Teacher Terrified and Router Rubbish

Yet again, dear reader, the week started out well enough but ended not with a bang, but with a whimper, of distress. I am generally unflappable when it comes to most things. I don’t mind flying, I don’t care about turbulence, I don’t stress out when I have parties of 40 or more, family squabbles stress me out momentarily and then go away, And relationship issues aren’t even a blip on my radar.

There are two exceptions to that. The first is a fear of fire and the second is a fear of my tech crapping out on me. You see, dear reader, it happened again. This time in the middle of class. Friday started out well enough, I had taught 8 classes successfully with no problem. I was very blithely working through my last class of the day which happened to be a one hour level, seven VIPKid class. The format of that class is 25 minutes teaching, then a 10-minute break, then a 23-minute final teaching session for a total of 58 minutes with two minutes left to get to the next class. The first 25 minutes past quite nicely and everything was fine. Then we got to the break. In the middle of the break, as I was puttering around trying to manage my time wisely, I noticed that there was another red light on my router. Having had the experience last week, I calmly got my trusty toothpick and did a hard reset of my router. It. Didn’t. Work. So I tried again. And again it didn’t work. So I had the brilliant idea to try and connect the backup HP that I’ve been teaching on to my hotspot to see if I could teach from it. That didn’t work either. My computer wouldn’t even pick up my iPhone as a hotspot. It could connect to my iPhone, but not connect to it as hotspot. Picture me panicking and literally hyperventilating because if I don’t teach this class I lose $22.

On the third try with the toothpick, it finally worked and I was able to get into the class. But I was five minutes out from the end of class, and I still had a whole unit assessment to get through including the presentation, which is the whole point of unit seven. Unit seven forces students to talk. My student was good-natured and was able to stay with me for an extra five minutes. I don’t think I’ve ever finished the unit assessment so fast in my life. It also happened on Sunday night, and this time it took me 45 minutes to get online.  A panic attack later, I had called my friends who’d so kindly let m teach from their house the previous Friday allowed me to teach from their house.  I called KPN, otherwise known as my Internet provider, (for those of you in the United States it’s the Dutch version of AT&T), and they’ve said they’ll go ahead and give me a new router but I’m not sure that would actually fix the problem. We’ll see what happens tomorrow when I get the router, which I need to pick up and install which is by no means guaranteed. It’s me after all.

But really, dear reader, is it any wonder that I get so stressed out? You might think that $22 is not a lot of money to lose, but it is. It’s particularly difficult when you’re not sure if the class that you just actually taught is going to be finished “as scheduled” and you’re going to get paid, or if it’s going to be finished as “teacher IT” and you won’t get paid at all. I spent a very stressed out afternoon worrying to see if I would get paid. I had drinks with a friend and she very kindly bought me a gin and tonic so the weekend at least, or at least what I had of it, ended up well enough. Saturday was spent doing a lot of lesson prep for classes next week. The end result was that I am now a little bit ahead of the game and can actually enjoy something fun this evening.

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

Internet Incapable

This week at Inkreadable started out well enough, dear reader, but ended on a rather sour note. It isn’t often that I have tech troubles that are unresolvable by either myself or Jasper, but this week the fates were against both of us. But first, a rundown of the week lesson wise.

Remember when only two of my students showed up for my class in my last post? I was worried for nothing, it seems. All of my students showed up to subsequent classes with the exception of one who was sick. There must be something going around Amsterdam. Or maybe, it’s just winter. My own classes are going quite well and the month of February seems to be flying by. Before I know it, it will be time to go to America to see my sister. A little bit more concerning is the fact that I am subbing for a teacher and her course is called intro to business. She sent me a long detailed email about how she structures the class, but I am a little bit concerned that I will not be able to do her justice once again. That seems to be a bit of a theme for me, subbing and stressing out for other people’s classes.

Anyhoo, back to the drama of this week. Everything is going swimmingly up until Thursday. On Thursday I walked out of the house,. taught my class,  and went to the gym as usual. I got home from the gym and all was well. I went to my writer’s group at four and dod some work at the bookstore, then had a lovely session of editing and getting to know some super cool new people.   I walked into my house at about 11 PM to find that I had no Internet. Red lights all over my router. My Dutch is not actually good enough to deal with these kinds of issues without help. Luckily, I was able to call the internet provider and they sent somebody out, but not until Saturday morning. This meant that at nearly midnight on Thursday evening I had to find a place to go teach for Friday morning. Lucki I have really good friends in the center and they let me come and teach at their house. But the stress and hyperventilation that I go through to try and figure this stuff out is not worth it. So is the fact that if I canceled all of my classes it would cost me as much as I would make that day. This is due to VIPKid’s rather draconian policies about teacher cancellations. There simply is no room to mess up. It’s one of the things that make the company more and more unattractive as time goes on.

