Timing Totaled and Teacher Tooth pulling

This week at Inkreadable, dear reader, was an exercise in time mismanagement. I pride myself, as you know, at being one hell of a time manager; able to make each and every minute productive on some level for myself and hopefully when I’m in a classroom, for my students. That of, course, goes out the window when a student has different ideas. Such was the case with my English Center student who takes me out to Amstelveen three days a week. We had our first two lessons on Friday the 28th and Monday the 31st. On Wednesday the second, I got a text from her at 10 o’clock at night giving me the suggestion that she wants to go faster in terms of content covered. The problem was, that I had already planned a lesson for Thursday and Friday in advance. You see, dear reader, I had plans on Thursday night with a friend that I have not seen in over six months. And was really looking forward to catching up. Of course, I didn’t want to have to lesson plan on Thursday evening.. But I was like a chicken with its head cut off, running around in circles trying to figure out how exactly to make this work.

I had a couple of instances of inspiration as to how to fix the issue with the student. On the one hand, I didn’t want her to feel like she wasn’t getting her money’s worth, but as much as I like teaching intensive English classes, I’m not sure how effective they are in actually helping people learn English. The principle is the same as cramming for a test. I was never one to be able to cram and pass a test. Therein lay the way to failure for me. I think language learning is the same. If you try to learn every single concept involved in any language in a short period of time, how much are you really learning? How effective are the classes? But she is the customer and unfortunately, I come from a society where the customer is always right. So I combined the two lessons that I had already planned into one and then made a lesson that was vocabulary heavy for Friday morning. It turns out that the vocabulary lesson worked a treat. I basically threw words at her randomly and indiscriminately and she really enjoyed that. I also assigned for homework an exercise to look at all the words that we have learned in the lesson and find all of their forms then choose one of the forms to make sentences with, and hopefully that gets her increasing her vocabulary at an exponential rate.

I also had to plan a second lesson with a young girl who is 13. She was supposed to take on of the Teen Intensive courses offered by TEC, but there weren’t enough students. I went through the teen course books that TEC uses to teach the teen intensives in the summertime, and discovered that this was going to be a little bit too difficult for this student. It isn’t that she doesn’t have English in her head, she’s willing to try and seems to understand when I ask her a question, but she just doesn’t have the language to answer it it also doesn’t help that she is almost painfully shy. Every answer ended up being I don’t know, even for things that were about her personally. She was able to get through the lesson that I had planned for her and I was able to get that she plays the harp and that she likes drawing. I’m gonna have to figure out how to build lessons around these two topics that aren’t insufferably boring. But really, dear reader, getting this young girl to talk was like pulling teeth.

I have heard neither hide nor hair from Katya’s mom and I don’t anticipate having any lessons with them anytime soon. I did send messages but no response. I think with schools in Poland opening it will be quite difficult for her to have extra lessons with me. Yesterday was a rather crappy day, as Felix has decided that he no longer wants lesson as hi simply doesn’t have the energy to continue, this, coupled with Alex also cancelling his lessons, was a huge blow. One that I am not sure how to recover from. I did get a bit of editing work but that was just an hour’s worth. I have started back up with my Dutch guys, and another student I haven’t seen since February is starting in a couple of weeks, so there is work but not enough.

By far, was the most interesting portion of the week was me teaching Greek to a young man from Ireland. It was an amusing lesson to say the least. Both for me and for him. While the techniques that we use for teaching all languages are the same, it’s a lot harder to do when the language you are teaching isn’t exactly your native language. Also, I can no longer say at 45 years old, that I am fluent in Greek. There is just no way. While my Greek comes out sounding natural and quick, I forget words or I don’t know words and that makes it quite difficult.But for a kid with no Greek at all, that’s OK because we started at the very beginning. With the alphabet. I got lucky because his mom made him study it before our class so we were able to go over pronunciation and then greetings. I had a lot of fun and I think he did too. His mother later assured me that he had a great time because he wasn’t making dragon noises which is what he does when he’s bored. I am going to have to incorporate that into the lessons somehow.

