Sudden sickness

This week, dear readers, at Inkreadable was quite eventful. And I don’t mean that in a good way. Although, it ended well enough, it started out with a whimper. I had never in my six year career as a teacher, canceled on a student. At least, not due to illness. Inclement weather, sure. As was the case with Carlton and the one snowstorm that we had here in the Netherlands back in 2019. I’m not sure what happened, but in the middle of the night Monday into Tuesday I woke up feeling very dizzy. At the time I attribute it to not sleeping well. But I woke up on Tuesday morning at 6 AM to go to the gym, and as soon as I went from lying to sitting everything started to spin and the nausea was horrible. I duly canceled my gym appointment went back to sleep thinking that it was a fluke. But I woke up two hours later to the same symptoms but even more intense. With nothing for it but to push through, I had to get ready for the day, which felt like it took three hours. The first class of the day was a 2 hour private for TEC. I was able to make it for the first hour and 50 minutes with a slightly longer break of 10 minutes. And then I simply couldn’t manage. Thank God that my student was kind enough to let me end class those few minutes early because I was able to go lay down for 40 minutes before my classes with VIPKid started.

I set up my classroom for VIPKid to teach sitting down, which I haven’t done in about a year and a half. I find standing to teach to be much easier than sitting. There’s just less pain involved. But I could not stand and so switched my classroom to a sitting classroom. I managed to teach the first two lessons of their 2 1/2 hours for that day and then thankfully class three was a no-show. That meant that I could rest a bit. I think if it hadn’t been for that half hour the situation would’ve been worse than it was. As it was, it was not a good situation all around. At the end of the no-show, I started a one hour level seven class. We managed to get through the first 25 minutes and then the break with me explaining that I wasn’t feeling well and might have to leave the camera very quickly. And so it proved. Five minutes into the last 23 minutes of the class I had to leave the camera twice. I don’t think I’ve ever been physically sick in a class but I was this time. Thank goodness that my student was understanding. (Is it any wonder dear reader, why I love the older kids more than I like the littles?) The illness continued intermittently getting worse and better throughout that day and the next two. I had to cancel my Tuesday evening class with Karolina who I hadn’t seen since the beginning of the month.

The week wasn’t all bad however. Felix canceled until the middle of August when he is back from a trip and so I no longer have Monday evenings for the moment. I do wish that my adult students, would be a little bit more consistent about when they show up. But in this circumstance, I was quite happy that I didn’t have to prep anything. I am consequently, looking forward to seeing Karolina in just a few hours. I have missed her. I also have a couple of new clients potentially. I hesitate to say too much, but one of students is wanting to take Greek lessons with me. And I was further surprised to find out from his mom, that there are several children wanting to take Greek lessons. Apparently they all love the Percy Jackson series and are intrigued by learning the language that he is supposed to speak. As a result, I have to call in reinforcements for a bit of help. I therefore have placed a call to Lexus Amsterdam to see if I can get some help with materials.

Over in the writing world, the critique group has decided to go online and see if we can do a write-in Skype. If it works, perhaps we will expand it to the rest of the group. I’m a little bit skeptical because I myself don’t actually work well listening to other people type on computer. I need the physical presence of people around me typing to actually be motivated. But, I’m willing to give anything a try.

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

Potentially Problematic Parents and a second strike

This summer slow down at Inkreadable continues. It comes as no surprise, dear reader, that all of my students have decided that while it is summer they are going to go and do fun things. I wish that I could follow suit and take a vacation. But the Netherlands is starting to see an uptick in cases for COVID-19 and I’m not sure that I want to travel. Having said that, I’m probably going to see Jasper’s aunt next weekend. I have also taken to wearing a mask even in the stores. It’s not required, but I feel better and it gets me used to wearing a mask which is never a fun thing. I’ve also taken the precautions of wearing it in highly populated areas. So basically all over Amsterdam. It feels dystopian, but what can you do?

VIPKid continues to exhibit alarming tendencies of being in real trouble. On 1 August the teachers are again striking in protest over the payment structure. I too have decided to strike. Might as well make use of the day off. The new-to-me students was a fluke, dear reader. I have now gone back to my regular students and my schedule is a sea of blue With the possible exception of Friday, which seems to be a fairly heavy day and I can get 4 to 5 hours booked. I wish that trend would show up throughout the week, but I don’t think that will happen.

