Tech Triumphant and a Dell Dilemma

If I was a religious person, dear readers, I’d think that a higher power was looking out for me. It’s either that Or two other possibilities. It could be that Mercury is in retrograde and tech doesn’t work for me when that astrological phenomenon happens, or I have a demon on my shoulder and the Devil’s been plaguing me lo these many months. But, my dears, I’m not a religious sort of person so it can’t possibly be a higher power looking out for me. Unless that higher power is my friend Raffaele. On Thursday at the writers’ Group, he finally fixed my tech issue. I was able to write, (or not write) at the bookstore with Internet. It seems that the DNS IP addresses were blocking the signal for Wi-Fi. It took him all of two minutes to figure out and fix. And all he had to do was erase the IP addresses. That still doesn’t solve the small problem of my phone connecting to Wi-Fi in the store and then 10 minutes later having the WiFi fall out. However, this is minor in comparison to the issue of not having Wi-Fi for 6 months. It was truly wonderful being able to write and look stuff up at the same time. It almost makes me not want to give up my Mac, bad USB port and all. But don’t worry, I said almost. Which leads me to the next part of the title. I have pretty much decided, dear reader, on an XPS laptop from Dell. But the problem has become being spoiled for choice in terms of features. Like Jasper, I do not do well with choice, at least not in tech. I have spent the last two months vacillating between the incomprehensible interface of Dell US and Dell Netherlands to see whether I should buy the computer here or wait until Christmas and buy it in the States. Dilemma number one is that I’m not sure that the international warranty applies in the Netherlands or the US. Let me explain. On the US site, when you click on the four-year international warranty plus accidental damage, it is unclear whether accidental damage is included in the price. On the Netherlands side, it looks like it is included. And then when you click certain features other features become unavailable and you have to change them. Did I mention, dear readers, that I am not a tech person? It’s too many things to wade through and consider. Accordingly, I’m going to have Jasper take a look at them. I do not want a repeat of my apple experience and having a nonworking computer that I cannot teach from because I didn’t get the features that I want and the warrantees that I need. And as ever, dear readers, any assistance is appreciated. If you leave me a comment that would be wonderful.

Things are winding up with my clients at the English Center I had the last class with a client last Friday, and this evening will mark the last class for another. I still have my real estate students until 2 December and then, of course, I leave for the States. I put all of this on the calendar, I am not sure however that the English Center reads the calendar well. Because they want to keep giving me students, which is not a problem, but then I have to give them to other people and I don’t like to do that. Not because I’m competitive but because I like to finish what I start. Felix was a no-show this week again but at least he gave me five days’ notice. Accordingly, I opened up all the slots for VIPKid and taught for three hours. The situation at VIPKid is getting ridiculous, however. I am seeing more and more 25-hour cancellations and the slots are not filling back up with other students. I keep telling my colleagues in our slack channel that it’s because 90,000 teachers and 700,000 students cannot possibly a full schedule make. There are too many holes. On balance, I am not loving working Sundays so accordingly, I looked at the upcoming winter and spring class schedule for the English Center and put my hat in the ring for all of them. I’m going to have to schedule my travels to the US around them. If I get one. I’m also going to have to inform the English Center that I put my hat in the ring because they may not look at the calendar in time.

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

Go, Go Gadget Games

Perhaps, dear readers, I’m dating myself with the title of this week’s post,  and all of you can tell just how old I am. But, maybe, just maybe, we are about the same because I think most of you have children. So you understand the reference, and if you don’t, there is always Google. It’s an appropriate title however because that’s exactly what I did on two different occasions this past week. Played games, not solved a mystery incompetently.

