Inkreadable Intensives, Library Love and a Plotting Powerhouse

The week began dear reader, on a note of extreme fatigue. I had forgotten how tired one can get when they are teaching for 6 hours straight as in the halcyon days of VIPKid. Teaching for two-and-a-half hours beyond that turned me into a bumbling idiot at the end of the day. So much so, that when I went to change, I asked Jasper for help with a zipper only to have him tell me “but there was no zipper on the back of your dress”. Such was the level of my exhaustion. Now imagine that was only the last 7 hours of a 21-hour intensive of which I only did 14. I don’t even remember how I got home that Tuesday evening. I certainly don’t remember how I got home without being killed by some bike somewhere. The location I was at is only a 17-minute walk from my house but I don’t remember any of that 17 minutes. I started the second set of intensives yesterday where I am teaching 25 hours of the 32-hour course. I am quite happy to be working with the teacher that I worked with on the last intensive. We work quite well together and are able to complement each other’s teaching styles as we have much the same thought process when it comes to learning. While Laurien was a fairly advanced student, we did not know the student’s level for the next intensive that started yesterday. From the intake that she did, it was apparent that she was quite a low level in English and so that’s how we planned. It’s a very nerve-wracking way to plan not having enough information because you’re always dealing with the problem that you might not have enough material for the student. I planned all four of my days for the week over the weekend. The only day of the intensive that I didn’t when was the final day =, which is next Monday figuring that I would be able to plan that over the following weekend. I thought about it in terms of things she needs to know. She is a stylist and is competing in some master class competitions here in the Netherlands and Italy. I designed the course to follow a vocabulary book and then supplement it with other materials. The plan is to get her to talk about herself, to get her to use some verbs that are common in speaking, to get her comfortable with describing other people, as well as talk about her job. Marike and I went over the plan on Sunday evening and she agreed that it was a good idea and then she would give the student a base of phrasal verbs, idioms, and collocations. Which I think worked out quite well. I had to call the English Center and the owner commented about all the hours I am working. I am not sure whether I should take that negatively or not. Still, I’m grateful for the paycheck. I really like Intensives even though they make me tired and I sometimes doubt their efficacy. Maybe the point of an intensive is just to get you speaking in English for enough time that you get comfortable with it whether or not you get the grammar or teaching points in the day.

Late on Sunday evening, I got an email from another of my students asking to change our Tuesday afternoon lesson because it was going to be too hot. I got the message at 10:30 in the evening and felt very guilty texting the English Center so late but I was afraid that they would not be able to cancel the room on Monday. Technically, my student sent me the email within the 48-hour notice window that The English Center requires for their cancellation. If the student cancels it’s a lost lesson to the student and the teacher doesn’t get paid. I do not like the policy and so I am always willing to reschedule but the issue is will we have access to a room. In this case, I was able to cancel the room. I emailed my student to let them know and suggest an alternative time to meet. We went back and forth as I wanted to meet on Monday and Tuesday of next week, but she requested Thursday. I never work on Thursday evenings, dear reader. That’s writer’s group time and is sacred. We agreed to move the last lesson in the package to after she comes back from a summer break in Turkiye, so All’s Well That Ends Well. But trying to match up the time and accommodate everyone is a bit of a juggling act. As the teacher, you have to coordinate with English Center and with the student. Sometimes, I find that to be quite difficult. In more positive events, Yuka and I liked the library in Amstelveen much better than we like teaching over at the English Center. It’s a little closer to town for one and is a transport Hub as well. So with Dutch transport being as unpredictable as it is right now with roadworks seemingly on every system, I think the library is a better bet for both of us, especially since she lives right on the same square as the library complex. The other nice thing about the complex is that there’s a shopping mall and so there is something to d if I am early.