Felix was a no-show last Friday, but showed up yesterday evening. He will again be a no-show this Friday, I guess he has better things to do than study English. It’s a bit frustrating because I would like to have a little bit of consistency in my schedule. Karolina is back on my schedule as of this Tuesday and I am interested just hear what she did for her thesis and how it went. I think I’m going to try the new book that I found for Alex with Karolina. The 21st-century readings are quite interesting and I think she’ll be able to handle most of the exercises. They may in fact be quite easy for her. Speaking of Alex, I had lesson number two with him on Sunday and while he felt that the lesson was great, his mom felt that the material was too difficult for him. Also I think she thought that I wasn’t using the book, when in fact I was. In order to compensate for him having difficulty, I have told her which chapter we will be starting on Sunday of this week so that he can prepare a bit. I do find preparation to be a bit of a double-edged sword however. If the student has done all of the work before hand, then what point and what purpose does the teacher serve? I will have to see how to adapt.

The VIPKid teacher that I had staying with me left on Friday after a couple of days of wandering around Amsterdam. She is now headed to Brussels and going to link up with another friend of mine who lives there. One of the nice things about being a VIPKid teacher and having a Facebook group that criscrosses the EU, is that you can always give access to contacts all over the continent. This is never a bad thing. She participated in my board game night. The experience was a good one, and I would definitely host again. But this time I think I would ask that we finish by a certain hour as everybody left by 11 o’clock by the time I went to bed it was a bit late and I was not at my best the next day for teaching the next day.

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

Unique understanding And a student surplus

This week at Inkreadable, dear readers, ended up being an interesting one. While the work continues to be quite slow, I am starting to make a name for myself with parents of students from VIPKid who are now recommending me to other parents. Such is the case with Sunday’s student, he is the best friend of my student from VIPKid, who we will call Gerald, and his twin sister, who we’llll call  Jane, have been with me for two years. Gerald disappeared off my schedule last week, but Jane did not. When I had her in my class I asked her what was going on and apparently their packages are winding up and their parents are not sure if they are going to continue with VIPKid. This of course was heartbreaking for me because the students are two of my favorites. Luckily, I have their mom on WeChat and we are sort of friendly. Having been born in the same year as well as having gone to school in Boston. She went to Boston College and I went to Boston University. Three guesses as to who is the smarter one. I duly contacted her to tell her that I also offer private lessons and she was quite interested. In fact, she is considering going private with me but also gave my name to Gerald’s best friend, will call him Anton. Anton’s mom wants him to work on reading and vocabulary just like Scarlet’s mom does but Anton is about five years older. So while I was looking at materials to use, Gerald’s mom sent me National Geographic books to take a look at. They are amazing. And a great resource for the preteen to teenage set.

This week at Inkreadable, dear readers, ended up being an interesting one. While the work continues to be quite slow, I am starting to make a name for myself with parents of students from VIPKid who are now recommending me to other parents. Such is the case with Sunday’s student, he is the best friend of my student from VIPKid, who we will call Gerald, and his twin sister, who we’llll call  Jane, have been with me for two years. Gerald disappeared off my schedule last week, but Jane did not. When I had her in my class I asked her what was going on and apparently their packages are winding up and their parents are not sure if they are going to continue with VIPKid. This of course was heartbreaking for me because the students are two of my favorites. Luckily, I have their mom on WeChat and we are sort of friendly. Having been born in the same year as well as having gone to school in Boston. She went to Boston College and I went to Boston University. Three guesses as to who is the smarter one. I duly contacted her to tell her that I also offer private lessons and she was quite interested. In fact, she is considering going private with me but also gave my name to Gerald’s best friend, will call him Anton. Anton’s mom wants him to work on reading and vocabulary just like Scarlet’s mom does but Anton is about five years older. So while I was looking at materials to use, Gerald’s mom sent me National Geographic books to take a look at. They are amazing. And a great resource for the preteen to teenage set.

We made an appointment on Sunday afternoon for an hour and worked our way through the first chapter of the first National Geographic book. It was a decent success. I have a feeling that they will stick with me. I’m still waiting to hear from Gerald and Jane’s mother about whether they will start with me but I don’t want push too hard since they already gave me a client. I have a feeling that they’ll start with me later in the Summer as the twins are doing a lot of extra classes. I’ll still see Jane at VIPKid for the moment.

Over in the VIPKid world, I’ve started having bad dreams again. Bad dreams of getting three apples or less for reviews. I think it’s because of all of the drama with VIPKid that is currently happening. There is another strike and the teachers are walking out on 1 August. As ever, I have decided to do that as well and to go and see Jasper’s aunt who is not feeling very well. Win-win. I am also seeing quite a few new-to-me students.  I think this is also where the dreams are coming from because the more new students you have the greater chance you have of getting a bad review. After all, we can’t all be at our best all of the time. No matter what the VIP teachers would have you believe. 