Over in the writing world, while we’re still not able to meet in person, we did have a zoom critique where, though we had no submissions, we spoke about writing from the perspective of either a race or a gender that is not your own, and also writing in language not your own. Which was quite interesting and gave me a lot of ideas for my own writing. Ideas, but not actually the will to write. I’m sure that will come with time and the freeing up of my schedule. You see, dear readers I have decided to take Saturdays off and maybe I will take the time to do some writing then.

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

Schedule Shenanigans and Amstelveen Antics

This week at Inkreadable, dear reader, was an exercise in serious time management. With the addition of two new clients from English Center who meet at Amstelveen, it seems that my wish for a less VIPKid centered teaching schedule has come true. I am going to be working exclusively for the English Center on Mondays, Thursdays, and Fridays through probably the end of October. Tuesdays and Wednesdays will be spent still with VIPKid but at a much reduced schedule. Instead of opening the five hours that I normally open, I’m going to open two or three. If I can manage to keep my various schedules straight, and not have too many scheduling mishaps, it will be nothing short of miraculous.

I am going to start taking Saturdays off as of September 5. My Saturday routine is back in force with Weightwatchers meetings being in real life at the store. What that means is that I get to take a walk to weight watchers have a meeting, then have coffee with friends and get up to whatever else I want on Saturday. The one thing that I will not do is work. Everyone needs a break, including me. I am looking forward to the resumption of some normalcy in terms of my schedule. Also, having not passed the writing advanced certification for VIPKid, I am taking this opportunity to lessen my dependence on them because I feel that not all of the reasons that they gave for the failure was valid. For example, their first reason was that my lighting and background were inappropriate. Nowhere in my contract does it say that I have to have a background. And I have been teaching just fine with my student seeing my living room and other assorted places that I have taught from for the last 3 1/2 years. Now all of a sudden it’s an issue? As a compromise, I did put up a little map of the world that is kid friendly. And hopefully won’t be forbidden because it is not up to China’s standards for world maps. But I’ve decided if that happens I am going to leave VIPKid completely.

While other people are claiming that their schedules are fine with VIPKid and they haven’t seen a reduction in bookings, I am myself I’m noticing more and more cancellations. For example, where I was fully booked on a Saturday from 12 to 3, I am now working half of that. On Sunday I opened 2 1/2 hours and got two one hour classes and a half hour class, but the one hour class has canceled and so was the 1/2 hour. As a result I am sticking Karolina into that slot and then going for a coffee. My 11 AM private student on Sunday has canceled as well as he is actually going to school. I do feel sorry for the kids that have to be in school on the weekends but apparently they’re used to it in China as it happens quite a bit more often than it does in the west.

My new student in Amstelveen is Russian, 26 years old, and tests at a C1 level. I had gotten the information that her speaking level was be one but it’s not. She is quite advanced. And she likes to talk about controversial topics so it’s going to be a very interesting endeavor trying to get lesson plans for her on things like feminism, LGBT rights, the political situation all over the world, and other such topics. What surprises me about her is that she has asked for a little bit more grammar. But I did not hear any mistakes in her grammar usage while speaking on Friday. It’s going to be quite the challenge to correct her if that is the case. I was thinking that I would start her on conditionals which I think is one of the hardest things for non-native speakers of English to learn. I was impressed at the lesson that she was able to explain to me how the perfect continuous tenses are formed. As I said, it will be a challenge but I’m looking forward to it.

Starting on 4 September I will have another client in Amstelveen on Friday afternoons as well. She is a 13-year-old who was supposed to take a teen summer class but that never happened because of Covid. In exchange, she’s gotten 6 1/2 hours of private instruction. We will have to see what she wants and what she can handle. I am thinking 21st century readings might be a good place to start with her.

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

Teacher Tonic and a Shifting schedule

This week at Inkreadable, dear reader, was fairly quiet. With no pre-intermediate English class on the books, I was able to open up most of my schedule to VIPKid, of course, that didn’t mean that I was teaching five hours a day as I had been previously, but at 3 1/2 hours a day I really can’t complain. That schedule continues to shift immeasurably, with students place-holding. This is not a new trend in VIPKid and numerous Facebook posts both across my own group as well as larger groups have been showing it for the last year. I choose however, to look on the bright side with this as it has allowed me to go to the gym more consistently and not wake up at 6 o’clock in the morning to do it. Which as summer draws closer to fall, here in the Netherlands, gets more and more difficult yearly. I find I simply do not have that stamina, as much as I love mornings, I simply can’t get up when it’s that dark.

