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.

Trial teacher and a Birthday Bonanza

This week at Inkreadable was a bit unexpected. You all know that last week I had bitten the bullet and certified for trials for VIPKid. Well, it’s been crickets. I also ended the week with a lovely four apple review from a student who said he felt absent minded. What he said was “I felt absent minded“ which I took to mean “I felt that the teacher was absent minded.“ I’ve decided that since five Apple feedback is not a thing that they use anymore to give us raises, I’m not gonna worry about five Apple feedback. I will instead console myself that it was a four apple review and it could’ve been worse. There have been a lot of supplementary courses opening up at VIPKid and to the extent that I’m able to, I’ve been taking all the ones that interest me. In particular, there is a Writing course that I’m intrigued by because it’s 50 minutes long and is both taught by a foreign teacher and a Chinese teacher before the class. It’ll be interesting to see if I can get any students for that particular series of classes and how I do with them. You all know how much I love writing. It isn’t often that my two worlds collide for VIPKid and my writers group but it seems like it may begin to.

Felix and I had two lessons this week one on Tuesday and the other on Saturday. We were supposed to have a Friday lesson but something came up. It turns out that the something that came up was him going to the park for a picnic. Our lessons are online and that is a change for both of us. I think I do prefer in real life lessons with Felix because it’s easier to explain things in a little bit easier to get him to do exercises and writing heavy lessons. Online it has to be speaking and he really does still struggle with the tenses.

I also got a chance to see my Polish power houses this week. Katya and I had a really hard time connecting on zoom and so we had a very short lesson that I’m not gonna charge her for. Because it literally was 10 minutes long. And Karolina and I are winding our way through different sorts of lessons and conversations. We really have connected online and it’s very fun. I think I would love to meet her in person. While she has some trouble with certain tenses, she does really well generally and so we’re able to do some really interesting things with higher order vocabulary.

By far the most interesting portion of the week was the first trial lesson that I gave on behalf of the English Center on Saturday afternoon. They are trying to drum up some students for the next pre-intermediate class that starts on 7 July. They have had a couple of sign-ups and one woman wanted trial lesson which I was happy to provide. We will see if it turns into anything. But I’ve decided that while I don’t necessarily like working for free because I wasn’t paid for the half hour, if in the long run to get me some clients and some lessons I am willing to give up my time with the expectation that I’ll make a little bit of money in the long run.

Lastly, dear readers, the writers group met again for dinner, this time an Indian restaurant where there are more vegetarian options for our vegetarian member. We sat outside and all was lovely. We have suspended for the moment the critique group as people are going on vacation and are not around. I’ve decided to take it week by week and see if people want to meet every other Wednesday. I suspect that this critique group is not going to survive corona however. We will have to see.

It seems that my had dinner reservations tha we canceled finally of the previous paragraph was a bit premature, dear readers. Last night was my birthday. I have decided that at 45 years of age I am entitled to not a birthday but a birth week. So I’ve been celebrating since the previous week. There was of course the dinner with my Writers. I’ve been doing all sorts of fun stuff throughout the week. On Sunday, for instance, I invited VIPKid teachers from different parts of the Netherlands and we had a picnic in the park. It was a little stressful for me because people came at different times the whole day. And trying to get people to meet in a place when most people are coming from away, is a little bit like herding cats. Still I managed to pull it off with the help of some friends who are VIPKid teachers and local. These two lovely women have invited me for afternoon tea which was such an unexpected and lovely surprise. All in all it was a good birthday week. There were two hiccups, however. The first was that our reservation was cancelled for Monday night by the restaurant. I was annoyed that they let me know at 11:30 on Sunday night and I woke up to the news. As the weather wasn’t great yesterday and I couldn’t find a place that I wanted to go to, we hung out on the couch instead. The other hiccup was that I couldn’t celebrate with my sister. Of the 45 birthdays I have celebrated, only three have been without her. Still my extended family did a drive-by congratulations for her at her group home and surprised the hell out of her.