The Thursday night writing group has been a bit torturous for me because I’m not really writing as much as I am trying to figure out whether I have filled in all the various plot holes that I feel that I have in the novel. We have been planning to meet in real life on a Saturday but because I couldn’t this Saturday I asked if we could meet on Sunday. This we did and we were planning to meet at the location that we normally meet at which is somewhere near Amsterdam Central Station. As I was walking there, there was a flurry of texts asking if we could meet instead in a cafe in my neighborhood. I was grateful for the change as I hadn’t started walking yet. We met and instead of doing any writing, I actually started plotting the novel out chapter by chapter, in addition, I started figuring out plot points for a future book in the series. I was able to do the first five chapters of the novel and so it was quite a productive day. I even feel like I can do that outside of the reading group itself. This, dear reader, is a big deal for me because for a long time I have felt that I can only deal with my novel when I’m actually in the writer’s group. It’s nice to feel like I can go to a cafe and just sit to work on my own. It also helps that I got a letter from a friend in the States who also misses our writing sessions and her letter is galvanizing me to get to work again. Ceridwen, I promise I’ll answer the weather this time.

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

Class Conclusions and Writing Recess

Greetings, dear reader, from sunny Grease. The lead-up to leaving for Greece was a little bit hectic with classes that I was trying to finish up before I left. I finished up my classes with the Palestinian girls on Wednesday before I left, and I’ve got to say that it was really difficult. You wouldn’t think that 15-minutes makes a difference for either job but in fact, I had a really hard time teaching them for a total of 2 hours. They are going to continue with me in August and while I’m not really happy about it, I need the work. . Their father asked me for a progress report after each class. For the last progress report, I also contacted him via WhatsApp and sent him a message saying that it would be helpful if they practiced their English outside of our lessons otherwise nothing is going to stick. We will see what happens with that. I also finished with Galini, but as with ShinWei, she and I are going to keep in touch so I will likely see her in different situations. In wonderful news from the English Center, I will be teaching an intensive in July. The total intensive is 21 hours which I will be teaching 14. I will be teaching with my friend and colleague Marike who used to be the scheduler for the English Center but now is just teaching for them. We have decided that we will meet by Zoom on Monday after I come back to talk about how best to approach teaching the intensive. And this will include assigning homework before the class even begins.

In my private client world, I am completely on hiatus from my Chinese client though I have contacted her to see if she is nervous about her upcoming teaching competition. A’s not so much a hiatus as it is a vacation. We will take a week off. I did not want to have to teach as they are frequently rolling brownouts on Crete to conserve electricity. There is nothing worse than trying to teach and having the electricity go out. It’s the same deal with George and Jerry, and Odhran in Ireland. I simply did not want to take the chance that there would be a lack of power to be able to teach and frankly, it’s nice enough that I don’t want to stay in the hotel room teaching when I could be outside.

In terms of writing, I have a little bit more flexibility with writing my own stuff while in Greece because theoretically, I could do it if I wanted to. The problem is I just don’t want to. While in Greece, I was keeping abreast of what was happening in Amsterdam via the WhatsApp group. We have some members who meet on Sundays via discord. I do not have time for this one as I already have Sunday commitments and I don’t feel like being online. Since Sunday is usually a work day that is absolutely fine. I am very happy when my group meets in person on a Saturday because then I can also meet.

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

Computer Kaput, Floriade Fun, and Complicated Classes

Well, dear reader, it happened once again. I’m not sure if you remember from my US posts in February but just before I left my computer died and I did not have enough time to fix it in the States. Once I got back to the Netherlands, the repair was scheduled, and I got a new motherboard. palm rest, and audio jack. In essence, a new computer. Everything was fine until Friday. At least I thought it was. On Friday, I went to teach my penultimate class with Harumi in Amstelveen. I didn’t use my computer with her as we did conversation and a bit of grammar that didn’t require the computer. Once I got back home, I had a bunch of time to kill before I had to pick up a friend from the train station and so I thought I would get some work done. I went to turn on my computer and nothing happened. There were blue lights on my cooling laptop stand and the backlight remained lit, so I knew that the computer was receiving power but it wouldn’t turn either on or off. I managed to get it to turn off and then never got it working again. This is the third time that I have had a problem with my Dell in two years. But this is also why I got the super expensive repair package. Basically, with my warranty, Dell has to come to me no matter what happens to my computer. I called tech support and spent 20-minutes on the phone explaining what was going on and they diagnose a bad motherboard. At this point I think I should be getting a fully new computer, as I’m convinced they’re using old or bad parts. They would have been able to get to me on Saturday but unfortunately I was not going to be home as Jasper and I and some friends went to see the 2022 Floriade Expo which is to horticulture what the world’s fair was to technology. It only happens every 10 years in the Netherlands is definitely worth it.

