Student Slowdown and MRI Monitoring

It has been a pretty slow week at Inkreadable. The weather in the first part of the week didn’t cooperate very well, leading a late cancel for Sander. That’s been a bit of a continuous thing in lessons over the last few weeks, February has turned out to be ferocious in terms of weather. Getting to the location where we meet has been treacherous. I would’ve been happy to switch to online, but there just wasn’t enough notice to let TEC know to cancel the room where we meet. There was no lesson this week so I spent yesterday teaching extra VIPKid classes.

My Lingueo classes have also been relatively slow between having to cancel for a doctors appointment and not having my third student on my schedule this week because she had a break. Consequently, I was able to set up my lessons through 1 March. Of course, it helps that one of my lessons was planned for 15 February but will have to be for that first of March instead. But I generally like the trend where I’m able to plan the lessons for all of my students by the beginning of the week before. It lets me chill out on the weekends and do other things.

My Sunday schedule went back to normal with Karolina back after a Valentine’s Day break and ready to study. Our IELTS prep is going well, but some of that has to do with the fact that she hasn’t actually scheduled the exam nor does she know when she wants to take it. On Sunday, before we got started with exercises I talked to her about her potential timetable and her own research and self study. It would be interesting to see how she does on an actual timed exam, so I am going to try to find a couple of mock exams if I can.

This week I also had a consultation with the doctor about my MRI results. He feels that the numbness in my feet were a one off neurological events due to a virus. He proposed myelitis as the reason for the numbness. But he said that of more concerned for him is the fact that I do have lesions on my brain that he wants to monitor. So it’s to be quarterly MRIs for the next year and then possibly ending the monitoring  if nothing changes. I am not unhappy with the way that he is handling my case and can be thankful at his briskness because it keeps me calm. There are 1,000,001 reasons for lesions on the brain so I’m trying not to worry about it. In the first place, a lesion is simply an abnormality, and in my case could have been caused by contracting Hydrocephalus at birth. While I am not happy by all of that forthcoming visits to the hospital, at least I am not in America, where I could potentially be beggared between insurance costs and hospital bills. Having not been part of any employment insurance Skim through an employer when I left the US, If I was living there I would have to be a consumer on the open market paying upwards of $500 a month in premiums. Is it any wonder that I’m quite happy to be in the Netherlands where they are a little bit more reasonable about insurance prices and don’t have the same Me me me mentality as people in the US? I am quite happy to be paying a quarter of what I was paying in the US. In addition, I haven’t received a bill for any of the MRIs or visits to the doctor. In America I would be getting bills every day.

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

Teacher Trepidation and a “Cold Call Collapse”

In the Chinese calendar, a new year has begun and so I wanted to wish you all a happy Chinese New Year. It is the year of the ox and may it be a better one than 2020 for all. This week at Inkreadable, was quite quiet in terms of lessons with VIPKid. In fact, on 11 January I had no classes at all with VIPKid. I did, however, have 2 1/2 hours with Lingueo so the day was not a total loss. The fluctuations across my schedule are better than some teachers are reporting. But I also don’t open 80 classes a week with VIPKid anymore.

Percentagewise things have been OK. But at this point, VIP no longer gets priority in terms of bookings. Rather I schedule my VIPKid around everything else. It seems to work OK, and it helps that Lingueo has a cancellation policy that if you cancel well before the 24 hour mark there is no penalty. I’m not sure if there is a penalty within the 24 hour mark. At least on the teacher side. This past week my student had Internet issues and I’m not sure if there’s a penalty for her or rather the company she works for, in terms of payment of a lost class. Because Lingueo is actually subsidized by the French government none of the students actually pay. I’m not sure what portion the companies that my students work for pay but I can’t imagine there is Any monetary penalty to them.

This weeks slow down has allowed me to do really well in terms of lesson prep. I’m currently running about a week ahead of schedule. Which is great because on the weekends I can actually just teach and not lesson plan. This weekend my schedule shifted a bit with Karolina having a Valentine’s Day weekend away with her partner, so I contacted my Chinese clients to see if they wanted to take her slot. They did so my Sunday ended at 1:00 instead of 2 pm. I spent the rest of the day reading and binge watching TV. I am not a Valentine’s Day person, as that holiday is manufactured and the real Valentine’s Day has a far darker history than many people realize. Jasper was on call anyway with his work, because as he told them ” I don’t need Valentine’s Day to show my girlfriend that I love her” Which was sweet and amusing as I could care less about the holiday. Still it was nice to do nothing.