We will start as ever, with TEC. My real estate boys were at half strength this week as one of them had a meeting. His partner in crime attended the class as normal but brought his son with him as it was a study day for the schools. When I was a kid I loved teacher professional days because of course, it meant that I could stay home from school. I am not so enamored of them now as I am the teacher and have to actually attend. What do you do when you have a 40-year-old and a nine-year-old in the class with you? Yep, you guessed it. You play games. Accordingly, we played Taboo. Which proved interesting because of course, I brought the upper intermediate cards and not the intermediate ones. So I had to adapt. Instead of playing taboo we just played,  guess the word. Where there were no rules you just had to figure out how to say the word without using the word itself. There were no other restrictions. Still, it was a little bit more complicated for my nine-year-old then for his father. But the nine-year-old showed promise in other areas. In the middle of the game, I gave a little bit of a grammar lesson with articles. Articles are a lot easier in English than in other languages and yet they still cause problems. In English with an article, it is spelling based and has rules. InDutch there are a few rules, but De and het and when do use them are quite troublesome for me still. The kid, will call him Evan, picked up articles and what I was trying to accomplish quite quickly while it took dad a few minutes. It wasn’t so much the articles that were a problem, but the exceptions for the dad. Evan understood that sometimes H and U function as either a vowel in the case of H, or a consonant in the case of U when it it sounds like  Y. It took dad a little bit longer to grasp. But what I learned from the lesson is that games are a good fail safe When unexpected situations come up. Accordingly the weekend was spent filing away games that could be used across a variety of different ages.

I also scored a rather big win at TEC last week. I was able to convince my returning student at Amsterlvween to increase his sessions from once every two weeks to once a week for a total of 18 hours. I also convinced him to switch his day to Monday so that I can combine it with my Japanese couple, thereby allowing me to be in Amstelveen once every week. But I have a dilemma with that as well. I have one more lesson in the package with my couple, and while I would like to continue with them, it doesn’t make sense right now. After the last lesson if they sign for another package of four, it doesn’t make sense to start until I come back from the US. Even I think that is a very long time to wait. In essence, they’ll be waiting most of November and all of December. It breaks down like this: I could do November 11, but my client can’t do the 18th, and I am in Scotland on the 22nd through 25 November, I could do a lesson on the 25th as I get in mid-day but do I really want to? The answer to that is a fairly vehement no, If not the very vehement hell no. In any case, I think I need to talk to the powers that be because I could conceivably give them a lesson on 2 December and that would leave one less in the package when I come back in January. It’s a dilemma to be sure because I need to work. I also have my last two lessons with my philosophical student who loves deep conversations in English. To that end, my last two lessons with him will be about philosophy itself. We will see how it plays out as I try to combine vocabulary I am teaching him, with a philosophical idea I have found on a Ted Talk, and various grammar issues.

The potential from last week’s post, turned into a bit of an experiment as I went to a social evening with adults I didn’t know to do an evening of English conversation in the context of games on Wednesday night. This was hosted by the owner of the conversation playground and I learned a couple of things about myself during the course of the evening. One: numbers are important. If you have a meet up that involves teaching exact numbers become extremely important in the context of group size. I started getting pissed off that the meetup organizers asked us to RSVP and we weren’t allowed to bring guests but our guest had to RSVP for themselves, As happened with me and my friend who is also an English teacher looking for other work. I thought it was intrusive and a bit of a turn off. And it turns out I was a bit clairvoyant as well. You see, dear readers, the inevitable meet up snafu happens. More people showed up then RSVPed and it made the numbers a little bit difficult. Two: I learned that 22 people is too big for class. It is difficult and unmanageable as was proven by the evening. There was no clear organization into groups, we just moved around and randomly were stopped, like we would when [laying freeze tag and then divided into groups where we were standing. On balance, as a technique for separating quickly it worked well. But I prefer a more structured approach and that was a good thing to learn about oneself. Also, we played a game called Articulate!. Otherwise known as the British version of taboo. They also modify the game like I do but still, it proved very difficult for certain speakers in the group. Still a fun time was had by all.

In private client world, I was able to give a business card at the Games  evening, and perhaps gain a client. You’ll see though that has been largely hit or miss. Felix and I continue our two hour weekly lessons and on balance I think I really like the longer lesson once a week. Since the day finishes at one I am able to do something interesting on Sunday. And this Sunday I went to the Hermitage Amsterdam to look at shiny rocks with my travel partner in crime. It was a lovely visit and if you’re ever in the neighborhood I highly recommend. Also if you need a room that is in central Amsterdam hit me up, I am happy to host.

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

Playground Possible

The plot around Amstelveen, dear readers, continues. You all know that I’ve been going pretty regularly to be Amsterdam language café English night for about six months. I go there primarily because I like the people and because I could possibly get myself some students as has happened. Janice was one of those. At the last one, I met a man who believes in English language learning through the use of play and games. his organizations called The Conversation Playground. What he does is go into primary schools in the Amsterdam area and set up after school classes for English language where the focus is simply on playing word games. We met for coffee last Wednesday. It was a productive meeting. We were able to share ideas and the upshot is that he wants me to join his team. I am kind of looking forward to being in a classroom with children. The bonus is that the money is a little bit better than TEC. And, dear readers, you guessed it, he is based in Amstelveen.