When I first started working for Vipkid, I started a Facebook group for teachers working for the company in the European Union. That Facebook group grew to about 870 people. In that time, I had hosted several teachers to stay at my house and slowly got to know a bunch of teachers in person. During the pandemic, I formed an additional group of teachers who meet every Sunday evening from about 8 just to catch up. One of those teachers came to visit me and especially to see Floriade. So we met up with a couple of other teachers who live in the Netherlands. who are also part of the Sunday group. I didn’t take a lot of pictures figuring that I would go back and there would be plenty of time to take pictures. Below are a few of the pictures of the flowers near the Chinese and Indian Pavilions.

Floriade

Teaching has proven to be quite difficult since my computer’s not working. I do not like being on my backup because it really is much worse in terms of the screen then the one that I normally use. My girls in Palestine continue to be a challenge. I got some great tips from a teacher at the English Center regarding the British Council and their websites for children and teens. I kind of had to wing it with the younger of the two girls and see if she could handle the lessons. The kids lessons were too easy for and I suspect the teen lessons are going to be too difficult but I will try to make a lesson for Wednesday and see how it works. The plan is to do the thing with her sister and maybe only focus on the exercises for teenagers. I also have a new student starting this week and she is business English client who needs help with writing. I wrote her an email asking her for a writing sample, but as of the writing have not gotten anything. I’m going to have to do my own intake with her even though she’s done an hour-long intake with the English Center. It’s always this way with a new student. You don’t quite know what to prepare and just have that the lesson you do prep matches what the student wants.

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

Twinkletoed Teacher and (another) Looming Loss

Sometimes, dear reader, you have to be really quick to adapt as a teacher. That was the case this week when my Amstelveen student brought her kids to our lessons. The first lesson of the week, which was on Wednesday, didn’t go as well as I would have liked as I didn’t know the kids were going to be there in the first place. I was able to engage the older child a little bit by talking to him but the younger one, as sweet as he was, did not have enough language to participate. I had forgotten, that school was out for an extra week due to Covid. Friday was a bit better as I spent half the class time with the kids playing two truths and a lie, Simon Says, and Rory’s story cubes. Games are not that easy to do when you have low-level learners across the board. Still, Simon Says worked well. The other two games that we played were a bit of a challenge but I think that the kids had fun and that was the point. I am pretty sure Harumi was also appreciative. We spent the rest of the lesson going over functional language for going to the pharmacy. I am not sure how useful that will be here in the Netherlands, as Harumi generally brings her own medications from Japan. I can relate completely, dear reader. There are things that I bring from the US every time I come back to the Netherlands because they just don’t have the same things here.

ShinWei otherwise known as my student from Taiwan has received praise from his Dutch-speaking boss that his English is getting better. I hope that translates to at least 10 more hours of lessons. We are in the middle of our third package and I would be quite happy to continue with him even to the point where I will work with him while in the US. I am a little conflicted about both Sander and Martijn. Both of those happen too early in the day for me to want to wake up at the corresponding time of their lessons while in the US. It’s a double problem because I will be in the states for 3 weeks from the 29th of January until the 20th of February, and while I might not want to wake up at those times, not having any income for those weeks is quite difficult as well.

On Thursday, Karolina let me know no that she may have to end our lessons at least temporarily though possibly permanently. Both of us were quite upset. We have been working together for nearly 2 years and she has come a really long way. So much so that I offered to meet with her once a week for half an hour if only just to converse for free. All of my freelancer friends will probably shudder, but it’s not in my work ethic to let someone lose their language simply because they can’t take lessons for me temporarily. Also, I have to look on the bright side. With a pending trip to the US and lots of work when I get there, maybe trying to schedule lessons will be a little bit too much. In true freelancer fashion, I just have to deal with it when it comes up.

