Schedule Shuffle, Referral Wrath, and a Plot Pitfall

This week at Inkreadable dear reader, ended up having some surprises in store. Teaching a second language is always an exercise in time management. Some weeks are worse than others. So it proved with this one. It wasn’t that there were so many changes, but the ones that there were had the potential to severely impact both my time and my income.

Over in VIPKid world, all of the teachers face one of two situations. You either have more students than you can handle, or you don’t have enough students. That is dependent on a couple of factors. For me, it so happens that I have every certification except for the Littles. I refused to do level one as it’s just not the vibe I want to project. I can act like a silly idiot in my level to class is just fine. But not in level one where the kids are three years old and sometimes younger. That is beyond my talents. I’ve also been on the platform for 4 1/2 years. We are now edging closer to the five-year mark with VIPKid, and because I’m on the higher end of their pay scale, they have hidden my profile in whatever algorithm rankings they use so that I don’t get as many students. Most of my days are filled with regulars. But even that I barely manage to fill the coveted 1 PM CEST to 3 PM CEST slots. This week was particularly harrowing because it was the Mayday holiday and the kids were out of school. So while the beginning of the week was ok and I was able to fill Wednesday the fifth with lots of classes, the rest of the week wasn’t great. The worst of it was Saturday when I had three hours booked, and then only one half-hour class. I managed overnight to get one more class for a total of two on Saturday.

The scheduling shuffle continues across my private clients, with my Dutch client still on vacation. I had my penultimate class with Alena but then she went to Paris and asked if we could switch the last lesson to when she is back in Amsterdam. That is fine because I could use the time to lesson plan for the week after I am back from Middleburg. Jasper and I will be in Zeeland next weekend just to get away from Amsterdam. Over at the English Center, Claudia had to cancel her lesson because of stress over the drama in Colombia. If you’ve been watching the news you know what I’m talking about if you haven’t, the government tried to impose a hike in the gas tax, and people are protesting. But there has been violence in her city and she is worried about her family. I completely understand and was happy to give her a break. Lily continues to be a fairly easy student to teach as she is quite bright and fun. She has also asked to switch the schedule from Wednesdays at 3:30 PM to Wednesdays at 10 in the morning. I closed my VIPKid schedule for the 12th to accommodate that. Also back on my schedule starting at the end of the month is Freek, an Amstelveen client that I’ve been working with since the end of 2019. Covid has taken a bite out of our lessons. We had a package of 18 we needed to finish and managed to get seven done before everything shut down. So that means I have 11 lessons to handle with a commute out to the suburbs. That will start at the end of the month.

With the Conversation Playground starting later today, and the time being 2:40 to 3:40 in the afternoon, I have had to reschedule George and Jerry in China as well. I have moved them to 2 PM on Wednesday instead of 2 PM on Tuesday. But I made a mistake with my schedule and I opened Wednesday the 12th at that time to VIPKid and the slot booked. I’m lucky that George and Jerry’s mom is understanding and was willing to cancel the lesson. My sticky fingers will just have to be more careful in the future. The last schedule shuffle of the week was caused by a student from Lingueo. She wants Thursday, Friday, and Saturday afternoons at 2 PM. She wanted both this past week May 6, May 7 and May 8, As well as the following which is May 13, May 14, and May 15. I was already scheduled out for the first week and couldn’t do those lessons and of course, I’m on vacation for the following week and didn’t want to give that up. I was able to contact the student and she has agreed to start with another teacher until 20 May. But yet again, I’m going to have to be careful with my schedule and look on my phone first before opening up VIPKid.

One of the most interesting things about VIPKid is how aggressively they market to their teachers to refer other teachers. They sent around a survey this week which I was very candid about telling them exactly why I will never refer and did in no uncertain terms. In the first place, with 120,000 teachers, possibly more, why the hell do they need more teachers when the teachers on the platform are struggling for bookings. In the second place, why would I refer so that they can pay another teacher less than they pay me and market that teacher so the teacher gets five hours a day of bookings and I don’t? I told them that I would not ever refer. I hope it doesn’t come back to bite me in the ass but I just couldn’t stay silent over the shoddy treatment that VIPKid is giving to the teachers year after year.

