Things To Consider Before Becoming A VIPKID Teacher
(Is This Really For Me?)
This is where you can ask questions and I'll be honest with you from my experience. While this is a great job and I love it, no job is perfect. You need to weigh the pros and the cons. I've included everything here that I've thought of -- and explore my other pages for more info. If you have questions, feel free to send me a note through my contact page. I'll answer it, either privately or on this page. Most likely here, because if you have a question, other people are probably wondering the same thing, right?
How difficult is the application process?
The process has changed a little since I applied, but I'll tell you what the process was when I did it. If you use my referral code to apply (just click on any of my buttons that say "Apply to VIPKID"), let me know and I'll coach you through the process. It really helps to have someone on the inside helping you along ... and VIPKID highly recommends doing that for our referrals. They want to see you succeed, and so do I. Please tell me before you even fill out the application form, because I can help you a great deal with that. How you say things makes a big difference!
My husband, Bill, read about VIPKID in Business Week and it seemed perfect for me. I think that reading about the company there assured us that it wasn't a scam. When I applied, I first filled out an application online. It was responded to very quickly and I was able to set up an interview. At that point, I actually decided to shelve it. I had another job and I didn't feel it would be fair to my employer if I tried to do both or if I quit at that point. A couple months later, my situation changed and I set up an interview. I was accepted at the interview for the next step, which was two mock classes. In those classes, I pretended to teach a class and had an experienced VIPKID teacher evaluate me.
It didn't all go smoothly. My first attempt at a mock class, my internet was not stable enough to support the system. It took a couple weeks to get hooked up with a different provider. During that time, I watched every video on Youtube I could find about VIPKID. (I think that was an excellent idea, and I would suggest you do, too. There are specific ones I'd especially recommend.) It also gave me time to practice and to put some props together. I didn't know much about what I was doing. I had a friend who had been hired in the meantime and she gave me a lot of good advice, but she was pretty new, too. I made and bought a lot of props I would never use again.
Practicing well before the mock class is something I would definitely recommend. It's the opposite of doing things in a mirror, so it takes some getting used to. (They know this and they take these things into consideration.)
One of the hardest things during the mock class and, really, for your first few classes, is getting the timing down. You have 25-28 minutes to teach the class. It's a lot of material, so you have to keep things moving. It's one-on-one with a child who may not speak much English at all ... and who is exhausted from a very long day of school and extra-curricular activities. It's super important to show high energy and keep those kiddos active.
Once my internet problem was solved, I passed the two mock classes, and sent in my paperwork: Proof of my degree, my drivers license, permission for a background check, and bank information (so they can pay me). After that, I just had to open up the time slots I wanted and start teaching.
At some point -- unfortunately, I can't remember if it was before or after the mock classes -- there is some training. It's online, computer generated, so you do it in your own time and at your own pace. It's a combination of reading, videos, and quizzes.
As I said, the process may have changed a little from this, but this is the basic way that it's done. I believe that they now have some regional intensive training you can go to ... maybe in place of the mock classes.
When I first started, I was really nervous. Once I taught a couple classes, I realized it was going to be great. I opened up twelve slots the first week. (Each slot is 1/2 hour.) I got one class. The second week, I opened 42 slots and got two classes. The third week, I opened 47 slots and got 11 classes. It just kept increasing like that. At eight weeks, I opened 53 slots and got 34 classes. During the summer, I was teaching over 50 classes a week. I've cut back somewhat now, so I also have time for my writing and because if I push myself too much, I risk going into a Lyme relapse.
Several of the kids who are now my regulars have been with me since the second and third weeks. I now get every slot I offer filled and parents say that it's difficult to get my classes because they fill up so quickly. If you ever feel bad about yourself, stay up late on Sunday night and watch your classes get booked. The parents can book you two weeks out, starting at Monday noon, Beijing time -- 13 hours ahead of me in standard time, so I just have to stay up until 11 on Sunday night if I want to watch my currently 44 offerings fill up in about 10 minutes. Now, that makes you feel good! Whenever I open more than that, they get filled up, too. It took about 4 months for me to get completely filled -- and by that I mean 50 classes.
During the summer, I taught 50 classes (+/-) each week: 25 hours a week, working 6 days a week. This is because I could teach every evening (which was morning in China) as well as every morning (evening in China). During the school year, I usually teach 44 classes ... and if I need to, I can open more slots and teach more. That's 22 hours of teaching. (More about actual time in the next question.) I can change my schedule week by week, if I want. (More about that later, too -- it's a very flexible job, which is one of the reasons it's perfect for me.)