It was not a good weak writing-wise. I got online to write but found myself exceedingly tired by Thursday and could do absolutely nothing. Mercury must be in retrograde again because Zoom did not want to work for the Writers group after I had left the meeting they had to set up another link. On Sunday the writers group got together to do some writing but I ended up going for a walk instead. It was one of those funny Amsterdam days raining one minute and literally sunny the next. Still, it made for an interesting outing. Let’s hope this week is a lot more productive writing-wise than last week was.

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

A Cretan Christmas Carol

Merry Christmas,  once again, dear reader from Crete.  This time it’s a belated one, where in the last post the wishes were early. Greece’s main holiday is not Christmas, but I was pleased to see that some restaurants and cafes were decorated in old Town Chania.  So what do you do, in a country where the main Holidays are  Easter  And August 15th which is the assumption of the Virgin Mary? Why, have the most fusion Christmas ever. My brother-in-law was adamant that he wasn’t going to do any cooking, which is fair enough as he does most of the cooking normally. So of course, my sister volunteered my services and asked me to make a Southern meatloaf like my mom used to make. It has become a bit of a specialty for me. We had about  16 people, 12 adults, and 4 kids. Since I thought I was the only one cooking, I planned for no other main dishes but mine. Two kilograms of ground beef and 2 kg of potatoes would have been just enough. Really it would have. But, dear reader, I told you that this was a Cretan Christmas.

One of my sister’s friends brought spinach pie, green beans, and some Christmas cookies. But there was another friend of my sister who really took the cake. And I mean that literally. He decided to make a salmon starter, a traditional British Christmas pudding from the previous year. But the kicker was 6.5 kg of pork. I was surprised that my meatloaf was the hit of the party and there was none left at the end. In contrast, there was a lot of pork.

In terms of presents, dear reader, it was a bit of a sparse year in terms of volume for me but I got a really nice new phone, a Samsung Galaxy Flip 3. I am currently trying to dictate a blog post to you on that phone, and I’m finding that switching from Apple to Samsung is a challenge. You’ll probably remember that the Tuesday before we left for Greece my phone fell on the ground and the screen cracked. I had been using jasper’s old phones until Christmas eve, which is when the Swedish Santa comes to bring one present to each member of the household. Mine was the phone. The functionality is much better than the one that I was using. And is different from my Apple. It is definitely going to take some getting used to. But all in all, I’m pretty happy with it. The only downside is that I still have six months left to pay off my Apple and I’ll also have to pay a deductible for the repair.

A mark on this perfect Christmas vacation is the lack of my sister Tatyana. And that’s even more so than my dad, who was the instigator of Jasper and I coming to Greece in the first place. The other mark on Christmas was the fact that I got a cold and lost my voice. Let me tell you, dear reader, dictating a blog post is not easy when you have no voice. This particular post has taken n hour to dictate. Voice to text is not accurate at the best of times, but it’s even worse when you can’t speak. I will say in comparison to Apple, Samsung is more accurate.

It really was a bit of a working vacation this week, but only 6 hours of teaching total, and most of those on Tuesday. I had to teach because I wasn’t going to take the chance that I was going to lose students. The teaching went well though it was a little bit difficult when there was a lot going on in the house, like trying to get ready for Christmas My sister’s house is pretty big, until, well, it isn’t. Such was the case when I was trying to teach on Friday when Jasper was getting a massage which I had bought him for Christmas. I had to move into the playroom so that he wouldn’t get in my way, nor I in his. And my student I suspect, would not have looked too kindly on that. Or last night’s student, who had to sit through my niece and nephew playing in the room while I was trying to teach. Luckily, it was ShinWei and he has a sense of humor and is a copasetic kind of guy.