And that also throws me off of the rest of my lesson planning game. I had hoped that I would be able to plan all of my lessons for next week on Friday evening. But with no Internet, and a very unreliable hotspot that falls away every two seconds that isn’t the best solution. Let’s hope, dear reader, that I get through the coming week, without too many bad reviews and some decent time to plan my lessons.

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

Classroom Calm

Pre-intermediate English at TEC is 12 classes long and meets twice a week on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Tuesday’s class was great as we discussed the different forms of the present tense. It was grammar heavy and exercise heavy but I was able to incorporate conversation and getting the students to talk to each other. Anything that can reduce my teacher talk time to around 30% is Wonderful. That includes videos and games as well as listening exercises. What I fine with listening exercises however is that at the pre-intermediate level they have to be super basic. Super basic and mean super boring. But because all of the students were there and they played off each other easily, the class passed quickly and people seem to have a good time.

Thursday’s class was a different matter Altogether. I walked into my classroom about an hour early as I wanted to go over the tents that I wanted to teach for the day and be able to teach it well. It was an exercise have a class again because after all what can you do for grammar be on teaching the actual sentence structure and use and hope that the students get it. But this time I actually incorporated a listening exercise in the form of a scary video to teach the past progressive and a telephone type sentence speaking game for the end of class in order to get some movement into the class and have class walk around. At least to the extent that they are able to give them the size of our classroom. It’s quite small. AnyWho, I was Blakely ready to teach when my first student walked in the class. I expected that we would be Or students in the class. My first student walked into the class precisely at 10 o’clock. We were amiably chatting away when suddenly at 10:10 we realized no one was there. Another 10 minutes rolled by, Then 15. At about 10:30 in the morning A second student came in. And there we stayed. I talk to students lesson that I had planned for for students and had to adopt some of the games to the New numbers. Hence the title of this weeks post. The classroom was incredibly calm. Still the three of us had a good time going through the past progressive watching a scary video I see scary tongue-in-cheek because how can an ESL video really be scary? It was another worksheet heavy class as we are still working through the tenses. And that’s going to be for a couple of more lessons as well because how can you learn how to talk if you don’t know the verbs to use. And how to use them. But in between the super boring worksheets we did some fun games like a grammar version of telephone. I would say a sentence in the tens we were studying and then the next student would say my sentence plus her own. The next person had to remember my sentence, the previous person’s sentence, and Add their own. Imagine it with five students and one teacher. It can be quite fun to see how people make things up. But I didn’t have five students.

What happened to my other students, You ask? Good question, dear reader. I knew that my Japanese student was not going to be in class. You see, the Dutch school system had a localized strike for the teachers. Not every school in the Netherlands was on on strike but somewhere. One of them was the school of my Japanese students daughter. As a result she had to stay home to take care of her daughter so she wasn’t going to be able to be in class. What I did not expect is that to other students would not show up. And there was no word. From either of them. I hope that everything is OK with them and that perhaps they had to go to work. They are self-employed people like me and that is entirely possible. It’s also possible that they didn’t like the course though I didn’t get that impression from either of them. Especially since they sent me the Homework that I assigned the previous class. I hope I get a chance to ask them in just a few hours. And hopefully I Can turn it into a teachable moment by using the past tense or the past progressive.

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

Class Clown

I am not, dear reader, what you would call an extrovert. In fact I am the furthest thing from. I have always been quite quiet, quite introspective, and quite shy. Perhaps not in print, but definitely in person. What the hell are you doing in teaching, you ask? I ask myself that question every day dear reader. If you are an introvert, like I am, The mere thought of getting up in front of people to speak is terrifying. In fact I always had a problem with public speaking. It started in middle school when we would do De baets. One of my classmates used to like to make lewd faces and Rather disgusting gestures at me because he knew it would throw me off my game. And unfortunately, this was before I realized that my peripheral vision is very limited. If he had been sitting on my right hand side I would not have seen him at all and would’ve been fine. But speaking in front of people gives me nightmares. The funny thing is, that I do it well.

