Teaching Trenches and a Writing Rollercoaster

This week at Inkreadable, dear reader, really tested my mettle. Most of the time I can fairly easily adapt between levels. This includes subtle shifts in level like B1 To B2, but also more extreme shifts like B1 to C1. This week however, that proved a little bit more challenging then I had anticipated, and I felt that across all of my platforms through the week.

Initially, I had thought that my most difficult transition lessons would be for The English Center. At least, that’s how the first part of the week shaped up. I have two students with them and one is a very solid B2, and the other is off the charts good at English. Her understanding and ability to do the work is beyond the C level. That’s not to say that she doesn’t struggle a little bit, but in most of the exercises that we’ve been doing, she has gotten nearly everything right. I am very lucky that she is humorous and can handle my self-deprecating humor, as I got into our second lesson and told her flat out that she was my most challenging student and that I had to ask for help from even more experienced teachers than I was. She was able to see the humor and laughed right along with me which was great. But the fact remains that trying to find lessons that are challenging enough for Claudia is a challenge all its own. I have therefore been focusing on the academic lessons and using a site called English for Academic Purposes. That seems to be working fairly well but still seems to be quite easy. Since this is a writing class, I feel a bit guilty that we haven’t actually done very much writing in the lesson and she hasn’t given me any writing Samples of her own to take a look at. With Lily, my other English Center client, it’s not so much that finding lessons that are difficult. Rather, it is making sure that the lessons are topics that she finds interesting because she bores easily. I also find myself worried that I will be a little bit too academic for Lily and not academic enough for Claudia. But neither of them have complained to the English Center so I think I am OK thus far.

This past week is also a challenge over at VIPKid. I typically open Prime Prime Time on Saturdays, which means 12-3 PM CET. While I thought that the classes for Claudia are hard, they’re nothing compared to the VIPKid writing lessons. They are an hour long and you’re supposed to go over a piece of writing that is submitted by the student. The assignment for this kid was to write a mini biography. And he chose to write about a Track Star in China. The biggest problem with this was that he literally wrote a half a sentence that I had to then spend an hour editing as well as trying to draw him out and get him to talk about writing in general and reading this piece. It was quite literally like pulling teeth to try to get him to answer questions. I must’ve done something right however because on Sunday morning, I woke up to a five Apple review from his mom. I suspect but that is going to be someone that I see again and I’m not looking forward to it.

Yesterday was my penultimate lesson with Alaina and I was curiously hesitant to ask her about whether she wants to renew the package. She is heading to Paris for a few weeks starting this week and I’m not sure that she will be able to continue with English lessons. It’s a shame because I would love to continue with her. I suspect however the reason that she’s going to Paris will not allow her to block off time for an English lesson once a week. I think I will wait until next eek to ask, I have had a two week hiatus from The Dutch student that I see on Mondays as it has been both school vacation and May holiday. I am busy trying to craft questions to ask him about his vacation as he is typically Dutch and never really forthcoming about what he did on any of his vacations. It is a quandary.

As suggested by my title, the week has also been quite difficult in terms of writing. I simply didn’t have the mental space this week to be able to write my own stuff. I find myself only wishing to read other people’s stuff. Which seems like a waste of time when you’re online with your writing friends and you’re not doing any writing. Still the discipline of getting online and at least being there on a Thursday night is important in itself because it’s still connects me to writing. I was able to do a little bit better on Sunday but was not entirely able to concentrate that day either. While I did some writing on Sunday, I also stressed about it it because I should’ve been lesson planning while I was writing. The discipline of being a writer can be sometimes very difficult, and his week was no exception.

I also had an MRI this week and will have a consultation with the doctor on Thursday. It was unfortunate because I was an idiot and opened up slots for VIPKid on Thursday having forgotten that my consultation was in person. So I had to send an email to the doctor and ask him if he could be a telephone consult. Thankfully he agreed and I opened up the rest of Thursday with the exception of the hour when he supposed to be calling me. Also this week I discovered that my computer, which is barely a year old, is having technical issues. Actually, It’s a problem of hardware. It seems that one of the ports on my Dell no longer function. I found this out on Friday morning when I was setting up my computer to teach. The upshot is that I cannot power my computer, use my headphones, and use my cooling laptop stand at the same time. But this is why I bought the expensive care package and Dell came out to me on Monday. I took the precaution of letting Alena know that I might have to change our lesson for Monday because I’m not sure what time the technician will come out. It has truly been a pins and needles kind of week for me here at Inkreadable.