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

Planning Problems

It is unusual for me, dear reader, to have a single title for a blog post. But this week at Inkreadable, was nothing more than an epic fail in time management. I had 10 hours of lessons with the English Center this week, and generally I am pretty good about planning the whole week and sometimes even a couple of weeks in advance. But this week proved a little bit difficult as my friend Stella was staying with me. Don’t get me wrong. She is the easiest of visitors. She was quite content to stay in her room and do some learning. So I didn’t really have to commit too much. I did manage to take her out a couple of times during the week, but that was also about taking myself out. What that meant for lesson planning was less time, however. The previous weekend I had been pretty good about planning and I planned through Tuesday of last week. And then the weekend just got away from me and I couldn’t do any more planning. As a result, I found myself rushing on Tuesday night for Wednesday, which bled into planning on Wednesday for Thursday and on Thursday for Friday. Thursday into Friday wasn’t so bad because my student planned the whole lesson herself. She had some objectives and brought articles and a presentation that she is making. But the rest of the week taught me a lesson. Lesson planning on the weekend is a must. No matter what I am doing. And if that means saying no to friends for coffee and staying home for the weekend, that’s what’s going to have to be done.

This past weekend was a little bit better as I sat down on Saturday and planned almost the whole week. This past weekend was a little bit better as I sat down on Saturday and planned almost the whole week. I stopped planning for the night at about 5 o’clock. At that point, I had gotten Monday, Tuesday, and Thursday completely planned. That left two lessons on Wednesday to plan for and two lessons on Friday. Which meant that I was able to go do one thing fun on Sunday morning. And no, that was not a trip to the gym. I have not managed to do that in a few days and it does take a toll on my mental health. The reasons for that are twofold, planning as you have seen, but also the rules in the Netherlands changed with regard to Covid. And I was waiting to see what the changes would be before I actually went to the gym. Luckily by Monday I had sorted myself out and was able to go on yesterday morning.

By far the most time-consuming planning of the week was for The Conversation Playground. The plan for later today is to do a game called “Cross the river” where I put down cards with different verbs on them and the kids have to try and make a sentence to get to the next Card. The kid who does it first is the winner. Needless to say, writing verbs on cards took a lot of time. The second game took even more time. We are going to play what is called articulate in British English but taboo in the US. That is an extremely fun game where you have to describe a word that you see on a card without using the actual word. I am going to keep this more simplified format with the kids because I don’t think they can handle how we actually play the game. The real taboo has a word on a card and five words that you cannot use to describe that word. I think this is too much for the kids at the school because their level isn’t high enough. So this was my compromise. Just get them talking.

I have four lessons left with Claudia and two lessons left with Ellemieke. I get the distinct feeling that neither of them is going to continue. With Claudia that is OK because her English is so advanced that my planning struggles are quite acute with her. I’m simply running out of things to teach her. So what I have found is some IELTS Academic description work on graphs as that’s what we’ve been working on through her package. But that takes about 30 minutes of the class and then we end up talking for the last 30 minutes. When I first got Claudia as a student I was really intimidated because she has no cancellation policy and can basically change her schedule anytime she wants. I also found what she wanted to learn a little bit difficult to teach. But we hit our stride and it’s been a great 14 hours. I’m a little sad to only have 4 hours left with her. I will also be sad to lose Ellemieke, And in my heart of hearts, I hope that she decides to take some more lessons. I did let her know that we had two more lessons left in the package so she has some time to decide. ShinWei has decided that he wants to take 10 more hours of lessons with me. We will have to see how that works out because there’s a possibility that he will go to California for a project. That means he’ll be nine hours behind me and so timing is going to be difficult if he actually goes.

I start with two new students this coming week. I find myself in Amstelveen on Wednesdays for my fashion student and a new Japanese couple who want an introductory lesson before we actually start the 20-hour package. I’m not reLLY happy to be in Amstelveen but it’s money. And as I’ve said before, self-employment is all about the hustle. If I can keep my time management steady over the weekends, then I shouldn’t have a problem doing other fun things. You’ll notice, dear reader, that my time management does not actually have a slot booked in for the gym. One of the reasons is because it changes, Also because between private clients and English Center, I’m working about 20 hours a week. Right now, I’m just looking at each day and seeing if I can feet a gym session in. Fingers crossed.

The writer’s group met at my house on Thursday and we had a new member join us and pepper us with questions about our processes. While it was distracting and we got less writing than usual done, I enjoyed hearing about my fellow members’ processes. And bonus, Stella enjoyed the actual process of writing in a group as well. I was pleased with the results of the writers’ group as I got some interesting ideas about how to keep the writing flowing.