I had a chat with a friend who works for the English Center this week and she gave me some very useful tips for companies to contact here in the Netherlands. One is a company that teaches English the kids in the context of summer camp either a day camp or sleep away camp. The sleep away camp happens at a castle and teachers get room and board and paid. It’s like a weeks vacation to play games with kids. I will definitely have to look into that. The other that she gave me is for adults and I’m not to sure about anything else. I have my research cut out for me with these two companies. I forgot, it’s actually three companies.

My friend Despina over at Lexis Amsterdam very kindly introduced me to the director of a company called Square Mile via email. Unfortunately, they are not hiring as they are trying to protect their existing teachers. Which I was really happy to hear because it feels like across all of my platforms, the companies are hiring teachers when there’s not enough work for the teachers they already have.  Also, I was very happy that they sent a nice sounding email to tell me they weren’t hiring. Which was a totally different experience to the two sentence email I received from the headmistress of the Amsterdam International Community School. I think that she’s been living in The Netherlands for too long and had forgotten that the Brits and the   Americans need a bit more modals than their Dutch counterparts. Despina also let me know that I should contact another company called language corner. It will be a busy week indeed in terms of research.

But as hinted at in the title above, all of this causes me no end of trepidation. I am not very good at selling myself, and my hustle has been fairly passive. Pounding the pavement has never been my strong suit and  up selling myself is really hard. Writing a letter or an email to ask whether people are hiring has never been easy as I agonize over it.  But really the  AICS experience has soured me on “cold emailing” my qualifications and such.

In addition, my trepidation stems from the fact that I get MRI results later today. I think I told you, dear reader, that my MRI results were published on the hospital portal and neither Jasper nor I could make heads or tails of them. I am wise enough to know that if it was really a problem the doctors would’ve called me in much quicker than they have. But that doesn’t stop me from worrying a little bit. I am also a little bit worried about my upcoming consultation with eye doctors in March but that is kind of at the back of my mind and isn’t really the reason I’m a bit stressed now. Still all things shall pass and there isn’t anything that I can do about the results at the moment anyway so I’m trying not to think about it.

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

Schedule Shuffle and a Writing Wrinkle

February in the Netherlands, dear reader, is like in  most other places, the coldest month of winter. Generally what that means is that instead of being 6 to 7°C, the temperature up limps up to about zero and stays there. On occasion, it might plummet below and then we might get some snow. Such was the case this past weekend. The forecast called for temperatures between -7 and -3. As is often the case with people from DC, I was looking forward to the possibility of some white on the ground with no little anticipation, but also a good bit of cynicism as I’ll believe it when I see it. Of course, the same can be said for my friend Erica who has lived in Savannah and also New York. If you ever lived in New York, the chances of you getting a snowstorm with actual accumulation, as opposed to living in DC where the mere threat of a snowstorm grinds the city to a halt, is always a source of amusement. In preparation for momentous event, (7 to 12 cm isn’t much of a snowstorm but I’ll take it), I prepared my kitchen to do lots of batch cooking and baking. And it was a good thing I did too, because Mother Nature made a fool out of me. I think Amsterdam recorded over 20 cm, which hasn’t happened for a couple of years. The Amsterdam city council also enacted their “Ice Day” policy which means that they close off the canal system so that the canals will freeze. Presumably for people to be able to skate. Ordinarily I’d be all for that, but not in the time of the Covid. I think we will see a rise in our numbers from Sunday and Monday as any bit of the city that has any type of a gradient was heaving with people.

This week my teaching world and my personal world collided a bit more, as my schedule was shuffled on both fronts through no fault of mine. On the personal front, an in real life doctors appointment was made for me on Tuesday this week, which was subsequently changed to a telephone consult for this past Thursday, then changed again to an in real life consult on 16 February in the early afternoon. As a result of all of these changes, I had to inform two sets of students on the 16th that I probably wouldn’t be giving them classes, I also let them know that I didn’t want to change the schedule just yet, but will do so probably tomorrow. Anything can happen between now and then, like the doctors letting me know if they want to have a telephone consult and not in real life consult as has happened in the past. As a result, I’m going to have to be ready to get to the hospital rather quickly. In other medical news, we are in a holding pattern until 2 March when I have the next of my appointments for the eye doctor. This too is at the hospital. I swear I’m starting to hate the sight of the hospital, even if it is a nice walk through a park.

