TEC Takeoff and an Email Enquiry

It is time, dear reader, to go home. I leave tomorrow and while I love being in Chania and every time I come back I feel more and more at home, I am very conscious that I could not live here and try to make a life within the system. In the first place, English language lessons do not command the same salary that they do in the Netherlands. Of course, the cost of living here is quite low. If VIPKid was still an option I would be living like a queen here in Chania. And in the second, this town is too small for anything but thoughts of retirement.

Speaking of VIPKid however, I have been enjoying not giving classes at all. There have been no annoying students, and no ridiculous parents. It has been glorious. So much so that I have decided not to open up any slots unless there is an emergency. What that means for me financially is that things will be quite tight for a while. But I will somehow muddle through. It’ll get better because my apartment in the States is in the process of being rented for October. And I think I have enough savings to figure everything else out. As I was writing this post on Sunday, I received news that my other apartment in the US is vacating so that will be some thing I need to deal with in a couple of months. But at least my tenants gave me the courtesy of letting me know they were vacating and even offered to help me find tenants if they could. Which was very kind of them because I didn’t expect it. It certainly is above and beyond the call of duty for the landlord tenant relationship.

The English Center seems to be revving up quite nicely. I now have six clients on the books, though I have not seen all of them for quite a long time. Claudia has asked that I do an editing project for her instead of a lesson and I sent a message to English Center asking them if that was OK but have not heard anything as of this writing. My newest client is a Dutch guy called Marco and he wants some help with vocabulary and Business English. He’s a little bit like my student Jochem so I may be able to use some of the same material. I also have to set up classes with Freek in Amstelveen and I am not sure if I’m able to do that. I thin that the Covid restrictions are going to change completely starting on 25 September, but the issue is that I’m still waiting to hear from the Conversation Playground as to whether we are getting started on 27 September, 4 October, or not at all. I received an interesting Email from a company called Upper Level in France that is looking for teachers. They do both virtual and in person lessons. I took a look at their website and sent them my resume telling them that I’d be interested in virtual lessons. As always, dear reader, you’ll be in the know as soon as I do.

I’m also waiting for Xander to tell me if he wants to meet in person or online starting on 27 September. I did send a communication to find out what he wanted but no response as of this writing either. As ever my life is full of limbo and I find it a little bit difficult to handle. As always, however the best way out is always through and that is what I’m trying to keep telling myself. But it was interesting because the theme of this weeks weight watchers meeting was time management and I almost feel like I was telling a bit of a lie when I said I’m a really good time manager. Because it hasn’t been feeling like that lately.

On balance it’s been an amazing trip to Greece and I am quite happy to have spent the month here but I do think also that it’s time to go home. My sister and brother-in-law have been all that is kind and my niece and nephew are cute as buttons. But they also moved into their house scarcely six weeks ago and they haven’t had a moment alone to enjoy it and that’s quite hard when you’re talking about a new house. I have resolved to come for shorter stays but more frequently so that I can get my fill of Chania, without overstaying my welcome. Because as much as you love someone having them for one month under your roof is never easy.

With my return to the Netherlands, the Writers Group comes back to my house at least on 23 September and we will have to see what happens from there on out. The inconsistency of our locations is proving to be a little bit troublesome as is coordinating the people who want to be in the WhatsApp group and the people who do not. It makes for a little bit of stress for me. I’m going to have to figure out a solution post haste.

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

China Calling and Writers Group Wrangling

What with working about two hours a day if that, I’ve been able to spend time enjoying the city of Chania. While I don’t like breakfast, I do very much enjoy brunch. Particularly if it’s not a workday. What surprised me about Chania is that there are a lot of places to go and have brunch. So I tried a few of them. It was on one of these walks to get brunch, and also to walk my sister’s dog, that I received a very perplexing phone call. Or rather it was a voicemail. When I went to listen to it as I was sitting down, the voicemail was in Chinese. But, it was from a Dutch number. I called the number back and then sent a text. There was no response either way. Needless to say I was very curious about the message, but I realized that it didn’t sound very happy. In fact, the person was emphatic. I started to suspect that it was the parent who had given me a bad review. I texted my student ShinWei and asked if I could play him the message in our lesson on Monday and he agreed.