Over at the English Center, I was able to convince my Dutch student to sign up for 18 hours of lessons with me starting in February and instead of every two weeks like he wanted, he agreed to my suggestion of once a week for an hour. So I figure since I’m going to be here anyway a lot I’m going to keep my Japanese students and see if I can consolidate the two into Monday nights. It would be great if I could keep my real estate guys on Monday afternoons and then I can take Mondays off from VIPKid. Speaking of, I have added Sundays into my schedule again. While I am not loving the extra three hours, I might as well turn Sunday into a regular workday as I have Felix from 11 to 1. Therefore I have opened up 8 to 11 to VIP kid. That still gives me some semblance of a Sunday because I end at one and can do other things.

Despite an upgrade to macOS Catalina, My issues at the bookshop continue and I still cannot get online. I am not sure what the problem is but it’s been four months that I can’t use the Internet. This is becoming ridiculous. This on top of my issues with my Mac is causing me quite a bit of concern. I guess I just need a new computer. It turns out that I also need a new phone. The battery life on my iPhone 6 has gone down to almost 0. I can be off power for about an hour using my iPhone as a radio and then it goes to 0%. Even I know that that’s probably a little bit too fast of a drain. I think I’m going to take the opportunity and get out of Apple completely. So, dear readers, any suggestions for a new phone that is not Apple, I appreciate it. Ideally, I would like to spend less than €500. And really somewhere far south of €500 because I think that kind of money is ridiculous for a phone.

But as ever, the tech issues that I experienced were great for my writing. I was able to get quite a bit of writing and editing done on Thursday. Though I really do wish that I could type a little faster. It makes 500 words seem like an accomplishment when you only type about 36 words a minute. And I for one get distracted by other people typing really fast around me. I need to learn how to turn the sound of other people typing quickly into either white noise, or inspirational sound so that I can actually get to their level. At my age, however, I’m not so sure that it’s possible. The fingers don’t work as quickly.

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

Classroom Conquered

I now officially have about 16 hours of classroom teaching. And while six of them were for my CELTA, the others have been for TEC. Being in the classroom, even just as a substitute teacher, taught me that I can indeed handle classroom teaching and on some level I really like it. It makes a nice change of pace from the one on one teaching that I’ve been doing. The CELTA classroom had 10 students in it while TEC has had four, three, and two. I don’t remember much about teaching during my CELTA. I think that was due to the fact that I was so damn tired. I was waking up at four in the morning to prepare lessons on the days that I was teaching which was every couple of days. Still, my CELTA ended up being prophetic. Who knew that for five months of my life I’d be waking up at 2:30 in the morning to teach from three until 9 AM Eastern standard time? The fact that I did that for four months straight plus doing some evenings from eight to midnight on Fridays and Saturdays boggles my mind to this day. It was such a relief when I got to Europe and my hours switched to 9 AM to 3 PM Central European time and 10 AM to 4 PM Central European summertime.

Felix and I have decided to see each other on Sundays. For two hours. Which makes it worth it for both of us. You can cover a lot more ground in two hours then you can in two sessions at one hour each. That suits me just fine as I was going to open up classes to VIPKid on the weekends again. With the current Chinese regulations coming into play in November, it represents a $500 a month decrease in pay. That last hour always filled for me and to lose it is going to be a huge issue. I may still open Saturdays back up which will put me back at work seven days a week which I don’t like but don’t see much choice of stopping. This is particularly true because the work at TEC is so sporadic that it’s hard to make a living. Also over at VIPKid, I am noticing that my slots are not filling up as much as they were before. For instance of the 20.5 hours that I opened up for the week from 14 to 20 October, only 13 have filled so far. Also, short notice bookings have dried up since the summer. I am thinking, therefore, to add trials to my repertoire, but I don’t really want to.  I never liked them and I didn’t like selling the company. I was never very good at it. Plus the fact that you are forced to teach level one is a hard pass for me. I do not want three-year-olds in my classroom.