The other schedule shuffle happened because on Friday, Delphine let me know a half an hour before class that she wouldn’t be able to have the class because roadworks was interrupting her internet’s signal and she could not ensure that we wouldn’t be interrupted. The bad thing about that is that Lingueo doesn’t get paid if the student cancels and neither does the teacher. What’s interesting about how they handle that is they translate straight from the French, to let you know that the teacher kind of has to act as a bouncer letting the student know that they can’t do this because it ultimately affects your (and Lingueo’s) ability to be paid. But as my sister rather brusquely, though rightly pointed out, I knew this when I signed the contract. Which I suppose, is fair enough. To that end, I used the time that I had to run some errands and help out some friends. And finally in a last minute schedule shuffle, Monday class was moved online because of the snow. Which is fine because I get paid anyway, so to foster good relations I’ll give the class.

Writing this week on Thursday was good, though I only got one chapter edited. I found myself having to write an attack into a dinner conversation and found that quite difficult. I find that internal dialogue tends to be a bit of a problem for me, well as we’ve seen a previous post, dialogue tends to be a problem anyway, but internal dialogue seems to be a particularly tricky thing for me to handle. My schedule shuffle also extended to writing a bit as with a cancellation at VIPKid for an hour on Sunday, I was able to get in to a zoom meeting, and write for a bit. It wasn’t much, but it felt nice to reconnect with my writer friends and with my characters on a day that I don’t normally write. Once we have hit the after times, (after corona) I hope to be able to manage my schedule so that I can find places to write that soothe my soul with cups of tea, comfy chairs and other like-minded people. The search for a venue for the writer’s group on Thursday is ongoing. We may have to suck it up and meet at peoples (Read my) houses, though I’m not sure how much Jasper will appreciate that. Still, since Thursday is also a night out with his friends, it shouldn’t really affect him that much.

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

Curriculum Changes and Delicious Dialogue

In Greece, dear reader, it is customary to wish people a good month on the first. While we are a day late, I still want to wish you a happy February. My hopes for you all for the month, wherever you are, is that corona is not running rampant, or impacting your lives in any way. Here in Amsterdam, we have a rather ridiculous curfew which I am not sure is doing anything to stem the tide of new cases. We are supposed to be home from 9 o’clock in the evening until 4:30 in the morning. I myself am of an age that a curfew doesn’t matter and there’s no place that I want to go at 9o’clock at night anyway. And no matter what my age was, I never wanted to stay up until 4:00 in the morning.

Over at Inkreadable, it’s been a fairly slow week work wise, though I had two days in the past week where I worked a full six hours teaching. One day was even 7 1/2. I had forgotten how tiring it is to be on for that long. On Wednesday and Friday of this week, I found myself absolutely exhausted from teaching full five hour days at VIPKid and then a couple of hours at Lingueo. But also happy that at least I had some full-time work. If all of my days could be like that that would be wonderful.

My private students in China are again on a break because they have a week and a half of winter camp so I won’t see them tomorrow nor did I see them on Sunday. Over in Poland, Karolina has decided that she would like to change the lessons and so we are shifting our focus from conversation and using 21st-century readings to make lessons, to a more targeted lesson to practice the strategies for the IELTS. I’m excited about this because I really like teaching the IELTS. It’s not an easy exam, and even I struggle with it, let alone someone who doesn’t speak English as their first language. I certainly don’t get everything right..

My super advanced, nearly speaks better English than I do student has now decided she wants conversation classes. I’m also quite a bit more happy about that because I was really running out of advanced grammar to teach her. So during our lesson on Thursday we had a conversation based on an article that I found from the BBC called “What If Animals Were As Smart As Us”. The article goes into fairly interesting points about sentient beings and what might happen if all the animals think on the same level as humans. While I had initially used the article as an example of the conditional tense with Karolina, with Maria it turned into an interesting discussion about our views about who actually rules the earth and where man lies in the food chain. Are we the top hunter? Or is there something else that is even more dangerous than we? This of course, lead to an  interesting conversation about the different choices that people make in their lives regarding their own consumption of food. While Maria is not a vegetarian per se, (she eats meat when not at home), in her own home she doesn’t cook it because she doesn’t really like it. Which to me is the best reason not to eat it. Needless to say, the next few classes are going to be challenging and quite fun.