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

Bullet Bitten

It has been, dear readers,  a rather emotional week at Inkreadable. It’s also been a week of decision making. This week marked the last week for my pre-intermediate English class for the session that started in May. I had hoped to be able to continue with my ladies on 7 July, but alas it is not to be. While one of them wanted to continue the others were not able to convince their parents to fund their continuing studies at the moment. I am however, hopeful that I will get a chance to see them sometime soon. We have promised to stay in touch, and in fact I woke up on Friday morning two lovely messages of thanks and praise from my students. It’s always nice when their interested in learning and motivated. I do not find that to be the same for teaching children. I often find that parents expect us to be Harvard educated English teachers, while expecting their children to be fully fluent in English by the second class with you. The reality is that we are a little more than glorified babysitters most of the time. And before the teachers that read my blog jump on me either on social media or in person, I do recognize that is not the case with everyone. I have some wonderful students. I was absolutely gutted to find out that I would be having my last class ever with my beloved Evan this coming week. He has aged out of the program and can go no further with VIPKid. Luckily I have him on WeChat, and we have decided that we will certainly keep in touch.

It wasn’t all sadness, however, dear readers. I was very excited to be contacted by Felix and he would like to take classes with me to begin online twice a week and then to move in real life. I couldn’t be happier because maybe I can start seeing the light at the end of the tunnel with working weekends or at least working seven days a week. Remember, dear readers,  when I told you about trying out something new with my ladies for their last class. I actually played a game with them and it worked a treat. I highly recommend question games where you turn it into a board game. It will definitely be something that I will use in both the in person and online classroom from now on. Thank you so much Regina for all the help.

Remember also when I said that Monday was going to be my heaviest day? I was right in that it was, but also that I could not handle it with Karolina and Katya. Last week therefore I moved Karolina to Tuesday evenings. What that did was free up Monday night for Felix so it’s still going to be my heaviest day. I hope that I can handle it. I wasn’t able to last week I’m not sure what makes me think that I’ll be able to handle it this week. As ever dear readers, I will keep you posted.

Lastly, dear readers over in VIP kid land lots of supplemental certifications came up and I certified for almost  all of them as well as putting trials back on my schedule. That’s right, that is the origin of this weeks title. I did indeed bite that particular bullet. Let’s see if my schedule actually fills up. As an experiment I opened up 22 June from 9 AM until 4 PM to see if I can get any trials either with short notice or without it. Fingers crossed that I’m able to remember how to act like enough of an ass to convince the parents to sign with the company. I hated it when I was doing it and I’m not so sure that I’m gonna like it now. But needs must. With this too I will keep you posted.

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

Teaching Tactics

We are slowly but surely adapting to a life that everybody on social media is dubbing “the new normal”. This is true of both my teaching life and my personal life. On the one hand, teaching still remains online with the exception of my Dutch guy. But it’s a slow week as I did not see either my Dutch guy or Katya on Monday. Both were too busy to have class. This is also my last week with my pre-intermediate English learners. At least for this class. I spoke to them last week about continuing with me and they all seem keen to continue. In fact, one of my students actually called the English Center to inquire about continuing, and if it goes through we will be either starting a new course on 30 June (Happy belated birthday to me) or 7 July. That is, of course, if everybody wants to take the class. One of my students is a chef and her work is paying for it. She’s the one who called. The other two are cousins and are high school students, and while one works at a supermarket and may have her own funds, I am not sure about the other student. I, of course am quite happy for the work. We will have to see.

I screwed up my timing a second time with PIE. I had to make a 14th lesson in the series. You see, dear readers, the 10th lesson in my series I designed as a games lesson which can only really be done in the classroom as the games are tactile. So that was out for my online class. In the first online, class for PIE that I taught, I made the 13th class to accommodate the lesson that can be only done in the classroom. In this incarnation of PIE, I went a little too fast and I didn’t realize just how quick and smart my students actually are with English. So I now find myself in the unenviable position of having to make a 14th class in the series to make up for both the games lesson and the fact that I went too quickly.

So as ever, I turned to friends for the answer. Regina came through with the idea of designing a class around questions. She even gave me some materials to use. But forgot to attach them. So I went online and made a board game with question words. And that will be the last class of the series. I am hoping that it’s easy enough and interesting enough that my students will be able to have a little bit of fun with it. I went online and I found a do it yourself board game template on an ESL site and I made steps in the board game with question words and a topic. For example one square contains the word bike. The students are going to roll a dice and based on where they fall will make a question for another student the second student has to answer it and then roll the dice. We will see if this works on Thursday afternoon. I’ll be sure and report next week.