I tried to have him listen to the message while I was giving him a mobile lesson on my phone. We had agreed that I would give him a tour of Chania in the last lesson of his package, but we could not because it was pouring most of last week. He did end up renewing for another ten lessons so I was able to do the tour in yesterday’s lesson. During the zoom call that was his lesson, I did try to play him the message but was largely unsuccessful. I guess we’ll just talk to remain a mystery. But it will eat at me for a while.

On Friday last week Marike at the English Center texted me to ask if I wanted to take on a student. Which of course I said I could do. So that’s one more on the books. As of this writing we had not scheduled any classes as yet. Jochem is not on the schedule this week as he is away in Portugal. I am looking forward to seeing him next week and hearing all about his trip. I have noticed in the last two years teaching for the English Center, that Dutch people do not know how to talk about their trip with any but the bare minimum of answers when you ask them how the trip was and what they did. The usual answer is it was fine. They are not overly effusive about their travel. Trying to get them to use adjectives? Forget it. It can be quite frustrating trying to get people to talk to you. The contrast is stark between people from northern Europe and people from other places. ShinWei for instance, loves to talk about where he’s been and what he’s done.

One of the things that I have not been very good about is my blog post writing exercise for the English Center. My excuse is that I’ve been sick for about a week. Jasper left me with some sort of a cold that he could have picked up some where. But I hope to do a bit of work on that today. I do feel very guilty but I think that Brenda will understand that it isn’t actually intentional. Also she will probably understand doing writing with toddlers in the house is also quite difficult. I will explain all of this and we will see what happens. She has given me a blog post to finish and since I’m pretty good emulating people styles it’ll be much easier than starting from scratch. I’m still a little concerned because I did not find it easy the last time I tried it so I have a little bit of insecurity when it comes to writing a blog post for someone else.

The Writers Group did not meet last week as Vondelkerk was not available. Instead of stressing everybody out or figuring out if people wanted to do an online meeting, we simply canceled. We will have to see what happens this week. I think it will be much easier once I’m back in Amsterdam. I can offer my house on the regular and be ready to host each week. Jasper might not be happy about that, but since he’s not home on Thursdays anyway, he doesn’t get a say.

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

Conversation Continuation and a Power Punch

Greetings, once again, dear reader, from glorious Greece. The weather continues to be balmy but this week we are expecting some rain. Which believe it or not, I am actually excited about. In the Netherlands, specifically in Amsterdam, I’m not as excited about the rain because it’s not as dramatic and we’re not as close to the sea so you can’t see the shifting colors from blue to gray to pewter and back again. But at my sister’s house where I have an unobstructed view of the water, it truly is an amazing sight.

Jasper left yesterday and I had scheduled classes for later today. But my schedule’s been pretty light because I’ve only been doing my English Center clients as well as Karolina. George and Jerry are in school mode and so we decided that we would start with them today. Karolina and I have changed our schedule so that we meet on a Thursday evening while she is in Finland. So that’ll be until December. I am mulling over the idea of giving all of my students a tour of Chaniá as their lesson, but am not sure that George and Jerry would be interested. Two of my adult students have agreed to it and so that makes it easy for later today. I will be out and about from 6 PM my time to 8 PM. Hopefully that will not disrupt my sister and her schedule very much.

It looks like I will be teaching on Monday afternoons at The Conversation Playground starting on 27 September. This time I will not be teaching at the Karel Eyckman school, instead I will be at the Piet Hein school which is a little bit better connected to transport. It’s not too far from the main bus station in Amstelveen. That will last until 22 November which puts me just in line to be able to go to the US. I was also rather gratified to learn that the students at Carol Eyckman have been asking about me so hopefully I’ll be able to link up with them when I get back to the Netherlands in a couple of weeks.

Unfortunately VIPKid will not be an option while I am in Greece as we’ve had two unexpected power outages in my sister’s neighborhood and I don’t want to take the chance that there will be a power outage while I am teaching. At least with the English center and my private students I won’t get charged and can explain. But over at VIPKid there is no such luxury. And peaking of, the student whose mother gave me a bad review reached out and apologized. I am not sure that anything is going to come of it but I feel better knowing that I was able to state my case to someone.