I checked in with Katya’s mom and apparently, they have left me for cheap online lessons in English. She’s also thinking about leaving Poland and going to the States for a year so that they can get immersed in the language. It’s not a bad plan language-wise but I’m not sure I would want to do it given the current climate in the US. Speaking with her and hearing of her plans made me nostalgic for some former students. To that end, I got in touch with my student in Montpelier and Janice. And while I didn’t mention lessons it was nice to get in touch and hear what they’ve been doing. I think that’s the best part of my job. I can stay in contact with my students.

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

Classroom Clinched

It seems, dear reader is, that I have a tendency to make mountains out of mole hills. Or at least that’s how it felt this past weekend incredible. My real estate guys have been back on my schedule since September and we have been having A great time with that. They are two of the most laid-back men I’ve ever met. It makes it really easy because they’re always willing to learn something new. And they don’t have a problem when you go over something that they might not understand. To that end I actually tested them on their grammar and have isolated their problems and we’re going to go through them and try to fix the problems over the next few lessons.

This past Wednesday marked the first time that I will have been in a proper classroom with more than one or two students Since I actually did my certificate of English language teaching two adults or CELTA. You might remember if you’ve been with me long enough that Wrote a post about the Selter when I Re-started this blog. But, I have a confession to make. This “class” was only three students. And they comprised my niche market. My niche market is older men. One of them was not oldet The other two were and I find that I get a long really well with men who are significantly older than me. I find them to be much more receptive to learning and much more receptive to conversation. They also like some of the bravado of younger students. Teaching these three men was easy and the two hours passed Very quickly. It also helps that I’m a little bit self deprecating and was able to use myself and my fears as a teaching tool. It got them laughing. They also laughed at me because I appeared to lose my computer, my headphones, and my phone in the course of the two hours. Really, it was only my headphones that I lost at the beginning of class.I am no longer afraid of classroom teaching. Bring on four, five, or even 10 students. But no no more than 12 please. I think 12 students is my happy place as a maximum.

I have to finish up with all of my students in I’m still vain as it’s getting harder and harder to get out there. But, until I finish with those students I am also putting my hat in the ring for students who want a one off class of some sort or another. There is a student like that in the offering he wants a two hour class just to update his resume and cover letter. I am quite happy to do that. I can write a mean resume. For someone else. I can even as in the case with Felix, get them a job. Or rather help them get a job.

Over at the English center generally, the competition fork students tend to be quite fierce with four and five teachers putting their hat in the ring at any given time. I have a feeling this is going to bite the teachers in the butt at some point because there won’t be enough work. I’m also seeing this over in VIP kid land. I have been with the company three years and have the orange Hoodie to prove it. When I started and became full-time I was opening 40 teaching hours a week over seven days I was working from Sunday to Friday 4 PM to 10 PM Beijing time and Saturday from 6 PM to 10 PM Beijing time. When I took on my extra clients including Carlton and Felix, I was able to Stop working on Sundays for VIP kid. I also stopped working Saturdays but I decided that I needed one day off a week at least. So that was a decision not based on additional income I would’ve done that anyway. So now, do your readers, we are working Monday through Friday from 4-10 PM Beijing time.

Except that I’m not working the 30 hours. I’m only working about 25 if that. This represents a huge cut in pay. I am convinced that this is because the company has hired 70,000 teachers. I also think it’s going to get even worse. The Chinese government has announced that they are going to for bid children from being online from 9 o’clock to 10 o’clock Beijing time. This represents over $500 a month in lost income to me. I am now trying to Figure out how to make up that shortfall. I am hoping that the English center will have more evening private clients. Fingers crossed my friend fingers crossed.

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

Confidence Conundrum

With yet another spate of schedule changes for my adult students this week, all was quiet at Inkreadable. Which ended up being quite fortunate as I was able to help a good friend with a piece of writing. I was able to help her write a letter to her students explaining why she had to increase her own prices for group lessons that she gives In Greek.

I also made a bit of a mistake with a student on Friday. While I did not pitch the lesson too high or too low, I made a mistake and had him to a listening exercise that might not have been entirely appropriate for him. I hope it does not come back to bite me in the butt and I need to go through and make sure that the exercises that I choose are appropriate for the person that I’m teaching. That is still going to be quite a bit of trial and error. In the meantime, I am picking up another student, and I’m having a crisis of confidence with him because he is French. You all remember what happened the last time I had a French student. And so my confidence is a little bit on the shaky side. I also had to go out to Amstelveen on Saturday because the scatterbrained person that I am, I forgot the book that my new student needed. I was kicking myself as I had been in Amstelveen on Friday afternoon and could have saved myself a shit ton of hassle.