This week’s writing session was great as I was able to get to chapter 20 of my own work and slowly clear out comments from the Washington creative writer’s club  that are a million years old. I also received comments from the fifth critique submission from the Critique Group here.  I have been quite slow (read not at all) looking at those comments because I simply cannot multitask. In addition, I would like to give my readers here a clean copy of the novel which is why I’m trying to get the comments that I have from the US group cleared away. I have forgotten my friend Adam’s comments, he has sent me essays about my writing, and as they are in another place on my computer, I continually forget to add them in. I might have to do that at some point.

The Wednesday critique group met last week and it was amazing because we got treated to a wonderful lecture by one of our members about how to write dialogue. I find I it to be quite difficult but Juan is a master. It was an hour long lesson essentially on how to write dialogue in five (not so easy) steps. And it was great. I learned quite a lot, and asked him for his lecture because there’s no way that I’m going to remember everything that he talked about. I am looking forward to going back and trying to use some of the tips and some of the ways to engender conflict through dialogue which I don’t do very much or at all well. Both Ilana and I are quite willing to listen to the lecture again should he choose to give it to a greater audience in the future.

Yesterday marked the second of my appointments at the eye doctor. This was for a field of vision test to make sure that my field has not actually shrunk. It’s small enough as it is. Next up in a month, it’s a consultation with someone else. So my preparation for cataract surgery proceeds apace. I also have to schedule a consultation with the neurologist after these three MRIs that I’ve had. But I haven’t seen a date in the system yet. At least things are being done, and maybe in the not too distant future I’ll be able to see better out of my right eye.

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

(Almost) Lingueo Loss, Surreal Scheduling, And medical maneuvering

It’s been an interesting week at Inkreadable , dear readers. In fairness, I had an easy week for the most part. A couple of hours of VIPKid each day and at least one, if not two, Lingueo classes. What’s interesting, is that for the most part I’m managing my schedule quite well. My Lingueo classes are happening at times where my VIPKid schedule doesn’t generally book. Or at least, no longer books. For me, that’s the 9 to 11 AM central European time hours. So I’m quite happy just teaching prime prime time for VIPKid.

But my scheduling nearly backfired this week. Like most companies, Lingueo requires you to submit feedback within a certain amount of time. In the case of VIPKid you need to submit within 12 hours of giving the class or you get half pay. Over at Lingueo, the limit is six hours but if you don’t submit feedback you don’t get paid at all not even half pay. Which I think is not a very nice policy, but on the other hand because we teach from Skype and do not record the lessons, there’s no way for the company to actually track how many lessons we’ve given unless we give feedback. It happened on Tuesday. I completely forgot to give feedback to my 10 to 1130 lesson, and was out €27. Well, you might think it’s only €27 and what’s the big deal? At least, for those of you who have jobs where you make considerably more than that, for those of you that work in online teaching like I do, that loss is significant. I did send an email to the company and they opened up the feedback so I could leave it, with assurances from me that I would try not to forget again. What I need to do is get into the habit of leaving feedback right after my classes. I did this successfully on Thursday for both my classes. But again, I learned a valuable lesson.

I learned that I need to take better care of my schedule on a couple of different fronts this week. On Saturday, for instance, I did not open the correct slots and got bookings from 11 to 2 central European time. Generally, the schedule is fine during the week. On weekends, it’s a whole other matter. On Saturadays, I have standing morning commitments that I do not like to miss and on Sundays I have private clients so I can only teach from 9 to 1130 on Sunday mornings. This week I opened up 11 to 2 on Saturday which would leave me no time to engage in my morning commitments in the way that I like to/need to. The Weightwatchers zoom coffee after the meeting is important to me and I like to attend. I’m also the host so attending is almost compulsory. But this week, I almost didn’t get to. I did not realize I had opened from 11 o’clock to 2 instead of 1130 to 2, and thought I would have to teach two level sevens and two trials in that three hours. Luckily on Saturday morning I woke up to a finished class at 11 o’clock which meant that I didn’t have to teach. So not only could attend my morning Weightwatchers and coffee, I also got paid to do so. Best of all worlds..

Don’t get me wrong, I love Stone, the student that I would’ve been teaching. But I’m also honest enough with myself that I was quite happy that he canceled. Generally, I don’t like it when my level sevens cancel because they cancel outside of 24 hours and the slots don’t fill. I got lucky this time.