I am still coordinating the writers’ group from a distance and has worked out so far. They have been meeting at the Vondelkerk. I am not sure what is happening for this week but it’s been pretty easy trying to coordinate with Elizabeth and Mark. Luckily there’s only two more Thursdays that I need to worry about. And on the 23rd I will host at my house.

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

Glorious Greece and Feedback Fellony

Greetings from glorious Greece, dear reader, where the temperature is a balmy 30°C. The last few days have been spent hanging out with family and enjoying as much of a vacation as possible. This is not to say that I haven’t been working however. But let me back it up and I’ll start with my actual trip. I left on Wednesday and true to form, spent the three hours at the airport lesson planning. I planned Friday and Monday’s lessons. I was pleased with myself. But I messed up.

I did plan my Monday lessons for Jochem and ShinWei. I thought I planned my Friday lesson for Karolina. But I realized during a counseling session just before her class on Friday that I did not plan it and there was nothing in the folder for her. It didn’t matter because we were able to have a conversation for an hour talking about her coming trip to Finland and her internship. I am looking forward to hearing all about it in a couple of weeks. Next week she has decided to take a week off, at least for the moment. We might actually schedule a lesson that is on a different day. Such is the beauty of WhatsApp.

I am supposed to start classes with Sander in September. I contacted him on Saturday via WhatsApp but do not expect to hear anything for a little while yet. That’s if he wants lessons at all. I hope that he does because he is my best paying client. He’s also one of my favorite students because we can actually talk like adults and have deep and meaningful conversations. I will be sad to lose him if she decides not to take lessons. We will have to see.

I contacted Claudia with English Center but she is in Columbia because her father is sick so we are on hold a couple of more weeks while she is in South America. Freek, of course, is an in person lesson and so he and I will not start until I come back to the Netherlands since he can only do in person lessons due to security. And as his company is paying, there’s not much we can do about it. I also contacted Vicente but as of Sunday had not heard anything. We are going to try and change our hours while I’m here so that it’s not quite so late. Greece is one hour ahead of Amsterdam and so with Vicente I would be teaching from 9 to 10:30 in the evening and that is disruptive for everyone.

Both George and Jerry In China and Odhran in Ireland cancelled lessons with me on Sunday. Jerry had a rehearsal that she had to go to and I am not sure that Jerry had anything but it was just as well. Odrhan canceled with me because he was in Dublin with his parents and they were not going to be home in time. What did I do with my free time, you ask? I went to a water park, of course. Where I mostly sat and read a book and hung out with a friend and my sister. Sometimes I could be cajoled into the water with my niece and nephew. But those times are not often. I am hopeful that I will see George and Jerry and Odhran on Wednesday next week but I think we’ll take the lessons week by week.

VIPKid took a turn for the worse as I received a one Apple review from a student that I had hoped to make a private student in China. She said that she thought I was looking on my mobile phone during class. I was not, but it could be that my camera makes it look like I am looking down. There is no longer the option for teachers to ask for feedback to be reviewed and really there is no point to have it reviewed at this time because they’re going to go belly up and the kids are no longer going to be our market. So on the one hand I’m really upset about the feedback. But on the other hand I know that I shouldn’t care because VIPKid is not going to be viable for much longer. . I did contact the student, but I got no response so I think that is done. George and Jerry’s mom told me that I shouldn’t worry about it because no one can be perfect all of the time. And she’s right.

The writers group met without me at the Vondelkerk and they were only three people with Beth and Mark. No one else showed up. We will have to see if this venue works for us. And we will have to figure out what happens for each Thursday that I am not there to host. Maybe we will go online for those days. Or try and find another venue. But I can’t do much from Greece and that is causing me a little bit of anxiety and stress.

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

Italki Indications and a VIPKid vacation

This past week was my last full-time week at VIPKid, it seems for the foreseeable future. I have decided that I will not work until 6 September for VIPKid and instead will concentrate on the English Center, my private clients, and Lingueo. That gives me at least some semblance of a vacation. My sister has triple booked her house and may need us to do a bit of moving around. I am certainly not going to want to try and schedule VIPKid classes in conditions like that. Although, dear reader, you’re probably thinking “why the hell does she care so much with the company going bust”. And you’d be right. I am a bit conflicted. On the one hand I want to get all that sweet sweet money, but on the other hand it’s gotten to the point where I could care less about VIPKid. But on the other hand, I have that pesky work ethic that doesn’t allow me to welch on a commitment. It is a conundrum to be sure.