Over in the writing world, I spent a week trying to figure out how to use a magical item as a plot device and couldn’t. Many, many years ago I found a listing of the 13 treasures of Britain on Wikipedia, and have been using them as a reference in my novel. I had been using one of the magical items in the thirteenth chapter of my book but this week discovered that that particular magical item wouldn’t work and had to switch to another one. Thank you for having a find and replace feature Microsoft word otherwise it would’ve been impossible to find all the instances of the magical item, delete it and replace it with another one. I was also a little worried because I thought that I had given the chapters to my critique group where the magical item is featured but we haven’t gotten there yet. So that makes giving the chapter where it is most prominent much easier. Of course, I had to rewrite significant portions of the chapter to make a bit of sense. I was rather pleased with the exercise as I hadn’t done something like that in quite a while.

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

Lingueo Like and Editing Endeavors

This week as you know dear reader, si basically an extension of my weeklong holiday between Christmas and New Year’s. Forgetting the frenzy, or rather intentionally not opening for the frenzy was a mistake. My short notice plan, as you all know, backfired spectacularly and I basically got two or three classes a day from 2 January through 8 January. While it is true that I did get some short notice bookings, they were all trials. Now, don’t get me wrong, I love it when trials don’t show up especially if they’re short notice. Because I’d rather get the $6.75 for a 15 minute coffee break then not have anything at all. Conversely, while I like getting $11.50 for teaching the class, I do not like how tired I am at the end of it. Saturday was a prime example of that. I had one major course class which means the student showed up and I got my $9.50  base pay plus the measly incentive that we get for teaching the first 20 classes, otherwise known as $.80 (honestly I’d rather get a straight salary). then, horror of horrors, I had four trials in a row. It was, truly an exhausting 2 1/2 hour period. Not even my one regular major course student was a bright spot that day. Her name is Wendy, and she’s a level four which means she should be able to use the present tenses and  past tenses with fluency. It can be hit or miss with her. Sometimes she does and sometimes she doesn’t. In fact, she likes to fall back on one word answers. I will say that a positive is that she does not just repeat after me. Parroting students at level four are the worst. I know. I’ve had a couple. Wendy is also difficult because it’s hard to get her to smile and to react.

The week did get better as I had three classes with new students on the Lingueo platform. That is a platform in France that is subsidized by the French government and has primarily employees from Disney and Air France as clients. As I might have mentioned in a previous post, I much prefer adults to kids because they take less energy. I also find  that my adults don’t mind if my materials are a little childish especially if I can make the class a little bit humorous. And I do find that the worksheets on the ISLCollective are great when you’re teaching online. The bright colors and pictures stand out on a screen. And make things a little bit easier to handle. It’s much nicer than just a simple black and white worksheet. I had two classes with a woman named Delphine who is a financial advisor at a bank. And a class with a young man who is a blah blah car driver. What’s nice about this platform is that I can basically use the same lesson for most of my clients. And they seem quite happy. In fact, Delphine gave me a five star review which I found out on Saturday afternoon. While I was pleased to receive five stars, my heart sank because I do not actually like getting feedback. My VIPKid experience has soured me on the whole idea of feedback and the fact that at least on VIPKid’s platform. until recently. your pay raise was contingent on receiving 25% five Apple reviews. I hope that is not the case at Lingueo, but we will have to see.

On Sunday in addition to my  VIPKid, my Greek lesson, and my Polish client, I had a new client on Lingueo  tested at a C1 level. My class was her 3rd out of a package of 21. So I decided that I would do a lesson on manners with her as well as an intake. I spent some time modifying the manners lesson that I have, to fit into an hour but also be higher than B2 level. It worked fairly well, And with a couple more modifications I can either lower or increase the level of the lesson. Sunday evening brought a late cancel from Sander, my English Center client so Monday was a day off, which was nice.

Over in the writing world, I have hit my stride on Thursday nights. While I am not producing much new content, I am slowly but surely extricating myself from the comments of people in the Washington writer’s group that I’ve had hanging around for the last three years, as well as looking at the comments of the current critique group. It’s been interesting trying to juggle and fix what is wrong with the novel, and as a bonus there have been glimmers of where I want to take it from where I have left off generating new content. With the Dutch government set to impose longer lockdown restrictions, it looks like the Writers Gand roup the critique group will be online for the foreseeable future. We may have a line on a place to meet once we are able to. I have a friend in the group who has a space that is free that she has access to. So I’ll have to maybe take a look at it.