What are the qualifications?
You need either a bachelors (any subject) or an Early Childhood (?) AA. You need a year's teaching experience -- this can be conventional teaching, homeschooling, teaching in church, whatever. One-on-one experience is excellent. Be sure to mention that. ESL experience is not required, but will get you higher pay, I believe. You need to speak North American English. I'm fairly sure that means you need to be a native North American English speaker. (By the way, this is a drawing one of my students made for me. She wants to be a teacher.)
How much time does it actually take each week?
This is a very important thing to know. At first, it's going to take you longer. You will need to at least look over the lessons ahead of time. (You can look at them up to two days before you teach them.) They are not difficult, but it's important to know what is in each lesson and to read the teaching tips, so you know how it's to be taught. You also need to gather props and come up with reward systems. (More about that here.) I also spent a ton of time writing up feedback for the parents. (There is a great tool which will save you this time, which I'll tell about here.)
I spent a LOT of time doing this -- probably more than most people, because I'm just that way. I tend to over prepare for things. I would suggest maybe spending 15 minutes per class prepping in the beginning. And about 10 minutes per class on writing feedback. But understand that the amount of time will decrease significantly as you grow into the job.
Now that I'm used to the job and I know the lessons pretty well, aside from teaching time, I spend about an hour and a half of prep work at the beginning of my week, which includes prepping feedback for around 44 classes. I finish my feedback between classes in just a couple minutes. So, for 44 classes, I now spend around 24 hours of work, including prepping, teaching, and sending feedback to parents. I also spend some time occasionally working on new reward systems or shopping for more props -- but I'm at the place where I don't really need to be doing that anymore; I just want to. It takes me about 30-60 minutes at the end of the week to clean up my office, between throwing stuff all over the place during classes and having the cats steal things from me or just play with them. (At the time of writing this, I've been teaching for nine months.) I think it took me about 5 months to get to this place. It will take you less time, using the feedback tool and managing your time better than I did, which I'm happy to help you with.
How much do they pay?
VIPKID advertises between $14 and $22 an hour ... and that's accurate. I won't discuss my own pay, but I will say this: I'm making more money teaching VIPKID classes than I've ever made in my life. And I'm having fun doing it.
How much you get paid depends on education, experience ... and their own set up parameters. You will be offered a base pay. On top of that, you get paid incentives depending on how many classes you teach per month. (It's really easy to reach the top incentive.) In addition, VIPKID has various other incentives offered all the time. Some have to do with what times you teach. Others have to do with referring new teachers. (There is lots of demand for this, so they always need more teachers.)
Let's just say this. The pay is good. Really good. You have no commute and you can wear your pajama pants.
You're teaching kids in China. So are the hours horrible?
I guess that depends on where you live (what time zone) and what you define as horrible. I live in the Eastern time zone (New York time). I personally teach from 6 a.m. to 9 a.m. Tuesday through Sunday and from 8 p.m. to 10 p.m. on Friday and Saturday. This is during standard time. During daylight savings, I teach from 7 a.m. to 10 a.m. Tuesday through Sunday and from 9 p.m. to 11 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays. This gives me 44 classes. During the summer, I add 9 to 11 p.m. on Tuesdays through Thursdays as well. I only teach in the morning on Sunday and I take Mondays off. During daylight savings, I'm exactly 12 hours behind Beijing; during standard time, I'm 13 hours behind.
You can teach pretty much any time you want, but the prime times to teach (when there is the biggest demand) are between 6 and 10 p.m. BJT (Beijing time). (For me, in American Eastern standard time, this translates to between 5 and 9 a.m.) The peak prime times to teach are between 7 and 9 a.m. BJT. Also on Fridays and Saturdays, prime times run all night long (because this is daytime for China). Some people actually teach through the nights on Fridays and Saturdays.
It's up to you to decide what hours you want to teach. The only times you can't teach are between 10 p.m. and 9 a.m. BJT.
You've mentioned that the hours are flexible. What do you mean by that? How flexible?
I mean that it's totally up to me when I want to work. I decide what times I'm going to offer, day by day, week by week.
I don't have to keep the same schedule each week, but there are two reasons I try to stay consistent: 1) Parents like to schedule classes for their kids at the same times each week, if at all possible. 2) It's a lot easier on Bill & me to have the same, consistent schedule.