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

Last Lingueo and a Preply Prank

Happy Koningsdag Or Kings day, from the Netherlands! It’s a uniquely Dutch holiday celebrating the Kings birthday. His official birthday, that is. When the Netherlands had a queen, they also celebrated Queens Day on 27 April. The streets swarm with people wearing orange, and setting up stalls to sell random old stuff to people walking around. It is the nation’s biggest flea market. The last King’s day wasn’t much of an affair as we were all in lockdown. One year later and we are still in a lockdown. This year, it will not be possible to wander around Amsterdam looking at people hocking their wares on the sidewalks, in the parks, and sometimes even from a canal boat. One year, dear reader, I even saw someone selling not a pair of shoes but a single shoe. I wonder to this day, if he ever sold it.

Over at Inkreadable, dear reader, it’s been a week of lasts. I had my last Lingueo lesson with Delphine and my last (for now) lesson at TEC with a student there. She says she wants to take more lessons with TC, but is unsure whether she wants private or group classes. I was honest and told her that she would do fairly well in a group class and recommended that she take the fluency course. It’s not particularly business focused but rather is more of a speaking course and I think that would be good for her. Delphine and I have agreed to keep in touch and maybe we will schedule some Skype conversations on occasion. I also scheduled my lessons with the nearly native speaking financial Executive who wants help with writing reports and business communication. We Had our first lesson yesterday and I think it went all right. Though I spent the first half hour feeling like I had pitched t too low. I did spend the weekend doing some extra prep and talking to her previous teacher. All things being equal, I should be able to maintain a fairly flexible attitude. We will have to see what happens with her once I start teaching in Amstelveen.

Speaking of Amstelveen, I sent all of my information and signed the contract for The Conversation Playground mid-week last week. So now it’s a waiting game. We are going to begin on 11 May and there is still no word as to the time. I prefer, (and have my fingers crossed for) starting at 2:20 and not 3:20. 2:20 will allow me to get there on my own and get back from there without having to rely on the owner of the company for rides. But I’m a little bit conflicted, because if I do ask for rides home at least, I can then offer my English Center client more flexibility. I am leaning towards getting to the school on Tuesdays on my own and then accepting a ride home after the class is over. We will have to see how it all works out.

Over at rPeply, things got kind of interesting mid week last week as I had a booking for Friday, 23 April at 9 PM. I contacted the student who asked me for my Skype as they wanted to do their trial lesson on that platform. . The student proceeded to make me an offer on Skype. She claimed that she did not need the English lessons from Preply and that her work was paying for them. She then said that she and I could set up lessons that she would confirm on Preply and when I got paid I would give her half the money from her lessons. Needless to say, that was a hard no from me and I also reported her to the company. I called it a prank in the title for the sake of alliteration but really, it’s fraud. And in the EU if she was found out then\n I’d be on the hook too. Yeah, no thanks.

There is still no word from Lexis as to whether we’re going to start courses in June and September but I am kind of busy doing research and prepping for that as well. I hope that that does turn into something because then we’re talking about real money. And possibly no VIPKid which is the goal.

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

TEC Timing and a Games Gig

This week at Inkreadable, dear reader, started out pretty quiet and then ramped up to almost insane. While VIPKid remains the same, and with Lingueo wrapping up later this week, my schedule was going to get pretty empty. I still have my private clients but their packages are winding up and should finish sometime next month. I am not sure, or at least I cannot read, whether they’re going to renew. In any case, my private client will take the summer off which means six weeks. With me going to Greece in August it means that I won’t see him until mid September at the earliest. And while I think Alaina likes my lessons I’m not sure she wants to keep going. And it’s not yet the time to ask.

I have had a bunch of work from the English Center. One is a client who wants 10 lessons online and two lessons in person in Amstelveen, which I think the owner of the company is going to give her. Although when I talked to the student, she did say that she only wanted the in person lessons for a change of pace. If she wants to do them with me maybe I will head out there. I also have a second client with the company who has asked for 6 one hour lessons. We had our first lesson week before last on a Friday and two lessons on Tuesday and Friday last week. Our last three lessons are this week, we’ve already had one yesterday, we will have one today and we will have one on Friday. Instead of doing grammar, like I normally do, the student has tested at a C1 level and so I have been started using a lot of Linguahouse lessons with her. We also did a lesson on human resources and prepositions because she finds them confusing. I think the student will continue with me which will be great. I did however, make a mistake with The English Center. They offered me a client for 18 hours who is an executive and needs help with writing and the language of finance. All of which is fine except that they have waived their usual policy and have told the client that she can cancel with three hours notice with no penalty to her. And what that means for me is that I can’t charge her. Jasper rightly pointed out that the English Center should have offered compensation to the teacher for their flexibility. But of course, they did not say anything about that. I didn’t ask either. What’s more concerning to me is whether I’m going to be able to handle the timing of these 3 English Center clients, and the potential to teach for Lexis Amsterdam starting in June. But I will deal with that when I have to as it is not a sure thing by any means.