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

Looming Loss and Student Scramble

It’s official, dear reader. The days of teaching Chinese children ESL are over. VIPkid confirmed on Friday that foreign teachers outside China’s mainland will not be able to teach students on the platform. Existing students can finish up their packages, but we will be getting no more new students. It was not clear how trials would be affected but I imagine that we wouldn’t be getting any of those either. What that means is that the Chinese market is shifting to foreign teachers already based in China. Good for them. Bad for those of us who live abroad. Jasper, ever practical as he is, responded by saying “if you want to go to China for a couple of years, I’ll just see you in the summers”. But going to China to live is not something that I particularly want to do. It’s hard enough living in Amsterdam where everybody speaks English. It is still extremely possible to feel like an outsider. I can’t imagine how that would be living in China.

It remains to be seen just what form VIPkid will take for foreign teachers. They have assured us that they are trying to open up other markets. Perhaps that means they will expand their Korean teaching market as well as their Book Nook Reading program for US students. Unfortunately, the second option doesn’t sound very nice for me because it requires me to be up at all hours. There is also the potential for VIPkid to expand into other international markets. And there’s always the adult teaching market. So they have told us that they won’t cancel our contracts nor will they stop renewing them. I do not hold out much hope for the International market as I don’t thing that those students will want to pay what the Chinese parents were paying. So for me it’s a waiting game, but it’s also a goodbye.

Once I received the news on Saturday, I sent out a Mass text to the students that I have on WeChat, to tell them that I was available for private lessons. Because apparently that is not going to be affected. It remains to be seen just how much business I can get and just how many people I can get on WeChat before everything shuts down. But the news has left me a bit sad. There are students for whom I have been their only teacher for four years. Luckily I have some of them on WeChat and maybe we will be able to continue.

I am also happier than I can say that I diversified in 2019 and joined the English Center. Because, as much as I complain about their cancellation policy, I am extremely grateful for the work. Right now that amounts to between four and six hours of teaching for them a week. If that number could elevate to about 20 hours a week I would be a happy girl. I still have some private clients and I’m trying to figure out how to get more. I will be OK but I’m also allowed to have all the feelings in the world about the loss of a job that I’ve actually done for five years.

After the fiasco of my first attempt, I submitted another video to iTalki, And I’m happy to say that this one passed with flying colors. I have an interview with them later today. In fact, it’s not really an interview but rather a group call to talk about the ins and outs of working on the platform. What concerns me, is that it seems people are charging $18 an hour for their work. Which is less than I make with VIPKid now. I am also going to take the precaution of opening up more hours with Lingueo and for the moment only work My 1-3 pm with VIPkid or short notice starting with next week.

As the summer winds to a close, I have Freek and Claudia on reserve as they have decided to take a hiatus until at least September. That means that I have to be very careful of my schedule while I’m in Greece. But there is time enough to figure that out. I will have to have a talk with Marieke and English center about how and when students want lessons generally so that I can keep those hours free. Because I suspect that since the last time we had this conversation, things have changed as a result of the pandemic and the increase in online lessons.

This coming weekend Jasper and I are off to Germany to see his brother and family. It will be almost 2 years since we’ve seen them. Jasper’s brother is not convinced that Covid is real and none of them have been vaccinated. They have said that they will not go anywhere where mask is required. Hopefully I will be able to find myself something to do. I think I see lots of hiking in my future. At least when it comes to Germany.

The good news is that in advance of this trip, I have prepared everything for this week and the following week in terms of all of my English Center lessons. So I’m ahead. I’m off to have a think about where to go next and what form my business needs to take. One thing is certain. The hustle needs to become even more real.