The blog project that I was doing for English Center seems to be in limbo as I have heard no feedback from my boss about the changes that I have made on the article. On Tuesday as I was packing, I was also doing a bit of work on it to show that I was still interested and that I didn’t wanna give up on the project.

I opened up a few hours to italki last week and had no joy. I suspect that my friend Gretchen’s experiences, will also be my own. The pandemic really affected the English language teaching industry. Everybody and their mother has decided that they can teach English and are charging anywhere from $2 to $80 to do it. Faced with that kind of spread in money making potential, I do not hold up much hope that the set your own rate platforms are going to be any good for me. I already have preply as an example. It is a bit concerning because eventually VIPKid will no longer be possible. And it remains to be seen just what changes the company will make so that they can still employed their teachers. If I was them, I would switch to the international adult business English market and focus on getting in company lessons. Where they can charge upwards of €100 an hour. Then they can raise teacher prices to €30-€40 an hour and I would be a happy girl to sit online for that kind of money. As it is, I have to rely on the English Center for those kinds of prices. It also seems that Conversation Playground is no longer going to be viable for me either. The owner of the company wants to open up the Amsterdam market for teachers like me so that he doesn’t have to pay transportation and that is fair enough but it also leads to a little bit of stress because it means that there’s no consistency in my income.

For all of that, my lovelies, I think I have a plan. In the first place I am going to open up every possible slot I can for Lingueo because at least they pay in euros and I’ve had some success with them. Then I’m going to switch my video on preply and see if I can get any students with them. Italki will be some thing on the side I think. But I also have other ideas that I don’t want go into because I don’t want to jinx them just yet. More on that once I get to Greece and have a farmer idea of whether my thoughts are even possible..

On Thursday last week we had a writers group and I hosted. It went quite well and it was just me and four boys. Which is always fun. There were two new people that I was able to connect with and I think we’ve got some new members as a result. I even managed to get some writing done which was wonderful. It had been some time since I’ve been able to connect with my characters. I also managed to arrange getting a location for this week. I’ve left the rest of the time while I’m away in Mark’s capable hands. I hope they’ll be able to find a place, but if not I hope that people decide that they have no problem going to zoom for the moment.

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

There is of course the possibility that I will be going to cut my trip short as well. You see, my father has decided that he is not coming to Greece and since he is the reason for the christening, my sister is thinking to cancel the christening for another time. I am a little annoyed because I already extended my trip to stay later and do not want to been make another change but will do what needs doing when it needs doing. That’s all I’ve got, and I am off to pack.

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

Italki induction and a Teaching Turndown

Greetings, dear reader, from Germany. I was right that there was going to be hiking in my near future. Before we left Amsterdam I got an email from Jasper‘s brother with directions on how to find him once we got here as well as the suggestion to get hiking boots and hiking socks. I got this email on Tuesday evening, and had to, if not rearrange my schedule, cram in a visit to an outdoor shop to go get hiking boots. It took me less than I expected and I was back to teaching 30 minutes after I had purchased the boots. I was a bit annoyed as I ended up not using them. I am still contemplating whether to keep them or not. (I cut the tags off). It isn’t that we didn’t hike, butt hey were easy walks not needing hiking gear. It was a nice time, but I forgot how many muscles I have in my legs that I don’t necessarily use while walking in Amsterdam. Amsterdam being of course, below sea level.

The Italki induction on Tuesday last week was really me and 50 other people sitting on mute and being lectured about how to use the platform. That’s a waste of my time. They didn’t tell me anything that I didn’t know from being an online teacher for the last five years. It was not clear what are the consequences of having to cancel lessons without notice. Basically all they said was that in order to cancel or reschedule lessons both the student and the teacher must come to an agreement. If the student and teacher cannot come to an agreement then the original lesson stands. I find that ridiculous and just as draconian in its own way as VIPKid. They did not say what would happen if the teacher did not show up to a lesson or had to cancel quickly, nor did they say if the student is penalized for a no show. My friend Gretchen, who onboarded with the company two weeks ago didn’t have an answer for me either. And you all know from last week’s post, that I don’t really hold out much hope for bookings, based on things that she told me about her own experience. I also put myself on vacation because I wasn’t sure that I wanted to receive automatic lesson requests, then opened up 5 hours though this week. But I kept myself on vacation throughout Germany. Thee last thing I want do is have someone request a lesson on a day that I am not available. Like, for instance while I am in Germany or while I’m flying to Greece.