With September just a couple of weeks away, and Jasper having a holiday on 11 September, we are planning a small holiday to Friesland and are going to stay in a hotel in Leeuwarden. I have never been up north and so this will be a first for me. What surprises me is that generally Jasper does not like to travel within the Netherlands, which seems to be generally a Dutch affliction. It seems that culturally they don’t want to necessarily be tourists in their own country. And so they prefer to stay in their own home cities and travel abroad. This is the antithesis of what I perceive to be American travel culture where we drive for thousands of miles to see our own country, and unless you have a lot of money in the US, they don’t travel abroad that much. The exception, of course, is being a child of immigrants, and going to Greece every summer from the age of five to the age of 45. Of course that too has its limiting factors as one cannot say that staying in a Greek village is an expansion of culture, rather it’s an extension of being quite limited in your access to foreign travel. I’m happy to do more of it as an adult, and as well as having parents that were able to afford more than just going to Greece, I got to see more places than most kids my own age. It really did give birth to a travel bug that continues to this day. I particularly like day trips and weekends away. I went on a day trip on Sunday, with my friends Gretchen and Erica. We went up to Geithoorn which is a pretty village about an hour and a half car ride from Amsterdam. It was lovely. It was a bit of a shit day in terms of weather so we planned a museum visit and walking in a national forest. We were driven by Gretchen’s boyfriend who is a wonderful young man by the name of Tijs. It was a great day and balm to my soul as I had been getting very tired of being in Amsterdam. Thus the first portion of the title.

The waning of summer into fall generally makes me happy. While I don’t like the shortening of days and the lengthening of nights that happens here in the Netherlands, I do like being able to wear fall clothes again and being able to drink hot tea with more regularity. But with it, dear readers, comes the uptick of lessons from the English Center. It looks like I will be traveling to Amstelveen three times a week. What that does to my schedule is a hell of a lesson in time management. I thought I was a pretty good time manager up until this point. But between the private clients that I have, and their shifting schedules as well as the addition of this new client by TEC, the resumption of classes with clients that have been put on hold because of COVID-19 or summer break, means that I’m going to be running around on transport quite a bit. I guess I am lucky that while in the Hague a couple weeks back at the Greek embassy, I bought a mask that is permanent.

I am always a little bit stressed out starting lessons with a new student as I have to do an intake every time I start a new package. The new student in Amstelveen seems to be from Russia and has gotten a 47 out of 50 on an English level test. What that means to me is that I’m going to have to up my game and pitch the lesson just right. I’m not sure if you remember, dear reader, but late last year I had a really hard time with a very advanced student and pitched the lesson too low, which ended up in me losing the student. I am hopeful that that will not happen again, and have learned my lesson. To that end, I started shifting my schedule for my private clients as well. The twins I teach are shifting from Tuesdays and Fridays, to Tuesday and Sunday, where they join best friend, Alex. Scarlet shifts from Mondays and Wednesdays for a half an hour each time, to Wednesdays for an hour. And I finally found out how her mom got my WeChat. She is the twins’ aunt and got my contact from their mom. I am really glad, as I was wracking my brain trying to figure all of that out. I have no clue about Felix as yet because he has a shifting schedule of his own and he’s going back to working one week 9 am to 530 pm, and the next week 1230 pm to 9 pm. It looks like I may have to give up some VIPKid time for him as well. We will have to see how that works. Karolina will stick with me on Tuesdays from 5 to 6 for the moment. But it looks like I will not qualify for a raise from VIP kid because of all of the shifts cutting into the schedule of prime prime time classes for them. I find that I don’t care. In the meantime, in the pipeline we still have my Irish kid, who we will call Oscar whose mom wants me to start teaching him Greek as well as another VIPKid We will call Anton who is possibly in the works for three months from now. I hope that I got that straight, and I hope for more clients down the line. It will be interesting to see if I can manage my schedule between my various sources of income.

All of that is assuming that I’ll be able to travel to students given the possibility of rolling back of the loosening of restrictions from the Dutch government regarding COVID-19. But of course, dear reader, I will continue to keep you informed of all the things that are happening here in the Netherlands and of course with Inkreadable.

