TEC Teamwork, Chinese Challenge, and a Communication Conundrum

You know I don’t like everything about the English Center, dear reader, particularly their cancellation policy. To refresh your memories, the student is allowed to cancel outside the 48 hour mark with no penalty. If they cancel within the 48 hour mark then they lose the lesson and the money paid. But the teacher doesn’t get paid unless the lesson is within 24 hours. So in essence English Center is taking a commission for the first 24 hours and leaving the teacher out in the cold. Be that as it may, I have only had this problem once in my year and a half with the company. But if you have a problem with a student, in terms of preparing a lesson or struggling to teach, the English Center is all about teamwork.

After I wrote my letter to the English center last week, I had a lesson with Vicente, he admitted that he really hasn’t been doing much work on his own for English. At our lesson however, he told me that he had been getting up at 6 o’clock in the morning to do about an hour’s worth of English homework and studying on his own. I was very pleased that he took responsibility for the trouble he had been having. In the meantime, the English Center sent me a whole bunch of books and links having to do with both regular and business writing. One of the suggestions, that I really liked, was doing a speed writing class where the teacher gives a prompt of some kind, the student writes for a predetermined amount of time, then sends the writing to the teacher, who then corrects it, and sends the writing back again. This exercise is done a total of three times in short positive feedback loops where we don’t get bogged down in the why, but rather understanding how to use sentence patterns and grammar. I think the challenge with Vicente is going to be trying to get him to forget the logic of language, because it isn’t, and just memorizing the pattern. We will have to see later today.

In China, the Ministry of Education has published an article about how detrimental online and off-line tutoring are for Chinese students. The VIPKid world is up in arms over the issue, and all of the teachers are terrified that they will lose their jobs. I am a little bit more sanguine about the situation, because my bookings were low since 2019 and my dependence on VIPkid has decreased . I am already used to only working one or two hours a day for VIPkid, so if they go belly up and have no more students, I will just have to figure something else out. The English Center and The Conversation Playground come to mind as well as Lexis Amsterdam who might have some work for me in the future. Also rather insistently niggling at the back of my mind is picking up Inkreadable, again, not simply as a way to run my English language income but also as a vehicle for courses of my own. I am still mulling it over. What is certain with regard to VIPKid, is that it’s not going to get any better, The days of six hours straight of VIPkid classes is gone. At least for me. I know there are teachers within my Facebook group who are having none of these issues, and that’s probably because they teach level ones and starlight and those are things that I do not want to do. I do not like younger students. I am quite happy with my older mature students with whom I can actually have a conversation.

This past Thursday, the writers group went online as cases of Covid specifically the Delta variant, have skyrocketed over the last couple of weeks. Except for one of our members, who took it upon herself to go write at a café near my house, and invite anybody who wanted to come to join her. I don’t ordinarily have a problem with that. But her text to the group exerted pressure that she accused the group of doing by staying off-line. My co-organizer and I both feel that she is slowly usurping the group. It was not a nice thing to wake up to either, to be honest. I’m not sure what to do about it and it’s causing me a bit of stress. But I will figure it out in the end. I’ve said it before, but I will say it again, managing groups can be like herding cats.

I also got my second vaccine on Sunday so Monday was spent as a day off. I attended to some self care, and had cake. I did notice that I was exhausted for most of the day, which was no surprise as I didn’t sleep well from the pain in my arm. I finally rose from bed at quarter past nine. Which is a couple of hours later than I am normally up.

That’s all she wrote for this Inkreadable installment. But stay tuned. As always, there is more to come.

Fraught Feedback and a Hosting Hustle

Sometimes, dear reader, no matter how much you try you cannot be perfect all of the time. Such was the case this week. I have been picking up students from The English Center as there has been a shortage of American English teachers putting their hat in the ring for jobs. But I think it has come back to bite me in the ass.

It hasn’t all been bad. I started with a new student called Mirela who wants pronunciation training. Our first meeting was this Tuesday. During the intake I basically told her that I would find articles for her to read that were interesting to her and we would work on her pronunciation. Her English is off the hook. I would categorize her as advanced but I did notice she made a few grammatical mistakes but they were minor. I think she’s going to be the easy one. She has a PhD in Psychology and her field is on the impact of Psychology on Employee and Customer Relations. I think she will be a joy to teach, as she has a couple of different things underlying her pronunciation. She is from Bosnia but has been in the Netherlands for 20 years so there is some Dutch as well as Bosnian intonation. Hsin Wei Is a little bit more difficult, because while he wants conversation help, his accent is quite strong as he is from Hong Kong. So I do a little bit of accent reduction with him as well in the course of our conversations. He is quite easy because our conversations end up being organic and so even though I prepare a lesson each week, we frequently go off what I have planned and just talk about random things. For example, our conversation last week went from Film to culture in China versus The Netherlands and many other topics.