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

Schedule Sh*tshow and a Vaccine Victory

I have decided, dear reader, that I really don’t like forced vacations. What’s not to like, you ask? Aside from the fact that I didn’t make any money this past week, I also had a week’s more anxiety than I should have from last weeks surgery postponement . It didn’t help that I walked into the consultation on Wednesday this past week and the doctor again proceeded to tell me everything that would go wrong. Basically he said that I wouldn’t have perfect eyesight. And? I thought to myself, it’s not like it was perfect to begin with, even post Lasik. They did not even look at my records so they did not realize that I had provided all of the records that I had both pre-and post Lasik so that they have a benchmark. To say that I am not impressed by Dutch healthcare is an understatement. Having said that, and because I’m generally a fair person, this could’ve happened in any of the countries that I’ve lived in. The US the UK or Greece may have been just the same. As the week slowly tipped down towards Wednesday the 23rd, I kind of found myself wishing for more classes so that I could take my mind off of the surgery.

Because of the schedule snafu, I worked today, I’m working tomorrow before the surgery, and Thursday and Friday after the surgery. The Dutch doctors will also not give a note so that I can send it to VIPKid to cancel those classes. They don’t get involved in your work life. They did say they would prefer if I didn’t work but I told them that I was not going to lose that income and more importantly, have a big black mark on my record. No thank you. What I have done is closed Off my schedule so that I can do as little work as possible post surgery. The plan is to go back to full strength the following week. I was also marginally worried about putting 1 million eyedrops in my eye post surgery, after all, it has been 20 years since I’ve had to do that with contact lenses so I didn’t think that I remembered how. Luckily Jasper offered a solution and got me some saline drops so I can practice.

Speaking of Jasper, I feel quite guilty when it comes to him currently. He took the week off so that he could help me in my recovery. I am not allowed to lift anything heavier than 10 pounds, Nor am I allowed to bend over. The concern is for pressure on the eye and dislodging the lens. With the surgery postponed to a week later, Jasper cannot take that time off and so will just come and pick me up post surgery. I will have to figure everything else out on my own. Scheduling shenanigans of the doctors might put my health at risk then. After all, if I’m alone, and I forget and I bend over, I risk during damage to myself. While sick leave and vacation are clear in the Dutch legal system with what you can do and what you can’t, and Jasper’s company is quite generous, I’m not sure what that means for partner care. So, the vicious cycle of guilt and self recrimination keeps going round and round in my head. And yes, I do know that it wasn’t my fault, but still.

In other medical news, on Sunday I walked to the convention center in Amsterdam and got my first vaccine. On the form it asks if you’ve been treated for any allergies to drugs or food, and because I have a Codeine allergy that is quite severe, I was asked to stay not the 15 minutes post injection but 30. All in all, the care that I received there was much better and more solicitous than the care that I received at the doctor. I was really quite impressed. I was worried about side effects the following day and so I canceled in person classes for Monday. I did have an online class for two hours in the morning and an evening class with Claudia for English Center. I pushed my usual Monday lesson in Amstelveen with Freek to this morning and later today I have conversation playground.

The schedule shuffle has been truly exhausting this week. Tomorrow pre-surgery, I have my last lesson with Lili who wants to move to a British teacher and I’ve been coordinating with the English Center for that. Luckily they gave me a new student named Vicente who needs writing help. I’m quite pleased that they come to me for Writing teaching as I really like the work. In other writing news, the blog for English Center is a bit on hold until I can recover from surgery. But once surgery is over I plan on giving writing for search engine optimization my full attention.

That shuffle extended to my personal life as well. I was supposed to go to Greece from 25 August to 14 September. Instead, I will be extending my stay another week because my nephew is being christened. And I was able to do it for fairly cheap. €75 is not a bad price for a ticket change. So some of these posts will be coming to you from beautiful sunny Greece. At least, I hope it will be.

The Writers Group met in person for the first time in over a year and a half this past Thursday. We met at the central library which we thought was open to people working there, but it wasn’t. It’s open only by appointment and you have to have a subscription. You have to reserve a table and you can only come alone. Luckily we were able to find a table outside of the library because the restaurant next door was closed. I was also able to secure a reservation at our old stomping ground of O’Reillys to have a drink that was glorious. It felt really nice to sit and talk about writing and other things with friends in person. I hope within reason, that this is a herald of things to come and that things will slowly start getting back to normal.

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

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.