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

Horrendous Heatwave and a Teacher TKO

This week’s title, dear readers, was super difficult . As you may remember, I spent the previous week cat sitting for friends in another part of the city. It wouldn’t be so bad if the temperature hadn’t been 34 degrees. I know my southwestern readers might be snickering a bit at these temperatures as they routinely get quite a bit higher. And that’s all well and good. But here in the Netherlands, that is considered a heat wave and in a place where houses are designed to keep the heat in, rather than let it out, it gets to be a real problem. In the States, we are quite used to going from our air-conditioned houses, to our air-conditioned cars, to our air-conditioned offices and of course, to air-conditioned shops and shopping list.

This is not the case in other parts of the world. In most of the world air conditioning is considered a bit of a demon-esque inventions. Routinely in southern climes, particularly in Greece, you hear “don’t put the air-conditioning on it will make you sick”. While you may not hear such drivel in the Netherlands, the country is simply not equipped to handle the temperatures that we’ve been experiencing over the last two weeks. And there had been no respite until Friday of this week. What has this to do with teaching, you ask? Sit back relax and enjoy your air conditioning while I tell you.

I have discovered as I get older that the heat really does affect me very badly. I am certainly not at my best when teaching or doing anything else. You could really see it in the quality of my teaching if you look at playback videos throughout the last couple of weeks. I’m lucky in that I can make it a teachable moment and frequently have my older students compare and contrast the weather in China with the weather in central Europe. In short, it affected everything. The end of every day saw me literally melting. For my private students, I must’ve sounded like a bumbling idiot. Confusing homographs and homophones with Scarlet is one example. Let’s hope I’m able to do better this coming week.

Why didn’t you get a fan, you ask? That’s just it. I had two going at my friends house and I have one of my own. They were, and have been, constantly running to the last couple of weeks. I shudder to think what my electric bill is going to come out to this month. But at this moment, I am past caring. I also mentioned to Jasper that when we get a house of our own we are going to have to have some form of air-conditioning if this continues. Luckily, he has agreed. He also made the claim that the temperature changes in the last 10 years in the Netherlands  are more significant than the 90 years that came before.

Given these fact,s I am amazed that people still believe that global warming is not a thing and that this is nature taking it’s course. Further evidence to my mind of peoples idiocy in so many ways. The summer heat wave has also seen a spike in people traveling and being on boats here and so we have the inevitable spike in COVID-19 cases. This is a worldwide phenomenon. In Greece, on the island of Crete where my sister and her family live, there were no cases until they started letting tourists in, now they have 50 cases per day.

 Remember how we had been planning to do a write-in online with the critique group this past Wednesday? Yeah, that never happened as it was simply too hot to do anything. We could barely maintain a conversation for more than an hour. At that point, I had to go and cool off. Luckily the temperatures have regulated this week and I never thought that I would say that I was quite happy for a thunderstorm and the rain that we’ve been getting. While it is still sticky, the weather looks to be quite good for a day trip that we are taking with some friends who are also VIPKid teachers to another part of the Netherlands.

Last but not least, dear readers, a couple of friends and I had a witchcraft and wizardry  Geo locating game that was a  virtual scavenger hunt in Amsterdam on Saturday this past weekend. I have decided that while I am not very good at these games I really do like them, as much as I like escape rooms and would like to do more of them. The riddles were quite easy but the math questions were not. If you’ve never tried the scavenger hunt take games, check out CluedUpp GeoGames for ones that might be in your city.

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

Teacher Taught

Over the last few years, it’s rare that I learn something new when teaching VIPKid. The lessons have become so second nature to me that I don’t actually need to prepare very much. I basically look at the slides of a new lesson and the teacher instructions the night before I teach it. Sometimes the day of, if I have a break. But every once in a while a new course will come along that has a bunch of reading that I haven’t read and I learn something new. That is the case with the book report course. While it is not the best designed course in the VIPKid curriculum and you actually write the book report with the student you’re teaching in the class, there is a lot of reading and it can be really easy to get caught up in the reading yourself rather than focus on teaching the lesson.

