education, kids, Parenting, Uncategorized

Momma on a Mission: Part 2

When my husband and I decided that it was in the best interest for our family this year for me to take a year off from teaching by extending my maternity leave, I had mixed emotions. For the last eight years, I had been a teacher. It was my passion–it was my identity. While I was ecstatic to have the opportunity to stay at home with our son and have the chance to witness and be a part of each and every one of his “firsts”, I also had some guilt. I had ALWAYS contributed to our household income and that was something I took pride in. I wanted to stay home, but I also wanted to bring in some extra money so that our family could continue to live comfortably. I had very little idea at how difficult that could be.

For weeks, I searched the internet for remote jobs with flexible hours, allowing me to spend my days with our son and drop-off and pick-up my step-daughter from school. Very little results showed up in my search. I’m not very good at asking people to purchase things, so I knew direct sales wasn’t going to bring in the revenue I was hoping. With an infant at home who is nursing and dependent on me, customer service jobs requiring phone calls or set working hours just didn’t seem reasonable. Family and friends recommended I offer childcare, but to me, that wouldn’t allow me the same one-on-one, genuine time with my son–the reason I was staying home. I was picky, leaving me with very few options.

Then, I stumbled upon an ad on Facebook for VIPKids. I remembered that I had looked into this months ago, while pregnant with Kellen. I went through the initial steps, but when I saw I had to do a live demo class, I had abandoned my application. I was scared. Looking back at it now, I have no idea why. I have interviewed for multiple teaching and administrative positions in my career. I have had a successful career thus far in the field of teaching. So what was there to be nervous about? Out of options and desperate to find something that would help my family, I decided to complete my application and signed up for my live demo class. It was the best decision! I have officially completed my first month as a VIPKids teacher and am ready to share with you why this is a wonderful side hustle for any one!

What is VIPKids?

VIP Kids is an online learning platform designed to help Chinese students learn English. The company has a flipped classroom approach in which students study material on their own and then use the VIPKid classroom platform to demonstrate and practice their learning with a native English-speaking teacher. The students and teachers both log-on to an online learning platform with interactive slides for learning and practice. The company has headquarters in both China and the United States and offers flexible teaching hours to native English speakers who hold a bachelor’s degree (in any field) and has relative experience working with kids (volunteering, coaching, teaching, mentoring, babysitting, etc).

What is the application process like?

To begin the application process, you are first asked to complete an application form with basic information: name, education background, and work experience. Once your application is completed, you are then prompted to book an interview. You can choose to book your interview right away and then look over the preparation materials, or choose to book an online interview at a later date. Sometimes, they also give the option for applicants to record a demo lesson that can be scored and later reviewed. I did this at first, but still had to do the online, live demo class, so I recommend just starting with that! Once you schedule an online interview, you need to review the materials that are provided. They are extremely important in ensuring that you score well on the rubric you will be graded on.  They also have videos that help you see and understand how to use TPR (total physical response) and props in your teaching.

What materials are needed/ required?

In order to teach for VIPKids you are required to have a computer device of some kind (laptop, MAC),  a camera (most are installed on your laptops already and those are fine!), and a headset with a microphone. I found a cheap one on Amazon!

In addition, you must have a wired DSL connection of at least 20 Mbps. In order to do this, I bought a cheap ethernet cord to connect to my laptop and run it to the room I teach in. You can find these in stores, but I bought mine on Amazon, too!

VIPKids also recommends setting up a classroom in a small corner or room away from noise and distractions. With two dogs and two kids at home, I created a small teaching room in one of our walk-in closets for now! It sounds funny, but works great! They also recommend that you have good lighting, as you are normally teaching during the early morning or late evening hours, when natural light is hard to come by.  Thus, I could a few cheap lights from Wal-Mart to help ensure good lighting for my classroom.

What are the hours like?