They say that bad luck comes in threes. I also believe that confidence and the ability to shake it also comes in threes. This week I have my first group lesson for The English Center. And while it is only a substitute lesson, I am a little bit nervous because I haven’t been in the classroom with a group of more than two students in a really long time. Intellectually, I’m sure it will be fine. But that doesn’t stop me from feeling like I’m not able to do this and having jitters.

I hope that I can do the person I am replacing justice and give as good a lesson as he does. To that end, we have decided to meet on Monday so that we could go over what he wants me to do. It helps that I already have the book, it also helps that I went and I observed another teacher giving the same type of lesson earlier this week. She was all that was kind and considerate and made me feel very welcome in the class.

This first group lesson will be a good litmus test, a way to figure out if I really want to do group lessons. In the first place, they are more money. And they are of a longer duration. They also last couple of months and so it’s a good steady source of income.

VIPKid land this week was not without its pitfalls either. I had a short notice student on Thursday that I am just waiting for a bad review from. This kid had a unit assessment and would not stop goofing off. He couldn’t focus, wouldn’t pay attention, and we almost didn’t finish the lesson. I have been checking my reviews obsessively for the last few days just to make sure that I have not gotten a low star review from this parent.

Writing proved to be a bit of a saving grace this week as I was able to finish up a blog post about living and teaching in Amsterdam. I was finally able to send it off with pictures to the person who requested it. With my writing obligations firmly under control, I was able to spend the remainder of the weekend chilling out with Jasper in advance of his going to Edinburgh. To say that I am jealous is, of course, an understatement. I have therefore charged with him bringing back several very essential things including over-the-counter cold medications and of course, crumpets.

Speaking of Crumpets, dear reader, did I tell you that Jasper actually makes homemade crumpets for me? I don’t think that I did. Last week I gave the teacher that I observed crumpets and have not heard back as to whether she like them or not. I am thinking she didn’t. It’s OK. Therefore there will be more for me. I will never again share my crumpets.

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

Salary Sorted and Calendar Clustercluck

What can I say about the last week at Inkreadable, but that it was more high stress than I have experience in a while. You all remember that I hadn’t been paid by last weeks post, at least not by VIPKid. This week TEC paid me on time and I didn’t have to remind them which was great. VIPKid did eventually pay me, But of course, not in time for me to update last week’s post. The payment came in in the evening on Tuesday.

In terms of my private clients, I have seen none of them this week. I am not sure that I am going to see Janice at all anymore. She has dropped off the face of the Earth and I am not sure whether she is going to come back. That seems to be the way my life goes, however. For every one person that is interested in English lessons, there are three more that have things that have come up. That includes my beloved Felix. Felix and I are on a Break, but it is a temporary break. I am actually fitting in Felix around being in Amstelveen. And on his side, he had a doctors appointment that would take him out of commission through the weekend, so we decided to scrap both lessons last week.

But my cancellation clustercluck was not due to Felix, and my scheduling issues alone. I also had three cancellations with TEC. Two of which I was paid for and one of which I was not as they canceled in time. It’s the second cancellation that boggles the mind for me. The first cancellation was because the client was sick and told me about it on the morning of the lesson. The second cancellation was for Tuesday and that was canceled because the client wanted a teacher with a British accent. For a course that emphasized writing. Yep, you heard me right. She wanted a British teacher for learning how to write business emails even though she wanted to learn American spelling. Because dear reader I know exactly what you’re going to say. “Maybe she wanted to learn how to spell words using British English. Nope, this excuse does not fly with me. As the so-called “British spelling” is nothing more than a linguist’s wish many many moons ago to make the English language look like Greek. I’m looking at you endeavour, labour and colour. And lastly, the third cancellation was an on-time cancellation that I now need to reschedule. And while I understand that these things do happen on occasion, I seem to be losing many clients for permanent lately. I just cannot catch a break.

I hope that all of this regulates quickly because to say that I am annoyed is an understatement. In other news, I took a break from writing my novel to write a blog post about living as an expat in Amsterdam. I offered to write this article, not realizing that 1500 words is quite a lot of words to talk about Internet speeds, accommodation costs, how easy it is to meet people, and the like. But, while I didn’t finish it gives me a project for the weekend.

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