I am constantly learning new things with my private students as well. I now have seven and will possibly have up to nine by the end of the year. I am waiting for a student that I currently teach on the VIPKid platform to make the transition to privates with me. His mom is very dissatisfied with the progress that he is making on VIPKid. So we have started talks. I sent her the 21st century reading book because I think that the student can handle it but she disagrees and so I’m currently looking for materials that might be more appropriate for him. But I am very thankful to the parents of a pair of twins who actually gave me all four of the books in Electronic form, as I have been using them not only with her kids, but also with one of their best friends and my own adult students. I am learning quite a bit about many different topics and enjoying the corresponding TED Talks that go along with them. The only thing that I can say is a negative about these books is that it’s hard to find the Ted topics so I have decided to do it every time I teach a new chapter. As a result it’s gonna take me a while to track down all the talks and I hope that I’m able to find all of them. At the end of the month, I’m probably going to start teaching a young man in Ireland, whose mom is a VIPKid teacher as well both English and of all things, Greek. He is a great lover of the Percy Jackson books and has decided that he wants to learn how to pronounce the words in the book correctly. It seems, that some of his friends are also interested so I may have a little class going. We will have to see how that works and of course ,I will dear readers, keep you posted.

Interestingly enough, the last time I taught with Cambly was actually through a reservation for a student who apparently likes the way I teach. She is 14 and wanted to learn about the present progressive tense. After a half an hour of teaching her that tense she proclaimed that it was now clear. That too was a learning experience for me because I was able to learn more about the Cambly platform.

Over in the writing world, tomorrow will mark the first time that we attempt to do a write-in online and I am not sure that it will go very well, as you are aware from another post. Still, I find myself looking forward to the idea of actually reconnecting with my characters even if it’s just for a couple of hours tomorrow night.

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

Sudden sickness

This week, dear readers, at Inkreadable was quite eventful. And I don’t mean that in a good way. Although, it ended well enough, it started out with a whimper. I had never in my six year career as a teacher, canceled on a student. At least, not due to illness. Inclement weather, sure. As was the case with Carlton and the one snowstorm that we had here in the Netherlands back in 2019. I’m not sure what happened, but in the middle of the night Monday into Tuesday I woke up feeling very dizzy. At the time I attribute it to not sleeping well. But I woke up on Tuesday morning at 6 AM to go to the gym, and as soon as I went from lying to sitting everything started to spin and the nausea was horrible. I duly canceled my gym appointment went back to sleep thinking that it was a fluke. But I woke up two hours later to the same symptoms but even more intense. With nothing for it but to push through, I had to get ready for the day, which felt like it took three hours. The first class of the day was a 2 hour private for TEC. I was able to make it for the first hour and 50 minutes with a slightly longer break of 10 minutes. And then I simply couldn’t manage. Thank God that my student was kind enough to let me end class those few minutes early because I was able to go lay down for 40 minutes before my classes with VIPKid started.

I set up my classroom for VIPKid to teach sitting down, which I haven’t done in about a year and a half. I find standing to teach to be much easier than sitting. There’s just less pain involved. But I could not stand and so switched my classroom to a sitting classroom. I managed to teach the first two lessons of their 2 1/2 hours for that day and then thankfully class three was a no-show. That meant that I could rest a bit. I think if it hadn’t been for that half hour the situation would’ve been worse than it was. As it was, it was not a good situation all around. At the end of the no-show, I started a one hour level seven class. We managed to get through the first 25 minutes and then the break with me explaining that I wasn’t feeling well and might have to leave the camera very quickly. And so it proved. Five minutes into the last 23 minutes of the class I had to leave the camera twice. I don’t think I’ve ever been physically sick in a class but I was this time. Thank goodness that my student was understanding. (Is it any wonder dear reader, why I love the older kids more than I like the littles?) The illness continued intermittently getting worse and better throughout that day and the next two. I had to cancel my Tuesday evening class with Karolina who I hadn’t seen since the beginning of the month.