When we moved from Maryland to Tennessee, I took a few days off. I informed my students' parents a couple weeks beforehand and it didn't cause any problems. Bill and I took a vacation in October. Again, I let my parents know ahead of time and it didn't cause any problem. (Some people take their classroom with them and teach on vacation. It's definitely another option, as long as you have good internet.) When Bill is away in Maryland, I usually teach less hours. And theoretically, I'm supposed to be teaching less hours depending on how many books I sell, so I can write more ... but I don't really do that. The important thing is that I can.
You do need to set up your schedule two weeks in advance. For example, I'm writing this on Sunday afternoon. Tonight, at 11 my time (noon Monday in Beijing) parents will be signing up for my classes not for this week, but for the next week. It's a good idea to have your schedule set at least a month in advance, so parents can see that you offer a consistent schedule, even though they can't sign up that far ahead. I usually open up about 3 months at a time.
Now, here's the caveat. Do not open up classes that you aren't sure you will be available to teach. There are huge penalties for cancelling a class -- and for good reason. You can always open up more classes later. After Monday, parents can sign up for any available classes for the next two weeks at any time. When I open up a class later, it's almost always grabbed up quickly, even if I open it less than 24 hours in advance. (Like building up a full schedule, it takes a little while to get to that point.) Now, my classes that I've opened three weeks out, I can change those up to next Sunday, any time before they open them on Monday in China for parents to sign up.
This sounds great, but no job is perfect. What are the negatives?
I love, love, love this job. I've had some great jobs in the past, but this is definitely my favorite paying job, other than writing my books. However, it's not perfect. There are some fairly strong negatives. I've worked around them ... as have over 20,000 other VIPKID teachers. But I want to be honest about them, and you should definitely keep them in mind while you decide whether to pursue this. It's not for everyone.
Job security. VIPKID is working to make this more secure for us. One of the things I love about this company is that they are amazingly responsive to our suggestions, complaints, desires, etc. They want good teachers and they understand that you've got to treat your employees well if you want to keep them. But let's face it, Chinese and American cultures are very different. What we consider a good health reason to stay home from work doesn't fly with them. They have socialized medicine, so going to the hospital to have an illness verified is reasonable. For us, it's not, unless it's an extremely serious illness. So plan on teaching when you're sick. That said, remember that you're working from home! They will only see you from the chest up. You don't have to even get completely dressed. And you can puke in your office trash can. (Yes, I'm serious.) I think this may change somewhat as time goes by, but this is how it is now. For this reason, I would strenuously recommend not making VIPKID your sole income. Bill and I believe strongly anyway in multiple streams of income. It's just wise these days. If you lose one stream, you have other things to fall back on.
The hours can be difficult for some people. I found them to be fine in the summer, when I was actually working more hours. But in the winter, between switching to standard time, which means getting up an hour earlier, and teaching almost all my classes while it's dark outside, it really is harder on both Bill and me. It's worth it to us, though. And we're able to take a nap during the day. (I was never able to fall asleep during the day, but I've learned how to. Maybe I'll write about that elsewhere.)
It may take a while to build up your hours. It seems like it's taking the newer teachers longer to build up now than when I was hired. So don't plan on making huge amounts of money for a few months.
You are sitting for a long time. There are ways around this. My best friend teaches with VIPKID and she has a standing desk. That's a great option and parents have actually said that teachers seem more energetic when they are standing. It's something I hope to pursue eventually. I personally stand up between classes and stretch. This helps quite a bit.
You get paid monthly. I love getting paid every other week. You just have to be better about budgeting and planning.
The songs will get stuck in your head for a while and drive you crazy. Take courage: They will eventually stop and you will go back to being a somewhat normal person. (If that's what you were before.)
You have to wear orange. This is not my best color. I wear a scarf so that the orange is not against my face.
You will fall in love with these kids and their parents and have no way to hug them. Seriously difficult. Especially when a child says, "I love you, Teacher!"
A Parting Thought
I look at this as, among other things, a peacemaking mission. Politicians broker truces ... which, let's face it, are more about power than peace. Teachers, students, parents, families ... real people getting to know each other personally and coming to understand one another's culture ... I think this has huge, genuine peace-creating potential. Many of these students will grow up to be leaders in their country. They'll have fond memories of their American teachers. And can you imagine the outcry from over 20,000 American teachers (and many who hear stories from our jobs) if our country wanted to do something to harm China? Seriously, this is the best peace initiative in years. And you have the opportunity to play a starring role in it.