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

Close Call and (an extended) VIPKID Vacation

 I am, dear reader, in the middle of a lovely vacation. I am doing nothing except reading, some editing, and some baking. I am taking the opportunity from now until the New Year to try and figure out my next steps. As a result, workwise it’s been fairly quiet even in the planning stages. My in real life class, doesn’t start back up until 11 January as my student went to Curaçao and was not sure whether he would be able to come back on 4 January given travel restrictions and a 10 day quarantine upon return. Or at least that was the plan. It may be that he didn’t leave for Curaçao at all, but I doubt that because he is one of the people who, while not a Covid denier, doesn’t believe that it’s as serious as people say. And therefore is willing to push boundaries a little bit. Luckily he has been following the rules and has been testing negative when he does need to travel. My other English Center client who is online doesn’t start back up until 8 January so I have some time to prep lessons.

In terms of VIPKid, I have decided not to open lessons In January that are not short notice. You see, I had a close call this week. I got a message from Preply, Saying someone had tried to book me for a lesson. The students name is Swan, leading me to believe it’s someone from China who wanted to book me on 23 December at 8 AM. I would have done it, too. Even at 8 AM. I sent a text message asking if they still wanted a lesson and if I could help to book the lesson at 8 AM and also if they wanted to do it another time. But alas, there was no response. Still, it was nice to have some thing thisclose 0n the books. Leading me to believe, that there may be a way out of teaching for VIPKid at least as much as I have been. It’s going to take some juggling I think. The plan right now is to not accept  any of the bookings that are floating around my teacher portal. And there are 20 of them. I’m just going let them expire. Instead I think what I’ll do is I will open up the French platform and see if I can get any bookings there.

My Greek student is going to continue with me and I am anxiously awaiting feedback from my friend at Lexis Amsterdam about the lesson. I sent her a video recording just before the holidays of a lesson. But I learned a lesson with them this week, I need to be mor clear with them about canceling a class. They came to class on Sunday. I felt bad, but not bad enough to have class. My other private clients are also on hold till January, with my twins having a short month as they have midterms again. I think that is in advance of their holiday break for Chinese New Year in that starts mid January. We will see if Karolina comes back from her month off.

While Jasper has essentially moved in, he has yet to bring any of his stuff over from his house because the last couple of days if too much overindulgence in terms of food and was reflected in how he felt. In addition the weather has absolutely been shitty with almost gale force winds overnight that don’t exactly allow for ease of movement. Also, the fact that he can sleep half the day away doesn’t really allow for him doing very much work on his house when he does happen to get there.

All of my writing related activities are also on hold until January. And I think with the writers group we are going to try and find a new space for January assuming things start to open up again. Right now everything is shut down until 19 January. Then we will have to see. The government has been giving press conferences every couple of weeks to let us know of any changes. But for right now, it will be online Thursday night sessions until we can figure out the logistics of meeting. One of my members has a free space that she is allowed to use when she wants to so I’m thinking to go and take a look at that as it might be a good option as well.

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

Dollar doldrums And a challenging conundrum

For the last four years, I have been mostly earning in dollars and living in euros. And while the exchange rate has never been great, forecasts for 2021 show that it’s going to be even more difficult to live in Europe and work for VIPKid. The exchange rate between the dollar and the euro is going to plummet making the dollar much weaker. Essentially, that means that any money that I make with VIPKid, will be valued at less than what it is now. I am not the only one going through this as my Facebook group has been talking about this for the last few days. It means that beyond our paychecks being lower because VIPKid cut the pay so drastically, whatever money we make is worth much less. I am more and more thankful that I have the English Center and my few private clients to supplement my income in euros. Between that and Covid, I’m not sure that 2021, at least the first part, is going to be a very happy new year.

Over at the English Cnter, there is more work but alas it is in Amstelveen. I have put myself forward for none of it. It doesn’t make any sense for me to be going to Amstelveen more than once a week and even that once per week, has to be worth it for me. That means that I should have at least two clients. Because while my travel pay goes down, my actual pay goes up. So I have decided not to go there  until my one client is back on my schedule starting next year. Then I will give Monday to the English Center completely. Which is what I’ve been doing for the last year. I will however, put my hat in the ring for any students in any of the Amsterdam locations particularly the one that is a 15 minute walk from my house.