By far, the most difficult student of the week was, to my surprise not Claudia, but of all people, Vicente. He was presented by The English Center as someone who needs help with writing primarily. But it soon became clear that he is an Upper intermediate level student but on the low-end of that. He makes some significant mistakes with tenses both in speaking and in writing. On Thursday this week, I got an email from him telling me that he was concerned that after 7 1/2 hours of lessons he was not learning fast enough and that his boss was displeased with his progress. What followed was a flurry of emails back-and-forth as well as a conversation on the phone to try and get him to understand that English language teaching at this level and in private is a different animal from University. You see, I didn’t realize that Vicente was a University lecture and expected the course to be completely planned beforehand. Instead, English language teaching is it a business level is building lessons based on mistakes that you hear in the previous lesson. I assured him that I would do my best to make lessons but also invited him to be an active participant in the planning of his lessons. I am also planning on asking him if it’s OK for me to send an email to his manager so that he can give me an idea of what improvements he wants to see but I’m not sure whether that will backfire or not. After ruminating over the problem most of Friday, I decided to also talk to couple of other teachers that I know one from English Center and another a university English language teacher. Based on their advice, I sent an email to the English Center to make them aware of the situation and giving them my action plan for tackling the problem of Vicente. Unlike the problem of Maria, this will not be solved with a song.

I also have another English center client who I am meeting later today as well. It seems that my Tuesdays are crazy busy with teaching from 9 AM straight through almost to 9:30 PM. It is a long teaching day and by the end of it I don’t want to speak to anyone. This client is Dutch and wants vocabulary help. I am planning on doing an intake with him, But I also sent him an email to find out what kind of vocabulary he is looking to learn, general or something specific to his work. As of this writing I have not heard back yet.

In my private client world, Karolina and I have successfully moved her lessons to 630 on Friday evenings and I got to teach her while she was on vacation this week. That was an experience because it was a little bit disconcerting to hear lots of hotel noise in the background. Still, we managed to do a lesson and have a conversation about what sounded like a very relaxing trip to Turkey. I was a bit jealous and can hardly wait for my vaccine so that I can go to Greece and go on vacation myself. Or at least a vacation of sorts since I’m probably still going to be teaching while I’m there. George and Jerry also had to shuffle their schedule this week as they unexpectedly went on vacation so instead of meeting at 10 o’clock in the morning my time we met a bit later and I got to do some lesson planning particularly for Vicente.

This week’s writers group was interesting because they met at my house. Guess who didn’t get any writing done? I was so busy hosting that writing was quite difficult. Also it was Thursday and I had gotten Vicente’s email at 5 o’clock in the evening . I was so stressed out that writing became impossible. Still it was nice to have people in my space even if it took a really long time to clean up afterwards.

That’s all she wrote for this Inkreadable installment. But stay tuned. As always, there is more to come.

Application Apprehension and Weekend Wiggle Room

With the end of Conversation Playground, at least for now, my Tuesdays have opened up to my other platforms. I can also open up my schedule to VIPKid but that is not as appealing. I have been feeling for quite a long time that teachers who have been on the VIPKid platform for a long time, are being disrespected . In the first place, you all know that I believe that VIPKid is actively encouraging parents to go with teachers who receive a lower pay rate. That accounts for the 60% fall in my bookings over the last year and a half. The other piece of the puzzle for me is that I’m not sure that I want to keep on with VIPKid any longer. Sure, the kids are cute, and the work is easy because I don’t have to prepare, but I’m also not challenged and it feels like drudgery. On the other hand, I do get bookings for prime time and so I’m able to make a little bit of money. It’s not the $3000 a month that I was making in summers past, but it’s something. I have also noticed that I am not getting invited for new certifications and am being given the run-around when I call them on it.

The English Center has picked up for me. I now have five clients with them. And it’s been interesting trying to figure out scheduling each week. Most of them want evenings so it doesn’t really affect my day but I have a new client starting tomorrow who wants mornings and evenings, which means that I cannot open for VIPKid with any certainty on a Sunday evening. in time for the frenzy Such was my dilemma over the weekend. Because the problem is that if I open for VIPKid short notice, I may only get one or two classes. Whereas if I open on Sunday evenings for the Monday frenzy I get a few more. I am hopeful that I’ll be able to set the schedule for the nine lessons of the package tomorrow with this new client and be able to figure everything else out week to week.

George and Jerry jumped back on my schedule on Sundays and I have asked them to switch times to my 10 AM on Sunday mornings so that I can be finished teaching by 11:30 AM. The reason for this is Karolina wants to move her lessons to during the week which is actually better for me. I am contemplating trying to move everybody into the week so that I can take weekends off especially as Jasper and I have a lot of work to do at his house in preparation for renovations and eventual rental. But knowing Jasper, that’s going to happen in 2026. The man just cannot move quickly enough. If it was me, the house would’ve been renovated and rented by now. Ideally it would be nice to shift everybody off of the weekend. The added benefit of that is that I can give up some VIPKid time to my private clients and not have to work as much VIP. But the schedule shuffle is going to take some getting used to at least on the client side. For example, on Sunday, George and Jerry’s mom forgot that we had a lesson and the were quite late. My Lingueo client booked a class for today ay 10:30-12:00 that I can not teach and I had to cancel. I am a bit worried that I have lost her as a client as she is not longer responsive to my What’s App telling her my availability. So yesterday, I closed off my Lingueo schedule in the mornings.