The week wasn’t all bad however. Felix canceled until the middle of August when he is back from a trip and so I no longer have Monday evenings for the moment. I do wish that my adult students, would be a little bit more consistent about when they show up. But in this circumstance, I was quite happy that I didn’t have to prep anything. I am consequently, looking forward to seeing Karolina in just a few hours. I have missed her. I also have a couple of new clients potentially. I hesitate to say too much, but one of students is wanting to take Greek lessons with me. And I was further surprised to find out from his mom, that there are several children wanting to take Greek lessons. Apparently they all love the Percy Jackson series and are intrigued by learning the language that he is supposed to speak. As a result, I have to call in reinforcements for a bit of help. I therefore have placed a call to Lexus Amsterdam to see if I can get some help with materials.

Over in the writing world, the critique group has decided to go online and see if we can do a write-in Skype. If it works, perhaps we will expand it to the rest of the group. I’m a little bit skeptical because I myself don’t actually work well listening to other people type on computer. I need the physical presence of people around me typing to actually be motivated. But, I’m willing to give anything a try.

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

Potentially Problematic Parents and a second strike

This summer slow down at Inkreadable continues. It comes as no surprise, dear reader, that all of my students have decided that while it is summer they are going to go and do fun things. I wish that I could follow suit and take a vacation. But the Netherlands is starting to see an uptick in cases for COVID-19 and I’m not sure that I want to travel. Having said that, I’m probably going to see Jasper’s aunt next weekend. I have also taken to wearing a mask even in the stores. It’s not required, but I feel better and it gets me used to wearing a mask which is never a fun thing. I’ve also taken the precautions of wearing it in highly populated areas. So basically all over Amsterdam. It feels dystopian, but what can you do?

VIPKid continues to exhibit alarming tendencies of being in real trouble. On 1 August the teachers are again striking in protest over the payment structure. I too have decided to strike. Might as well make use of the day off. The new-to-me students was a fluke, dear reader. I have now gone back to my regular students and my schedule is a sea of blue With the possible exception of Friday, which seems to be a fairly heavy day and I can get 4 to 5 hours booked. I wish that trend would show up throughout the week, but I don’t think that will happen.

Felix was a no-show last Friday, but showed up yesterday evening. He will again be a no-show this Friday, I guess he has better things to do than study English. It’s a bit frustrating because I would like to have a little bit of consistency in my schedule. Karolina is back on my schedule as of this Tuesday and I am interested just hear what she did for her thesis and how it went. I think I’m going to try the new book that I found for Alex with Karolina. The 21st-century readings are quite interesting and I think she’ll be able to handle most of the exercises. They may in fact be quite easy for her. Speaking of Alex, I had lesson number two with him on Sunday and while he felt that the lesson was great, his mom felt that the material was too difficult for him. Also I think she thought that I wasn’t using the book, when in fact I was. In order to compensate for him having difficulty, I have told her which chapter we will be starting on Sunday of this week so that he can prepare a bit. I do find preparation to be a bit of a double-edged sword however. If the student has done all of the work before hand, then what point and what purpose does the teacher serve? I will have to see how to adapt.

The VIPKid teacher that I had staying with me left on Friday after a couple of days of wandering around Amsterdam. She is now headed to Brussels and going to link up with another friend of mine who lives there. One of the nice things about being a VIPKid teacher and having a Facebook group that criscrosses the EU, is that you can always give access to contacts all over the continent. This is never a bad thing. She participated in my board game night. The experience was a good one, and I would definitely host again. But this time I think I would ask that we finish by a certain hour as everybody left by 11 o’clock by the time I went to bed it was a bit late and I was not at my best the next day for teaching the next day.

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

Unique understanding And a student surplus

This week at Inkreadable, dear readers, ended up being an interesting one. While the work continues to be quite slow, I am starting to make a name for myself with parents of students from VIPKid who are now recommending me to other parents. Such is the case with Sunday’s student, he is the best friend of my student from VIPKid, who we will call Gerald, and his twin sister, who we’llll call  Jane, have been with me for two years. Gerald disappeared off my schedule last week, but Jane did not. When I had her in my class I asked her what was going on and apparently their packages are winding up and their parents are not sure if they are going to continue with VIPKid. This of course was heartbreaking for me because the students are two of my favorites. Luckily, I have their mom on WeChat and we are sort of friendly. Having been born in the same year as well as having gone to school in Boston. She went to Boston College and I went to Boston University. Three guesses as to who is the smarter one. I duly contacted her to tell her that I also offer private lessons and she was quite interested. In fact, she is considering going private with me but also gave my name to Gerald’s best friend, will call him Anton. Anton’s mom wants him to work on reading and vocabulary just like Scarlet’s mom does but Anton is about five years older. So while I was looking at materials to use, Gerald’s mom sent me National Geographic books to take a look at. They are amazing. And a great resource for the preteen to teenage set.