Felix and I did not meet on Friday, as he went to Paris for the weekend. To say that I was jealous was an understatement. I really wish that I could travel a bit. As a result I gave about eight hours to Cambly over the weekend. In that time we ran the gamut from kids to adults, mostly women, from people who are motivated to learn. There was even one person who thought that I didn’t understand him and what he wanted. That was not the case he wanted me to teach him how to introduce somebody to other people in English. I was duly trying to do this and he thought that I couldn’t understand him and he dropped the call. I am finding Cambly to be a little bit more tiring than VIPKid even. It’s one thing to have slides and curricula prepared for you. It’s quite another thing to sit online for two hours and have to talk to people as they call in and teach them English on the fly. I can see the advantage of it.  It makes me a better teacher and more fluid. What that did for Anton was gave him a pretty smooth lesson even though I haven’t really prepared. I’m gonna have to figure out how much time to give Cambly though because the pay really is quite low.

Karolina is also a no-show for the next couple of weeks because she’s got her masters thesis that she needs to complete. Her exam is later this evening and we will have to see how she does. I really do hope that she comes back for lessons. Katya is on vacation and I have given her homework through her mother. I want her to describe the things that she can see here and do while on her camping trip. Let’s see if she actually does the homework. After all, the last couple of classes, her answers were the stock “I don’t know”. While Chinese children are obedient and will take six hours of lessons a day if their parents want them to, the same cannot be said of western children nor frankly of western parents. So it’s just as well that she’s on vacation, and we will see what happens when she comes back in September. If she comes back. Scarlet was also a no-show this week, but that was different, and  no fault of her own.Her parents were in the middle of filing their taxes and so of course could not get up in time for her to have a lesson with me. The surprising thing about that was that I told her Mom that I would make an exception with my policy and allow them one cancellation without penalty. Scarlet’s mom turned around and asked me to charge her. This is the second time in my three years as a self-employed English as a Foreign Language teacher that I have been able to get a student to agree to my terms. Another win-win. In fact it wasn’t even a question. It felt really nice being validated.

Over in the Writer’s world, it isn’t often that I really connect with someone on a deep level, but this week at the critique group the new person that we have and I really connected. We have been going back-and-forth about different ideas for writing through various forms of communication including email and WhatsApp and generally having a grand old time. It’s helpful because it galvanizes me to at least want to write. To feel the loss of my characters, and I’m hoping that with more interaction and with more help from this new person, perhaps what will happen is that I will want to write about my characters once again. And even be able to do it at home and be disciplined about it. This week, if it happens, we are doing a board game night instead of the usual dinner night. I am also having a VIPKid teacher come as a guest from Berlin from Tuesday to Friday evening. She has also expressed interest in the board game night so we will have to see how all of that pans out. Alas, what that means for Jasper and I is very little time together this week. But, sometimes that’s not a bad thing.

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

Trial Taught and Sales Success

It isn’t often, dear reader, that I get a random student from out of nowhere. Most of my students usually come from VIPKid, like Katya, or they are connected via family members that I have met in other places. Such is the case with Karolina, whose stepmother in the US is a friend of a friend. I don’t actually remember meeting her stepmother either. It’s always possible that she heard about me from one of my mother’s friends or even my sister’s large network of acquaintances. Or there’s the case of Félix who literally walked up to my writers’ table at the bookstore and asked if we were English teachers at the table. And of course being the enterprising person that I am I piped up that I was and that everybody else was not. And so began a wonderful relationship that continues to today

Speaking of Félix, we are working our way through trying to get him a new job within his company which does the primary staffing at Nike. This new role will be more managerial and less customer service. I think he has a good chance of getting it because he has already been doing the day-to-day tasks with this particular job which is called an assistant coach. And what he does is he coaches the new hires at Nike in the day-to-day operations of the business, particularly the sales team. So this week’s focus is job interview questions. Previous week was resume and cover letter hail help. Over at the English Center my bookings have dwindled down to almost nothing. The Pre-intermediate class has turned into 12 hours of private lessons with the person who paid. She is a fairly low level but is motivated to learn and can do all the homework. As she demonstrated this week when she gave it to me 24 hours after I gave it to her. And it was a lot. Six worksheets and a writing assignment. We will see how we go with the tenses as that’s the biggest focus for her. It’s what she confuses the most. As in, “now I sit in my classroom” instead of “I am sitting in the classroom now”.