My online client on Fridays is a lot of fun, but also very challenging. She’s really making me up my game in terms of academic English. And since I only have her for an hour on Friday afternoons, it’s really hard to find a good structure for that hour. It isn’t so much there isn’t enough material, in fact there is too much material to go through in one hour. I would honestly prefer that the lesson was an hour and a half, Rather than an hour. I could get a lot more done and really help her with the concepts that I’m teaching. I am really enjoying this particular student because it’s different than what I’ve done before. I’ve done accent training, I’ve done social English, and conversational English but never academic English. We have eight classes that will take us through the end of February So it will definitely be a challenge trying to get through enough material so that she feels confident enough in her English so that she feels better able to compete language wise with her peers.

Thursday Night writing, the online edition is going quite well. I am enjoying having that time to reconnect with my characters. I do have my work cut out for me as I have been getting comments from my critique group that make me feel like I need to rewrite the whole novel. The problem is that it’s so tightly written that I am not sure where to begin. But since it will be a work in progress for a while yet, I am sure that I’ll have it figured out. Eventually.

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

Summer Slow Down

This post birthday week heralded what is to come this summer. It’s been quite quiet. I am only working as usual about 2 to 3 hours for VIP kid and the rest of my time is made up Of my private lessons with Katya, Karolina and of course, Felix. My Dutch client at the English Center has gone on vacation until September. I do have a client for pre-intermediate English and that starts this evening. It was on my schedule from Friday and since I have no returning students I’ll be able to teach what I’ve been teaching for the last three sessions. That’s if the student Who has already paid decides to take it Now, and not wait until there are more people for the course.

In terms of private lessons, Katya is going to go on vacation for the summer so Last night was our last lesson. She is starting to improve her pronunciation of words in English which is the main focus of what we do. We work on word stress as well because sometimes that is quite difficult. I have given her a homework assignment as she is going on a camping trip for three weeks. I want her to write and talk about the things that she Saw and did on her camping trip. I hope that she manages to do it I also hope that I see her once school picks back up in September. I think she is currently being homeschooled by her mom. We will have to see.

So that leaves me with just Felix and Karolina and of course, the slim Pickens a VIP kid for the summer. I had thought to go to Greece and do my lessons from there, but I have an appointment with the Greek embassy in the Hague to renew my passport. What that means is that my passport will be in Greece without me for about seven weeks before the new one comes back. It’s not such a huge deal except that I don’t want to travel in Europe with an American passport. I am afraid that the Netherlands would not let me in on my American passport. I am a Dutch resident because of my Greek passport. So I think that my travel plans are going to have to be put on hold until I actually get my new Greek passport. That’s OK. The plan is to do some traveling within the Netherlands. The first stop was a visit to Jasper’s aunts on Sunday. It takes an hour and a half each way and I stay about two hours. This got me home in time for my zoom coffee with the other VIP kid teachers in Europe.

In the writing world, the critique group has a new member. She is a friend of Jasper’s cousin who is also in the group. We are now six and will see how we proceed. I will say that sometimes we don’t get much critiquing done as we get to talking. I’m going to have to be better about managing time. Luckily I have until week after next to figure it out. The Thursday night group is not meeting because the bookstore where we meet is currently closed at 6 PM. But you know that we’ve been Going to dinner every other Thursday and that seems to work well. I will be very happy when things continue to open up to the point where we can start meeting in person even at the bookstore.

I have also started working for another company called Cambly. The pay is horrible. They pay $.17 per minute to talk to an adult online. They pay weekly into PayPal and you can jump on and teach whenever you want. I think it’s mostly conversation. At least that’s what I Hoped when I opened up hours on Saturday at 8 PM for one hour just to try. We will see how it proceeds overtime. I am also rethinking my preply Strategy and thinking to apply with them once again as well. We will have to see if I can do that from my Gmail account because I let my profile lapse.

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

Amstelveen Anxiety

It seems, dear readers, that I am to stay in Amstelveen for the foreseeable future. Remember when I said that my niche was older men? It also seems that the only work to be had is with people in Amstelveen. My purchaser client wants to continue lessons after I come back from the US after Christmas. I also have a feeling that the Japanese couple who are a very low-level A1 will also continue with me. I’m going to have to see if I can see them on the same day. If I can get my client who wraps up with me in November to renew maybe I can do three clients on one day and not disrupt my VIPKid schedule so much. The anxiety comes from the fact that there really isn’t any other choice at the moment. It seems that TEC is suffering from too many teachers and not enough students.

