Teacher Triumph and London Love

This week at incredible, had a bit of foreshadowing to it. In central Amsterdam, Felix had the opportunity to Do a telephone interview for the position of a French-speaking customer service representative for British standards international (BSI). He got the email on Monday so we spent Wednesday and Thursday practicing. While it is true that his English is not where I wanted to be, I think that confidence makes up for a lot. And if there’s anything that Felix is, it’s confident. These couple of lessons, I think, or giving me a taste of what it might be like to work at the English center. Though I think, (Reid: I hope), Or a small taste of what I might expect teaching business level English to executives. And in fact I hope that that will be easier than with Felix because If there’s one thing that the Dutch have, it’s very very good English skills. But as with anything, there is always room for improvement. I find the people here have just enough English to make them selves understood but only get to a certain level. They struggle at higher levels of English. In particular with work-based English, people know the English that they need for their jobs, but try to have another type of conversation with them and they do struggle. I’m hoping that the English center incorporate some of that as well or if they do not, will allow me To do so.

I am afraid that the parents at VIP kids are getting the short end of the stick from Me. I don’t mean in my teaching certainly. I am is focused on that as ever. But I have stopped excepting priority booking request, because I have asked the English center if I can do some shadowing before I start to teach Myself. Since I’m not sure when the English center will offer me these shadowing hours, I have decided to wait until I know from them when I will be shadowing someone and then adjust my schedule accordingly. The only problem is these are unpaid hours. So in the short term it means a lot of money but in the long term and increase in wage.

In the suburbs of Amsterdam, Carlton has taken some initiative. His teacher at school sent me some flashcards with easily confused words in English. This past week we worked on reading them and using them in sentences. But I made it into a game where I put four cards down on the table and he picked one and made sentences. For the ones that he didn’t know I separated them out and will continue to practice them with him. In an interesting turn of events however, he has decided that he wants to play a memory game with the words and so this evening that’s exactly what I’m gonna do.

Katya and I have a suspended love affair. You know that I haven’t seen her in forever. Last night we tried to teach at the airport, but because of scheduling conflicts and Logistics that was not to be. I’ll probably see her next week, and I hope that she hasn’t forgotten me by then. I also hope that I am still her favorite teacher. Because even teachers are subject to a little bit of hubris.

I also got the chance to go to a Dutch vocational high school where are the children Are learning how to cook. Why would I do that you ask? The answer is simple. These cooking classes are in English. Thursday’s lesson happen to be there exam and their teacher made My friend Sue who is Australian and myself the focus of the children’s exam. They had to ask us three questions and then write sentences of 20 words or more about our answers. I must confess that I didn’t really see many of the kids writing 20 words or more except for one. We went back again on Friday and it turns out that the teacher spent a year and a half in DC so we got a chance to talk about his time there. My friend Sue taught at the school for 10 years and that’s how I was able To gain access to the class. If I have some volunteer time I might think about volunteering there. Maybe that will improve my Dutch.

Lastly, but most importantly, London was amazing. I am glad that I took the opportunity to go for a weekend as I don’t know whether I’ll be able to travel very much outside the Netherlands until this summer. I finish up with Carlton on 14 July or there about’s and then hope to see my sister in Greece. I have not told the English center about that yet. I think it should be OK because I am in charge of my own schedule. As always, Dear reader, you’ll be the first to know.

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

Job Joy and A Writing Wringer

This week at Inkreadable turned out to be a great one. I think this may be the best of my weeks to date. Both my lessons with Felix and Carlton are beginning to gel into something that is very focused. With Felix, we are working on trying to get him employed and increasing his vocabulary so that he can have conversations in English and understand what is being said. To that end, I have asked him to find me five words that he has trouble with and bring them in so that we can analyze them. In addition, he has asked me to provide him with vocabulary lists daily. We also had our first interview role plays Friday and yesterday. Felix does a lot better in English then he gives himself credit for. It’s interesting because he comes across as extremely confident when talking about and Interviewing for a job.

Out in the suburbs, Carlton’s teacher got back to me on Friday with what the school is working now. She sent me some very helpful lists end it turns out that Carlton is working on spelling and word recognition at a year one level. Given that, I spent most of the weekend working on lessons having to do with homophones. She did say that what I was doing was quite good.

I haven’t seen Katya In what feels like a million years. It hasn’t been, but t near enough. I think it’s been three weeks. And the trend will continue well into April, as I was busy yesterday, and I’m off to London next week. But I choose to be optimistic and say that I will see Katya after I get back on Monday. If I make it home in time.