Earlier this week, I got a WeChat message from someone who contacted me about lessons. I have no idea how she got my number. She’s on the East Coast and has a seven-year-old daughter who needs reading and vocabulary help. We had a trial lesson on Saturday afternoon at 4 pm my time and it went swimmingly. Scarlett is a wonderful little girl who is super bright and ask for lots of really interesting questions. As we will be working on reading and vocabulary, there isn’t an awful lot of prep that needs to happen except for me to have some thing for her to read. Luckily there are a ton of materials online that we can access. She also seems to be a very loquacious and fast paced little girl and can keep up with me when I speak quickly. Which I think is nothing but great. I think it’s gonna take some adjustment with the time difference but they want twice a week Monday and Wednesday at 3 PM my time which suits me just fine. Which took 10 minutes for them to agree to.

The VIPKid world continues to remain the same. 2 1/2 hours of bookings each day even though I open open every slot from 4 PM to 9 PM Beijing time. But with all the extra work that I have, which doesn’t really amount to a lot of money but does fill up the hours it seems to be for the best. By far the most surprising and easy work that I’m currently doing is with Cambly. There is no prep. I frequently don’t see the people that I’m talking to you as they are using their cell phones and don’t turn on the cameras. I think that happens to be because they are from Saudi Arabia, it’s mostly women, and they don’t want to be seen. Which is fair enough. I don’t think it’s fair that my camera has to stay on all of the time but there’s no point in complaining that which I cannot control. This extra work that I have, which doesn’t really amount to a lot of money, but fills up the hours that Jasper isn’t here or when I have nothing else to so.

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

Trial teacher and a Birthday Bonanza

This week at Inkreadable was a bit unexpected. You all know that last week I had bitten the bullet and certified for trials for VIPKid. Well, it’s been crickets. I also ended the week with a lovely four apple review from a student who said he felt absent minded. What he said was “I felt absent minded“ which I took to mean “I felt that the teacher was absent minded.“ I’ve decided that since five Apple feedback is not a thing that they use anymore to give us raises, I’m not gonna worry about five Apple feedback. I will instead console myself that it was a four apple review and it could’ve been worse. There have been a lot of supplementary courses opening up at VIPKid and to the extent that I’m able to, I’ve been taking all the ones that interest me. In particular, there is a Writing course that I’m intrigued by because it’s 50 minutes long and is both taught by a foreign teacher and a Chinese teacher before the class. It’ll be interesting to see if I can get any students for that particular series of classes and how I do with them. You all know how much I love writing. It isn’t often that my two worlds collide for VIPKid and my writers group but it seems like it may begin to.

Felix and I had two lessons this week one on Tuesday and the other on Saturday. We were supposed to have a Friday lesson but something came up. It turns out that the something that came up was him going to the park for a picnic. Our lessons are online and that is a change for both of us. I think I do prefer in real life lessons with Felix because it’s easier to explain things in a little bit easier to get him to do exercises and writing heavy lessons. Online it has to be speaking and he really does still struggle with the tenses.

I also got a chance to see my Polish power houses this week. Katya and I had a really hard time connecting on zoom and so we had a very short lesson that I’m not gonna charge her for. Because it literally was 10 minutes long. And Karolina and I are winding our way through different sorts of lessons and conversations. We really have connected online and it’s very fun. I think I would love to meet her in person. While she has some trouble with certain tenses, she does really well generally and so we’re able to do some really interesting things with higher order vocabulary.

By far the most interesting portion of the week was the first trial lesson that I gave on behalf of the English Center on Saturday afternoon. They are trying to drum up some students for the next pre-intermediate class that starts on 7 July. They have had a couple of sign-ups and one woman wanted trial lesson which I was happy to provide. We will see if it turns into anything. But I’ve decided that while I don’t necessarily like working for free because I wasn’t paid for the half hour, if in the long run to get me some clients and some lessons I am willing to give up my time with the expectation that I’ll make a little bit of money in the long run.

Lastly, dear readers, the writers group met again for dinner, this time an Indian restaurant where there are more vegetarian options for our vegetarian member. We sat outside and all was lovely. We have suspended for the moment the critique group as people are going on vacation and are not around. I’ve decided to take it week by week and see if people want to meet every other Wednesday. I suspect that this critique group is not going to survive corona however. We will have to see.