I am quite proud of my Polish adult student. Remember last week we were preparing for an English language assessment? We prepared quite hard for it doing a role-play and also formulating the writing assignment that she would have. It turns out that the role-play had not been necessary. That was in Polish. But she did such a good job on the writing assignment and so well in the interview that she got the job. Her life is now set for the next 33 months. It’s an 18 month internship with 15 months worth of work after that. I think we will continue with English lessons because she needs to improve her English and her speaking ability. To that end, I am going to have another intake with her and we are going to focus her English around her work. That’s not to say that I won’t do interesting topics that are not work related but I really want her to increase her foothold in this company. And one of the ways to do that is her language skills.

VIP kid continues to degrade. But the good news for me is if I stick it out with all these other teachers jumping ship maybe my schedule will go back to normal. We will have to see what happens over the next six months or so. In the meantime 20 June is a strike day and I am actually looking forward to the day off.

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

Phrasal Phreakout and OReilly’s Onslaught

This week, dear readers, at Inkreadable, was anything but quiet. Remember in my last post I mentioned that it was a legal holiday here in the Netherlands? That meant that my Dutch student and his son wereabsent as it was a school holiday as well. I tried to fill up the slots with VIPKid but was not very successful. I worked a whole two hours. That’s 1 June. All except for a couple of extra hours with my Polish adult student.

I am not sure if you remember, dear readers, but she was preparing for an English language exam for a job that she has been applying for for the last four months. We prepared like mad for a speaking exam that it turned out wasn’t even in English. I did get a chance to help her over Sunday and Monday, which was the  assessment day, with the writing portion of the assessment. You’ll remember that as it was children’s day I also didn’t have Katya as she was also on holiday as well. My schedule with my private clients is  going to change. Monday will be my new heavy day. I’ll be working An hour and a half for The English Center, then one and a half to two hours for VIPKid, then Katya and Caroline will be the last hour and a half of the day.

Over at The English Center, my class is slowly winding its way to its inevitable end. There is no word yet whether  I’ll be teaching anymore classes for them as yet. I hope that I will get more classes. To that end, remember when I was freaking out last week about how I had perhaps stuck my foot in it by telling the English Center that I was done with online? I took the preemptive measure of writing the group coordinator and  telling her that it was more a comment on spending 3 1/2 years working online rather than a specific English Center complaint. I also told her to please bring on the work.

One of the issues with teaching a class where the people are all at different levels in terms of their English, is that it’s very hard to teach higher order concepts. This was especially true last week Thursday, when I was teaching Phrasal verbs. Two of my students were able to get simple phrasal verbs but the other student had a hard time. She was able to read them and find them in sentences, but using them in sentences of her own was  troublesome. I’m not sure how to fix the problem, because I really think that phrasal verbs are important even at the B1 level and don’t want to get rid of the lesson.

Over in VIPKid world, things continue to disintegrate in a way that is quite alarming. At least for me. My bookings continue to take a nosedive and my parents are telling me that it’s very hard to book my classes. Apparently where I show blue and free, they should grayed out and unable to book. Since I’m not the one who is in charge of booking my own schedule, there must be trouble with VIPKid. I now believe that they are purposefully closing off the slots that parents can see especially for veteran teachers. I’ve also heard rumors that there are incentives for parents not to book veteran teachers but to go with newer teachers who are cheaper. In fact, I have seen posts just like that on the We have value Facebook group that is striking on 20 June. If that is the case, that is worrisome indeed. And I need to start looking for other opportunities. It’s not something I’m looking forward to. This is also the focus of the Sunday night drinks that I host via Zoom for the VIPKid EU Expats. This week we were Netherlands heavy with four of us actually being in the country and the other two were Ireland and Portugal. Our bookings and the state of affairs dominated the conversation for two hours. I’m not sure when we’ll be able to talk about other things that aren’t bookings related but it’s nice to have something in common with other teachers and be able to bitch about it without reprisals. I’m still not convinced that because I’m in the Facebook protest group my bookings haven’t been targeted for that reason.

