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I have been teaching with VIPKid for almost 6 months now. In fact, I just got my email today that they want me to sign my contract for the next 6 months. You’d better believe I’ll be signing it! (If you’re not sure what VIPKid is or why I love it so much, you can read this post.)
For Teaching Tuesday, I decided to back track a little bit and talk about the first big step toward getting hired as a VIPKid teacher: The interview/recorded demo lesson. If you want to get up and running with VIPKid quickly, then stick with me! I was able to apply, get hired, and start teaching within three weeks. I was a “fully booked” teacher within about one month of submitting the first application. This isn’t because I am anything special.
Because I’m not.
In fact, VIPKid allows parents and learning partners to “follow” teachers’ schedules and I really don’t have all that many followers.
But what I do have is an at-times-unhealthy obsession with saving time! When I decided I wanted to give VIPKid a go, I just went for it and scheduled things as quickly as possible. But there were still some hurdles in the process that caused me to waste valuable time. So I present to you the hurdles to the Interview/Demo Lesson that might cause you to make the application process drag on longer than necessary. (But don’t worry, I am giving you some tips as well.)
HURDLE #1 – DECIDING ON LIVE OR RECORDED DEMO
As I’ve mentioned previously, you have two options when deciding how to do your interview/demo lesson. Be ready to pick one and go with it! There are many YouTube videos that outline the pros and cons of each. If you’re more timid, I would suggest the recorded demo. If you’re ready to get in there and negotiate your salary, I’d suggest the live interview. Both options require an appointment, so don’t stew over the decision too long…just sign up!
HURDLE #2 – SETTING UP YOUR CLASSROOM
Yes, it is important to have a classroom environment set up, even for your demo lesson. But don’t let it stress you out and cause you to waste time. The bare minimum is perfectly fine. Here is what you need to get started:
- LOCATION – It is best to find a spot where you can hard-wire into your router (many people will tell you that wi-fi is fine….and for the most part, it is. But do you really want to gamble??) Again, don’t hyper-analyze your classroom location too much for the interview/demo lesson. Just get through the hiring process and you can spend time getting things exactly how you like them. My classroom is still evolving after 6 months!
- GOOD LIGHTING – This is literally one of THE most important things. I wasted so much time trying to get my lighting figured out! If you spend money on ANYTHING as a gamble prior to getting hired, I would suggest you spend it on an external webcam. It solved all of my issues after wasting so much money on Goodwill lamps and tons of LED lightbulbs. Now that I have a good webcam (click here to see which one I use), all I need is one cheap lamp behind my computer (with daylight LED bulbs). So, take it from me — don’t waste a bunch of time messing around with lighting; if you have to pull out three or four lamps to shed enough light on the situation, it’s probably a camera issue and not a lamp issue.
- AN EDUCATIONAL BACKDROP – Once you have your location picked out for optimal internet access, start decorating the wall behind you. Don’t waste time cruising Pinterest for cute classroom setups; you’ll only get overwhelmed by the possibilities. For example, some people don’t have a wall behind them, so they use a rolling garment rack with a cute shower curtain (like this world map shower curtain). SAVE THESE THINGS FOR WHEN YOU ARE HIRED! Take five minutes, print off a few pieces of paper with your name, a world map, and/or a few ABC flashcards and throw them on the wall. The dollar store is a gold mine for this kind of stuff! They have a large map that could work for most of your background…one buck and you’re done! It IS nice to have something magnetic behind you to display your rewards, but you can get away with using tape or sticky tack for the demo lesson.
- EQUIPMENT – For teaching, you will need a headset with a microphone. I use the Logitech H390 (it won’t let me link directly to it, but here is a page with all sorts of headphones to choose from. You’ll see my set near the top.) Yes, I would suggest getting one for the interview process. It shows that you’re committed. If you don’t want to front the cost, you can try to borrow a set from a gamer friend or family member. You can even use phone ear buds with a built-in microphone if you don’t want to gamble your money. You will also need a computer with a webcam (preferably external, especially if you’re having trouble with your lighting). And reliable internet goes without saying…but I said it anyway.