By far the most interesting events of the week was getting contacted by The Conversation Playground to confirm a teaching gig starting on 11 May and going through 7 July. I will be heading out to the middle of nowhere on Tuesday afternoons to teach English in the context of playing games. The pay is good and the owner of the company has offered to pick me up and drop me off. What they do is they have 12 kids between the ages of six and nine play games and speak English while doing it. The facilitator sets up a whiteboard where the kids can go and write the Dutch word that they don’t know in English but they are not allowed to speak Dutch for the whole hour. It’s an interesting concept, and there isn’t a lot of correction involved but I will be correcting three points that I hear through the games. I’m kind of excited by the possibility. It’s not something that I’ve ever done. I have gone to see how they conduct the lesson once. It was interesting. We will have to see if I’m up to the challenge as I haven’t facilitated a classroom of kids in years. And even then, I was teaching creative writing so there wasn’t a lot of classroom management. They were also English native speakers. It should be an interesting couple of months.

In other news, I’m headed next Monday for an MRI. It’s the first MRI to monitor my brain activity in three months. I will say that I have felt no changes and I’m not tripping or doing anything neurological that is weird. So I’m hopeful that there has been no change. Still no news on the cataract surgery and I’m kind of thinking that there won’t be for a little while. I hope it doesn’t conflict with my trip to Greece in August, because that will be difficult to try and change.

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

Linguahouse Love and a TEC Turnaround

While it was hard getting back into the swing of things on Tuesday last week after a break for Easter, there were a couple of game changers that made it much more interesting. Generally, when teaching, I try to build lessons that the students will like as all teachers do. But sometimes it’s quite hard to find lessons that will appeal to students who don’t really have many interests for which there is enough material for lesson building. My friend Regina, recommended a website called linguahouse.com that has lessons at all three levels of the Common European Framework of Reference (CEFR) which is the way that English language ability is gaged here in Europe. I keep forgetting that I have access to the website but needed some material for Delphine over at Lingueo because nobody wants to be doing grammar all the time. I have done several lessons with her about artsand several lessons dealing with food, and they’ve been wonderful. I bought a year subscription and shared it with Regina whose own subscription had lapsed. If, dear reader you’re an English language teacher, I urge you to take a look at this website because it has great stuff that you can use as a base to build a lesson. For example, I particularly liked the lesson that I’ve taught from them on Easter. I learned just as much as my students.

As of today I will have four more lessons with Delphine at Lingueo. I am going to miss our lessons as they have been fun and engaging. One of the best things about teaching adults is that you become friends with your students. I think in the case of Delphine, Nickolas, and Maria Jose, we will keep in touch for quite a long time. My plan once everything is open and we are able to travel is to head to Paris to meet them in person.

I have been getting a little bit stressed out with the thought of the Lingueo lessons ending and nothing on the horizon from Preply. But things got interesting as I was able to snag two new students with the English Cnter. I had a lesson with a Dutch woman called Isabelle. She’s the student I was referring to above when I said it will be hard to find lessons that keep her engaged and interested. I have five lessons with her and she expects to be much more confident in English after those five lessons. I had to ask her point-blank if she thought she would be fluent in five lessons and thankfully she said that she did not expect fluency but just a greater understanding and confidence when speaking English. She was the one who also told me that while she likes to go to the gym outside there aren’t very many other interests that she has beyond hanging out with friends and eating out. I may be able to do something with eating out and possibly the idea of hanging out to teach a phrasal verb but without her liking things like art. It’s going to be very difficult to make lessons that interest her and engage her. Still, l I think I’m up to the challenge. The other TEC client is called Lily and I will have a lesson with her tomorrow. That’s for a package of 10 hours of both business focused and conversational English. I did something new with Isabelle, I created an intake test of my own and gave that in conjunction with getting Isabelle to tell me about how the English tenses work through the use of a table that I have found online. I think I’m going to do the same with my second client at TEC at least for the first lesson. This one’s a little harder because I’m actually sharing the student with Brenda who owns The English Center. Lily will take two in person lessons with her which means that I need to keep her informed of what I’ve been doing. I’ve done that before as we collaborated with students but it’s difficult because Brenda has a lot more experience than I do in teaching.