I also submitted an application to iTalki, which is another one of those set your own read platforms. Unlike Preply, which has a commission structure that is rather exorbitant, iTalki charges a flat rate of 15% per class. I sent the application on Saturday using a video that I already pre-recorded. Unfortunately, I didn’t realize that the video has no sound. And I’m not sure how to fix it because when I uploaded it to other places it did have sound. Rather than record another video, I took a look at my Preply video which was filmed on Vimeo, to see if the video was platform specific. It wasn’t and so I sent the link to iTalki with a message asking if I could upload this one instead. Unfortunately, I was not able to change the application so I am waiting to see if I get rejected. They did say that I could reapply if that happened.

In writing news, the writers group met at The Hoxton, and while we love the hotel, they are not the best location for us because they are first come first serve and it was really nerve-racking trying to figure out who was coming to the meeting. Apparently, The Hoxton was no all that keen on having us in the venue either, because when my friend Nico, who is also a writing group member, and I, went for a drink on Sunday afternoon they had taken the big table away from the lobby. So my solution for the moment is to offer my house as the venue until we can find another solution. That will begin with this Thursday’s session and continue until I leave for Greece. What we’re going to do while I’m away, is anybody’s guess.

That’s all she wrote for this Inkreadable installment. But stay tuned. As always, there’s more to come.

Conversation Closure and a Quarantine Quagmire

Today marks the last of the Conversation Playground’s classes for this series. We have been busy setting up variations on the game “find someone who”. Originally intended as a game to practice the present perfect tense, that is, the tense to practice answering questions like “have you ever ridden a horse“. I spent Thursday looking up ways to vary the game and was able to find 15. We then spent a couple of days going back-and-forth about the structure of the game. The aim is to try and get the kids running around the school trying to find people who have done certain things, and the issue is whether there will be enough people to find. We will see how it goes later today. By the end of the series, I find that I am going to be missing the kids. Even Floris who likes to push my buttons. Last week, we received the news that nine of the original twelve kids were going to be continuing. I am a little sad that I won’t be teaching them again, but if the other school in Amstelveen doesn’t pick up classes with Conversation Playground, then I will be sure to try and visit. By far the most shocking thing that happened this week, was the response that we got from The triangle, a school that is across from the Karel Eyckman School, was their response to the pitch for classes. They gave Amardip an appointment and then rescinded it saying that they do not want after school classes where children excel and that children should all be average. It was a parent that I was teaching with TEC that requested the lesson from the school. I think that is irresponsible and if I was a parent, I would be super angry at that.

On Wednesday, Jasper came home sick. It’s troubling that in this day and age we have to always think of C orona. Thankfully, his test was negative and it looks like it’s just a flu. But with him home over three days, teaching was a little bit difficult. Luckily for him, and unluckily for me, I didn’t have as many classes as I could have so I wasn’t really disrupting him in his convalescence, but it did bring me back to the not so halcyon days of the start of the pandemic when we were home together for four months. I also decided to quarantine until we got his results. That meant that I did not go to my writers’ group Thursday evening. Instead, I joined the meeting via Zoom and got to look at a new location for the group. It is not the most convenient as it’s in the south part of the city and takes quite a while to get there for most people. For me, this location means a 20 minute walk through the park and a 16 minute bus ride. Which is not as convenient as the bookstore we were going to for a couple of years or even the library. But with both those off the table for now at least, this may be a good alternative for some of us.

I’m also attempting to plan a meetup for VIPKid teachers in the Netherlands primarily, though anyone is welcome to come. I proposed some dates in August, and what’s funny is that everybody keeps asking about the date that I didn’t propose which is 14 August. In true Dutch fashion I already have plans that day, as the person that I’m meeting is Dutch and they planned their life out quite significantly. I did say that I would be willing to meet on 15 August but that is a Sunday and I would have to work beforehand. This, dear reader, is what happens when you’re stuck in quarantine, which is maddening even if it is self imposed. Thankfully by the weekend, I at least, was able to go and see a friend on Sunday. I actually had a day off as none of my students were available. George and Jerry continue to study, Odhran continues to be in America, and Karolina had a wedding. Instead of opening up my schedule to VIPKid, I decided to go have brunch instead. Because I can an also because I opened Saturday up and got a couple of short notice trials.

The English Center seems to be picking up a bit. I now have a total of four clients with them. I also received some unfortunate news from Lexis Amsterdam. I’m not sure if you remember, dear reader, but I was waiting to hear if I would get a student who is a beginner in English. He was from Japan and was coming on a work contract. Sadly, he is only in the Netherlands for four months and the company solution is to get him an interpreter rather than lessons. Still, I am hopeful that more gigs like this will come along and there are always things in the pipeline.

That’s all she wrote for this Inkreadable installment. But stay tuned. As always, there is more to come.