The job connection with the English center turned into an onboarding interview. So now I’m employed with them as well, as a freelancer. We’ll see if clients come my way. But all in all, I’m quite happy because the pay is double VIPKid for private lessons. Which while a touch lower than my rate, is not lower by a lot. I did tell the owner that I would love to shadow a teacher a couple times just to see how things work. She gave me some fabulous books as well and I started using them with Felix.

I have hit a writing slump. The person who was going to illustrate with me has decided that she doesn’t want to work on the project. I was upset for about two seconds. Basically, in her email, she told me that it’s not worth it for either one of us. And I don’t agree. It was extremely worth it for me. It got me writing again. I’ve decided to put aside the two versions of the story for a time and come back to them at a later date. She said that she enjoyed the back-and-forth but felt that she would be taking on the lion share of the work with translating and drawing. I didn’t point out that I have found a translator. I’m going to keep that to myself and we’ll see what happens with an illustrator.

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

Teacher tension and a writing relapse

Teacher tension is what happens when you walk into a suburban house in Amsterdam and the first words out of mom’s mouth are “I went to see Carlton’s teacher and I’m not happy by the results.” So of course butterflies in my stomach and heart in mouth I ask “what happened?”. It seems the Carlton is behind in some key areas In order to pass into the third grade. They happen to be the areas that I’m working on namely spelling, Vocabulary, reading comprehension, and he has trouble with word problems. I think mom is being a little bit melodramatic in thinking Carlton might not pass into the third grade, but my response was “do you have the teachers email so that I can align what we do here at home with what he needs to focus on in school?”. She did and I wrote an email to the teacher who as of this writing has yet to respond. I was assured that she wasn’t unhappy with my work just with her son’s progress. But you can understand that for about an hour of my life I was racking my brain trying to figure out what I had done wrong. But in this case it isn’t me. Carlton simply refuses to do the work. Even with me I get him to do the exercises that I bring for him but it is like pulling teeth. And he continues to want to push buttons both mine and his moms. This week it was his mom and he was not very nice to her. So I got very firm because he was actually correcting Her on her English pronunciation. This was not to be born and I made him apologize to his mom.

Teacher attention also happens when you’re teaching and adults how to interview. But at least that was more interesting for us both. I’ve been finding lots of stuff online in terms of blogs for the questions that people ask with the interview. I’ve printed out all of that and I’ve gone over it a couple of times with Felix. He in addition has gone home and written out answers for himself. I also found a lesson plan where you roll play different jobs and people are either the interviewer or the interviewee. These were classroom lesson plans and I’m not sure I’m going to be able to adopt them to a one on one lesson but I’ll do my best.

Also, on Friday I had a phone chat with the English center in Amsterdam. It was a lovely chat and the owner of the company was really nice. She’s looking for English teachers and my English teacher friend here in Amsterdam told her about me and asked me to send a resume. After some agonizing over cover letters (I hate cover letters) I sent out my resume on Thursday night and on Friday I had a phone chat. It seems that even English language teaching requires somebody you know to get you in the door. I’m not sure this is going to result in a job but fingers crossed.

A Writing relapse happens when there is Teacher attention. It started on Sunday where I was only able to write 300 words. It continued on Thursday as I was only able to write another 150 words. But at least I wrote something. In my defense I also had to give a prompt in the writing group as there were people who were interested in doing one. I was not one of those people but I had to moderate. I also didnt write at all this weekend as Jasper and I went to Arnhem and Nijmegen. It was a friend (and fellow VIP teacher) surprise birthday party. Much to my surprise Jasper agreed to come along when I first heard about the party. I suspect that it was because of the escape room more than because of the party. Iwas very excited about the escape room myself, As up until this weekend I had never done one. It turns out that it was a lot of fun. The only negative was having to pay two nights for an Airbnb where we only stayed one. But we balanced it because otherwise we would’ve had to stay in a hotel outside the city and take cabs everywhere.

Katya and VIP kid continue to be quite easy and stress-free. I’m grateful for that even as I hope that I will get some work with real life adults here in Amsterdam.

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

Teacher Trials and A Writing Reveal

It was another fairly quiet week at Inkreadable. As you know from last week, Felix was not around for the remainder of the week and the next time I see him is later today. I spent the weekend looking for job interview practice sites. I found quite a lot of videos online, But they felt a little bit immature. It has been so long since I have been in the job market properly, that I don’t even know where to begin looking for Felix. In addition, the job market here is a little bit different than the US. Here it’s the personal stuff that you include on your resumes, like your hobbies and extracurricular interests, might just be what gets you the job. Apparently, personality fit is important here, probably more so than in the United States. Armed with that knowledge and insight, I think I’m going to have to write an interview script on my own. It isn’t really writing that I look forward to doing. I’m not terribly good at placing myself in other people shoes.