Speaking of VIPKid, in addition to the issues with our schedules changing for the worse with the loss of five hours a week or seven hours a week if you work every day of class time, it seems that the worldwide expansion of VIPKid that they have been telling us about for the last year and a half or so was a bit of a scam. Yes, they are opening their market to the rest of the world. But no, current teachers do not get to access those markets and keep their current students in China. Students are being recruited on a country basis and not on a company basis. I find this a little bit ridiculous. Especially given that a lot of teachers are seeing a drop in bookings that can be quite significant. That coupled with the new Chinese regulations is going to cause some significant holes in everybody’s schedules. It would’ve been really nice to be able to count on a new different market. Not only would VIPKid have kept the teachers that they already have, but it would’ve given us all a chance to expand into these other markets. If you want to expand into the current Korean market, for example, you need to get rid of your Chinese students. It’s an either-or situation. And I think that’s horrible. What is even more of a challenge at VIPKid is that they now have 90,000 teachers and 700,000 students. That means just over 7 students a teacher, and that does not a full schedule make. And sure, I have heard all of the other teachers with their “That doesn’t account for parents booking multiple  slots” or “There are other factors involved and we are #blessed.” But I am a cynic and they ain’t seeing the holes that I am. And. I. Used. To. Be. Fully. Booked. And I am talking about 80 classes a week.

Felix and I start a two hour Sunday weekly program this week. I am kind of playing with the idea of opening up slots on Sunday to VIPKid but I am on the fence because it really isn’t that much time. The only way to do it is if I wake up really early on Sunday morning and teach until Felix gets here. So for instance,  teaching from 8 o’clock to 11 AM and then teaching Felix until one. I am not sure that I want to wake up that early on Sunday as I do need one day to sleep in.

Still, this is my dilemma and I will attack it with the ruthlessness that I usually attack most of my problems. By which I mean I’ll figure it out at the last minute. Over in the writing world, I gave up my Thursday this week to meet up with a friend who lives in the Hague. It was really nice to catch up with my friend and his son who decided that he was going to make a fort out of pillows at the restaurant we were at which was amusing. Still, I feel guilty for not being at the Writers Group as I don’t like to give up on my writing quite so easily. But there is always next week and I have updated my MacBook to another software version so let’s see if I’m able to actually log into the Internet at the bookshop this coming week.

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

Calendar Crazy

This week at Inkreadable was fairly quiet. I was able to devote three days to VIPKid and the rest to various students and my self-care regimens. which of course I will not bore you with, as they aren’t really relevant to this blog. But needless to say, everything was quite nice and easy and without stress. Until Friday, that is. Why you ask? Sit back, relax, and give me a second while I open a bottle of single malt.

Right, where was I? Oh, yes. Friday. I had kept my calendar clear of most of the teaching until Friday. TEC maintains a WhatsApp group for teachers to know about incoming students and potential clients. There was a flurry of new students and intensives (four-hour classes) through the week and I was waiting until Friday to find out whether I would be placed on any of them. It turned out that I would be placed on most of them in some capacity. Either I would share the teaching with one teacher or multiple teachers. It also transpired that I couldn’t open VIPKid bookings because I wasn’t sure about my schedule. That was OK until Friday. On Friday, I was all scheduled for TEC and could begin to look at VIPKid and what I could do for them. It happened that all of my TEC classes were too close together to be able to make it viable for me to open any classes for VIPKid any day but Thursday. And now, dear readers, the plot thickens.

I misread my schedule. On two different fronts. In the first place, I misread Thursday as Friday and so opened up VIPKid slots on Friday the 30th that I shouldn’t have. So I had to cancel them. That’s three more cancellations for this contract. And it’s only August. I now have just over a month until my contract renews in September and I’m now doubly worried that I won’t get a raise. In addition, I haven’t been working as much for VIPKid and so my raise potential is in jeopardy because of that as well.

Things in TEC land we’re not particularly copacetic either. While on a Skype call, at 5:45 in the evening on Friday, I realized that I had been an even bigger mistake. On 30 August I double booked myself in a way that would be impossible. I booked an 11 to 12:30 PM class in Amstelveen, And then to top it all off I agreed to teach from 12:30 to 2:30 in the city center. My meltdown during the Skype call was epic. I literally started hyperventilating over the phone. Luckily, the person that I was with understood and was able to talk me off the ledge. But it was terrible. What followed was a flurry of very agitated thinking out loud, phone calls, and mad dash typing of emails to figure out if I could change the lesson in Amstelveen from 11 o’clock in the morning to 9:30 in the morning. Thankfully my student was able to do it. But I was not able to find out about whether the location would be available until almost 11 pm on Friday evening. It is the house of the owners of TEC and I was unsure whether they would allow me to teach at 9:30 in the morning since I wasn’t sure what was considered too early. To say that it was a fraught Friday would be the greatest of understatements. Luckily I was on my own on Friday evening and could calm down before I saw Jasper. I was secretly thankful that he decided to stay home on Friday evening and then I didn’t have to cook or do anything more challenging than to use my microwave.