Over at the English Center, I have finished up my package with Mirella. That means that I now have three students but I am currently working with and two students who will start back up somewhere in September. They’ve had a small pick up of business and a couple of students have come across their WhatsApp group. My policy with the English Center is that I only answer when I know that I’m available. Usually that works pretty well. But not this time.

While Jasper and I were winding our way to Germany on Thursday afternoon, the English Center had a request for teachers wanting to teach this week Monday through Friday. I didn’t respond because I am not available at the hours that they need this week. I am fully booked with VIPKid surprisingly. They had someone to teach Monday through Wednesday but needed someone for Thursday and Friday. So Marike called me for those two days but I wouldn’t have been able to teach in person and do my VIPkid obligations for when she needed.

I was rather surprised by my VIPKid bookings for this week which were quite high. I only had 4 1/2 hours worth of blue free spots the whole week. Monday and Tuesday were fully booked, Wednesday only had an hour that was unbooked, Thursday only had an hour and a half, and Friday had two hours. Those were the numbers on Friday afternoon of last week. There were some fluctuations but not too many.

One of my writers is the office manager of the church in the Vondelpark. She offered a space to the group on Thursday evenings. Unfortunately, I was not able to come as we were in Germany but four people showed up and they liked the space which solves a couple of problems for us. If we split our time between my house and the church, it seems to be a good solution in the Covid era. We will have to see what happens post Covid.

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

Looming Loss and Student Scramble

It’s official, dear reader. The days of teaching Chinese children ESL are over. VIPkid confirmed on Friday that foreign teachers outside China’s mainland will not be able to teach students on the platform. Existing students can finish up their packages, but we will be getting no more new students. It was not clear how trials would be affected but I imagine that we wouldn’t be getting any of those either. What that means is that the Chinese market is shifting to foreign teachers already based in China. Good for them. Bad for those of us who live abroad. Jasper, ever practical as he is, responded by saying “if you want to go to China for a couple of years, I’ll just see you in the summers”. But going to China to live is not something that I particularly want to do. It’s hard enough living in Amsterdam where everybody speaks English. It is still extremely possible to feel like an outsider. I can’t imagine how that would be living in China.

It remains to be seen just what form VIPkid will take for foreign teachers. They have assured us that they are trying to open up other markets. Perhaps that means they will expand their Korean teaching market as well as their Book Nook Reading program for US students. Unfortunately, the second option doesn’t sound very nice for me because it requires me to be up at all hours. There is also the potential for VIPkid to expand into other international markets. And there’s always the adult teaching market. So they have told us that they won’t cancel our contracts nor will they stop renewing them. I do not hold out much hope for the International market as I don’t thing that those students will want to pay what the Chinese parents were paying. So for me it’s a waiting game, but it’s also a goodbye.

Once I received the news on Saturday, I sent out a Mass text to the students that I have on WeChat, to tell them that I was available for private lessons. Because apparently that is not going to be affected. It remains to be seen just how much business I can get and just how many people I can get on WeChat before everything shuts down. But the news has left me a bit sad. There are students for whom I have been their only teacher for four years. Luckily I have some of them on WeChat and maybe we will be able to continue.

I am also happier than I can say that I diversified in 2019 and joined the English Center. Because, as much as I complain about their cancellation policy, I am extremely grateful for the work. Right now that amounts to between four and six hours of teaching for them a week. If that number could elevate to about 20 hours a week I would be a happy girl. I still have some private clients and I’m trying to figure out how to get more. I will be OK but I’m also allowed to have all the feelings in the world about the loss of a job that I’ve actually done for five years.

After the fiasco of my first attempt, I submitted another video to iTalki, And I’m happy to say that this one passed with flying colors. I have an interview with them later today. In fact, it’s not really an interview but rather a group call to talk about the ins and outs of working on the platform. What concerns me, is that it seems people are charging $18 an hour for their work. Which is less than I make with VIPKid now. I am also going to take the precaution of opening up more hours with Lingueo and for the moment only work My 1-3 pm with VIPkid or short notice starting with next week.