It seems that my had dinner reservations tha we canceled finally of the previous paragraph was a bit premature, dear readers. Last night was my birthday. I have decided that at 45 years of age I am entitled to not a birthday but a birth week. So I’ve been celebrating since the previous week. There was of course the dinner with my Writers. I’ve been doing all sorts of fun stuff throughout the week. On Sunday, for instance, I invited VIPKid teachers from different parts of the Netherlands and we had a picnic in the park. It was a little stressful for me because people came at different times the whole day. And trying to get people to meet in a place when most people are coming from away, is a little bit like herding cats. Still I managed to pull it off with the help of some friends who are VIPKid teachers and local. These two lovely women have invited me for afternoon tea which was such an unexpected and lovely surprise. All in all it was a good birthday week. There were two hiccups, however. The first was that our reservation was cancelled for Monday night by the restaurant. I was annoyed that they let me know at 11:30 on Sunday night and I woke up to the news. As the weather wasn’t great yesterday and I couldn’t find a place that I wanted to go to, we hung out on the couch instead. The other hiccup was that I couldn’t celebrate with my sister. Of the 45 birthdays I have celebrated, only three have been without her. Still my extended family did a drive-by congratulations for her at her group home and surprised the hell out of her.

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

Bullet Bitten

It has been, dear readers,  a rather emotional week at Inkreadable. It’s also been a week of decision making. This week marked the last week for my pre-intermediate English class for the session that started in May. I had hoped to be able to continue with my ladies on 7 July, but alas it is not to be. While one of them wanted to continue the others were not able to convince their parents to fund their continuing studies at the moment. I am however, hopeful that I will get a chance to see them sometime soon. We have promised to stay in touch, and in fact I woke up on Friday morning two lovely messages of thanks and praise from my students. It’s always nice when their interested in learning and motivated. I do not find that to be the same for teaching children. I often find that parents expect us to be Harvard educated English teachers, while expecting their children to be fully fluent in English by the second class with you. The reality is that we are a little more than glorified babysitters most of the time. And before the teachers that read my blog jump on me either on social media or in person, I do recognize that is not the case with everyone. I have some wonderful students. I was absolutely gutted to find out that I would be having my last class ever with my beloved Evan this coming week. He has aged out of the program and can go no further with VIPKid. Luckily I have him on WeChat, and we have decided that we will certainly keep in touch.

It wasn’t all sadness, however, dear readers. I was very excited to be contacted by Felix and he would like to take classes with me to begin online twice a week and then to move in real life. I couldn’t be happier because maybe I can start seeing the light at the end of the tunnel with working weekends or at least working seven days a week. Remember, dear readers,  when I told you about trying out something new with my ladies for their last class. I actually played a game with them and it worked a treat. I highly recommend question games where you turn it into a board game. It will definitely be something that I will use in both the in person and online classroom from now on. Thank you so much Regina for all the help.

Remember also when I said that Monday was going to be my heaviest day? I was right in that it was, but also that I could not handle it with Karolina and Katya. Last week therefore I moved Karolina to Tuesday evenings. What that did was free up Monday night for Felix so it’s still going to be my heaviest day. I hope that I can handle it. I wasn’t able to last week I’m not sure what makes me think that I’ll be able to handle it this week. As ever dear readers, I will keep you posted.

Lastly, dear readers over in VIP kid land lots of supplemental certifications came up and I certified for almost  all of them as well as putting trials back on my schedule. That’s right, that is the origin of this weeks title. I did indeed bite that particular bullet. Let’s see if my schedule actually fills up. As an experiment I opened up 22 June from 9 AM until 4 PM to see if I can get any trials either with short notice or without it. Fingers crossed that I’m able to remember how to act like enough of an ass to convince the parents to sign with the company. I hated it when I was doing it and I’m not so sure that I’m gonna like it now. But needs must. With this too I will keep you posted.

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

Teaching Tactics

We are slowly but surely adapting to a life that everybody on social media is dubbing “the new normal”. This is true of both my teaching life and my personal life. On the one hand, teaching still remains online with the exception of my Dutch guy. But it’s a slow week as I did not see either my Dutch guy or Katya on Monday. Both were too busy to have class. This is also my last week with my pre-intermediate English learners. At least for this class. I spoke to them last week about continuing with me and they all seem keen to continue. In fact, one of my students actually called the English Center to inquire about continuing, and if it goes through we will be either starting a new course on 30 June (Happy belated birthday to me) or 7 July. That is, of course, if everybody wants to take the class. One of my students is a chef and her work is paying for it. She’s the one who called. The other two are cousins and are high school students, and while one works at a supermarket and may have her own funds, I am not sure about the other student. I, of course am quite happy for the work. We will have to see.

I screwed up my timing a second time with PIE. I had to make a 14th lesson in the series. You see, dear readers, the 10th lesson in my series I designed as a games lesson which can only really be done in the classroom as the games are tactile. So that was out for my online class. In the first online, class for PIE that I taught, I made the 13th class to accommodate the lesson that can be only done in the classroom. In this incarnation of PIE, I went a little too fast and I didn’t realize just how quick and smart my students actually are with English. So I now find myself in the unenviable position of having to make a 14th class in the series to make up for both the games lesson and the fact that I went too quickly.