This week marked the first time that I have seen my friends from the Writers group, at least three of them. The Netherlands, dear readers, is opening up and cafés and restaurants are allowed to have a maximum of 30 people. What that means is that we need to make a booking and also for tracing purposes, fill out a  form as to whether we’ve been sick in the last 14 days or not. I am not sure if I told you this, but I went to the Black Lives Matter protest here in Amsterdam on 1 June. I think I didn’t mention it because it’s not really the focus of my blog but on the way home from there, I stopped at O’Reilly’s, otherwise known as our local, I made a reservation for four. It was so magical to see people that I haven’t seen in three months. It was a wonderful time of catching up and food.  We’d been communicating  throughout the dutch version of the lockdown, but it was just nice to sit with real people who are adults who understood me and the trials of writing. To that end,  we have decided to meet once every other week or so. I am going to suggest that we try different restaurants, however, as one of the group members is vegetarian and a man cannot eat veggie nachos every couple of weeks.

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

VIPKid Villainy and Damning Drinks

This week at Inkreadable, dear readers, brought a couple of nasty surprises. Well, only one very nasty surprise, and a case of me running my mouth when I shouldn’t have. We will start, as ever, with life over in VIPKid land.In addition to my dropping bookings, and the fact that the kids in Beijing are going back to school over the next couple of weeks, means that my schedule has more holes than ever. It was also a holiday in China yesterday so my bookings for Monday were sparse indeed. What surprises me about VIPKid is that my weekends are sparse as well. They start out well enough on Saturday filling 12 PM to 3 PM for the frenzy, and then gradually through the week they will drop off. I haven’t had a fully booked 3-hour Saturday in quite a long time. But what’s really surprising is that Sundays I open six hours and only one and a half to two hours have been booking. In the Zoom coffee that I host for VIPKidders around the EU the tune has now changed. Where before everyone was saying their bookings are fine, they’re not so sure of their prospects. I applied to Zebra English with a five minute video but hadn’t heard anything as of yesterday.

But that wasn’t the only kick to the teeth from VIPKid. In December 2019 they started a new pay scale for new teachers whereby they have developed an algorithm that takes away the incentives for participation and finishing classes. Right now I make $11 per class. That is a straight fee. In August, that will change. While I keep my base pay of nine dollars, the incentives go away and you are paid based on how many classes you have worked, and the rate goes up based on a tier system. There is a complicated range that I don’t even understand. But friends of mine have done the math and it seems instead of making more money we will be making less money. I wonder if this is a way for VIPKid to screw over the teachers by keeping their payroll attached to a formula that only they can understand. I also think they’re trying to separate the wheat from the chaff and trying to pay their veteran teachers less. It affects me because I have started working less classes. used to work only VIPKid and was working somewhere between 200-250 classes a month. I now work 150. Given that, that’s going to be a huge pay cut for me. Not that my English language teaching ever made me enough of a living to not rely on income from the US, but now it’s become even worse.

Things are not all copacetic at the English Center either. I really put my foot in it on Friday when we had drinks and said that I was done with online teaching. That it made me tired. I hope that I did not screw myself out of more classes taught online. But one never knows. I’m also not sure whether I should mention it to the owner or not. I am also not sure whether I should mention to my students that there is a course that comes after pre-intermediate English. I am afraid that the company will tell me that I cannot do it or they will tell me that I need to reduce my pay from the group rate to a private rate which is a loss of money, as well as a loss because they may shorten the course from 12 lessons over 6 weeks to 8 lessons over 4 weeks. On Monday, I had class with just the son of the pair as the Dad had to work. What do you do when you have just the kid? Homework, of course! I helped with an English class assignment and we spent the rest of the class playing homograph Go Fish. What’s that, you ask? Simply put you try to match words that sound alike are spelled differently. Once you have a pair, you ask the students to make sentences with the words, after you explain the meaning if they don’t know it. Its a great way to go over easily confused words and also a great way to build vocabulary.

Over in my private client world, things are a bit quiet. My private student has a job assessment and so we will probably not meet this week and her schedule will change as a result of a potential job. But I did help her with the job assessment writing assignment yesterday and I think she’ll do quite well. So I’m waiting to hear about that. Katya’s mom has said she will let me know about lessons for her as I think that it is children’s day in Poland and I think the kid wants Just spend the day doing something fun. If I was her, I certainly wouldn’t want to have to have a class with me. And I realize that it’s not personal. I think on a holiday I would be doing anything other than teaching. Unfortunately, I have no choice. Being self-employed means that if I don’t work I don’t eat.