It’s been rather a fraught week in other ways. A while back I had decided that I needed to be followed by an ophthalmologist here in the Netherlands and finally managed to get an appointment for this past Friday. Turns out that it was good that I went. At 45 years old, it appears I have a cataract impeding my vision in my right eye. What, you say?  A cataract, you say? Aren’t you too young for a cataract?

It turns out that no, I’m actually not. People with very high myopic prescriptions are actually prone to cataracts much earlier than others and while the condition is rare even for them, (it’s about 1% of the population) it seems I am that one. Still I’m quite happy to have the diagnosis and a potential way to fix it. Now starts the almost endless rounds with specialists to measure field of vision and just what kind of lens to put in. While Dutch healthcare can be quite brusque, and people don’t have a sense of humor about your self-deprecating. humor (the technician was not very pleased when I said that I had complicated eyes. She she turned around with an offended air and said not to me you don’t), The doctor was efficient and she did have a sense of humor as she laughed with me as I told the story of how I got to her in a funny way. I was also pleased that including dilation the whole appointment took one hour. In America I would’ve been sitting at the doctors office half the morning. I did have an interesting conversation with the office that did my Lasik in 1997 as they claimed they had no records of my care before 2003 and I was insistent that they must. THe doctors here want my records pre-Lasik as a benchmark. They did have them, though not in electronic form, so I am getting them sent to my dad and then he will scan them and email them to me.

Next up is my third (and hopefully last) MRI to make sure that I am fully recovered from my spinal issues from the fall. I’m happy to report that I have no tingling or numbness in my feet. I am hopeful that the MRI will show nothing and that my brain is not swollen. I think the doctor is just being conscious. Trying to stay positive at the thought of needles and contrast as well.

Writing continues to go really well in terms of editing and I am slowly but surely clearing very old mistakes and comments from the Washington Creative Writers Group. I have not even started with the Dutch critique group, which tongue in cheek, my friend Ilana pointed out, has two Spaniards an American and one Dutch person. So is it really Dutch? She’s not wrong. I have submitted the next two chapters for revision and critique so we will see how that goes. I wager that if I submit two chapters a month I will have at least 20 months of  material before I have to write anything. But hopefully the creative juices will start flowing and I can continue the story. It was fortuitous that I am editing because in one part of the book I had given a character blonde hair and dark eyes and in the beginning of the book I had said he was dark-eyed and Chestnut hairs. These little details matter. How to keep them straight probably takes an Excel worksheet. I know, I have seen such a worksheet. (I’m looking at you, fantasy world builders.)

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

Late Lessons and Proper Pedantry

There must’ve been a cosmic event somewhere in the world this week. You see, dear reader, the unthinkable happened. I’m not sure if I told you but aside from all of the craziness with pay cuts and fairly low bookings, I have started seeing more and more place holding. In particular, there is one student who used to be a level four through six regular for me at VIPKid, but once she got to level seven, I never saw her again. Perhaps that’s because when she first started level seven I was not allowed to teach it. The rules then changed, and I was able to certify and have been teaching for quite a while. Inexplicably, in the beginning of last year, her mother, or the learning partner, or something supernatural, I’m not sure which, started place holding at least one or two lessons every week on my schedule. They would place hold until 25 hours before the lesson when they would cancel. At that rate it’s no longer likely that the class will book for a lesson that cancels that close to the teaching time. This has been going on for about a year. It’s not just this student of course, but I feel like I’ve been singled out as a second best for this family at level seven. Not only do they place hold, but they are extremely disrespectful of my time. On  Saturday she, was on my schedule and had not dropped off. So of course I got ready for the lesson which was a unit assessment and was there just on time. This particular lesson, she showed up  at minute 36, Of a 48 minute lesson. I swear I have never given a unit assessment so quickly. It was a close thing, and I barely got to my next class in time. But was able to enter with six seconds to spare and so still maintain my perfect service record of no late arrivals and no early exits. Still, dear reader, I feel that just as a student’s time is valuable, the teacher’s time is also valuable and it is the height of disrespect to not show up in time. In the case of Bella, she claimed to have forgotten, which leads me to believe that she did not book the lesson and nor did her mother. Rather, I think that the learning partners are booking the lessons and the parents and students have no idea.