Summer Slide and Post-surgery pitfalls

I think, dear reader, that this is the first post but I’m actually publishing on my birthday. I’ve been writing this blog since May 2017 so that would be about right. Generally the summer is usually slow in terms of in real life teaching particularly around July and August in the Netherlands. Everybody takes off and goes away. In years past I would ratchet my schedule at VIPkid up to about 42 hours a week over six days. In the last year and a half of course, that has changed. The slide started about a year and a half ago with the Chinese government restricting the time that kids can spend online. They took away the last hour of teaching. So there was no more teaching from 2:00 PM in the winter or 3:00 PM in the winter. I thought that was bad enough. But then true to every big business everywhere VIPKid had to have a stable of teachers that number in the 120 thousand range. It’s probably bigger now. What that meant for teachers like me who had been working for the company for years, who were higher on the pay scale, saw their bookings plummet. Not all of us, just those of us who don’t want to teach level one, otherwise known as the babies. Level one starts at Three years and 10 months old. I am not an early education teacher so that is not my wheelhouse. Now the Chinese government has all of us panicking because they have announced that they will stop allowing children to learn online on the weekends or during summer holidays. Which, dear reader, is a huge issue. Because if I’m working is 15 or 16 hours week, that’s just pocket money. It’s no salary to be making a living on here in the Netherlands. On many other places I’m sure.

Over at the Conversation Playground, we have our penultimate class today and the good news is that we are going to be back in September. We even have a repeat performer, Floris, who last week pissed me off so much that my anger actually showed in class. He is the ultimate class clown and was cursing throughout the class just to push my buttons. I feel, dear reader, that there is a much better way to express ourselves than using curse words. I think the words Sh*t and F*ck are pretty vulgar and I try to discourage their use in the classroom. The problem is that here in the Netherlands those words don’t have the same power that they do in the American culture or even to some extent in the British one. They’re a little bit different because in the US you don’t wanna see those words at all in most situations, but in Britain it’s acceptable to use those words with your mates in the office. I was floored when I heard it the first time living in Scotland in 2011. My “boss“ at the Conversation Playground says that he has heard it in the context of a senior level management meeting here in the Netherlands. Given that, it’s not surprising the kids want to push buttons and try to use bad words in English as they don’t feel it contains the same power and severity of punishment as using bad words in Dutch.

I am on hiatus at least this week from Karolina, George and Jerry, and Odhran. Karolina is at a wedding, George and Jerry are studying for exams and Odhran is in America for a month. That made for a very lazy pre-birthday Sunday. But I cannot rest on my laurels because I go back to at least Karolina, and George and Jerry this weekend. I will not see Sander for the whole summer. We have agreed to start back in September and it’s probably going to be online as I will be in Greece from 25 August through 22 September.

The English Center is my one saving grace with three clients. I think I will keep Claudia and a new writing client Vicente throughout the summer until I leave for Greece. As for Freek in Amstelveen, he is on hiatus until 19 July as he has gone to Turkey. So my Mondays will be fully devoted to VIP k\Kid. Which means it looks like VIPKid Mondays will be two hours From 1 to 3 PM or thereabouts. While the news from the educational ministry isn’t good, VIPkid hasn’t talked about what will happen and what form their future will take. I’ve decided to wait and see but also try to shift into other work.

I had my surgery on Wednesday, and it was like being in a video game. I wore my own clothes and they covered me head to toe quite literally with a paper drape. Only my eye was visible. I was told to look at a flickering light. I swear I’m not sure the cataract surgery is for epileptics. I think they can get triggered. Also the doctor insisted on making jokes and talking to me throughout the surgery. I was stressed out enough and really didn’t feel like having to think about what I was saying. My only thought throughout the 15 minute procedure was shut up already and do your job. They also seemed to be very pleased with their work saying how beautiful everything was. Since then, it’s been troublesome trying not to bend over as that is a no-no as well as picking up heavy things which is also a no-no. This has meant Jasper‘s been responsible for all the household chores and cooking. I had a couple of scares where I rubbed my eye too hard and thought I had dislodged the lens. But I think everything is OK. My day is fractured by the amount of drops I have to take and we will have to see how that works out with teaching. Especially for the draconian VIPKid. Still I’ll figure it out. That’s what turning off the camera’s for.

That’s all she wrote for this Inkreadable installment. But stay tuned. As always, there’s more to come.

Schedule Sh*tshow and a Vaccine Victory

I have decided, dear reader, that I really don’t like forced vacations. What’s not to like, you ask? Aside from the fact that I didn’t make any money this past week, I also had a week’s more anxiety than I should have from last weeks surgery postponement . It didn’t help that I walked into the consultation on Wednesday this past week and the doctor again proceeded to tell me everything that would go wrong. Basically he said that I wouldn’t have perfect eyesight. And? I thought to myself, it’s not like it was perfect to begin with, even post Lasik. They did not even look at my records so they did not realize that I had provided all of the records that I had both pre-and post Lasik so that they have a benchmark. To say that I am not impressed by Dutch healthcare is an understatement. Having said that, and because I’m generally a fair person, this could’ve happened in any of the countries that I’ve lived in. The US the UK or Greece may have been just the same. As the week slowly tipped down towards Wednesday the 23rd, I kind of found myself wishing for more classes so that I could take my mind off of the surgery.

Because of the schedule snafu, I worked today, I’m working tomorrow before the surgery, and Thursday and Friday after the surgery. The Dutch doctors will also not give a note so that I can send it to VIPKid to cancel those classes. They don’t get involved in your work life. They did say they would prefer if I didn’t work but I told them that I was not going to lose that income and more importantly, have a big black mark on my record. No thank you. What I have done is closed Off my schedule so that I can do as little work as possible post surgery. The plan is to go back to full strength the following week. I was also marginally worried about putting 1 million eyedrops in my eye post surgery, after all, it has been 20 years since I’ve had to do that with contact lenses so I didn’t think that I remembered how. Luckily Jasper offered a solution and got me some saline drops so I can practice.