So as ever, I turned to friends for the answer. Regina came through with the idea of designing a class around questions. She even gave me some materials to use. But forgot to attach them. So I went online and made a board game with question words. And that will be the last class of the series. I am hoping that it’s easy enough and interesting enough that my students will be able to have a little bit of fun with it. I went online and I found a do it yourself board game template on an ESL site and I made steps in the board game with question words and a topic. For example one square contains the word bike. The students are going to roll a dice and based on where they fall will make a question for another student the second student has to answer it and then roll the dice. We will see if this works on Thursday afternoon. I’ll be sure and report next week.

I am quite proud of my Polish adult student. Remember last week we were preparing for an English language assessment? We prepared quite hard for it doing a role-play and also formulating the writing assignment that she would have. It turns out that the role-play had not been necessary. That was in Polish. But she did such a good job on the writing assignment and so well in the interview that she got the job. Her life is now set for the next 33 months. It’s an 18 month internship with 15 months worth of work after that. I think we will continue with English lessons because she needs to improve her English and her speaking ability. To that end, I am going to have another intake with her and we are going to focus her English around her work. That’s not to say that I won’t do interesting topics that are not work related but I really want her to increase her foothold in this company. And one of the ways to do that is her language skills.

VIP kid continues to degrade. But the good news for me is if I stick it out with all these other teachers jumping ship maybe my schedule will go back to normal. We will have to see what happens over the next six months or so. In the meantime 20 June is a strike day and I am actually looking forward to the day off.

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

Phrasal Phreakout and OReilly’s Onslaught

This week, dear readers, at Inkreadable, was anything but quiet. Remember in my last post I mentioned that it was a legal holiday here in the Netherlands? That meant that my Dutch student and his son wereabsent as it was a school holiday as well. I tried to fill up the slots with VIPKid but was not very successful. I worked a whole two hours. That’s 1 June. All except for a couple of extra hours with my Polish adult student.

I am not sure if you remember, dear readers, but she was preparing for an English language exam for a job that she has been applying for for the last four months. We prepared like mad for a speaking exam that it turned out wasn’t even in English. I did get a chance to help her over Sunday and Monday, which was the  assessment day, with the writing portion of the assessment. You’ll remember that as it was children’s day I also didn’t have Katya as she was also on holiday as well. My schedule with my private clients is  going to change. Monday will be my new heavy day. I’ll be working An hour and a half for The English Center, then one and a half to two hours for VIPKid, then Katya and Caroline will be the last hour and a half of the day.

Over at The English Center, my class is slowly winding its way to its inevitable end. There is no word yet whether  I’ll be teaching anymore classes for them as yet. I hope that I will get more classes. To that end, remember when I was freaking out last week about how I had perhaps stuck my foot in it by telling the English Center that I was done with online? I took the preemptive measure of writing the group coordinator and  telling her that it was more a comment on spending 3 1/2 years working online rather than a specific English Center complaint. I also told her to please bring on the work.

One of the issues with teaching a class where the people are all at different levels in terms of their English, is that it’s very hard to teach higher order concepts. This was especially true last week Thursday, when I was teaching Phrasal verbs. Two of my students were able to get simple phrasal verbs but the other student had a hard time. She was able to read them and find them in sentences, but using them in sentences of her own was  troublesome. I’m not sure how to fix the problem, because I really think that phrasal verbs are important even at the B1 level and don’t want to get rid of the lesson.

Over in VIPKid world, things continue to disintegrate in a way that is quite alarming. At least for me. My bookings continue to take a nosedive and my parents are telling me that it’s very hard to book my classes. Apparently where I show blue and free, they should grayed out and unable to book. Since I’m not the one who is in charge of booking my own schedule, there must be trouble with VIPKid. I now believe that they are purposefully closing off the slots that parents can see especially for veteran teachers. I’ve also heard rumors that there are incentives for parents not to book veteran teachers but to go with newer teachers who are cheaper. In fact, I have seen posts just like that on the We have value Facebook group that is striking on 20 June. If that is the case, that is worrisome indeed. And I need to start looking for other opportunities. It’s not something I’m looking forward to. This is also the focus of the Sunday night drinks that I host via Zoom for the VIPKid EU Expats. This week we were Netherlands heavy with four of us actually being in the country and the other two were Ireland and Portugal. Our bookings and the state of affairs dominated the conversation for two hours. I’m not sure when we’ll be able to talk about other things that aren’t bookings related but it’s nice to have something in common with other teachers and be able to bitch about it without reprisals. I’m still not convinced that because I’m in the Facebook protest group my bookings haven’t been targeted for that reason.