Having decided to try and figure out my calendar issues, I downloaded Google Calendar to see if that might help me juggle all three of my schedules. Well, all four if you consider my personal schedule as well. I will tell you that it didn’t really help on Friday night as I wasn’t able to see the cluster fuck that was 30 August. The jury is still out on that. I will, of course, keep you posted.

Writers Group this week was not a particularly productive experience for me. In addition to worrying about my schedule for VIPKid, TEC, and my students, my tech issues at the bookshop continue and I am not able to connect to the Internet there. As a result, I had to use my hotspot. Which I don’t like doing because that’s for emergencies. And the bookstore is not usually an emergency. But it turns out that I had a class on Friday that needed sorting out and I needed the Internet for that. I tell you it’s been a week. I don’t think I want to repeat it.

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

Teacher Troubled

It’s been a fairly quiet week at Inkreadable. While I still have a lot of teaching commitments they are slowly winding down in advance of my trip to Greece from the 11th to 21 July. I will attempt to write a blog post about some of the things that I experience in Greece while I am there. But for now, it is still Amsterdam and there are still two more posts till then.  We start, as ever, in the suburbs of Amsterdam where Carlton is the main reason for this week’s post title. He continued with his mantra of “I do not want to finish with you, miss. I love doing homework with you, miss.” And of course, there’s my jaded knee jerk reaction of ‘Yeah, as if, kid.” This causes me quite a bit of conflict as I have a really hard time justifying going out to him every Tuesday evening. By the time I calculate preparation hours, commuting hours, and actual teaching time, this client ends up being just short of a minimum wage job here in the Netherlands. Which means about eight euros an hour. It doesn’t really make it worth it for me. Given that the negotiations with his mom were so fraught when we first started in January, I am going to raise my rate about 30%, but am not at all confident that I will be able to get it. They had already talked me down from my standard rate, claiming that it was not worth it for a child to charge my habitual rate. Which is very strange. Because I remember my parents doing everything they could to help me overcome the various learning disabilities that I had as a child. But that is in the future nearer to the end of the summer than now and we will revisit it in a subsequent post, dear readers. back to Tuesday’s lesson. We spent an hour on dictation with Carlton focusing on his listening skills, as well as his spelling skills. In particular, he struggles with capitalization, spacing, and punctuation. The last two are particularly difficult for him. He mostly remembers putting a capital letter at the beginning of a sentence, but really struggles to write spacing correctly. That is, he put spaces in between the letters of words, but not spaces between the words themselves. As a result, when he writes it looks like one long string of letters. Making it very difficult to read. My solution for this was to write out a sentence correctly and have him copy it is exactly as he could. I told his mom that he was still struggling with this and recommended that they have him practice that with a family member as well. She was receptive to the suggestion and we’ll see if he improves in this goal later tonight.

Felix and I got back into the swing of things with his lessons. And shocker of shockers, I discovered through various textbooks that I have as a result of both the English Center and my own purchases, that we have done every single solitary bit of English grammar at least once. So now it becomes a race to see what other things that I can teach him in the context of reading, writing, speaking, and listening. On Wednesday, we went over the difference between present continuous and present simple. Felix still struggles with adding an S at the end of the third person plural. In addition, when telling a story, he has a tendency to say “he said me” and not  ‘he said to me’ or “he told me” so we worked on that as well. I think the model of going through the books that I have and doing a bit more listening skills exercises might be good at this point for Felix. As well as to get him Writing a bit on his own. I’m a little bit troubled here as well because he is still at a B1 level. Part of the problem is that I think he speaks only to his boyfriend in English. And I don’t think he is by any means fluent. I have tried to get him to go to the English language café but have been thus far and successful. I think it would be very good for him, to get practice with more native speakers in the room than me. And there are a few of us at these cafés. I’ll keep trying and see what happens.

Over at the English Center, I wound up with two of my clients, but still have remaining lessons with my real estate executives, my shared student who is moving to Canada, and I got a third student who will continue with me when I come back from Greece. I’m leaving from the 11th to 21 July and will have two lessons with him on Wednesday evenings after I get back. I do hope to get more bookings from them while I am in Greece that I can accept.