As ever, Katya and I have fun for 25 minutes. And I hope that she is learning something in the process. This past week we worked on third person singular in the context of a sentence completion game. It incorporated both the present tense and present progressive tense. I am convinced that Katya’s mom is not Polish at all. I think she is a tiger mom disguised as a western mom. Katya now takes singing two times a week, dancing twice on her own and once with her brother, in addition, she’s got class with me. I am not sure how she keeps up that schedule. But come to think of it, my own mom was one of those mothers. I was in dance three times a week when I was a kid from the age of three to the age of thirteen. It must be the Polish angle. My grandfather was Polish. That must be it. Luckily despite being a tiger mom, Katya’s mom is not your usual sort of tiger mom. By which I mean that she doesn’t blame the teacher for a child’s lack of attention. I’m very lucky in that.

Out in the suburbs, Carlton continues to want to push buttons but has resigned himself that I am going to be there once a week whether he likes it or not. It was a better week this week in terms of his concentration because there weren’t 55 million people coming in and out of the house. Thankfully, the doorbell only rang twice. He did want to answer the door but luckily mom, like mighty mouse, came and saved the day. They are working at a much faster pace than I am able to with Carlton. They are covering three spelling lists a week. So we decided that I would cover the even-number list and his family would cover the odd-numbered list. We may be able to get the vocabulary very far up as a result. But I can only work on one list in an hour and his family can work on three lists in a week. I have to figure out how to increase my pace.

Writing continues to be a source of inspiration and delight. It always is, but it’s always better when it actually works. I have stuck to my goal this week of 500 words on Thursday and will have to see if I’m able to stick to my 500-word goal for the weekend. This past weekend was a little tight as I had to be out in the middle of nowhere (relatively, we are in the Netherlands) as I have promised to cook for Jasper’s ailing older aunt. As well, on Sunday there was a brunch for the Girl Gone International group ( I said Girl Gone not Gone Girl. You all can relax.). This is a group of women who travel and have formed an online international community that meets up in places around the world. I’m not sure if my readers know, but I never pass up a chance to go to brunch. It’s the one Americanism I allow myself. Well, that and the love of all things Costco. Writing this week revealed to me that I do really well when I write and there’s magic involved. This anthropomorphic fox stuff, with just a kid talking about her problems, is not my forte. I am finding it quite difficult to make it believable that a kid has run away and is sitting on a tree stump in the woods somewhere talking to a fox who also knows how to talk. Granted, her problems are big as I’ve given her leukemia and her parents are lying about the possible side effects of treatment, But still, I’m finding it a challenge. Nevertheless, I am 2000 words into the story and I think I should be able to finish it either this week or the next.

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

Teaching Tactics and Writing Relief

This week at Inkreadable proved to be very interesting indeed. On Monday, I was able to get back into the swing of teaching VIPKid and Felix since I was no longer sick. Or at least, not sick enough to cancel. We have finished up conditionals and have started adverbs. Since we already tackled adjectives, the next logical step is adverbs versus adjectives. Even I never realized how many adverbs there are. Also, there are a million and one uses of adverbs, that as a native speaker of English I take for granted. So I’m learning a lot about my own language while teaching other people. Last week, I saw Felix our normal three times per week but had to switch one of the days to Thursday because I was running around doing stuff affecting my life in the US. I also saw him last night and that will be our last time until next week. He and his boyfriend are going to Israel. To say that I am jealous is an understatement. There are no words for how jealous I am, I don’t think. I’m gonna have to look that up. He also told me that his boyfriend wants him to start practicing for job interviews. So that’s the plan when he comes back from Israel. It gives me a time frame to be able to prep lessons and mock interviews.

I finally saw Katya last Monday. We have decided to go down to once a week as she is too busy with other activities and has no more time for me. Since I only ever play games with her based on what we (by which I mean her mom and myself) decide she needs to strengthen. And since she really is only a student so that I can show the Dutch tax office that I have more than one client, I am absolutely OK with that. I have found that watching endless Peppa Pig videos, works well for Katya. She answers my comprehension questions well and is able to follow along with the story. It helps that children’s programming has very clear speech generally. I found that in all of the languages that I’ve studied. For my own attempts at Dutch, I find the children’s programming is great for my learning vocabulary and improving my listening skills.