VIPkid continues to throw some surprises my way. The trial gods have forgotten me but the level seven and book report Gods have remembered me. I think I have had more one hour classes in the past week than ever in my career as a level seven teacher on the platform. Of course, there are the placeholders who cancel but I noticed that the sales team is on top of it and they have filled open slots with other classes. While it doesn’t make up for the fact that my classes are only about 50% booked, It gives me hope that the 120 thousand teachers that are on the platform are not all teaching full-time. And that most of them have gone back to school.

Also this week was my best writing day yet, with Thursday being very productive. In general, I’m finding that the Thursday and Sunday schedules work for me and 3 1/2 hours of writing a week is not bad at all. I hope this trend continues. We’ve also been talking with the Writers Group about charging for the advertising that we do on meet up for new members. I have been running the Washington Creative Writers Club since 2012 and charging members $12 a year to be in the group. You get a free trial meeting and if you like us then you have to pay. The problem is, people haven’t been paying since 2017 when I left For the Netherlands. We do have a lot of money in the bank account but it’s not going to last forever if nobody pays for the dues and the cost of Meetup is $200 a year which is not insignificant to me. So I sent an email to my former co-organizer and now organizer of the group asking what we should do. They asked me to give them a week to decide but all indications are that we’re going to delete the group and leave Meetup. I need to figure out if the Dutch group is willing to pay for the Meetup site and whether it’s worth it for us to stay on Meetup for the Dutch group. Because that would be one group running at $200 a year and not two. It’s a dilemma indeed.

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

Course Collaboration and Possible Plotting

This week, dear reader, was a short one here at Inkreadable. I had decided to take the Easter weekend off, including Monday, ostensibly to take a break. But in the middle of last week, a chance conversation changed everything.

In my last post, I told you that I had been doing some editing work for a former student, which while unpaid, could have led to a paid commission from one of their classmates. That did not turn into anything, alas. Not only that but I did not hear from my student about the edits at all. Not even a thank you. I also did some editing for my friend Despina over at Lexus Amsterdam. As we are friends as well as colleagues of sorts she came over and we were talking about our trials and tribulations in the time of pandemic trying to teach our languages. I casually mentioned that I was surprised that she didn’t have any group lessons for English and apparently, it blew her mind. She had simply never thought of it. So in a back-and-forth that would extend for the whole week, we decided to start two different fluency courses and one course for business English. They are going to run in the summer over eight weeks And at the end of September when I am back from my travels in Greece. I am quite excited for the possibilities and have spent quite a lot of time looking at different books and how best to structure all three of them.

With my private clients off the schedule for Monday, I took the time to take a walk but also do more planning and plotting for the syllabus for the courses. That is in addition to my normal lesson planning for my private clients. I am quite pleased at least terms of scheduling. My Monday private client is taking the week off but Alena and I have switched the lesson to later today, and we were going to have the lesson outside but the weather has been uncooperative since yesterday. In fact, my iPhone weather app had been calling for snow for both yesterday and today. Needless to say there will be other lessons in the package where we can meet in person.

Over on the Preply platform, things have ground to a halt. My one and only student says she has Covid and so we have suspended lessons until she feels better. I am also trying not to be a cynic and am choosing to believe that she is telling the truth. After all, she has already paid for the lesson so why would she then not want to take them. My plan is to contact her in a couple of weeks so that I can figure out my own schedule. After all, if I’m not gonna be teaching her on Tuesdays or Thursdays I can be teaching someone else.

In VIPKid world, I am basically only teaching the students who ask for priority booking requests. I am not really getting any new students nor am I getting any trials. It seems to be an up-and-down kind of thing. A lot of my teacher colleagues on the European Facebook group that I run, do have more consistent bookings but have also noticed that there is an up and down quality to the bookings as of late.