The hours are something that I know can make some people hesitant, especially if you are still working a full-time job.  The big thing to understand about this job is that because you are teaching live to students in China, there is about at 13 hour time difference. Thus, the peak booking hours during the week are from 5:00 am -8:30 am Eastern time and 8:00 pm to 8:30 am Eastern Time from Friday evening through Saturday (there Saturday and Sunday). Thus, when I first started working, I signed up for the crazy 1am-5am time slots, hoping to get my first few bookings. While I did, I also realized this wasn’t the best option for me, while nursing a four-month old throughout the night! Instead, I open up booking slots from 5am-6:30 am three to four days a week and 6:00 am-8:00 am on Saturday and Sundays. This works well for me as most of my family is still asleep, and my husband is home to meet any needs the kids may have.

What I really love about this company is that there are no set amount of hours that you must work. Thus, if you can only work on weekends, that’s fine.

What is the pay like?

The pay scale varies, based on your education background and your interview. The base pay is between $8- $10 a class. Each class is only 25 minutes long. Thus, your base rate could be $16-$20 an hour. In addition, VIP Kids offers cash incentives. If you show up on time to a class and teach it through the required time, you can earn extra money per class. There are also incentives for teaching 35 or more classes in a given month (super easy to do) and other competitions and incentives that they put out each month to encourage teachers to continue to take professional development offerings or to get certified in additional teaching levels ( VIPKids has different levels of teaching for students–you must be certified through a demo to do each level).

To give you a brief idea, in my first month of teaching with VIP Kids, I taught 50 classes, equaling 25 total hours of work. I started all classes on time and taught over 35 classes, qualifying me for two additional income incentives. Today, I received a direct deposit payment for $565.00.

How much work/ prep is required?

If you are currently a teacher, or have been a teacher, then you will absolutely LOVE this. The lesson planning and prep work is done for you! The slide shows are interactive in nature and are loaded into the classroom platform for you during your class time. All I have to do to prepare for my class is glance over the slide show and the learning objectives ( which I can do from my laptop or my phone app). I then gather a few learning props, usually flashcards from the $1 bin at Target or toys I have in my kids’ room, and I am ready to go! If you Google videos of other VIPKid teachers, you will see that there are some that really go above and beyond! More power to them, but I like to keep it fun and easy. Yes, I provide high energy and enthusiasm to my students, as well as some fun props, but I don’t go all out in decorating my “classroom” or buying expensive props.

At the conclusion of the lesson, you are asked to provide feedback for each student’s lesson. All that is required are a few sentences stating what the child learned and/or excelled in during the lesson, as this goes to parents. You are then able to provide feedback for the child’s next teacher (as it may not be you), as well as feedback for the VIPKid lesson itself. That’s it. My “grading” takes about 2-3 minutes.

Why I love VIPKids :

VIPKids has allowed me to continue to practice my profession and love for teaching, conveniently from my home, while not taking away from my precious time with my little one. The online platform is safe and secure, and allows me to teach and help students learn in a fun environment, without all of the stresses of teaching such as lesson planning, grading, and parent issues!

If you’re looking for a side hustle while staying home with your little ones, or simply would like to make some extra money to help pay off debt or an upcoming vacation, I HIGHLY recommend looking into VIP Kids. Don’t let the application or interview process deter you, like it first did me. It’s an amazingly fun and easy way to make some extra cash, while helping students along the way.

If you’re interested in signing-up, use my unique referral code to help fast-track your application!

education, kids, Parenting

Losing the Passion: The Truth Behind Educators Leaving the Profession

Ever since I was a little girl, I dreamed of being a teacher. I idolized my elementary teachers, played school at home with my dolls, and actually enjoyed going to my mom’s classroom during the summer as she graded papers, taught summer school, or added to her classroom decor. I grew up in a family of educators – all were passionate about their profession; each believe in a child’s ability to become anything they dream of being.

In high school, I signed up for a cadet-teaching class, allowing me to work in a preschool classroom 2-3 days a week. I fell in love. I could not imagine doing anything with my life outside of teaching in a classroom. I knew it was my passion, my calling. Each field experience in college further confirmed my passion for education. I can vividly remember my first teaching interview, the joy I felt as I was shown to MY very first classroom, my heart-skipping as I saw my name outside the door.  I look back at that moment–that joy I had. The passion. I remember how I promised myself, that young, first-year teacher, that when that passion and joy for the job dropped, when it no longer exuded from my skin and was contagious to the students I taught, I would re-evaluate my profession. That it wasn’t fair for a student to have a teacher who didn’t demonstrate a passion for their profession.