Over in the sticks of Amsterdam, otherwise known as Carlton’s house, last Tuesday was worse than Grand Central Station. I don’t think I’ve ever seen more people come through the door of a private home then I did that day. The doorbell rang at least seven times in the hour I was with him. It proved a little distracting for him as he wanted to open the door every time. I had to be a little bit firm with him and nearly force him to stay in the chair. In addition, he was particularly cheeky and said some very risque things. I think he was just trying to push my buttons by seeing how far he could take his knowledge of English bad words. But at one point he got very unflattering towards me and then I couldn’t keep my mouth shut. I did tell his mom after and she agreed that I had done the right thing. I have discovered an incredible spelling website with 36 weeks of new words for Carlton. And also many exercises for me to go through with him. I gave the master list to his mom and she was very pleased. It seems that my prep for Carlton has gotten less and less. I love being able to find everything I need on the Internet. That’s me done and dusted until July.

In spite of having to change my story for the German market to match the drawing that my partner has planned, the writing goes particularly well. I have set myself a goal of 500 words on Thursdays and the same again sometime on the weekend. Thursday’s goal was met, and I met up with another friend on the weekend to do some writing. So I was able to increase my story significantly. If my partner doesn’t like this story I’m not sure what I’m going do. Maybe toss the laptop in the trash.

I am happier than you can imagine at this turn of events. Not the rewrite, you understand, but the return to writing consistently. After such a long time not being able to be productive in the writer’s group on Thursdays, I have discovered the secret. Wireless headphones plus radio. It was illuminating, to say the least, but brought me back as well to my high school days because that’s how I used to study. My mom never believed that I could get anything done that way. One of my members has the same problem with her boss. She listens to podcasts while she works and he saw her switch a screen and thought she was watching TV. She wasn’t. When she explained that, he didn’t believe her either, and said that if he caught her doing it again she would be fired. I think it’s a ridiculous reason to be fired myself as people work and learn in different ways. Not all students are going to learn by rote. Some are going to be kinesthetic learners while some are going to be audio-visual learners.

It was an interesting story to hear and it .gave me ideas for both Carlton and Felix. Also, hearing of other peoples trials and tribulations in the workforce makes me quite happy that I am essentially self-employed. It almost makes me sorry that I updated my resume and got some leads from my friend who is the English teacher here. Do I really want to get into being tied down to somebody else’s hours? It’s a conundrum certainly.

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

Sickness Shutdown and a Writing Restart

What started out as a normal week at Inkreadable, ended not with the celebratory shooting off of fireworks, but with a whimper of defeat. VIPKid classes were as normal. After all, I can literally teach that in my sleep. It was a lovely week for VIP kiddos that I haven’t seen in a long time. That’s the nature of VIPKid: sometimes you’ll see a kid every day for three months straight and sometimes they’ll be gone for three months after that. And then when they pop back up on your schedule you hope that the Candy that you see is the Candy with whom you have a great long distance WeChat relationship.  Not only that, but nature was bountiful as a couple of students that I hadn’t seen in almost six months also popped back up on my schedule.

Also back this week was Carlton, whose mom did not cancel. I made sure she wouldn’t however because I called her on Sunday and confirmed the appointment. After three weeks of not seeing him, Carlton’s attitude was good. He listened to me and did what I wanted him to. We focused on the handwriting and I think that is gonna take a while for him to improve. I’m not exactly a childhood development teacher nor am I an early education specialist. But I did find a whole website with resources on how to help kids learn how to use handwriting better. So I took a couple of their strategies and incorporated them into the lesson. I also passed it along to his mom as there are some helpful strategies for parents. For those of you that are interested, the link is:


There was no Katya this week at all. I had to cancel our first lesson this time as I had an appointment and they could not meet when I needed them too. They canceled the second lesson due to too much homework. I hope it all gets back to normal next week.

All was right with my world for Felix’s class at the beginning of the week. We’re slowly but surely finishing up conditionals but interspersing it with other grammar because conditionals can be quite difficult. Felix had to cancel our Wednesday lesson because he was sick. And then on Friday, I had to cancel. I almost never cancel classes, not in real life and certainly not my VIPKid classes. The trip home from Writers Group Thursday evening started with raging wind and a rainstorm and ended in a black cab shivering. I waited for 45 minutes for a tram that never came. When I woke up on Friday morning, I could barely speak. And was super congested. What started out as minor irritating allergies for the season, developed into a full-blown I-am-super-congested cold. Since I did not want to re-expose Felix to illness, I canceled with him.

I finished the first draft of the story for the English language book to be marketed to Germany. But it turns out that my partner was envisioning a totally different book. So after a conversation with her on Thursday, I restarted the book from the perspective of a modern child. I’m finding this to be difficult. I do not remember my own relationship with my parents as a child. Losing a parent tends to cause the clock to stop and for those left behind to only focus on the good parts of the relationship. So I’m finding it very difficult to then write a story where the child has real conflict with their parents. In addition, I’m trying to figure out how to make the friendship between an anthropomorphic fox and this girl believable and something that kids are going to want to invest time in reading. We will see what happens.