This week marked the first time that I have seen my friends from the Writers group, at least three of them. The Netherlands, dear readers, is opening up and cafés and restaurants are allowed to have a maximum of 30 people. What that means is that we need to make a booking and also for tracing purposes, fill out a  form as to whether we’ve been sick in the last 14 days or not. I am not sure if I told you this, but I went to the Black Lives Matter protest here in Amsterdam on 1 June. I think I didn’t mention it because it’s not really the focus of my blog but on the way home from there, I stopped at O’Reilly’s, otherwise known as our local, I made a reservation for four. It was so magical to see people that I haven’t seen in three months. It was a wonderful time of catching up and food.  We’d been communicating  throughout the dutch version of the lockdown, but it was just nice to sit with real people who are adults who understood me and the trials of writing. To that end,  we have decided to meet once every other week or so. I am going to suggest that we try different restaurants, however, as one of the group members is vegetarian and a man cannot eat veggie nachos every couple of weeks.

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

VIPKid Villainy and Damning Drinks

This week at Inkreadable, dear readers, brought a couple of nasty surprises. Well, only one very nasty surprise, and a case of me running my mouth when I shouldn’t have. We will start, as ever, with life over in VIPKid land.In addition to my dropping bookings, and the fact that the kids in Beijing are going back to school over the next couple of weeks, means that my schedule has more holes than ever. It was also a holiday in China yesterday so my bookings for Monday were sparse indeed. What surprises me about VIPKid is that my weekends are sparse as well. They start out well enough on Saturday filling 12 PM to 3 PM for the frenzy, and then gradually through the week they will drop off. I haven’t had a fully booked 3-hour Saturday in quite a long time. But what’s really surprising is that Sundays I open six hours and only one and a half to two hours have been booking. In the Zoom coffee that I host for VIPKidders around the EU the tune has now changed. Where before everyone was saying their bookings are fine, they’re not so sure of their prospects. I applied to Zebra English with a five minute video but hadn’t heard anything as of yesterday.

But that wasn’t the only kick to the teeth from VIPKid. In December 2019 they started a new pay scale for new teachers whereby they have developed an algorithm that takes away the incentives for participation and finishing classes. Right now I make $11 per class. That is a straight fee. In August, that will change. While I keep my base pay of nine dollars, the incentives go away and you are paid based on how many classes you have worked, and the rate goes up based on a tier system. There is a complicated range that I don’t even understand. But friends of mine have done the math and it seems instead of making more money we will be making less money. I wonder if this is a way for VIPKid to screw over the teachers by keeping their payroll attached to a formula that only they can understand. I also think they’re trying to separate the wheat from the chaff and trying to pay their veteran teachers less. It affects me because I have started working less classes. used to work only VIPKid and was working somewhere between 200-250 classes a month. I now work 150. Given that, that’s going to be a huge pay cut for me. Not that my English language teaching ever made me enough of a living to not rely on income from the US, but now it’s become even worse.

Things are not all copacetic at the English Center either. I really put my foot in it on Friday when we had drinks and said that I was done with online teaching. That it made me tired. I hope that I did not screw myself out of more classes taught online. But one never knows. I’m also not sure whether I should mention it to the owner or not. I am also not sure whether I should mention to my students that there is a course that comes after pre-intermediate English. I am afraid that the company will tell me that I cannot do it or they will tell me that I need to reduce my pay from the group rate to a private rate which is a loss of money, as well as a loss because they may shorten the course from 12 lessons over 6 weeks to 8 lessons over 4 weeks. On Monday, I had class with just the son of the pair as the Dad had to work. What do you do when you have just the kid? Homework, of course! I helped with an English class assignment and we spent the rest of the class playing homograph Go Fish. What’s that, you ask? Simply put you try to match words that sound alike are spelled differently. Once you have a pair, you ask the students to make sentences with the words, after you explain the meaning if they don’t know it. Its a great way to go over easily confused words and also a great way to build vocabulary.

Over in my private client world, things are a bit quiet. My private student has a job assessment and so we will probably not meet this week and her schedule will change as a result of a potential job. But I did help her with the job assessment writing assignment yesterday and I think she’ll do quite well. So I’m waiting to hear about that. Katya’s mom has said she will let me know about lessons for her as I think that it is children’s day in Poland and I think the kid wants Just spend the day doing something fun. If I was her, I certainly wouldn’t want to have to have a class with me. And I realize that it’s not personal. I think on a holiday I would be doing anything other than teaching. Unfortunately, I have no choice. Being self-employed means that if I don’t work I don’t eat.