VIP kid, is a prime example of that. I have spent the last three years being an absolute idiot on camera with my students. I will say that it’s easier because I am one on one with them. But I also discovered something about myself this week. Being able to out child a child comes in good stead even in the adult classroom. I’m not sure if you remember, dear reader, but I have a little bit of PTSD when it comes to TC. A few months back I was given a student and I pitch the lesson a little too low for her and she wanted to get another teacher. She liked me personally but didn’t like the lesson. But since that time I have been absolutely terrified that I wasn’t doing the work that I needed to for the English center. As a result, I have been checking in with my students Regularly to see if they are enjoying my classes so that I can avoid what happened a few months ago. So far it’s been a fairly positive experience. I have several students who are coming back to me two of them for the third time. That’s right, my Dutch real estate executives are back with me starting next week. I also have my Dutch student over in I’m still living. Unfortunately, my Japanese students are on hiatus. They are just too busy.

On Thursday I had my first class and it went better than I could’ve hoped. It also helps that this whole idea of how child a child works really well in an adult classroom that is fairly low level. I did a little bit of grammar I did a little bit of listening and I did a lot of talking. I am hoping over time that my teacher talk time will decrease. But being the class clown is exhausting. I hope I can maintain it for the next 10 lessons. I had five students in the class and they are from all over the world. Turkey, Vietnam, Japan, Russia, and the Ukraine are represented. There is the possibility that I will have someone from Argentina as well. But she wasn’t in the class. My biggest challenge is my Japanese student. She is by far the lowest level in the class by quite a bit. She struggles to understand most simple things. But I have found that if I lower my expectations for her and help guide her she is able to get the answer that I want. Acting like a kid with a class clown, really helps in the situation because not only are you using body language to show what you want but also you’re making people laugh. Let’s see if the introvert in me can really be an extrovert in the classroom.

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

Cretan Creativity

As quickly as the workweek passes, dear reader, vacation time seems to pass twice as quick. It seems like the last week in Crete flew by. I didn’t do very much, my sister was sick with the flu. So I got the chance to hang out with my niece and my new nephew. Childcare is always an adventure for those of us who do not have them, whether the baby is considered fussy or not. I am happy to report that my nephew is a copacetic little man who doesn’t really fuss about much of anything. I stayed at the hotel that Jasper and I stayed in over the summer. It’s a lot cozier in the winter. They have a fireplace that’s real and they keep it lit. My niece spent spend the night with me once and both of us had nightmares, I’m not sure what hers were about but mine were about not returning her to her parents. Thankfully it was all a dream and We both got back to her parents’ house the next morning with no trouble.

I did get to do some further editing, particularly on Thursday night as I was with my writers’ group in spirit. I’ve done a decent amount of editing from the beginning of the book. I’ve decided that’s going to be my new strategy for writing is to go back and remember what I wrote before so that I can continue the story because frankly, dear reader, I am stumped. I’m sure that it’s a problem for most writers. I think it might be the best way to go from now on as I am not sure how to end the novel.

Tomorrow after a day of travel I will come back to the Netherlands and be ready to start with my new class. I am both trepidations and excited about the endeavor. There are currently five students with the possibility of three more. I am extremely thankful to have a steady income and grateful that the class ends in March and I can go to the US in April.

I also have a new private client who wants a handful of lessons dealing with business English and I am going to do my best to try and make her more permanent. I am also going to contact Felix and see if he wants to get a coffee, but will not suggest lessons as there is only so much I can chase after clients.

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

Online Unlucky and a Class Caught

Well, do your readers, it has finally happened. I have become one of those VIP kid teachers who complains about low bookings. Since my return from the United States I have been averaging four classes a day.I never thought that I would get to the place where there weren’t enough students for me. If you look at my schedule, there are a ton of interested students for nearly every slot from about 9:30 AM straight through to 2 PM. Which is interesting because not all of those ever book even though they’re interested students. What does interested student mean you ask? The answer to that is I have no idea. A few days this past week it’s Been a trial to get out of bed just for one class. And then I’ve had these long hour and a half to two hour breaks in between classes. You all know that I’m a hell of a time manager and so I have use the time to do other things. Like prepare for other classes.