Over the weekend, I met with a new friend who actually teaches English in Amsterdam. It was a really productive meeting as Maggie is a really nice person and we get along. She was able to give me some tips about my teaching resume and where to go to look for work in English language teaching here. She helped make my resume pop, with a spot of color which was unexpected. I got a few good leads, and when I stop biting my nails, I’ll start sending out my new resume.

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

Teacher Tired

Getting back into the swing of things this week at Inkreadable has proven more difficult than I thought. VIPKid continues to be fairly easy which is good. I have a fairly steady loyal following of people and my followers increase very slowly, but they do increase. In the last week, I think I have gotten three or four new regulars. This will come in handy once I have to start teaching on Sundays again. I’m not really looking forward to that but it doesn’t seem like glorious teaching free weekends are going to remain indefinitely. The only drawback with VIPKid and their rating system is that your raise is dependent on how many five Apple reviews you get from parents. So basically for the last year I’ve been five Apple whoring myself out and begging for good reviews. I find this a very smarmy practice, frankly. Be that as it may, I do have the requisite percentage which is 25% each month for a year so when I sign contracts seven I should get my 50 cent per class raise. I swear, I’m the only one on the planet who doesn’t think that that’s great money.

Felix came back from vacation and we got back into teaching verbs. Because conditions are extremely difficult both to learn and to teach, I’ve decided to slow things way down and use two lessons to teach conditionals, but break it up with other things that Felix finds difficult. Like many students, the third person singular in the present is a bit confusing for him as he tends to add an s to conjugations other than third person singular. For instance, he’ll add an S to “we wake”, making it “we wakes”. In addition, he has some trouble with pronouns as well. I don’t really have concrete lesson plans already made up as the mistakes that people make vary. Plus, there are specific English language mistakes that different first language learners make.

In the suburbs of Amsterdam, Carlton was a no-show yet again. This time his mom canceled before the 24-hour mark. I am not sure how many sessions I’m actually going to have a Carlton if this continues. The focus with Carlton needs to change as he seems to be getting good marks in reading and math in school. Where he falls behind is handwriting and spelling. I am not sure how to teach either of these as it’s not my forte however there are a lot of materials online about how to teach spelling patterns and so I’ve been studying up and I think I have an idea. Handwriting I think it’s just gonna take lots and lots of practice. When I was growing up I had the same issue with him writing because I’m left-handed and my fine motor skills are quite lacking. So my mom took passages from children’s books that we had around the house and forced me to copy them neatly. It was my grandmother however who taught me how to hold a pencil in the same way as a person who is right-handed hold a pencil. Left-handed people tend to write upside down that is their hand both follows the text, but also results in slanted handwriting. I think the same technique will work for Carlton next time I see him. The trick is going to be finding something that he wants to write. The child only likes football and I don’t know enough about football, a.k.a. soccer to make things interesting for him.

I also only saw Katya once this week. This time it was my fault. On Wednesday, I went over to an English language café to reconnect with the English teacher there. She is Greek Canadian and has been here for five years. I had connected with her on a previous visit to the English language café and we had exchanged details. I had sent her my resume, but in the mad dash of the post-holiday season, I lost track of that.  But my mission was successful as in this language café, we pinned each other down and are going to get together in about a weeks time. I am hopeful that she may have some ideas for next steps here in Amsterdam. I have a sneaking suspicion that I may have to start teaching evenings.

I am letting a couple of weeks pass before contacting Susan and seeing both how her mom is and how her move went. I will gently nudge her into giving me an idea of when she plans to start lessons with me again. I am not sure if she’s going to be able to but itis worth a try.

Writing continues to be a source of inspiration. I have decided that there’s no reason why I cannot write on a Thursday night. And whether it’s 200 words or 2000 words any limit is OK. I also have a couple of friends with whom I can write in pairs and we are meeting this weekend. Jasper goes to Germany and so I am on my own from Sunday afternoon through Wednesday. This likely means that I won’t see Jasper until sometime at the end of the week. I’m going to take the quiet time and try to get ahead on a few lessons, as well as try and get a jump on finishing the short story for the German market.

With all of the above stuff on my plate plus a bunch that I don’t write about because it’s not about teaching or writing, is it any wonder that the title of this post is teacher tired? That’s all she wrote for this Inkreadable installment. But stay tuned. As always, there is more to come.