Over at Lingueo, things proceed quite nicely, and while I am not building up a following of students, I still have the three that started with me this month. I was hopeful that the five star review that I got from Delphine, would have pushed me to the relative top of some ranking and I would get more students, but that hasn’t happened yet. Still, I am enjoying the lessons that I’m giving to my three candidates. Delphine and Nicolas are easy enough. The challenge, is Maria Jose. This young woman speaks better English than I do. She is easily a C1 possibly a C2 level, and it has proven quite challenging to find things to teach her. We are currently working on sentence structure and word order in English but it quite a high-level. We are working on complex compound sentences, cleft sentences, and work order in English. She seems to like the lessons, and she continually keeps making reservations, but I am discovering that is difficult to find the lessons that are challenging enough for her but easy enough for me to teach. But I came up with a solution of sorts, and have switched the focus of the lessons to academic English like I do with one of my English Centrer clients. The switch seemed to work and we were able to fill the time, just enough to make it interesting for her. It helps that I’m a little bit of a self deprecating teacher, and can use my foibles and weaknesses as  teachable moments. But it is to say the least, pedantic as I am an American and don’t use the sentence structures that we’ve been working on as much as somebody who is British. I find that American English tends to be a little bit more direct uses quite a bit more simple language then British English.

In another, non-teaching related instance of pedantry, I have a friend who on my suggestion is reading Bill Bryson’s Mother Tongue, And while she finds it interesting, it also is the thing puts her to sleep in the evening. I was quite amused because for me it made me want to finish the book in one day which I’ve done. But for my friend it’s a bit different. If you haven’t had a chance read it I recommend it, and if you have I’d welcome your thoughts on it,

My writing or rather, my editing on Thursday nights is going well and I am nearly done with the first edit based on comments from people in the Washington creative Writer’s club. Once I do that it will be time to sit through the comments of the Dutch Critique group or at least to take a break and actually create content. We’ll have to see how long that takes. But I’m finding that I enjoy being able to resolve, or not resolve issues as the case may be. One of the things that I’m having trouble with is figuring out when to stop editing. When is enough enough? And that was the focus of our critique group last Wednesday. I’m sure it will be an ongoing discussion but it’s proving to be a conundrum that I can’t currently solve.

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

Frenzy F*ck Up and a Polish Pickup

Things I learned this week: never never never never never never never never never never never never never never never miss a frenzy. Did I mention never? And yet, dear reader, that’s exactly what I did this week. I didn’t open for the frenzy, thinking that I could get short notice bookings and at least make an extra two dollars for every class that booked. The strategy was the most epic fail ever. I opened up on Thursday last week, And as of this writing I’ve only gotten four bookings. One was on Sunday at 9:30 AM. So not only did I have to wake up but I had to wake up and teach a free talk. They are not my favorite. At the lower levels the kids don’t have the language for what they’re trying to learn. It’s another flaw in curriculum design. I have been kicking myself. Short notice is only worth it if it works, and by that I mean more than the three classes that I was able to get yesterday. But that is rare, at least for me. It might work once the kids are on vacation themselves, in January for Chinese New Year. But my lesson has been learned: better a bird in the hand than two in the bush. I’d rather have non-short notice bookings throughout the week, then have a zero booking schedule and depend on short notice. So the first week of January was an extra week of vacation. You might think that’s really cool, but not when you’re trying to pay bills.

I do still have my private clients, though my Chinese twins are taking a break until nearly the end of January. English Center will pick back up on Friday with my student who is doing academic English. I work with her until the first week in February. And then on the 11th all goes back to normal with my Monday student coming back from Curaçao. At least I hope he’s able to come back. I also hope he tests negative for Covid. Because it’s an in real life lesson. Yesterday, brought a twice weekly client from Lingueo, and though I had to make some adjustments, schedule-wise, that student is on my schedule until the end of April. I just have to remember not to open VIP slots when she has her lessons.

But, dear reader I have learned my lesson. Never again will I not open for some sort of frenzy. Therein lies lots of danger, at least for me. And since there isn’t enough work on any of my platforms it’s not like I can refuse to do VIPKid. Having learned my lesson, I’m happy to report that I opened for frenzy this week and got at least some bookings. Of course, it’s not the 60 that I opened up it’s more like half that.