I’m not sure if I wrote that I actually got the pre-intermediate English class starting on 21 January. Because I’m going to be in Greece on that day and I only get back on the 22nd a colleague has agreed to take the class for me. I have been using the inordinately long breaks between VIP kid classes to actually prep for this class that starts for me on 23 January. I’ve Also done some work on my website. I’m wondering, dear readers, if I will lose you if I combined the blog with the website itself. I have been enjoying your reading of the blog and the fact that some of you sometimes like it. Come February I will only be able to get VIP kid Wednesdays Fridays and Sundays. I suspect as a result that my bookings are going to continue to be low But let’s hope that they’re not as lowest they’ve been in advance of Chinese new year. Speaking of, despite my reservations regarding the fireworks last post, I have decided to go to the Chinese new year celebrations here in Amsterdam. And we’re making it a VIP kid EU ex-pats meet up.

What’s the VIP could you ask Pat to ask? They are the Facebook group that I’ve been running for three years for people to work for VIP kid who live in the EU. There are quite a lot of us. We have 700 members in the group. And while that is small in comparison to the 90,000 teachers that VIP kid employees, it’s kind of big for me I did not realize that we were that many people in the EU. We are quite the crew, and we don’t have nearly the drama of the big groups online that have to do with VIP kid. We are fairly copacetic about working for VIP kid, most of us are not #Blessed that we found this job. Sure we like teaching and we’re grateful for work but we don’t think the VIP kid is the end-all be-all of teaching. Some of us split our time between in real life schools or private clients and VIP kid, and some of us split our time between different online schools. So I’m in great company really regarding time management. I’m pretty sure several of the people in my Facebook group could run circles around me in that area.

Next Tuesday’s post will be Coming to you from Greece, where I will Have been for a week celebrating my brother-in-law’s birthday, meeting my new nephew, and generally living it up on the possibly not so sunny island of Crete. I’ve never spent winter in Crete and so I’m looking forward to it.

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

New Year Nightmare

Happy. happy new year to you all, dear readers! I can write that a week into the new year without my hands trembling or breaking out into a cold sweat. It took me that long, my dears, to get over the trauma that is New Year’s Eve in the Netherlands. I like celebrations as much as the next person. I like going to parties, I like drinking on occasion, and everybody who knows me, knows I love eating. What I do not love is walking through a war zone and being terrified that I’m going to lose my hearing. Or that someone is going to actively throw a lit firework at me. On purpose. Not because their aim was bad. But because their aim was very very good. It seems that New Year’s Eve is a time for people in the Netherlands to be imbeciles. They actively block first responders from getting to where they need to go. In Arnhem, two people died as a result of smoke inhalation when they were trapped in an elevator because it caught fire as a result of two boys setting off fireworks.

Don’t get me wrong. It was pretty. But pretty doesn’t cut it when you’re trying to walk home, and the sound of the noisemakers tightens your spine and hunches your shoulders to a place where the next day you are sore from trying to stay calm. Nope, New Year’s Eve is not for me. At least, not if I have to go outside. The irresponsibility shown by people was astounding. As we were walking home, you could see the remnants of firecrackers. Still. On. Fire. I guess people were too drunk to throw some water over the fireworks and make sure that they were completely out.

I started teaching with VIPKid on Thursday. And it was great to see a few of my students. But I had opened up next week classes as well. And I have become one of those teachers who is complaining about low bookings. I know that I complained before Christmas, but now it has gotten to a point where I am now concerned about getting another job either online or off. Of the 30 hours over six days that I opened, 16 1/2 hours booked for the week. And on Sunday, my booking dwindled to one. One. That’s never happened before.  When I first started VIPkid I was opening between 76 and 80 slots a week. I would book all but 10%. Those days are long gone. I have a feeling that this trend is going to continue.

The good news is that I’m starting to teach a class on 21 January for the English Center and that will run till March 5. I also have returning students: one in Amstelveen and my real estate guys in the middle of the city.  I was hoping to start with my Japanese students as well but after two emails to them, with no response, I think that unlikely. What’s worse is that I think that Felix does not want to take lessons anymore. He had started being flakier in November and then, of course, I left in December. When I contacted him to ask him whether he wanted lessons in January he said he was going to Columbia for a week and wasn’t sure about lessons in January. I suspect that he doesn’t want lessons at all.

That is the nature of my business, unfortunately. I am heading to Greece for a week in the middle of the month and after that, it’s full steam ahead trying to figure out what’s next for me and Inkreadable. Let’s hope this New Year’s nightmare does not continue and become a whole year nightmare.

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