The past couple of weeks I cut down my VIPKid classes fairly significantly. Where I was doing 30 hours a week from the beginning of the year, which was already cut down from the 36-40 that I used to work, I am now doing about 18 hours. I must say that I am loving the change but not loving the guilt that I feel whenever a parent asks me for a priority booking. I decided that my last day teaching would be 5 July which is next Friday. I am going to focus only on my own and The English Center clients that I have from the sixth until the 11th. In fact, I did this on purpose scheduling many different things on those days that would make it impossible to teach for VIPKid. I hope that continues So that VIPKid is relegated, as you know, to a side job and not my main bread and butter.

On the writing front, by which I mean my own writing, I haven’t been doing too much of that. It has been unbearably hot in Amsterdam over the last couple of Thursdays and the bookstore where we meet has no air-conditioning. As we are on the third floor that makes for an impossible writing situation and so we’ve been foregoing writing for Hemingway evenings instead. Which is just a fancy way of saying we go down to the local pub and drink instead.  And talk writing. Also my writing has become more difficult because my computer is on the fritz still. Things are getting worse with the Mac and it takes two or three times to use my shift key to make a capital letter. In my research, I’ve decided to forgo the best laptop in the world, which is a Huawei Matebook. At least for now. That company is having so much trouble that I am not sure that they’re going to be around with their laptops much longer. So I’ve decided to look at Dell again. I’d have them previously in my academic and work life and found that they were good. They also have some very small very thin ones and that’s what I want. Plus they’re a lot cheaper than the Huawei. But the research into a new computer continues as it’s not a rush. Although my eyes are feeling the difference between my Mac and my refurbished HP which I teach from. It’s like night and day. And I mean that literally. The crispness of the Mac Is so much better than the struggle that I have even trying to see my students in the classroom from the HP. Actually, I think there is a rush to get a new computer. I can almost feel my eyes going worse and worse as a result of how I’m teaching now.

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

Familiar Flipside

Whenever Jasper goes away on a business trip, his goodbye is always “see you on the flipside”. I am pretty sure that he knows what it means because he’s got all sorts of random things stuck in his head. I, however, had to look it up. It is a musical catchphrase used by DJs in radio to mean “see you later”, and comes from the backside or the B-side of a record.

As you might imagine my flipside has to do with Carlton. Or rather, his flipside. Last Tuesday I walked into his house to an attentive, quiet child. Remember my dictation dilemma? It turned out that it wasn’t a dilemma at all. The dictation that I gave was perfect. We were able to spend an hour entirely on dictation, and while it wasn’t a perfect performance, it was damn near. I am not sure, but maybe Carlton had had a stern talking to (or meds). Near the end of the lesson, he proclaimed, “This is the best lesson I’ve ever had with you. A little flustered, I responded “Thank you. But what makes it so good?” His response was surprising. “It’s a quiet lesson and you’re not being strict. I looked at Carlton in disbelief. “Carlton”, said I, “I’m only strict when you don’t do what I ask you to or you goof off”. The only glitch in the lesson was when I asked him a question and his response was “none of your beeswax”. I am old enough to remember using that phrase which teachers myself and know that is it is extremely disrespectful. So kind patient teacher Tina went away and firm teacher came back. To my surprise, Carlton was contrite and apologized. To my further surprise, he was upset that we are now down to our last three lessons. And proclaimed that he didn’t want to stop learning. This puts me in a bit of a pickle. As you might imagine, I am conflicted enough. On the one hand, I like Carlton even when he’s being cheeky, but on the other hand, it’s five hours of my time where I could be doing something slightly more lucrative and not sitting on a tram for two hours every Tuesday evening.

Felix is also back from home and we spent a wonderful hour and a half lesson on Thursday last week going over tenses, watching some videos, and hearing all about his trip home. Our greeting to each other was exuberant in the way it only a person who is Latino, Mediterranean, or North African/Middle Eastern can appreciate. It was a wonderful class. For the first time, I actually used my technology in the classroom. It was an interesting experience because I am not so conversant with using tech for the adult learner.   That’s not to say that I am a Luddite, But usually, I have my students do exercises on a particular thing. If you haven’t found it, check out Englishcentral.com. It is a website with videos and lessons, mainly for adults, but has levels and tests and all kinds of exercises. It is fabulous. The best thing about it is that it has a pronunciation tool where you speak lines and see how correct your pronunciation is. There’s something wrong with the algorithm as even I as a native speaker of English, rarely got 100%.