As the summer winds to a close, I have Freek and Claudia on reserve as they have decided to take a hiatus until at least September. That means that I have to be very careful of my schedule while I’m in Greece. But there is time enough to figure that out. I will have to have a talk with Marieke and English center about how and when students want lessons generally so that I can keep those hours free. Because I suspect that since the last time we had this conversation, things have changed as a result of the pandemic and the increase in online lessons.

This coming weekend Jasper and I are off to Germany to see his brother and family. It will be almost 2 years since we’ve seen them. Jasper’s brother is not convinced that Covid is real and none of them have been vaccinated. They have said that they will not go anywhere where mask is required. Hopefully I will be able to find myself something to do. I think I see lots of hiking in my future. At least when it comes to Germany.

The good news is that in advance of this trip, I have prepared everything for this week and the following week in terms of all of my English Center lessons. So I’m ahead. I’m off to have a think about where to go next and what form my business needs to take. One thing is certain. The hustle needs to become even more real.

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

Time Tailspin and a Blog Blunder

Tempus fugit was definitely the catchphrase for this week at Inkreadable. Generally, I manage my schedules pretty well, but with the extra prep needed for Vicente at English Center, it feels like I’m spending most of my time working on his lessons. It also feels like he’s not really progressing as much as he could be. And with time flying through our package, I feel like he has unreasonable expectations for what he should be learning in 20 hours. I can do my best, but as Brenda says, we are like doctors, and some people can’t be fixed. The difficulty that Vicente presents, is mitigated somewhat by the other students that I have. Mirella, HsinWei, and Jochem are pretty easy. Mirella wants pronunciation and that’s easy because it’s just reading and forcing her to make sounds that are difficult. So I don’t do as much work. HsinWei is also easy because what he wants his conversation and so I usually prepare some questions for him. I also found a great IELTS site that I can use for speaking exercises with him. We will see how that works later this evening.

Freek is on hiatus until September because of Covid concerns, and Claudia has decided to take a break because she is moving house and is too busy to take lessons. At least English lessons. She’s busy studying for her Dutch citizenship exam. So that frees up a little bit of time later on in August. September seems to be growing to be quite busy. It looks like I’ll be doing a lot of English Center online teaching while I’m on “vacation”.

On Wednesday this week I had a meeting of another sort with the English Center. They would like me to do some writing for them for their blog. On Thursday, I spent my Writers Group to leave writing a blog post only to be told by Brenda that it sounded like too much of a sales pitch. So I tried again on Friday evening and this blog posts seem to go down better. I wrote a sort of checklist asking customers whether they are ready for the business English challenge. We’ll see how it goes over with Brenda and the rest of the team at the English Center. What I struggle with is the length of blog posts because my own blog posts are quite short and what I’m seeing is that people usually write 2000 to 2500 words on a blog post. I find that funny because I don’t have the attention span to read that long of an article myself. I did try to do some expanding of the article that I wrote, but it was only about 750 words or so. I’ve also noticed that people place how long it takes to read a blogto the post at the top. And I am no good judge of that because I am an extremely fast reader. We will have to see how all of this plays out.

That will dovetail nicely with the fact that Sander is back on my schedule, as is Ordhran for Greek, and Karolina as well. George and Jerry never showed up for class on Wednesday this past week, and it turned out that they went on a day trip so we spent Sunday talking about that.

In other news, the neurologist has released me from his care as my brain is stable. I’m quite happy about that news and have asked my sister for the biggest most expensive glass of rose champagne we can find on the island of Crete in August. What I am not so happy about, is the loss of my reading vision in my right eye post cataract surgery. While I understand that there were no promises made, I did not expect such a big difference between my left eye and my right eye. My left eye has turned into my reading eye, and my right eye has turned into my distance eye. To say that I am unhappy with these turn of events is an understatement. I did not want to have to wear reading glasses post cataract surgery. As I told Jasper’s mom, I will do what I need to do with regard to reading glasses or otherwise, be it a glass with no refraction in the left and lens correction the right or just reading with my left eye. But I’m also allowed to have all the feelings with it. I’m allowed to be angry and I’m allowed to think that this is not cool.

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

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.