Writingwise, things proceed well. I am attending the Sunday Write-Ins and the Thursday Write-Ins quite regularly. I have an interesting dilemma in terms of plotting because my brain is working quite a bit faster than my fingers can type. The ideas are coming fast and furious and I’m not quite sure how to handle all of that creativity. It’s actually quite a good problem to have. But I will say that I was rather annoyed at some of the members of my group who either could not figure out how to get in to the meeting on Saturday, even though I have never had any trouble, or compounded the drama by giving me grief. The short version is that a new member of the group wanted me to post the link to the meetup website, which I refuse to do because I don’t want that many people on Zoom. I did explain how to access the meetings form WhatsApp but that seemed to be too much for the person to understand so I gave in. I duly set up recurring meetings in Zoom and sent emails to the people who requested them. I was touched that a VIPKid teacher friend who is also in the group, but is in the states now was following the What’sApp drama and wrote me privately to offer caring and support as it is a lot of work to keep track of. Managing the differing personalities in the group can be quite a challenge.

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

Trepidatious teacher and writing revelry

Spring has sprung here in the Netherlands. Well, it actually sprang last week, but over the weekend we went forward an hour to daylight savings time and I always find  I get much happier and more positive the more daylight I have. The downside, which for most people ends up being an hour less sleep, is the opposite for me. My Sunday at 9 AM student started at 10 over this past weekend. So what that meant for me was that I could sleep for an extra hour. Of course, my body woke me up well before the time of teaching but then I can be lazy and not get out of bed.

The week brought a couple of surprises. In my last post, I mentioned that I was possibly doing some translation work for my friend Despina over at Lexis Amsterdam. I accepted the project and completed the first three web content texts that she sent me in about an hour. She did say that she would send me some more as she wrote more content. I was impressed by her English writing skills as I did not have to make that many corrections. A former TEC student contacted me about doing some editing for her first research paper for her classes. I accepted the work and will do that one for free. She also gave my name to a classmate of hers That commission will be charged at €30 an hour. That’s if it comes through. I suspect that they won’t want to pay money for editing. So very few people do.

Over on Preply, my one and only student no showed on Thursday. I waited 1/2 hour in the classroom. I also contacted her on WhatsApp as well as sending a message on the platform. In addition, I took the step of also emailing Preply support. They were not very helpful. I got a canned automated message about their cancellation policy. I have decided not to charge my student because it was her first offense. The funny thing is she never answered either on Preply or on WhatsApp and in fact, while it looks like my messages were delivered, the checks are double and gray which means that the student hasn’t seen them. I hope everything is OK with her. We have a lesson on Tuesday evening and Thursday afternoon so I hope she will attend those. But it leaves me a little bit frustrated and stressed out that this will become a pattern with her and impact her learning goals. After all you cannot improve if you do not attend class. Preply, unlike VIPKid, actually penalizes the teacher for a student no-show. This means that they hide your profile from potential students.

Over in VIPKid world, I had my last ever class with a favorite student. He has finished his package of lessons. His mom and I are friends on WeChat and he suggested that we have conversations via WeChat. I was so sad as I have been teaching him for the last three years. My private clients in China have asked that we slow down our lessons using the third book of National Geographic because the readings are too long. I think that I will try to expend them to four weeks a chapter which means more prep for me, but also means that it should take 20 months to get through the last two books in the series.

This week I also had the son of my private student on Wednesday. I decided to use the Book 21st century readings by National Geographic, which is a collaboration between the publishing company and Ted that makes English lessons based on Ted talks. I quickly found that this was a little too advanced for him and had to downgrade what I was doing. So we basically turned it into a conversation based on the lesson in the book and a bit of reading from the chapter but we didn’t watch the Ted talk. Additionally, I find that it’s really hard to teach a nine-year-old whose only interest is soccer. I hope but I haven’t made a mess  with this client that I will not be able to come back from.

I have six lessons left with Delphine over at Lingueo. I have found some amazing free lessons that have to do with art as the subject matter, and she seems to be enjoying it even if it’s a little difficult for her. I hope that I can find a few more of those lessons for her last few. It looks like we will be finished on 23 April.

Writing this week was actually quite productive. I was able to finish a chapter and start a new  I also think I see the light at the end of the tunnel for The Book of All Things.. After 10 years, I think it’s about time. But for me it was more about the journey than the destination. Still it’s nice to have an idea of where it’s going and how it will end. I’ve also noticed that the possibilities are open for multiple books because I don’t want to leave these characters just yet. What was supposed to be my trying to process my feelings about leaving Scotland at a time that I was hurting, turned into an odyssey of writing self discovery.