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

Tech Turnoff and Vacation Vacillation

I never believed, dear reader, in the idea of Mercury being in retrograde. I am not a spiritual person and do not have a belief system. But I did come close this week. And because the tech turnoff was both personal And work related, I think it applies here. I have been having issues with my Kindle charging for about four months now. The charging contact inside the Kindle is damaged and I could only charge it sporadically by jiggling the cable until I saw a light, standing the Kindle up on its side and hoping that it wouldn’t fall over while it charged. Of course, that could not last and it ended quite spectacularly this past Thursday. My Kindle now does not charge at all, no matter what I tried. And I tried everything I could think of: changing cables and changing sockets. No Joy. On the “bright” side Jasper does not have to wrack his brain for a Christmas present for me. But I needed a solution for the inability to read a book.

Not to worry, I thought, I still had my phone. I duly downloaded the Kindle app onto my phone and used it to read, as well as do everything else that I needed to do. Including scheduling appointments, talking to students, and all manner of work related things. And then the unthinkable happened. Not a single one of my non-Apple branded chargers would work with my phone. Not the €27 native union cable, not the cheap six euro HEMA cable, And definitely Not the multi cables that I get from Jasper’s work for free. I could charge nothing. For those of you that don’t know HEMA is a mid-range, house branded department store here in the Netherlands. I spent a very stressed out weekend only using my phone extremely sparingly. But the technology gods seemed to be smiling on me. I ordered five different cables, two from Amazon and three from Apple themselves, to see which ones worked. I don’t think I’ve ever spent more money on cables in my life I think it was something like €115. According to people in the know, Apple recently installed a chip into their phones that is able to detect whether you’re using a Apple branded cable. Now while you don’t have to use an Apple cable itself, it does have to have a particular symbol that indicates it’s compatibility and approval from Apple. I had none of those. Anyhoo, on Saturday afternoon I got a message from DHL saying that a package from Amazon would be arriving on Sunday somewhere between 9 AM and 6 PM. I wasn’t sure which of my packages was arriving As I had placed quite a few orders from Amazon. It turns out that it was the Amazon cables and a couple other things that I ordered.  Not only are they Apple branded they’re actually original Apple cables so at least I can use my phone without worrying about charging my phone. But having to turn off my phone after every use was an annoyance that I didn’t need.

Tomorrow, dear reader, is my last day working until 2 January. At least that’s what I hope. The plan is to move Jasper into my house over the next week. But I am not sure that is going to happen. My Jasper is a great idea man. He had the idea to move in with me and then we find a place of our own after selling his. Great idea as I said. Execution, not so much. He has been talking about this move for the last two months. But has done nothing to make it happen. So we will have to see. If he has done nothing by tomorrow, I am going to open up the holidays to teaching. Because frankly, I need the cash.

That’s the second part of my title, I certainly don’t want to work but may have to. So I’m vacillating. Will I or Won’t I is a question that has been in the back of my mind for quite a few days now. And its further complicated by choice. I have also been hired by a company to teach English to French people online. I may just open the holidays to that company and see if I can get some bookings. It doesn’t pay much. It’s about the same as VIPKid but I get paid in euros. Which is important. Because as you all know from a couple of posts ago the dollar has tanked rather spectacularly. Forecasts indicate that it’s going to tank even more over the next few months. So the earning of euros for those of us who are in Europe is going to become doubly important.

Over in the writing world, I have gotten into the Thursday night writing groove. I find that setting a tangible goal for the evening works well for me, as does the fact that there are people typing with me. I think, unlike the English language dinner group, that the writers’ group will survive Covid.

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

Trial Turnover and (more) VIPKid Villany

I just about expired from shock this weekend, dear reader. It was an ordinary weekend for the most part. But on Friday, the unthinkable happened. I turned a trial, much in the same way a vampire will turn a human on Supernatural. It was completely unexpected. Firstly, the kid came at minute eleven. At that point I was not at my computer. I ran over and triedo get through the material as quick as I could. It’s true, that I was teaching mostly mom and not the kid but that’s OK. Things I have learned with VIPKid: I can do anything for 25 minutes. Including act like a complete ass. In this case it happened to work. I was not sure if it would, however. You see mom said something to me in Chinese for about a minute and a half. So I thought I was a goner for sure and not only would I not turn the trial, but I would also  get a bad review. Luckily, neither of those things happened and I made five dollars. What I find really concerning and sad is that I am happy at making an extra five dollars where what I should be thinking is I’m not being paid enough for any of this. It’s also shocking because generally my trials are no-shows. And I mean at a rate of about 60%. I rarely teach them. It gives me hope that maybe I will get a few more of them that I actually teach and actually turn. But on Sunday my first class was a trial and of course it was a no-show. Still I got $4.75 out of it.