The fourth critique session went well this week. I gave another couple of chapters and got some very good feedback. I was very surprised that one person said that my action was too slow and the other one said that my action was just right. I feel a little bit like the three bears. I definitely don’t feel like Goldilocks. Still is giving the grist for the mill and the ability to figure out where there might be problems in forthcoming chapters. In other news, we are probably going to meet for drinks on the terrace at our local pub on Thursday. Things in the Netherlands are opening slowly back up and some of the first places opening are bars and restaurants but with limitations. I am very excited to start seeing some of my friends in real life, however.

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

Polish Power-through and Cancelled Critique

This week at Inkreadable, dear readers,  was an interesting one. In the first place, it was another government holiday in the Netherlands. Of course, I forgot, and so did not open up six hours worth of slots until well after the frenzy for VIPKd. What that meant was that I only taught the 2 1/2 hours that I actually booked. It’s getting a little bit more and more difficult when even your non-short notice bookings are not filling. And then there was the lovely email from VIPKid saying I had been invited to qualify for the Chinese state authorities TEFL certificate along with, I’m sure, 100,000 of my colleagues. While I don’t have a problem with another certification, I do when it is the same certification as my CELTA. In addition, instead of the workaround for taking quizzes at VIPKid  you actually have to go through the material again. Let me explain. In the past, you could take a quiz for a certification for VIPKid and as long as you didn’t  exit out of your answers you could submit and see what you had gotten wrong. Then you could go through and see how many you could get right, and if you did this several times you were guaranteed to pass. Eventually. The same cannot be said of this new certification. We actually have to go through the 20 hours of self paced learning. Also, VIPKid lied. They said it was free. It’s only free if you decide not to pay for a valid certification number that is visible to parents and that you can use with other online companies. I think that’s a rip off. They should have been straightforward and transparant from the beginning. I will likely di it and pay for it as I am afraid that with bookings the way they are, I will need an online gig. And the largest online ESL teaching market is currently China, so I’ma have to suck it up.

Over at the English Center, things turned interesting when I realized that I had gone through two lessons in one day and got through past tenses In a single lesson for my Pre-Intermediate course. That’s never happened before. So I had to scramble to figure out what I was going to teach my students the following week. With Thursday being the aforementioned public holiday I had a week to figure something out.  Anyhoo, I told my class that the following Tuesday would be a review of the future tense and an all tense review and they better get ready. In addition, I gave them enough homework to encompass all of the tenses that we had learned on Tuesday. Let’s see how they do with them and how many mistakes they make. Also, I wonder if I’m up to the challenge of grading so much homework. It has been a bit of a challenge, dear readers, to come up with content and material that is appropriate both for a nine-year-old boy and his 39-year-old father. But I have persevered and as I have both adult friendly and kid friendly items in my repertoire for everything that I’ve taught. It’s been interesting trying to get them to work together to learn English. What’s also a bit surprising is that they are a little bit competitive with each other but it’s a wonderful relationship and we have a lot of fun. As my student said, “we just click”. It’s been really nice seeing students in person and I’m loving getting back to normal at least a little bit.

In terms of my two private clients, Katya and I are firmly working our way through English pronunciation through reading out loud, minimal pairs, Onset and rhyme, tongue twisters and all manner of lovely pronunciation exercises. I think I’ve hit my stride with her, but I think also that at the rate that I charge there isn’t all that much that is expected. What pleasantly surprised me, is that my other Polish student has an English assessment and she has wanted to double our meetings until the assessment which means a little bit of extra money for me and the opportunity to teach some higher order things. For example, last week we spent on the conditionals all of them except zero conditional which are for facts. As a result, we had some really fun times playing games with uncertainty and things we might have done had we known other conditions. I do love advanced students.

As it was a public holiday in Amsterdam, and no one posted anything for the critique group, we took a vacation for Wednesday night. As a result I did absolutely nothing. That isn’t strictly true. I did a little bit of writing of my own and had a great time flushing out a character backstory. While it wasn’t strictly for the novel, it was an interesting exercise in trying to figure something out.

We also had a bit of tech trouble  at my house this week with the Internet falling out during a particularly delicate situation whereby Jasper was attending the video funeral of a family member. I was on a break at the time from VIPKid and the Internet came back just as I was set to go back into class. I got really lucky. We did place a call to the Internet provider and they gave us some suggestions and I’m hopeful that that will resolve the issue. But knowing my luck and my house ,at least as it’s been over the last six months, I’m a little bit jaded by now.