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

Online Onslaught Translation Temptation

Happy first day of Spring to all of you! Spring in the Netherlands is full of flowers and people sitting on terraces drinking. But, of course not this year. The restrictions in the Netherlands continue and it looks like they will be made even stricter as our numbers are on the rise. With no vaccine in sight, I made the decision to use my credit from the US trip that I canceled a year ago to book a ticket for 25 August through 14 September this year. It’s my cousin’s son’s wedding as well as possibly my nephew’s christening, though I haven’t heard anything about that from my sister. Let’s hope that I get to take the trip. I am not looking forward to all the Covid tests in my future.

This week at Inkreadable brought all but one of my lessons online, and an extra lesson for my new client’s son. In essence, since I’ve already been paid for his Dad’s hours, I do not mind transferring the hour to the son. At least someone is making use of my services. The situation will change if they want lessons for the young man on his own. He, like Yves is nine and at about the same level. I am going to try the National Geographic 21st-century reading for him but if we find that too difficult then I will try and craft lessons for him that are more age-appropriate. It would be helpful if I could have a look at his English materials. Then I can align closer with what the school is teaching him.

The lessons with Alena are going well and she seems to be enjoying them and as they are early days the prep is easy as I’m going through mostly grammar. She is compliant with homework and gives me her homework every Tuesday and we go over at the following class. She is intuitive and asks really interesting questions. I love my adult students because they are so motivated to learn and they are genuinely happy to see you when you walk in the room. Or as the case may be, n screen. It’s a little bit more fun than my kids at VIPKid who are essentially being forced to take English lessons. It’s not that their attitudes are bad, in fact, some of them are really happy and interested in the lesson. But it gets very difficult when a kid wants to focus on something else. I am finding that with Greek as well. My Greek student he’s a great kid who is focused when he wants to be. But focus is difficult for him and I have had to learn to incorporate the things that he likes to do, like play with emoji ‘s, into the lesson.

My Polish student Karolina is going through changes of her own. She is moving from Warsaw to Krakow in the next couple of weeks and so we spent this weeks lesson with her talking about that move and the apartments that she has seen. We will go back to doing IELTS prep at the end of the month. Generally, I find IELTS fun to teach but I also find it challenging because I’m not sure where to find materials. I have a couple of good websites but I’m always looking for more stuff. I have taken to using the other standardized English language tests as material and applying the oil test prep and strategies to those. It seems to be working.

In other news, my friend Despina over at Lexis Amsterdam need some help translating her website into English. I am happy to do the work as I really like translation work and even offered to do it for free. She is a friend and I really don’t mind but she insists on paying me and that’s quite nice. I’ve also been contacted by Sander who also wants translation work for his website in a couple of months from Dutch into English. Both are very good exercises for me because they allow me to improve both my Greek and my Dutch.

Over the weekend, I got a call from the owner of the Conversation Playground who took the time of slow down and the pandemic to learn new skills in IT and has designed an escape room online for use in the classroom by teachers. Not just language but also any other subjects. It’s an interesting design and I was able to create questions and hints but had some significant critique because I found some of the navigational tools a little bit difficult. Still it was a good exercise for me and I never considered an escape room as a teaching tool for EFL but it seems like it could work. I did assure him that I would use the tool in my classrooms and that might be a good thing to try and do with my private students in China. I do like when there’s lots of possibilities.

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

Preply Potential and Sunday Shutdown

The days here in Amsterdam are getting longer, and what that means here at Inkreadable, is more time to prepare for lessons, seeing friends, and a general uplifting of the mood. I had not spent a winter here in the Netherlands in its entirety, as we generally leave to go to the US in the beginning of December, so I had never experienced the shortest day of the year here. The winters here are tough, they are gray and cold and the nights feel very long. It brings me back a bit to my time in Scotland. I did not really like winter there either, as the days ended at 3 PM and didn’t start until 9 o’clock the next day.

This week at Inkreadable, started with my two new students and miracle of miracles I got one student on Preply, who booked 12 lessons with me. But I have not had any inquiries from anyone else and the three conversations that I was having with people turned into nothing. I wish that the company would allow teachers to book lessons when students express interest. At least, the trial lesson. Since you’re not being paid for it anyway, you should be in control at least  of booking the lesson so that the student doesn’t have to do it. Still I am hopeful that I will get more students, though I am continually annoyed by that Facebook group for Preply Teachers where everybody is posting their 18 hours a day of booked lessons. It is a known problem for me, as the teachers at VIPKid do the same thing. There are some teachers who always post their schedules that are fully booked, and that’s great for them, but that’s no longer my experience. To that end, I have decided to stop opening from 9 AM to 11:30 AM on Sunday. Instead, I am only going to open for one student who has to ask for the Sunday slot. I decided it wasn’t worth it for me to open 2 1/2 hours of lessons, then have a spate of 25 hour cancellations that will not fill short notice. Instead, I plan on using the time to write.

