A few weeks ago, I wrote about the last year that I spent teaching English online with VIPKid. I was surprised at how well the post was received. Apparently, there are a lot of people out there that want to start a side hustle!
I know the feeling, I used to be the same way. Living paycheck to paycheck is incredibly stressful, and the comfort of knowing you have a little more cashflow each month can make all the difference. It’s like Kanye West once said–having money’s not everything, not having it is.
To be honest, I never thought working online would be a viable option. I’ve always had professional jobs, and I didn’t think that any job that you could perform while wearing pajama pants would give you a worthwhile return of investment on your time. I am happy to say I was wrong.
Teaching online with VIPKid has allowed me to supplement my income and fund my travels. I would love to help you have the same freedom! I’ve had many people express interest and sign up to become VIPKid teachers, but few people make it past the interview process. It doesn’t matter if you’re an experienced ESL teacher or have a Ph.D. in education. You need to prepare for the interview and take it seriously.
Hands down, the biggest mistake I see in applicants is thinking that they can just log on and ace it, either because they’re overqualified to teach online or believe the job is a piece of cake. Make no mistake about it, this company is worth more than a billion dollars as of August 2017. They’ve been ranked by Forbes as one of the top remote work opportunities in the world. They take their job seriously, and are looking for applicants who will do the same.
Think about it. If you had parents paying you to provide teachers and value-packed classes in 25 minute segments, you would need staff that is reliable, highly skilled and able to handle a wide range of ages. You are almost at a disadvantage coming in with a lot of experience because you’re likely set in your ways, and less willing to adapt to the standards of the program.
Passing a VIPKid interview is not rocket science–it’s a matter of preparation and giving the interviewer what he or she wants. Thankfully, I can sum that up for you in a few key points:
1) No computer issues
Your interviewer wants to see that you have good lighting, a strong internet connection and a headset that works. There should be no background noises and you should be able to navigate the screen with ease. Make sure your computer is plugged in and try to have natural light coming in from a window if available.
2) Smile a lot
When a small child looks at you on a screen and you’re speaking a foreign language they don’t understand, it helps if you’re smiling. At least that way they don’t feel like they’ve done something wrong. You don’t need to do this in the initial interview so much as you do in the mock lessons. Just remember that if you’re pretending to be talking to a child, smile the entire time like you just won the Miss America pageant.
3) Speak slowly
This was a tough one for me because I naturally speak very fast, but make a conscious effort to pace yourself. Draw out your words and enunciate. Pronounce your p’s, n’s and d’s with emphasis to help a child mimic the same.
4) Correct pronunciation
You need to corect every mistake that is made during your mock interview, in a timely way. This includes grammar and pronunciation errors. If the child says “come” instead of “comes,” promptly interject and say the correct spelling of the word. You can either do so immediately or at the end of the sentence. Do not leave a slide without correcting the mistakes. This is the biggest criteria parents look for in a teacher, so VIPKid will value your insistence that the child get it right
5) Show that you prepared
Don’t just show up and log onto your computer to do a cold call. Do some research about the company. Wear an orange shirt so you’re on brand with their colors and uniform. Before your mock class, watch videos on YouTube and know how you’re going to introduce every slide. Definitely look at the slides before your mock course. Prepare them, have props ready, and work on your presentation.
Again, this may seem basic, but a lot of people end up failing the interview stage because they don’t take it seriously enough to prepare properly. If you need a place to start, the VIPKid YouTube channel has a ton of extra videos and helpful materials for would-be teachers, like full-length classes. I recommend you watch these closely if you don’t know how to introduce a particular exercise or question so you can copy the teacher’s phrasing verbatim.
6) Emphasize your experience
If you have experience teaching or with children, make sure they know about it. If you don’t, make sure you emphasize your education and certification. This will only be necessary in the first interview, when they determine your pay. The mock courses that come after the first interview are to assess your teaching skills.
7) Manage your time
Time management is key, since your lessons are 25 minutes and they’re looking for teachers that can teach back to back. You have a 5 minute buffer between classes, and they want to make sure you won’t have a problem running late. One thing to remember is that you don’t have to review every single question or activity on the slides.
You should aim for a minute per slide, but if you took more time on one than another, just do an abbreviated version of the next slide to make up for the lost time and keep it moving. The review slides, usually the first 2 or 3 that show up after the opening exercise, are the least important material to cover and can be glazed over.
8) Utilize rewards
It took me forever to realize that there were two reward systems at play with VIPKid–the reward system introduced in the beginning of the slides and a star rating system in the top right corner of your screen. Ideally, you would alternate between both when you start teaching classes. For purposes of the interview, the most important thing is to make sure you’re using one or the other and rewarding the student for their effort. Do not let more than 2-3 slides go by without giving praise and a reward.
9) Speak less, gesture more
The less words you use to phrase something, the better. Instead of saying, “ok, can you circle the car?” try “circle, caaaaaar” while pantomiming the action of circling something on screen. Try to demonstrate actions as you’re saying them. I run my fingers across imaginary whiskers to signify “cat,” hold my nose up when I say “pig,” and make the action of walking with 2 fingers on my opposite arm when I say “go,” by way of example.
Make sure that you’re actively engaging and making instructions as clear as possible. Stick to the target sentences and prompts in fine print at the bottom of every slide.
10) Be adaptable
You’re going to have students of different ages and learning levels, so they want to see that you can teach across the board. Be able to adapt the way you speak and relay information depending on how far along the kid is. Ask follow up questions if the kid goes through a slide too easily. For instance, if you have a slide that shows a cow and the kid volunteers “this is a cow” in the first 5 seconds without prompting, ask a follow-up to spend the remaining 55 seconds productively. Maybe ask, “What color is the cow?” or “Is the cow big or small?”
Also, if you see that one way of phrasing a question is not getting through to the child, try another way of phrasing it. In the interview stage they won’t give you too much of this since the interviewer who is playing the child is there to test you more than give you grief. Just be able to roll with the punches and present information in a different way if it’s not getting through the first time, and know when to cut your losses if a concept isn’t landing.
11) Let the child talk
The child should be talking 80% of the time and you should be talking 20% of the time. Your role is to facilitate the child reading, answering questions, matching and identifying objects pictured on screen. It is not to lecture them or have them learn English by hearing you talk. The interviewer wants to see that you will encourage a kid to speak, in full sentences, as much as possible. Do not leave a life without having the child say something for that slide. If they match items silently, go back and review the names of the items that were pictured.
That’s all there is to it! If you follow these tips, you will be sure to ace your VIPKid Interview. I wish you the best of luck, and feel free to reach out if you have any questions on the process.
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