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

Perfect Pronunciation and (Another) Student Surfeit

This week at Inkreadable, dear readers, proved to be quite interesting on a couple of different levels. You all might not know that I am at time management guru and can pretty much do quite a lot In the space of five minutes. I mean that literally. Working for  VIPKid has taught me that I can do laundry or at least put it in the washer or the dryer in five minutes as well as take a bathroom break and possibly even eat something. What’s the reason for this, you ask? It’s simple. I used to be able to speak my texts into my phone to leave feedback to students and largely do that in the five minutes between my classes. I now type my feedback through the classes and submit it before the class is over and that way I can actually take a five minute break. As a result I can do quite a lot in the five minutes. That time management extends to every part of my life and I’m pretty well able to schedule my week of lessons starting from the Friday before.

Remember when I was having trouble figuring out how to teach pronunciation with Katya last week? My colleague Regina gave me the absolutely wonderful idea of doing a lesson on the schwa sound and it worked really well. Largely because I made funny faces and stuck my tongue out a lot.  In last night’s class, we worked on much and many, as well as countable and uncountable nouns. I know that’s not really pronunciation, but it is a major focus of one of the things that Polish speakers of English do. But I am confident that I can incorporate some pronunciation into the lesson. And since I have incorporated different media into the lesson including a film and games as well as the grammar Katya seems to remain engaged.

With my adult student who is in Poland, I have crafted lessons around the grammar points but I=in the context of different topics that my student enjoys. As they are an hour it’s not terribly difficult to fill them up with different things. I have found a system that works for me and that makes it helpful. And while it’s not the conventional Celta formation of classes, it works just fine. There is a warmer, control practice, and independent study within The lesson. I do try to make it worth the students time and money they pay me. Luckily we have some of the same interests so it’s been interesting crafting  a conditionals lesson through superstitions.

Over in VIPKid land, things are not as wonderful as it seems of the 32 hours that I’m opening I still only get about 18-20.  I got so annoyed about this that I sent them a ticket. The response I got was:

Hi Teacher Katerina,

Thank you so much for your email.

We are sorry to hear that you are also affected with low booking and we understand that you wanted to know why. We truly appreciate your dedication to teach more student. Please keep in mind that having a lot of booking or trial bookings is a parent decision. As we check in your profile, we can see that your account is regular that means nothing wrong with your profile. Your slot are also visible to every students and parents.Please know that most of the student are now returning to school. This cause low booking to most of the teacher. We have taken note of your request to teach more classes.Lets work together to achieved a good booking. We hope this action will help you get more booking and we are excited to see you teaching more classes.If you need assistance do not hesitate to email us and we are more than happy to assist you.

Warm regards,



Thanks for nuthin’ VIPKid. I really wish that VIPKid would freeze teacher hiring and give a chance for their current teachers to see a spike in bookings. I’m not the only one complaining, and as you can see VIP is also aware. In fact, this was a topic and Sunday nights zoom drinks with 7 other VIPKid teachers from across Europe. Those are going well. And they are a lot of fun. We have gotten around the 40 minute zoom rule by simply going back into the meeting and enjoying ourselves for a further 40 minutes. We did that three times which I think is a perfect length for a meeting. 8 to 10 and done. That is Amsterdam time zone otherwise known as central European summertime. Which is actually a big time zone. But still, there were people who could not figure out time zones and so we had a lot of people not able to attend. Facebook indicated that we could set up a meeting without a time zone so that everybody will see the schedule meeting in their own time zone. But I do not know how to do that.

Over at the English Center, I am happily teaching my private clients in the city center and we are maintaining a suitable distance as well as using lots of hand gel and washing our hands a lot. Instead of it being my two real estate guys, it is my one real estate guy and his son. So I’ve had to modify the lessons so that they’re a little bit tailored to both of them. For example last night we talked about prepositions and I got to show some super cool videos and play some games. The games, one a posing game, where one person goes out of the room another person poses and the students write down what they see. They then try to tell the student who was outside the room how to achieve the same pose. Is great with more students but worked ok with just the three of us. “Where is the…” worked in person as well as working online. In it you take an object and put it in different places and have the students explain where they are.