The plan is to write on Sundays from 10 AM to 1130 when I have to go teach Greek. I will, of course, keep my Sunday private clients so that still keeps me working from 11 to 2 but at least once my VIPKid student is done with his package, I won’t have to wake up before 10 o’clock in the morning on a Sunday. I’m finding that the writing sessions on Sunday and good for me as they let me connect with my characters on a day that is other than Thursday. Which is always good. That’s not to say that I won’t give up a Thursday for something interesting and fun, as I did this Thursday to go have dinner with friends in the neighborhood, but as I told them the writing is as much about my mental health and the connection with my characters, as it is about connecting with the Writers Group. I try not to flake out on them too often.

The lessons at Lingueo are ticking down to their inevitable end. My second student has his last two lessons this week. I will be sad to lose him as we get along quite well. I am hopeful that once the lockdown ends, we will stay in contact and Jasper and I can do a long weekend in Paris so that I can meet them, and as a bonus so that they can meet each other. I am not the only one suffering Lingueo loss, my friend Teresa, who is also a VIP teacher living in France, also hasn’t had any more students after her initial two students. I still have Delphine until the end of April at some point.

I am happy with the decision do not do VIPKid on Sunday. At some point of course, when we start meeting at WW in person, the Saturday means will allow me to take Saturday off as well. At least, that’s the plan, though I don’t know when that will start up again.

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

Trial Tales, Dizzying Dilation and Writing Restlessness

In last week’s post, I didn’t know whether my trial was going to turn into a regular student. But I needn’t have worried, even though there was a bit of an inner monologue going for the two days before she actually signed up. Alena is the sister-in-law of my WW friend Laura. To start we’re going to do 10 lessons once a week on Mondays. As she is not working she is able to be flexible which is great for me because at some point on Mondays I will have to start heading to Amstelveen to teach a client for TEC who still has 11 lessons left on his package.

I also have another private client who we will call Sean. He is Dutch and found me through my own website which was great. I was surprised, as my website is not the first that you come across one searching for English language teaching in the Netherlands. He wants 15 hours that will be in person on a Monday as well. With my Mondays sorted so nicely, it took the sting away from the loss of my beloved Sander. At least a little.

In other news, I’ve had some messages from students on Preply, One young woman who just wanted to talk for free. I think she was from somewhere in the Middle East and her family would not allow her to have lessons. Unfortunately, Presley is not a charity and I cannot work for free. I also got a message from a person in Russia who wanted to book a lesson. I gave the instructions but he never did it. On the platform it’s the student that books the trial lesson and there’s a big blue button on the teacher Profile to be able to do that. it really isn’t that difficult. Once I confirmed with support that that’s how students were supposed to book trials, I gave the instructions to my student but nothing came of that. I also had a lesson with a woman who is in Connecticut and has been living in the United States for 17 years but her life revolves around the Brazilian community and so she didn’t speak much English. I thought the lesson went really well she was engaged and laughing and seem to be enjoying the lesson that I gave her, But she did not confirm the lesson. As every single trial lesson on Preply is unpaid, I’m not sure there’s much I can do. I did contact support but have not heard anything as of yet. I sent countless messages and reminders to her to confirm the lesson and to encourage her to book classes but no joy. I am thankful for Lingueo, as I still have a bunch of lessons with them.

Over in VIPkid world, the trial gods have found me with a vengeance and I have at least one or two trials every day that I have a 50/50 chance of teaching. Unfortunately, I’m not very good at turning the trials so I rarely get the extra five dollars. I really don’t like the trials because they don’t show the parents what the kid will actually be learning. Instead it seems that the marketing ploy a VIPkid with regard to trials is “come to VIPkid and you’ll get 30 minutes of alone time”. So while other people think that they’re actually teaching, what we do is not teaching it’s edutainment and it deserves to be treated as such. I am no longer #Grateful #Blessed or #Thankful. In short, I am not one of those VIPKid teachers for whom this is an escape, or an extra source of income. It is getting more and more difficult to want to teach on the platform. In effect I have stopped opening from 9 to 11 AM my time because those slots don’t book anyway. Unfortunately, I may have to once the Lingueo contracts run out especially as Preply seems to be dead in the water for me.

