Teacher Trauma And Nano Nuggets

Of the 60,000+ teachers working for VIPKid, I am sure there are many thousands who have never received a bad review in their entire VIPKid career. Unfortunately, I am not one of those people. There is nothing worse than waking up after what you thought was a great teaching day, to find a student that you were really getting along with and was really responding to you has a parent who doesn’t agree. I have gotten nine less than three Apple reviews in over two years at VIPKid. Out of 1470 something. Most of them have been invalidated by the company. But I have a feeling this one won’t. In the first place, it already says “changed”. Which means that the kid gave me a good review and the parent gave me a bad one. Since VIPKid is all about keeping parents i.e. their source of cash happy, I think I’m stuck with this review until it eventually falls off.

Jasper is one of the most stoic people that I know. Nothing phases him. His response when I tell him when I get a bad review, is “I always start on the assumption of three stars for anything.” It’s a great way to be really, and I am trying to emulate that state. But every once in a while, the bad review comes back to haunt me. I keep trying to tell myself “You’re not going to be perfect for everybody all of the time” but the insidious  “Maybe the parent is right and I suck as a teacher” rears its ugly head. I know the last is not true. I know it because I have students that are very happy with my work. And consistently book me. And not only do they book me, but they also use priority booking to ask for my classes. The most treacherous thoughts in my head when I see a bad review is that it reinforces the idea that over in VIPKidland, as much is the bigger groups on Facebook want to tell you that VIPKid teachers are one big happy family, we really aren’t. We are independent contractors competing for the same student pool. So when I get a bad review, I immediately worry that another teacher has not only gotten the student that didn’t like me, but that my loyal parents will read the bad reviews, and immediately want to go to another teacher.

The competition at VIPKid can be quite fierce. I have not really drunk the VIPKid Kool-Aid. VIPKid did not save my bacon or my life, nor did it change it significantly. Sure, it allowed me to move to Europe which is something I had wanted for a while. But I am not full of rainbows, glitter, and unicorn poop. VIPKid is a job. English language teaching is my vocation. I love my one and only adult student because she gives me the chance to be a grown-up about teaching. There is no dog and pony show. If I could have ten more like her, I would be a happy camper. I have a feeling that the entertainment portion of what I do for VIPKid would not have to be in evidence for children who I teach in person, as Dutch kids seem a very logical, cool-headed bunch. Anyway, I am going to be convincing myself that this bad review that dropped my average is not such a big deal. After all, things and people get bad reviews all the time.

To balance the bad review, sort of, I had a pretty good week Nanowrimo wise. I have found some wonderful venues to go write. Amsterdam, however, has a movement where cafés become screen free on the weekends. That makes it a little difficult to go to your favorite and sit and just reconnect with your characters. A friend and I, on Sunday afternoon, otherwise known as the date of the class that got a bad review, met at a lovely café called Bocca, which is one of those that does not allow screen time on the weekends. So off we went to find another place to write. We found it at the glorious art deco Hotel Americain. While the hotel cafe does not have power outlets, if you’re at full charge, you should be able to get a decent amount of writing done for a couple of hours. I was shocked that nobody kicked us out, and didn’t plague us to buy something every five minutes. The chairs were pretty comfortable, at least I found them so, and was able to sit without problem and type for a couple of hours. I was able to write two of my characters out of a sticky situation. I think I’ve almost figured out how to get the third one out of her own sticky situation and combine my Scooby gang again to ultimately defeat the forces of evil.

The first full week of Nanowrimo was a success for me. Because I’m being rebellious and I’m not fussing with trying to get 1667 words on the page every day, I think the quality of my writing is improving. I’m not too concerned with the mantra of “words, words, words, more words”. Instead, my mantra has become the voice of my characters. They actively tell me when they’re not doing something or when I am writing against their natures. All in all, I am pleased with the way that Nanowrimo is helping me resolve the issues in my novel.

That’s all she wrote for this Inkreadable installment. But stay tuned, as always the fun is just beginning, and there is more to come.

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