Over at the English center, things are winding down with various students. My two real estate executives came to class on Monday of last week, as did my high school student who is moving to Britain to study film. It was her last lesson and I was sorry to see her go but we promised to stay in contact. My Spanish student had to cancel last week but I saw him last night for our last lessons. I let him dictate what the lesson would be, and so we spent the last lesson on contractions and pronunciation review.

This past week on Friday I had my first four-hour intensive for the English Center. I  thought that it would be very difficult but it passed very quickly. We talked about collocations, did a bit of grammar, writing correction, and talked about how to improve presentations in English.  I didn’t feel tired at all, which was fortunate. Because straight from that class, I went for drinks with English Center coworkers. I met some really interesting new people and connected with many of them. Including a woman who is from the States, and works for SayABC, a VIPKid subsidiary company. It was interesting to hear her perspective on online teaching because I had forgotten why I got into it in the first place. As I told her, the honeymoon has been over for me for about two years, and I’m trying to head to an amicable sort of separation. It was, of course, half in jest, but I now want VIPKid to become the side job that I use to make a bit of extra money on the weekends if I want to, to be able to do nice things.

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

A Glimmer of Hope

It took almost a year after my mom died for me to start writing again. I was still attending the Washington Creative Writers Club, but I wasn’t reading my own work for critique. I was an active commentator, but working on my novel would take an energy that I didn’t have.  As for Inkreadable Kids, with my mom’s death, I didn’t have the wherewithal or the emotional capacity for teaching. Teaching is difficult enough when the subjects are Math, English, and the like. Trying to convince kids to love writing as much as I did? That ambition died as well. I could barely sustain the dog and pony show that is front of house food retail management. Plus dealing with the financial consequences of my mom’s death took over that first year and a bit.

In the fall of 2015, I came to Amsterdam. One of the benefits of going to WIS and having 45 people in your graduating class is that it was very easy to keep in contact with your classmates. Some of us formed bonds that endure to this day. I had friends from WIS in Amsterdam and had been coming to the city for a number of years. That year, as always, I stayed with my friend Jasper. We have a complicated history, Jasper and I. His sister Anneke was in my grade and we were best friends from the 7th to 9th grade. He was in the grade below us. When Jasper and I first met, he broke my glasses. Thankfully, things went uphill from there. WIS had combined the 6th and 7th-grade beginner French classes into one, and the three of us were in the same class. I can rather smugly say that I still have my French skill, but Jasper claims not to. I’m not sure about Anneke. I’ll have to ask her.

In 1993 I left Washington and went to Boston University. I majored in Physics and stuck with the program for two years before I was able to admit that as much as I love the sciences, they didn’t love me back. Anneke and I remained friends though we weren’t in as much contact as she had moved to the Netherlands. Jasper and I became extremely close during my first year of university, and I would see him when I came home. We would continue this practice the next year when he too left for the Netherlands as his parents lived, and still live, in DC.

It was Jasper that I went to in 2014 after being with my sister.  I spent a week wandering the city while Jasper worked. It was here that I finally started to reconnect with my writing in various cafes around the city. A few words at a time but it was enough. I was starting to see light at the end of the tunnel that was my grief. It would be another year before I was ready to think about my own future and what I wanted to do with myself.

I knew that food retail wasn’t what I wanted to do, and, even though my family owned the company I worked for, there wasn’t room to grow. Also, I had decided that I wanted to move back to Scotland, and started thinking about the ways in which I could do that.  It would be a year before I could make any moves at all, and I didn’t know then that current events would conspire to work against me.

Summer 2015 brought many changes to my family. My sister Alex got married at the beginning of September. We all went to Greece for the wedding, including my sister Taty. Bringing her to Greece had long been a dream of both my parents. I was really happy that Taty finally got to see Greece, as I had carried around a lot of unacknowledged guilt that I got to go on trips with my family but that Taty didn’t. Taty is handicapped, though I prefer to use the term handicapable. Taty had never been to Europe so this was a real treat. After Greece, I went as was becoming habitual for me, to Amsterdam to see Jasper. It was to be a life-changing trip. On the edge of your laptop? Good. That’s up next.

That’s it for this Inkreadable Installment. As always, stay tuned. There is more to the story.