On Friday of last week, I was asked to welcome a fourth student into the PIE class that I’m running. I was excited because that makes an even number of students if she attends.  If so I could have started using the breakout room feature on zoom which I haven’t been able to as yet. But alas, the student opted to wait until the summer to take the course. It’s just as well. I mean she had missed 3 lessons so far.

You remember that I sent an email to my clients in the suburbs in Amsterdam but got no response from either my young man in the north or the one that I teach in Amstelveen about starting classes early. I have reached out multiple times to the young man’s parents, But no response. I’m wondering how much I should push the issue. There is also been no response from the client in Amstelveen and I’m not sure how far to push that either. These are all problems for another day.

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

Class Confirmed and Creative Critique

It was, dear readers, a rather nerve-racking week at Inkreadable. In fact, it was probably more nerve-racking than the previous two weeks where I was waiting to hear about that gig at the conversation playground that never materialized. You see, I had hoped that I would have a class scheduled for the English Center by at least Tuesday evening. But that was not to be. I did not get notification that I was teaching until Wednesday evening. For a Thursday class. All I can say is, thank goodness, that it was a class that I had taught twice before and didn’t have too much preparation to do in terms of each class. What was a little frightening was sending a letter to the students with some useful links and the like as well as procedures, and having one of my students answer that she wanted me to have our first contacts in either Spanish or Dutch. But, it’s an English class I thought. And as I don’t speak either of those languages, either at all in the case of Spanish, or comfortably enough to write in it with any fluency as is the case with Dutch. Still I ran it through a decent translator and sent it off and she seemed to be happy with that. But if you’re going to try and take a language you should try to speak that language is what I think.

There was also good news on the COVID-19 front here in the Netherlands and we are going to start teaching in-person private lessons starting this coming week. I am a little bit concerned as that means that Jasper has a higher chance of issues but I am so sick and tired of being in my house and seeing my in real life students on the computer screen that I am willing to take the chance. These two students are best friends and have been spending time with each other and their families. I think I can safely assume that neither one of them is carrying COVID-19, but will take precautions just in case. We are going to maintain a one and a half meter distance between each other and I’m going to try and teach a class like that. If it doesn’t work we can always go back to the online model if we need to. I also took the precaution of sending a letter to my other student with English Center who I’m supposed to see in September. He might want to start a bit earlier now that we’ve relaxed restrictions and figured I would give him that option if he wants. So it may be that I will be heading out to Amstelveen as well. That’s gonna be a bit of trouble as we’re going to have to start wearing masks On public transport after 1 June and I don’t have one. But there’s no point in worrying about that just now as I haven’t heard whether he wants lessons in person earlier than 1 September.

Remember how I said I wasn’t going to have a problem teaching pronunciation to Katya? I was wrong. While there is a hell of a lot of stuff online about pronunciation, making it engaging for a nine-year-old is extremely difficult. I could feel that she was bored by the end of our first lesson and couldn’t wait to get out of there. And I couldn’t really blame her. I’m going to have to try and figure out how to make pronunciation interesting and relevant online. Because while tongue twisters are fun and they do teach pronunciation they are much more fun in person. Ditto with games. I think I’m going to have to call in reinforcements And really what that means is I’m just gonna call Regina. She also teaches kids nearly full-time and online so maybe she has some ideas.

We had our first critique group on Wednesday evening last week and it went really well. I got some really interesting critique and was happy to give good critique to another member of the group. I got some very interesting feedback about my own writing that I hadn’t considered and would have to possibly change quite a few things to be able to make the writing more fluid. But that’s exactly why I asked for critique. I am not sure that I’m gonna keep all the suggestions but that’s what critique it is isn’t it? It’s a suggestion and the author has to know what critique to save and what critique to let go. After all, a work in progress has to end sometime and you have to be calm enough to know when that is, as well as when to say enough is enough and go ahead and publish. For me it’s a little bit more simple I’m having some trouble writing myself out of a corner and also ending the novel. It doesn’t help that my process is disruptive in this time of COVID-19 and I can’t do any writing in my house. I simply don’t have that discipline.

The loosening of regulations is happening in the Netherlands gradually. Starting this week we are able to go get haircuts, do our nails, go get massages, and go to the library. I suspect that also means that I can go to the bookstore as well. But all of these have population restrictions. We can only be 30 people at a time in any place. But even with that I am extremely excited because it means that I can go do things like get my hair done. I look like a witch. I do not gray well.

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