This week at Inkreadable, dear readers, ended up being an interesting one. While the work continues to be quite slow, I am starting to make a name for myself with parents of students from VIPKid who are now recommending me to other parents. Such is the case with Sunday’s student, he is the best friend of my student from VIPKid, who we will call Gerald, and his twin sister, who we’llll call  Jane, have been with me for two years. Gerald disappeared off my schedule last week, but Jane did not. When I had her in my class I asked her what was going on and apparently their packages are winding up and their parents are not sure if they are going to continue with VIPKid. This of course was heartbreaking for me because the students are two of my favorites. Luckily, I have their mom on WeChat and we are sort of friendly. Having been born in the same year as well as having gone to school in Boston. She went to Boston College and I went to Boston University. Three guesses as to who is the smarter one. I duly contacted her to tell her that I also offer private lessons and she was quite interested. In fact, she is considering going private with me but also gave my name to Gerald’s best friend, will call him Anton. Anton’s mom wants him to work on reading and vocabulary just like Scarlet’s mom does but Anton is about five years older. So while I was looking at materials to use, Gerald’s mom sent me National Geographic books to take a look at. They are amazing. And a great resource for the preteen to teenage set.

We made an appointment on Sunday afternoon for an hour and worked our way through the first chapter of the first National Geographic book. It was a decent success. I have a feeling that they will stick with me. I’m still waiting to hear from Gerald and Jane’s mother about whether they will start with me but I don’t want push too hard since they already gave me a client. I have a feeling that they’ll start with me later in the Summer as the twins are doing a lot of extra classes. I’ll still see Jane at VIPKid for the moment.

Over in the VIPKid world, I’ve started having bad dreams again. Bad dreams of getting three apples or less for reviews. I think it’s because of all of the drama with VIPKid that is currently happening. There is another strike and the teachers are walking out on 1 August. As ever, I have decided to do that as well and to go and see Jasper’s aunt who is not feeling very well. Win-win. I am also seeing quite a few new-to-me students.  I think this is also where the dreams are coming from because the more new students you have the greater chance you have of getting a bad review. After all, we can’t all be at our best all of the time. No matter what the VIP teachers would have you believe. 

Felix and I did not meet on Friday, as he went to Paris for the weekend. To say that I was jealous was an understatement. I really wish that I could travel a bit. As a result I gave about eight hours to Cambly over the weekend. In that time we ran the gamut from kids to adults, mostly women, from people who are motivated to learn. There was even one person who thought that I didn’t understand him and what he wanted. That was not the case he wanted me to teach him how to introduce somebody to other people in English. I was duly trying to do this and he thought that I couldn’t understand him and he dropped the call. I am finding Cambly to be a little bit more tiring than VIPKid even. It’s one thing to have slides and curricula prepared for you. It’s quite another thing to sit online for two hours and have to talk to people as they call in and teach them English on the fly. I can see the advantage of it.  It makes me a better teacher and more fluid. What that did for Anton was gave him a pretty smooth lesson even though I haven’t really prepared. I’m gonna have to figure out how much time to give Cambly though because the pay really is quite low.

Karolina is also a no-show for the next couple of weeks because she’s got her masters thesis that she needs to complete. Her exam is later this evening and we will have to see how she does. I really do hope that she comes back for lessons. Katya is on vacation and I have given her homework through her mother. I want her to describe the things that she can see here and do while on her camping trip. Let’s see if she actually does the homework. After all, the last couple of classes, her answers were the stock “I don’t know”. While Chinese children are obedient and will take six hours of lessons a day if their parents want them to, the same cannot be said of western children nor frankly of western parents. So it’s just as well that she’s on vacation, and we will see what happens when she comes back in September. If she comes back. Scarlet was also a no-show this week, but that was different, and  no fault of her own.Her parents were in the middle of filing their taxes and so of course could not get up in time for her to have a lesson with me. The surprising thing about that was that I told her Mom that I would make an exception with my policy and allow them one cancellation without penalty. Scarlet’s mom turned around and asked me to charge her. This is the second time in my three years as a self-employed English as a Foreign Language teacher that I have been able to get a student to agree to my terms. Another win-win. In fact it wasn’t even a question. It felt really nice being validated.