Never in my wildest dreams would I have dreamed that that moment would come so soon.  I have taught in the public classroom setting for eight years, mere pennies to some of my distinguished colleagues who I have had the honor to teach with and learn from. I have taught a multitude of grade levels: kindergarten, first grade, third grade, and high school. With in each  new school year and each grade level, I know, without a doubt, that I have made an impact on at least one of my students. I have watched them grow not only as learners, but also as human beings. But, with each year and grade level, a burden has also been added;one that seeps away just a little more of the first-year teacher’s passion I once recall. I turn on the news and read the newspaper headlines about the struggle to find educators. I read of the rising problem of educators leaving the profession. The news anchors and headlines, asking “Why?”

I know why.

Ask almost any educator today who has taught more than five years, and any one of us can tell you exactly why.

The fact that my passion as an educator is slowly being drained away has nothing to do with my salary or lack thereof. Remember, I come from a family of educators. I have grown up knowing that the education field is not a lucrative one. I did not become a teacher in hopes of becoming rich; I became one because of my passion to help students learn, because of the joy I received in watching a student have their “light-bulb” learning moment, knowing I was a part of that. No, there are many reasons why educators are losing their passion and choosing to leave the profession, but it’s not the money.

In reflecting on my career thus far in the field, I have narrowed it down to five reasons that my job has become much more difficult than it once was and why it has begun to take a toll on me and my family. My passion for this noble profession, like that of many of my colleagues, is slowly being drained because:

  1. We didn’t sign-up to be a security guard. This sounds harsh, but it’s true. In the world we live in today, teachers and students don’t truly feel safe at school. There has been a dramatic increase in the number of school shootings and safety violations since I joined the profession. When I first became a teacher, never once did I have to think about what I would do in the situation of an active shooter. This year, I did and it rocked me to my core. I was eight months pregnant, eating lunch with my colleagues, when the fire alarm went off. If you’re a teacher, you know there are no planned fire alarms during a lunch period. I vividly remember looking at my fellow teachers in the lounge and voicing that I didn’t want to evacuate–that I feared this was not a fire drill, but a moment that could put all of us at risk– a way to get us all outside in the open. I did not sign on for this fear when I became a teacher. I did not agree to be responsible for not only teaching my students the curriculum, but teaching them what to do if someone enters our classroom with a gun. I did not sign on to teach them how to hide or how to evacuate. Have you ever had to have that conversation with a six-year-old, while still attempting to reassure them how safe their school is?  Trust me, it’s hard.
  2. We did not sign-up for the emotional stress. More and more of today’s students are suffering from mental health issues. It is becoming a silent crisis within our schools. In addition, students are not receiving the help they need to address these issues as our school and class sizes continue to rise, leaving students to fall between the cracks. Ask any teacher and they will tell you that they carry the successes and burdens of their students. Every day, I bring home the worries of not only myself and my family, but of my students as well. As a teacher, I have sat in countless case conferences and meetings outlining a student’s past: mental and physical abuse, poverty, living in squalor. This is hard to take on as a teacher – knowing your students’ burdens and feeling helpless outside of the walls of your classroom. In addition, the rate of suicide or suicide attempts by students are increasing as these mental health issues go unidentified or untreated. There is nothing worse as a teacher than receiving a phone call or reading an email informing you that a student of yours has attempted suicide. I have received two. It is heartbreaking. It leaves you questioning what more you, as their mentor, could have done. What silent cries for help did you miss?
  3. We sacrifice our needs and our family’s needs to meet the needs of our students. Anyone who believes that a teacher’s hours are the hours posted outside the school office’s doors has never met a teacher or spent time in their shoes. We get to work before the bell rings; we stay long after the last student leaves. We come in on the weekends and on our “vacations”– heck some of us still even come in on snow days. In addition, thanks to our society today, we are expected to answer emails from our students or their parents at a moment’s notice and have grades entered and up-to-date within hours. Add in the necessary time needed to plan lessons that meet the individualized needs of our students on 504 plans, or who have language or individualized education plans, and you are looking at WAY more than forty-hours a week. But, lo and behold we do it all. We get it all in, but at the sacrifice of our own families. We sacrifice playing with our littles ones on the weekend in order to grade the pile of essays. We sacrifice the MUCH NEEDED adult conversations with our spouses in the evening to finalize our lesson plans, respond to emails from students, and enter our grades. We sacrifice ourselves–that self-love we need–in order to get it all done. We stay up late, long after the bedtime we needed, in order to help our own kids with their homework, cook dinner, and get just a little quality time with them before they go to bed–staying up to answer the questions about the project that’s due tomorrow, to respond to the emails. This leaves us exhausted with little to give to our students, our spouses, or our kids.
  4. We are the scapegoats. I remember growing up as a child and coming home with a note in my folder, an explanation as to why I had to “clip-down” that day. Per usual, I was just a little too social for my own good at times. However, that was never an excuse in my household. I was held responsible for it–ME, the student. The one who didn’t listen to her teacher, who didn’t follow the rules. While there are still parents out there today who trust in their child’s teacher, who believe that maybe, just maybe, the story their child is telling about that low-grade or behavior note, isn’t the whole truth, unfortunately, those parents are few and far between. Today, teachers are becoming the scapegoat for a child’s low grade or poor behaviors: we have it out for their child, we aren’t fair, we teach in a style that isn’t to their child’s liking. Let me be honest here, parents. It is difficult to teach to thirty different students at one time and match EVERY single one of their learning styles, but I still attempt to everyday. I promise I have never been “out to get a child,” nor have I been biased towards them.Do we make the wrong decision sometimes, handle a situation in a way that may not be ideal? Absolutely, we are human. But, instead of insinuating and being quick to use us as a scapegoat, hear us out. Listen to my story, hear what I, as a professional, have to say about the situation or the grade before you’re quick to judge. It becomes exhausting to have to defend every decision that you make in your classroom to the students, to the parents, or to your administration, simply because a kid can’t own up to their mistakes or lack of planning.
  5. We are treated as a number, not as a human being. I saved this one for last, as it is the one that I feel has caused my passion to be drained. Education is a people business. We are asked, as educators, to treat our students with compassion, to show interests in their hobbies and passions, and to support them, yet we are not given that same courtesy. Very few districts and administrative teams are taking the time to treat you as a person, to give you the same respect they expect you to give your students. It only takes a moment to send a “Congratulations!” email to the new mom, to write an encouraging note after a hard day with a student, to compliment a teacher on an amazing lesson, a job well done.

In the past month, I have seen multiple current and former colleagues share that they are feeling disheartened, broken,  and under-appreciated in their profession as an educator. These AMAZING educators are contemplating leaving the profession they love so much because they don’t feel supported. They watch as they or their colleagues are passed up for promotions – promotions which are given to other, less qualified candidates because they “know someone” on the “inside.” Politics. They watch their colleagues cry during their lunch break after a student verbally attacks them in front of their class, telling the administration that their teacher is a racist and unfair. They know she isn’t; they know the student was at fault. They know nothing will be done. Scapegoats. They watch their new momma colleague scrambling to keep it all together–using all of her prep time and lunch breaks to pump milk for her baby, knowing that means she will have hours of work at home. It doesn’t matter…they are a  number on the staff payroll, not a person. They watch their colleagues pack their desk and carry their boxes home. They watch one leave the profession this year, two the next. They watch new teachers come in, full of passion and energy, to later watch them leave, their tanks empty.

Education is, and has always been my passion. I truly believe education is the foundation of our future and is crucial to the upbringing of our society. I still see glimpses of that first-year teacher me – the one full of passion. I see her as I help our daughter with her homework. I see her as I teach online and tutor. She’s still in there, but I know that in order to rejuvenate that passion for me and for all teachers in our education system today, it’s time for those outside of the profession to stop asking”Why?” and start listening. Listen to the teachers in your community. Stop assuming it’s our schedule or our pay, and truly listen. The burdens of our job are heavy and we don’t carry them lightly. We need your support.  We need your compassion. Most of all, we need you to treat us as human beings, because we are.