trying new reward systems, new camera technologies in the classroom to make it more interesting, or using very simple props.  The great part about VIPKid is you can open as many or as few booking slots as you’d like-YOU are in charge.  Don’t want to spend a lot of time on props? Don’t!  Grab an apple, a banana, something that has the color that is in the lesson and you’re DONE.  It’s all about the delivery and how you would like to run your classroom.

VIPKid provides all of the tools to make your classes a success.  Bookings may be slow to roll in at first, but they’ll come in time.  It’s great to sign up, see if it’s for you, then figure the rest out along the way!

Contact me with any questions about VIPKid you may have!  I would be happy to help with anything I can to help you on your VIPKid journey!

How to Extract Image Frames from a Video Using VLC Media Player (The Easy Way!)

How to Extract Image Frames from a Video Using VLC Media Player (The Easy Way!)

If you need to extract image frames from a video file, here is an easy (and free!) way to do just that.

**Note: You must run VLC Media Player as Administrator for this to work**

If you don’t have VLC Media Player, download the latest version here.  Open VLC Media Player and open the video file that you wish to extract image frames from.  Open Tool Preferences.

vlc tool preferences

Under Video (top icon), select Show All Settings (it will default to simple settings only).

video preferences

Expand the Video Filters section and select “Scene filter” (Video⇒Filters⇒Scene filter).

Scene filter

Fill in all of the specifics for your purposes and the location you wish the image files to save to.  Head back to the main VLC Player interface, play the video, and voila!  Your image files will be saved to the designated file location.

So the Windows Update Killed Your Python Environment…

So the Windows Update Killed Your Python Environment…

Yeah.  Me too.  Seriously… Bill Gates can shove it.  I am a die-hard Apple fan to the core (ha!  See what I did there??? To the core!).  Why?  Because they WORK.  I am by no means the most tech savvy person, but I’m also not a 95 year old grandmother trying to use Tik Tok.  My Apple products don’t get bugs, updates don’t crash every application or development environment I have, and they just. work.  Seriously.

Coding algorithms and mathematical computations are totally my thing and I don’t like wasting my time trying to set up an environment, so this really ticked me off after installing updates I really didn’t want to install in the first place.  Updates installed, then BAM…

python command prompt

Steve Jobs never would’ve done this to me… just sayin’.  Ok, so it won’t activate.  I uninstalled and reinstalled this newest version of Python and still… no dice.

Here’s how I was able to actually open Python from the Anaconda Navigator because… guess what?  The Anaconda Navigator wouldn’t open either.  Fun times, people… fun times.

Find the folder that your Anaconda Navigator is located in by doing a search in the Start Menu.

Anaconda Navigator Location

Open the file location and locate the Scripts folder.  Run the Navigator executable in the Scripts folder (anaconda-navigator.exe).

scripts file location

This should bring up the Anaconda Navigator interface so you can open Spyder and be on your way back to Python.  If you prefer to skip the navigator altogether and jump straight to Sypder, run the Spyder executable (spyder.exe) and you’ll be good to go.

Anaconda navigator

Until… OpenCV now shows that it isn’t installed.  Really… REALLY?!  Guys… this was JUST working yesterday just fine.  I just want to run my code and be on my way, but nooooooooo.  Of course not.

No cv2 module

Ok.  Next troubleshooting steps… How do I make sure it’s mapping to OpenCV?  It’s there… I promise!  For some reason it doesn’t map to the correct location (I promise OpenCV WAS installed prior to this Windows update debacle…).  To make sure the module is in the correct location, run a simple OpenCV install in the command prompt and you should be good to go:

pip install opencv-python

Drop me a line below if you find a better, more elegant way than opening the Anaconda executable… it’s a pain!  Happy coding, everyone!


How I Work Full Time AND Manage to Cook Dinner Nearly Every Night

How I Work Full Time AND Manage to Cook Dinner Nearly Every Night

This has taken some time to master (and I use the word master loosely), but I have finally been able to regularly make home cooked meals for my family, even as a working mom.  Is it easy?  No, but I’ve found some things that have made my life a little easier.  I also keep an open mind to the possibility of my plans being completely derailed by a toddler who wants to sit and my lap and read (um, yes, please… we can order pizza in that case!) or getting home too late to even begin to cook the chicken breasts I thawed in the fridge.

All of the ideas I provide are just what works for me-find a way that works for you and makes your life easier so you can spend more time with you family!

Download a Recipe App

The Recipe Box App EmblemNo, really… do it. You have no idea how much decision-making time this will cut out of your life.  Who has time to make food decisions?  Not me… or I, or… whatever.  My favorite recipe app is The Recipe Box.  It allows you to import from the web or add your own.  At $3.99 the price is right and I have two copies-on my iPad and iPhone and you can sync them to one another.

If you’re just not a fan of using apps and you prefer good old paper recipes, browse yours instead of an app!

Meal Planning

Once all of your recipes are in one convenient location, it’s simpler to browse your options.  Choose a few that don’t require fresh ingredients. There’s nothing worse than planning a week full of meals, then having to throw away half of the ingredients because you don’t actually get to make a few meals.  If a few meals are planned that require several fresh ingredients and a few are planned that use mainly jarred or canned ingredients, then you’re more likely to succeed at wasting as few ingredients as possible.  I also try to plan very few meals that require me to chop a million vegetables-ain’t nobody got time for that!  Usually I select at least one or two crock pot meals.  Chop the veggies or brown the meat the night before and the next morning throw it all in.

Start small-plan for 2 or 3 fully prepared meals that week, then work your way to a full week if that’s your goal!

I also keep a small chalkboard in my kitchen to remind my family (ok, ok… so I use it to remind myself) what we’ll be having every evening.

Make Your Shopping List

Keep a running list on your fridge. When you run low on something, add it to the list. Add all of the ingredients you don’t currently have for the meals you planned for the week as well.

Browse Grocery Ads

Choose ONE store you will go to this week. It becomes overwhelming to try to make it to every sale. Choose one store and see what might be on sale that you would normally use or may need to stock up on. Add these to your current list.

Shop ‘Til You Drop or My Personal Favorite… Order Pickup

Yep-spend the money on an order pickup. If time is a problem for you, it’s money well spent. This also allows me to see what might be on sale, but didn’t make it to the sale ad.  If an item on my list isn’t on sale and I can do without it another week, I leave it on the list for the following week.  If you prefer to pick up your own groceries and have the time, even better!