Speaking of Jasper, I feel quite guilty when it comes to him currently. He took the week off so that he could help me in my recovery. I am not allowed to lift anything heavier than 10 pounds, Nor am I allowed to bend over. The concern is for pressure on the eye and dislodging the lens. With the surgery postponed to a week later, Jasper cannot take that time off and so will just come and pick me up post surgery. I will have to figure everything else out on my own. Scheduling shenanigans of the doctors might put my health at risk then. After all, if I’m alone, and I forget and I bend over, I risk during damage to myself. While sick leave and vacation are clear in the Dutch legal system with what you can do and what you can’t, and Jasper’s company is quite generous, I’m not sure what that means for partner care. So, the vicious cycle of guilt and self recrimination keeps going round and round in my head. And yes, I do know that it wasn’t my fault, but still.

In other medical news, on Sunday I walked to the convention center in Amsterdam and got my first vaccine. On the form it asks if you’ve been treated for any allergies to drugs or food, and because I have a Codeine allergy that is quite severe, I was asked to stay not the 15 minutes post injection but 30. All in all, the care that I received there was much better and more solicitous than the care that I received at the doctor. I was really quite impressed. I was worried about side effects the following day and so I canceled in person classes for Monday. I did have an online class for two hours in the morning and an evening class with Claudia for English Center. I pushed my usual Monday lesson in Amstelveen with Freek to this morning and later today I have conversation playground.

The schedule shuffle has been truly exhausting this week. Tomorrow pre-surgery, I have my last lesson with Lili who wants to move to a British teacher and I’ve been coordinating with the English Center for that. Luckily they gave me a new student named Vicente who needs writing help. I’m quite pleased that they come to me for Writing teaching as I really like the work. In other writing news, the blog for English Center is a bit on hold until I can recover from surgery. But once surgery is over I plan on giving writing for search engine optimization my full attention.

That shuffle extended to my personal life as well. I was supposed to go to Greece from 25 August to 14 September. Instead, I will be extending my stay another week because my nephew is being christened. And I was able to do it for fairly cheap. €75 is not a bad price for a ticket change. So some of these posts will be coming to you from beautiful sunny Greece. At least, I hope it will be.

The Writers Group met in person for the first time in over a year and a half this past Thursday. We met at the central library which we thought was open to people working there, but it wasn’t. It’s open only by appointment and you have to have a subscription. You have to reserve a table and you can only come alone. Luckily we were able to find a table outside of the library because the restaurant next door was closed. I was also able to secure a reservation at our old stomping ground of O’Reillys to have a drink that was glorious. It felt really nice to sit and talk about writing and other things with friends in person. I hope within reason, that this is a herald of things to come and that things will slowly start getting back to normal.

That’s all she wrote for this Inkreadable installment. But stay tuned. As always, there is more to come.

Surgery Stupidity and Real Life Writing

June at Inkreadable heralds the yearly summer slow down. My private clients are slowly dwindling. I had my last lesson in the current package with Simon, my Dutch student. He is going to take a hiatus until September and we will likely begin, at the very least online as I will be in Greece at that time. I anticipate that George and Jerry will continue with me through the summer and possibly increase their weekly lessons a bit. My Greek lessons are going to wind down on 24 June as my student is going to America. I think that Karolina will stay with me through the summer as she is training for the next big thing in her career path. So it will be Business English for her all the way.

Over at the English Center, I came home from a lovely picnic in the park on Sunday evening, to the rather unpleasant news that Lily would like to switch teachers so that she can gain experience listening to a British English teacher. That means that I lose out on two lessons with her. She asked me if she should contact English center, but I told her that I would. English language teaching on some level, is an exercise in cover your ass. The CYA principle has been entrenched to me from the beginning of my tenure at VIPKid, which taught me that you need to always have a screenshot of anything you were doing so the teacher would not be blamed. However, it doesn’t seem to matter anymore. VIPKid now always blames the teacher. Needless to say, I have learned my lesson. I sent an email to the English Center telling them the situation so that there would be no misunderstanding that it was my fault that Lili wants another teacher. I also took the precaution of telling Brenda in person yesterday as well. I do not like when this happens however, because there’s always the chance that I will still look bad no matter what precautions I actually take.

Over in VIPKid world, the summer is fast approaching and that means possibly more lessons for me. The kids will be on summer break And will have more time. I am not sure how that will translate when I’m away in Greece in late August to mid September but we will have to see how that plays out. It is possible that I will only do short notice. But I’m also vacillating about that because who knows if that will even work.

At the Conversation Playground, we have our sixth lesson of the nine lesson series later today. Generally it keeps going well, but I have been thinking about if I have to facilitate the class by myself with no help would I be able to do it? After all, in primary schools across the Netherlands, teachers have assistants to help them in the class. In the United States, I am not sure that is the case. But I was never a teacher in the US. I am, needless to say, a little leery. But I will do my utmost to facilitate more classes within Amsterdam so that I can get some work from Conversation Playground as well next academic year.