The Thursday night writing goes well, at least in terms of trying to get some thing down. But it’s not a 1000 word bonanza or anything, and I’m finding that even staying focused for an hour and a half on the computer can be quite difficult when you’re writing. The time tends to pass agonizingly slowly for the amount of thinking that I do. Still, I’m happy to get anything down at all in our Thursday writing sessions. The weekend writing session on Sunday was spent trying to figure out why I couldn’t edit this post on the computer since I couldn’t see the block previews.

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

Last Lessons, Preply Prep and Writing Recall

It is, dear reader, the end of an era. Yesterday, I taught  my last lesson with Sander at the English Center. He has opted not to renew his package of lessons because of scheduling difficulties. I am going to miss him. For those of you who have been with me from the beginning, Sander and I started as Sander, Ferry and I. We lost Ferry about three months ago because he moved house and was no longer able to attend lessons. It paved the way, however, for me to get to know Sander’s son Yves. He is as precocious a nine-year-old as you will ever meet. He is funny and smart and will rule the world someday.

Not only will I miss my lessons with them, but I will also miss my walk across the park to the location where I was teaching them. It is a coaching space that the English Center and others rent out for their use. But it’s not just missing the routine of the walk and getting outside, I will also miss the women who run that space. One is Dutch and one is German and they are exceptionally kind and helpful. Ute, who is from Germany, is always willing to have a brief chat while you’re waiting. The other manager I don’t know as well, but she is also super kind. She let me use the facilities on a Saturday when I had walked through the park and was far from home. Maybe someday I will be back giving lessons t the location. But for now, I am wallowing in a little bit of sadness. There is a wonderful Dutch word that doesn’t really translate into English very well but encapsulates the feelings I have as I teach at this location, Gezelligheid. It kind of loosely translates to a feeling of coziness or having a general good time. It can apply to events, places, and people. The staff at the location are the embodiment of this idea.

On Friday, I had my unintentional last lesson with one of my Lingueo clients Maria Jose. Her schedule changed, and as her work is paying for the lessons, she wanted to do it inside work hours. She has had 17 1/2 hours of lessons with me. The last 2 1/2 hours she will take with another teacher, because she hast to take them on either Monday or Tuesdays  as she’s working those days. I am a little sad at losing her, but also a little frustrated because she had my WhatsApp and could ask me if we could change the lessons instead of going for another teacher. I would’ve happily opened up Mondays for her for her last two lessons. I kept Monday closed because I was afraid that I wouldn’t be able to get back in time to teach a lesson. But I would’ve happily opened up for her from 2 PM because I can definitely get home by then. Still, such Is life.

Yesterday afternoon I gave a trial lesson for the sister-in-law of a woman that I know from Weightwatchers. As of this writing I do not know if she will take lessons from me as yet. I hope so and as they will be on Skype they will be quite easy to schedule. I also spent a bunch of time this week doing the Preply seminars and self-study courses, changed my description and added one in French. While I did not find the courses entirely helpful there were some good takeaways for teaching on their platform. Yesterday morning I woke up to my first Trial lesson with a woman who is in the US EST time zone and that is for 7 pm my time this evening. Preply trials are unpaid which is not the best policy but if it gets me clients in the long term, and away from VIPKid a bit then I am happy about that. Let’s see if I can turn her into a student.

In writing news, I spent a good part of Thursday night creating new content and have been happy to connect with my characters and my storyline. I am finding it difficult to remember just what I have written and just which  subplots I have to resolve but the readthrough that I did over the last few weeks has been helpful. I am hoping that the streak continues. I also think that there’s a light at the end of the tunnel and possibly by sometime in April we will be able to start meeting at least on a reduced basis. Maybe I will suggest that people meet at my house rather than finding a location for the moment. I will have to talk to my group Co-organizer for his opinion.

Later this morning, I have a consultation with the eye doctor. I hope they’ll be able to give me a date for the cataract surgery as I’d like to get it over with frankly. Jasper’s family are possibly planning a reunion where we rent a couple of cabins somewhere in the Netherlands and hang out for a week. I’d like to be able to have sight to do that. I also want to go and see my sister and it would be nice to be able to have all of my surgeries finished when I can start traveling.

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