HURDLE #3 – CLOTHING
Believe it or not, a lot of people stress about what to wear and spend valuable time reading all sorts of opinions about whether or not to wear orange. From what I understand, orange shirts used to be a suggested uniform but there is no longer a requirement/suggestion to wear orange. They ask that you do not wear distracting patterns or logos (so….solids are best). HOWEVER, if you look around at the company, people at corporate wear orange a LOT. It is still treated as an “unofficial” uniform and wearing it will show your desire to be on the team. But do not stress or spend a bunch of time trying to find the perfect orange shirt. I happened to find an orange polo at Goodwill when I was shopping for my bazillionth lamp. I also picked up a safety orange t-shirt for a few bucks at Walmart. No matter the color, just make sure that it is modest. That’s a big deal!
HURDLE #4 – PROPS AND REWARDS
Once you’re hired, you will find that gathering props and rewards is one of the most fun (and time consuming) parts of the job. You will find blog after blog, video after video, of reward and prop ideas. Don’t go down that rabbit hole at this point in the application process! Use the monkey and banana reward that’s in the lesson. If you want to spice it up, I used a stuffed monkey and a plastic banana when I told them that they earned the banana and then I drew a banana on the chart. For my other prop, I used a whiteboard and some printouts of the animals and emotions mentioned in the lesson. As a gift to my referrals, I provide props specific to the demon lesson as a printable download. Head over to this page to see what else I offer to my referrals.
HURDLE #5 – PREPPING TO TEACH
This is the biggest hurdle.
If you have never taught online before, I will just say one thing: You will NEVER be fully ready for this! I speak from experience. The only way that you will get more comfortable with online teaching is by doing it! This is probably the hurdle that caused me to waste the most time. I kept putting off scheduling my appointment so that I could practice “just a few more times.” So now you can learn from my experience:
- Set up an appointment for the near future, so you have enough time to prepare but not so much time that you drive yourself crazy. Don’t wait to schedule it until you “feel ready.”
- Read the rubric! You will have received several emails from VIPKid with materials for the demo lesson. One of the documents is the rubric of what they’re looking for. Don’t get caught up in preparing a lot of extras…focus on the quality of your teaching!
- Record yourself practicing and focus on your pacing (approximately one minute per slide)
- Pay attention to how much you smile! When teaching online, the lack of a smile is SO evident and it really brings down the energy of class.
- Keep a lid on incidental language (YouTube videos will go over this with you)
- If you need to take notes, write them on sticky notes and put them near your camera.
- Watch YouTube videos with a grain of salt. I would stick with Brand Ambassadors (Nancy Taylor, Angela Silva, Jennifer Anderson), but make sure to be yourself! They want to see how YOU teach. What they expect — no matter your style — is a positive, encouraging attitude and ENERGY. (And yes, there are ways to show energy without being bubbly.)
- As another gift to you, I will send you an email with one of my own practice videos! This is by request only for those who are using me as their referring teacher. Just send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org from the same email you used on your application, asking for the “demo video.” I will verify that you used my referral link and send it your direction! My videos are not anywhere near “YouTube ready” but I think it’s good for applicants to see examples of personalities that are different from the Brand Ambassadors.
Here’s one last thing about the demo lesson. It helps to view this as more of a screener than an end-all-be-all interview. They want to make sure that you understand the basics of teaching and that you’re a good fit for the company before moving you on to the more involved mock class. But the interview IS important because it determines your base pay rate, so you definitely want to prepare! Just don’t get so wrapped up in preparing that you make this initial step drag on longer than necessary.
Alright, my friends…go forth and DEMO!
If you want to apply for VIPKid and you are interested in having yours truly as your referring teacher, just follow this link to get started! There will be a spot where you can click to enter my referral code: STEPH0552 (that’s a zero). If you follow the link above, it should populate that portion of the form, but just in case! Once you have used my code, I will be notified by the company. Then I will send you an email to start our dialogue about getting you HIRED!