With Despina in Greece on vacation until September, Lexis Amsterdam is not in the pipeline. At least in terms of the group classes that we were planning earlier this year. I am hopeful that they will kick up into gear when I am in Greece and be online for the foreseeable future. In July, I will have the possibility of a Japanese student who lives in Poland. Apparently, he needs English lessons for his work, (though I don’t know why he doesn’t need Polish), and as it will be through his company, I anticipate a greater than private rate salary for this client. Fingers crossed that I get it, I could use the work.

As I was writing this post, dear readers, I got a phone call from the hospital about my surgery. I went through the questions I had with them and it turns out that I can do nothing for the four weeks after the surgery. No exercise at the gym. No heavy lifting of any kind and no sudden movements. Apparently even the elliptical is too intense. I got off the phone with the hospital and was heading to a class in Amstelveen, when the doctor’s office called again. I struggled to understand as they spoke in Dutch but then got the gist. My surgery was postponed to the following week. A week where I had scheduled classes on Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday. I had taken this week off for the surgery. Now I have classes on the days that I should have off, and I am stuck not working on the days I should be working. To say that I am pissed is an understatement. My only recourse will be to see if the doctor’s office will give me a letter that I can give to VIPKid so that I can get a soft cancellation from the company so that it doesn’t count against my record. The problem is that the doctor my not give me the letter, because her in the Netherlands they don’t need to do things like that because they are civilized. Unlike VIPKid and their draconian cancelation policy. If it doesn’t work then I will have to.

Last Thursday, in lieu of an online session, the writers group met in real life in the park. It was a wonderful meeting, even if not very much writing got done. It was nice to be outside with real people at least talking about writing. Unfortunately, the Sunday meeting also went live and so I was not able to attend as I was busy teaching. The (relative) bright side of surgery being postponed is that I can go to an in real life writer’s group this Thursday that we are planning at the central library in Amsterdam.

That’s all she wrote for this Inkreadable installment. But stay tuned. As always there is more to come.

Amstelveen Annals and An Era’s End

It seems, dear reader, that here at Inkreadable, the fourth time‘s the charm. So it proved with our fourth class for the Conversation Playground course. I had a feeling like I wasn’t facilitating the classes enough in the first few lessons. That changed last week. I felt a lot more confident about how to deliver instructions and how to facilitate the games. It seems that puzzle games and mystery games work really well for this bunch of kids. I also focused on time management which helped a lot. We also got some positive feedback from one of the teachers at the school. She actually participated in a little bit in the first of the icebreakers. I have a feeling that we will be going back to the school in September. Well, they will. I am not sure I will be able to do that kind of traveling. I am hopeful that there will be more opportunities to do this kind of work in Amsterdam, closer to where I live. Last week, I mentioned that one of the kids was struggling in the class. This past week he seemed to have a really good time and did a better job with the English, but we also offered his mom private lessons to see if we can improve his English and she seems interested. Conversation Playground is making her an offer of a three hour package, so we’ll see what happens with that as well. It’s a little bit less money for me as I’ll still be making €40 an hour but travel is not included. Still, it’s 100 times better than VIPKid even with the travel.

The English Center Has gone back to full strength with the return of Claudia from vacation. I was able to give her a lesson this past Thursday. I’m really struggling to try and find things to teach her, but I am very pleased with her improvement. She has been sending me her own writing for her work and she’s making very few mistakes. It was a touching reunion with my client Freek who I hadn’t seen in over a year. We have 10 classes that we need to finish up. It looks like it’s going to be a bit of an uphill battle because he’s forgotten most of his English. Luckily it is conversational and travel English that he can use in Turkey when he visits his daughter and grandchildren. So it shouldn’t be too hard to find things that interest him. Lily continues to be a fun student and seems to be enjoying her lessons. She too is improving, but I have a feeling she will also backslide because she is not using her English outside of our lessons. She is watching English language TV series online and that seems to be helping. I have told her to put on the English subtitles because that will also help her to improve her listening skills. To all of my students, except for Claudia, I am recommending finding an English language speaking group to practice with. There are a ton of them online. It looks like I will be doing some of the SEO writing for the English Center. It’ll be a learning process as I don’t do too much of it now, but it’s a skill that I’m looking forward to because I can use it in other places.

My private students continue to be consistent. My Dutch private student is going to buy another package and we will have to see how it’s going to be structured. We have been online for the last few lessons. If we continue online then, I see no reason why we can’t meet via Zoom or Skype while I am away in Greece. The same is true of my student that is learning Greek as well as Karolina and George and Jerry. In addition, I may add a private student from one of my Chinese kids who wants to leave VIPKid. We still have a few lessons to go on VIPKid, so it’ll be a few months.

In other news, the Washington Creative writers group opted to leave meetup. It was with a heavy heart that I went and disbanded the group. It’s not that they don’t exist, but rather t they have changed their existence as a result of Covid and will probably be virtual from here on out. For me it was bittersweet, to see the growth and the change. But also, I felt as if I’ve lost something. Maybe it’s my last link to my life in DC. Given that the group does not want to be on meetup anymore, I had to pose it to the Amsterdam group whether we want to continue and take over that slack. I must say, they’re not being very helpful. Or very decisive. Needless to say I didn’t get very much Writing done this week And with surgery looming, I’m not sure when I’ll be able to. I also managed to get my two appointments for the vaccination for Covid which I’m quite excited about. It means that life for me might go back to normal.