Despite this positive occurrence, the hits at VIPKid just keep coming. I’m sure that I will get backlash from many teachers when I post this on the Facebook group that I run. But I’m still gonna post it. It seems that VIPKid is opening their market to South African and Filipino teachers. And while they will be only teaching the 6:1 starlight classes, what concerns me is that that will be only the beginning. Starlight group courses allow multiple students to one teacher up to six. this doesn’t really concern me, as I don’t and won’t teach Starlight 6:1. what concerns me is that the pay rate for South African teachers is six dollars to nine dollars an hour and for Filipino teachers is three to five dollars an hour depending on experience, for teaching up to six children. I  make double that teaching one on one for VIPKid to kids in China. What is to stop my students from taking the 6 to 1 classes with a South African or Filipino teacher who cost the company much less than I do? Right now, the answer seems to be nothing. And so once again VIPKid has become even less secure. There was of course the typical assurance that this is a test program and is going to roll out very slowly. But I’m not buying it. On top of pay cuts and other changes, VIPKid seems to becoming less sustainable over the long term. And I’m not convinced that it’s Only VIPKid. I think this is a trend we’re going to see across the industry. Because while online teaching is increasing, and prominence in online education is much more In use, I think the prevalence of English language teaching online and the saturation of the market is ultimately going to cause problems for those of us who already changed their career to ELT. So now I’m scrambling to find other options.

In other news, after an inconclusive MRI that showed swelling in the spinal cord again, it’s off to radiology for a third MRI this time of my brain to make sure that everything is OK in that quarter. While I appreciate the diligence of the doctors, I’m getting heartily tired of being in an MRI machine.

The online writing sessions continue to be productive, but on a personal level they’re making me miss my in real life writing group much more than if I didn’t have them at all. There may be light at the end of the tunnel in the new year, but we’re still going to have to find a new place to write. There is hope on that horizon as well as a friend of mine has access to a space that we might be able to use on the east side of the city. I’m going to have to investigate with her after the holidays are over.

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

December delete and a ticket teardown

While the holidays are always slow, dear reader, it seems that this December will be slower than most. My Polish student has asked that we suspend lessons until January. While this doesn’t exactly pose a hardship for me, as she’s not one of my more lucrative students, she is fun and I really enjoy our sessions because I learn something new from her every time I talk to her. She wanted to stop after the sixth, which would’ve been this past Sunday. But because she contacted me early in the week, I told her just take the whole month off and we will start back up in January. Now when this has happened in the past, I have never seen the student again. Not sure if any of you remember as far back as my Belarusian student, with whom I had three months of in real life lessons on a Sunday and then nothing. She moved to online lessons with Preply, and while I am on the platform, I haven’t been focusing on it.

And then. of course. there is the case of Felix, who in spite of his best intentions, once he got a job decided that he didn’t have the energy to learn English anymore.  So let’s hope that Karolina comes back in January. Fingers crossed, but I’m a cynic about this and most things so I will believe it when I see it. And of course, dear reader, you will be the first to hear of it when I do.

There is always a bright side to these kinds of things however, I was able to move my Chinese twins a little bit further forward in the day taking part of Karolina’s which means that my day will end at 1:30 on Sunday instead of at two. Having an early afternoon on Sunday means that I can actually do something with my Sunday. Which in the corona times means cook  or bake something.

Over in the VIP kid world, I got so desperate for bookings that I actually sent a ticket telling them that parents had told me that they couldn’t find me on the system. The answer I got from the company was “prove it”. Of course, I can’t prove it because they’re telling me on WeChat and I don’t want the company to know that I’m talking to parents. Or at least I don’t want them to officially know. I’m sure they know, because they’re not stupid. I did see a few trial bookings trickle in over the week but most of them are no-shows. And even when I teach a trial I don’t get the five dollars that we used to get when kids signed up after a trial with you. Apparently, if they don’t buy in the program that you actually taught then you don’t get the five dollars. And I suspect that is what’s happening with me. For example, if I teach a major course trial and they buy a starlight package then I don’t get that money. And vice versa. That is just another shitty way for VIPKid to shaft the teachers. But all in all, the experience of sending a ticket and having them do nothing, shows me where this company is going. And I fear in fact, for the future of online English language teaching in general. The market is simply oversaturated with  too many teachers, too many companies, and not enough students. Leaving me to wonder if English language teaching is sustainable in the long term.

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