Over in the Writer’s world, it isn’t often that I really connect with someone on a deep level, but this week at the critique group the new person that we have and I really connected. We have been going back-and-forth about different ideas for writing through various forms of communication including email and WhatsApp and generally having a grand old time. It’s helpful because it galvanizes me to at least want to write. To feel the loss of my characters, and I’m hoping that with more interaction and with more help from this new person, perhaps what will happen is that I will want to write about my characters once again. And even be able to do it at home and be disciplined about it. This week, if it happens, we are doing a board game night instead of the usual dinner night. I am also having a VIPKid teacher come as a guest from Berlin from Tuesday to Friday evening. She has also expressed interest in the board game night so we will have to see how all of that pans out. Alas, what that means for Jasper and I is very little time together this week. But, sometimes that’s not a bad thing.

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

Trial Taught and Sales Success

It isn’t often, dear reader, that I get a random student from out of nowhere. Most of my students usually come from VIPKid, like Katya, or they are connected via family members that I have met in other places. Such is the case with Karolina, whose stepmother in the US is a friend of a friend. I don’t actually remember meeting her stepmother either. It’s always possible that she heard about me from one of my mother’s friends or even my sister’s large network of acquaintances. Or there’s the case of Félix who literally walked up to my writers’ table at the bookstore and asked if we were English teachers at the table. And of course being the enterprising person that I am I piped up that I was and that everybody else was not. And so began a wonderful relationship that continues to today

Speaking of Félix, we are working our way through trying to get him a new job within his company which does the primary staffing at Nike. This new role will be more managerial and less customer service. I think he has a good chance of getting it because he has already been doing the day-to-day tasks with this particular job which is called an assistant coach. And what he does is he coaches the new hires at Nike in the day-to-day operations of the business, particularly the sales team. So this week’s focus is job interview questions. Previous week was resume and cover letter hail help. Over at the English Center my bookings have dwindled down to almost nothing. The Pre-intermediate class has turned into 12 hours of private lessons with the person who paid. She is a fairly low level but is motivated to learn and can do all the homework. As she demonstrated this week when she gave it to me 24 hours after I gave it to her. And it was a lot. Six worksheets and a writing assignment. We will see how we go with the tenses as that’s the biggest focus for her. It’s what she confuses the most. As in, “now I sit in my classroom” instead of “I am sitting in the classroom now”.

Earlier this week, I got a WeChat message from someone who contacted me about lessons. I have no idea how she got my number. She’s on the East Coast and has a seven-year-old daughter who needs reading and vocabulary help. We had a trial lesson on Saturday afternoon at 4 pm my time and it went swimmingly. Scarlett is a wonderful little girl who is super bright and ask for lots of really interesting questions. As we will be working on reading and vocabulary, there isn’t an awful lot of prep that needs to happen except for me to have some thing for her to read. Luckily there are a ton of materials online that we can access. She also seems to be a very loquacious and fast paced little girl and can keep up with me when I speak quickly. Which I think is nothing but great. I think it’s gonna take some adjustment with the time difference but they want twice a week Monday and Wednesday at 3 PM my time which suits me just fine. Which took 10 minutes for them to agree to.

The VIPKid world continues to remain the same. 2 1/2 hours of bookings each day even though I open open every slot from 4 PM to 9 PM Beijing time. But with all the extra work that I have, which doesn’t really amount to a lot of money but does fill up the hours it seems to be for the best. By far the most surprising and easy work that I’m currently doing is with Cambly. There is no prep. I frequently don’t see the people that I’m talking to you as they are using their cell phones and don’t turn on the cameras. I think that happens to be because they are from Saudi Arabia, it’s mostly women, and they don’t want to be seen. Which is fair enough. I don’t think it’s fair that my camera has to stay on all of the time but there’s no point in complaining that which I cannot control. This extra work that I have, which doesn’t really amount to a lot of money, but fills up the hours that Jasper isn’t here or when I have nothing else to so.

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.