That’s all she wrote for this Inkreadable installment. But stay tuned. As always, there is more to come.

Preply Pause an Interesting interactions

I am not sure if I told you dear reader, but with the absence of Rose on my schedule at Preply, I have put my account on hold as there isn’t much interest for my style of teaching. I like my lessons to be me teaching certainly, but I also like there to be a language exchange. Specifically, I believe that if we can find commonalities in language, then we connect our own language to the one we are learning, and that makes it easier to learn. We also connect to each other, I am a member of The Preply Tutor Facebook group, and it seems that I am not the only one having trouble. I see lots of posts about how people have been on this site for months and have gotten nothing. So I figured, since Lingueo, English Center, The Conversation playground and VIPKid seem to be giving me more work, I might as well focus on them. VIPKid continues much the same as before, with the added stressor of the Chinese government again looking at online and off-line educational tutoring and making major changes. I am not sure that platforms like VIPKid are going to be long for the world in the format that they are now. It seems more and more than they’re trying to get away from live interactions with teachers and instead teach English through videos and artificial intelligence. Lingueo this month was a one off and I had one student for two hours. While we connected, I am not sure that he will book me again because his schedule may not allow for it. He waited until the last minute to complete his 20 hours of lessons and must finish them by 1 June. Last I checked he had six hours to go. None of them are with me.

Over at the English Center things seem to be picking up. And while I was not able to add a student to my roster from them, they seem to be doing a lot more students who need creative writing so that will be something that I would particularly interested in pursuing in the future. My personal schedule with English center is fairly slow as I only have Lili once a week and my client Claudia who is currently on vacation in the Dutch Caribbean. She comes back 1 June and I hope that we will be able to schedule lessons shortly there after. Yesterday, I had my first class in a while at the Amstelveen location with Freek who has been my client since 2019. We hadn’t seen each other in a year and a half however, because he is older and was afraid of the virus but also his company who is paying for his lesson, would not let him do it online for security reasons. I also spoke to Brenda, the owner of the English Center who made me an interesting offer. She has asked me to write their blog posts and edit some of their materials. She asked me what I would charge, and I’m charging her what I am charging Lexis Amsterdam which is €25 an hour. I suppose it’s a little lower than the normal, but because I don’t have that much experience I don’t want to over charge.

I had a Conversation Playground heart attack this past week. Amardip picked me up, and on the phone told me to remind him to tell me what one of the kids mother said to explain his absence at the lessons. I had a very fraught couple of hours because I thought I had done something. But I needn’t have worried. Apparently, when she asked him how he felt about the lessons he said he felt sad. So she asked us to be more encouraging with her son. That is all well and good with it student does not have the level of the other kids. He is actually well behind. While the other kids may be a solid A2-B1, this little boy is very much an A0-A1. He has a little bit of an understanding of English and can use it in simple sentences but he has nowhere near the complexity of some of the other students. I know that Amardip was agonizing over how to talk to the parents about that. I do find that it’s better to be a bit more direct, at least that’s with the Chinese parents. I am not so sure about Dutch parents as Dutch culture is direct towards you but is less so when the directness is being thrown to them. I’ll find out later what Amardip decided to do. The classes are going well, but I understand that Amardip and I have different ways of thinking about games. For me, a game is anything that you can use to get the students using the language that you need them to practice. For Amardip, a game is some thing that you make up on your own with cards and bells and whistles. Such was the case with the game I came up with that Amardip had to gameify more . It could’ve been a miscommunication, but I find it very difficult and have decided to let him plan all the games and if he wants my assistance he can ask.

I had my last lesson with Alena on Thursday this week. I am going to miss our lessons. They are extremely fun but I get the sense that she’s not in a place to be able to take more English lessons at this time. She did say that she would be happy to write a review for me and would definitely let me know if she wanted more English lessons in the future. In the meantime, I think I’ve made a friend and with things opening up next week, I think I’ll get to see her socially. My project for the next couple of weeks is figuring out how my students can leave me reviews on Google.

With my surgery and multiple follow up appointments scheduled for June and July, I am also looking forward to about a week’s worth of not doing very much at all. I am a little concerned about the Conversation Playground because it tends to be more active and the Doctors don’t want you to bend or do anything strenuous for the first couple of days. Luckily the surgery is on a Wednesday and so that gives me six days to heal. I am going to take the week off from VIPKid just to be safe.

The vaccinations here in the Netherlands have picked up speed and my birth year is now open to be vaccinated. I have had a devil of a time trying to find a time because of the surgery but also because the location of the vaccination is in the middle of nowhere. The options that I have been given are at least an hour commute from where I live. I’m not sure why they make it so difficult if they do. On Saturday, I had to call them to make the appointment and that was a laugh riot. Me trying to speak in Dutch I feel very unconfident about the language. But at least I didn’t get hung up on. I have heard that happening to other Non-Dutch speakers.

That’s all she wrote for this Inkreadable installment. But stay tuned. As always, there’s more to come.