The fourth critique session went well this week. I gave another couple of chapters and got some very good feedback. I was very surprised that one person said that my action was too slow and the other one said that my action was just right. I feel a little bit like the three bears. I definitely don’t feel like Goldilocks. Still is giving the grist for the mill and the ability to figure out where there might be problems in forthcoming chapters. In other news, we are probably going to meet for drinks on the terrace at our local pub on Thursday. Things in the Netherlands are opening slowly back up and some of the first places opening are bars and restaurants but with limitations. I am very excited to start seeing some of my friends in real life, however.

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

Polish Power-through and Cancelled Critique

This week at Inkreadable, dear readers,  was an interesting one. In the first place, it was another government holiday in the Netherlands. Of course, I forgot, and so did not open up six hours worth of slots until well after the frenzy for VIPKd. What that meant was that I only taught the 2 1/2 hours that I actually booked. It’s getting a little bit more and more difficult when even your non-short notice bookings are not filling. And then there was the lovely email from VIPKid saying I had been invited to qualify for the Chinese state authorities TEFL certificate along with, I’m sure, 100,000 of my colleagues. While I don’t have a problem with another certification, I do when it is the same certification as my CELTA. In addition, instead of the workaround for taking quizzes at VIPKid  you actually have to go through the material again. Let me explain. In the past, you could take a quiz for a certification for VIPKid and as long as you didn’t  exit out of your answers you could submit and see what you had gotten wrong. Then you could go through and see how many you could get right, and if you did this several times you were guaranteed to pass. Eventually. The same cannot be said of this new certification. We actually have to go through the 20 hours of self paced learning. Also, VIPKid lied. They said it was free. It’s only free if you decide not to pay for a valid certification number that is visible to parents and that you can use with other online companies. I think that’s a rip off. They should have been straightforward and transparant from the beginning. I will likely di it and pay for it as I am afraid that with bookings the way they are, I will need an online gig. And the largest online ESL teaching market is currently China, so I’ma have to suck it up.

Over at the English Center, things turned interesting when I realized that I had gone through two lessons in one day and got through past tenses In a single lesson for my Pre-Intermediate course. That’s never happened before. So I had to scramble to figure out what I was going to teach my students the following week. With Thursday being the aforementioned public holiday I had a week to figure something out.  Anyhoo, I told my class that the following Tuesday would be a review of the future tense and an all tense review and they better get ready. In addition, I gave them enough homework to encompass all of the tenses that we had learned on Tuesday. Let’s see how they do with them and how many mistakes they make. Also, I wonder if I’m up to the challenge of grading so much homework. It has been a bit of a challenge, dear readers, to come up with content and material that is appropriate both for a nine-year-old boy and his 39-year-old father. But I have persevered and as I have both adult friendly and kid friendly items in my repertoire for everything that I’ve taught. It’s been interesting trying to get them to work together to learn English. What’s also a bit surprising is that they are a little bit competitive with each other but it’s a wonderful relationship and we have a lot of fun. As my student said, “we just click”. It’s been really nice seeing students in person and I’m loving getting back to normal at least a little bit.

In terms of my two private clients, Katya and I are firmly working our way through English pronunciation through reading out loud, minimal pairs, Onset and rhyme, tongue twisters and all manner of lovely pronunciation exercises. I think I’ve hit my stride with her, but I think also that at the rate that I charge there isn’t all that much that is expected. What pleasantly surprised me, is that my other Polish student has an English assessment and she has wanted to double our meetings until the assessment which means a little bit of extra money for me and the opportunity to teach some higher order things. For example, last week we spent on the conditionals all of them except zero conditional which are for facts. As a result, we had some really fun times playing games with uncertainty and things we might have done had we known other conditions. I do love advanced students.

As it was a public holiday in Amsterdam, and no one posted anything for the critique group, we took a vacation for Wednesday night. As a result I did absolutely nothing. That isn’t strictly true. I did a little bit of writing of my own and had a great time flushing out a character backstory. While it wasn’t strictly for the novel, it was an interesting exercise in trying to figure something out.

We also had a bit of tech trouble  at my house this week with the Internet falling out during a particularly delicate situation whereby Jasper was attending the video funeral of a family member. I was on a break at the time from VIPKid and the Internet came back just as I was set to go back into class. I got really lucky. We did place a call to the Internet provider and they gave us some suggestions and I’m hopeful that that will resolve the issue. But knowing my luck and my house ,at least as it’s been over the last six months, I’m a little bit jaded by now.

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