Lingueo Limbo and Daunting Doubt

My classes with Lingueo have been over since 23 April when I had my last class with Delphine. I told you in my last post that I had been scheduled for a client with them starting on 3 May but could not do that lesson because I was already scheduled to work for VIPKid and the following week I was not able to because I was away. On Friday, I got a one-off lesson with a student for two hours of conversation. For the first time ever in my teaching career, I did not prep for this lesson. The lesson was scheduled from 3 o’clock to 5 o’clock on Friday. I therefore had to shuffle a planned Greek lesson with Odhran. The student, whose name is Nicola, called me and asked if we could do an hour in the morning and an hour in the afternoon. That actually worked better for me and I was able to contact Odhran’s mom and schedule a Greek lesson for Friday. Lingueo in many ways is a wonderful platform because they pay you money in euros without taking commission and there is no Walmart sweepstakes atmosphere like there is at VIPKid, or a ridiculous commission structure as there is with Preply. They give the courses that they offer names, like Lilate preparation or oral preparation, but it is not clear what that means. When I first started with the company I researched a bit and it turns out that Lilate is an English competency exam given by the French government. I could not find any preparation materials online. So it has been a struggle to figure out lessons for my Lingueo students since I started with the company. Friday was no exception as I was racking my brain to figure out what I would teach Nicola. But winging it turned out to be a good strategy at least for him. While we had a great time talking, across all kinds of topics but mostly corona procedures throughout Europe. I am not sure that I am going to see him again, though. I looked at his information and he has five different teachers including me. He has had eight out of 20 hours of lessons, two of which were with me. He needs to finish these hours by 1 June. I’m not sure why he waited till the last minute to get started, but if it’s any indication from his schedule and the fact that he was 15 minutes late the first and And second hour, as well as having to leave in the middle of the second hour to take a phone call, it seems that his schedule is not very flexible. He works for Disney and it seems that Disney is starting to hop. As of this writing, I am back to Lingueo limbo with no students on the schedule. After the fiasco with the student who canceled all lessons with me, I updated my schedule to reflect that I could work mornings and afternoons after three, leaving the PPT hours for VIPKid.

Speaking of VIPKid, my strategy to only open short notice on the weekends and short notice for the hours 10 to 12 my time, partially works. While I am getting no short notice bookings during the week, I am getting a few short notice trials on the weekend. Such was the case on Saturday when I had a level seven at 12:30 PM trial and a short notice trial 2 PM. I’ve been thinking about my schedule on VIPKid and I wonder if my schedule is low not just because I am a highly paid teacher (at least on their scale), but also because most of my students are in the higher levels, and so don’t have time to take VIPKid anymore. The company has started asking for referrals for teachers as you know from last weeks post. I wish they would be as aggressive about marketing to actual paying customers as they are asking teachers to recruit for them. It used to be when you recruited you got good money to refer and people made sideline businesses out of that. Now they give you tokens to refer. I’ve already told VIPKid what I think of this strategy, and in no uncertain terms a couple weeks ago when they had another survey. Needless to say I will not be referring.

Over at the Conversation Playground, class three marked the first class that I actually planned part of myself. I continue to feel that teaching kids on a regular basis is not for me. I am very specifically a teacher of English as a foreign language and that is what I wish to remain. What this means is that my schedule will continue to be inconsistent. Things I learned from the last class: giving instructions in a clear concise manner is the most important thing you can do in the classroom. Both instruction checking questions and concept checking questions are important. I remember from my days of CELTA back in 2016, that that was something that was really difficult for me. My solution for the problem was to go back and look at my textbooks and see how they are formulated and how to ask them. I think I’m gonna have to do some memorizing. The more I go into the classroom with the kids in Amstelveen however, The more comfortable I get and that can only lead to good things. Because there will be more work. I connected my English Center student with the Conversation Playground to see if they could jointly set up classes at her son’s school. We’ll see if that works out.

I am experiencing a slow down in writing, chiefly because I’m having a hard time figuring out if I changed a plot point throughout the book or not. I’ll explain. I had my main characters be given a particular magical item that I thought would come useful in the book. It turns out that it’s not and I had to change it for something else. I spent the last Thursday night wondering if I had done that completely throughout the book. It is not a place I like to be. I do not like doubting that I’ve done everything I need to do. I think this feeling is going to stick with me for a while and I may just have to read the book over again. From the beginning. Another daunting task. Sometimes I wish I wasn’t a pantser. But the thought of outlining is even more daunting.

In other news, my cataract surgery has been scheduled for 16 June. It’s a Wednesday so I had to cancel all of my classes that day as well as block off a week for VIPKid as I don’t know about the recovery time from cataract surgery. I have been told at the recovery is quick, but I’m not sure if all of those people who have had cataract surgery were spending as much time online at the time of their surgery, as we have been in the last year and a half. Or I should say as I have been over the last five years. I am a little bit scared, OK terrified, but I’m trying not to think about it. Instead I’m trying to distract myself with lesson planning, an imminent return to the gym, and rebuilding my iTunes music collection as all of my non-purchased items have disappeared. Of course I got rid of all of the CDs from which I built my collection 11 years ago. To say that I was pissed is an understatement.

That’s all she wrote for this Inkreadable installment. But stay tuned. As always, there is more to come.