As I’m sure many of you know by now, I teach with VIPKid. I’ve been teaching with VIPKid since November 2016. Overall, I have had a positive experience with them. VIPKid has been around since 2013 and has since skyrocketed and has become a massive company. They currently have over 15,000 teachers and over 500,000 students. The company as a whole, however, has experienced quite a few growing pains.
If you’re considering teaching for VIPKid, I’d start with my review of VIPKid, to get a feel for what you’re in for. If you’re new to VIPKid and not sure quite what to do or how the platform works, check out VIPKid for Newbies. Should you want to sign up to be a teacher, you can do so on their website.
This post is to discuss some of the changes that VIPKid has gone through recently. When looking into VIPKid, you get a lot of mixed information. Even as a teacher you get mixed information. Here are some of my experiences with VIPKid, and what I consider to be The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly.
Teaching with VIPKid is overall a good experience. You get to set your own schedule, there are no minimums or maximums to how much you can work, and the work can be fun.
VIPKid has a great community of teachers. This, however, is more thanks to the teachers than VIPKid. There are many Facebook groups and meetups set up for VIPKid teachers. These groups were created by teachers to support each other and provide help along the way. They’ve also acted as a “Teacher’s Lounge” of sorts where teachers can discuss issues relevant to VIPKid teachers and trade secrets and overall build friendships with like-minded people.
On Freshdesk, the VIPKid official platform (See more about that here), is also a place where teachers can communicate with each other. It is set up in a forum format and divided into topics. Each week you’ll see a weekly update, which teachers can comment on, as well as topics such as curriculum development, tech help, general issues, teacher workshops, among others. It is suggested that when teachers do discuss something, particular something they are hoping will change in the company, that it is posted here. This is because, while venting on Facebook may get you a lot of support (which may be all you need), if you post it on Freshdesk someone from the main office may actually read it, and hopefully do something about it. This is particularly true if many other teachers feel the same way about it and comment on it showing support. That way the people who actually make decisions will see that this is an issue that affects many people.
Here’s one of my favourite students showing some love for her teacher.
Any teacher’s favourite part of the job is being able to connect with the kids. Most of the time, the students are fun, eager to learn, and just want to talk to you. Every so often you get one that just stares at you and picks his nose (I’m looking at you Baobao). But, the lessons are only 25 minutes, so just keep breathing, smiling, and try to look past the boogers.
After a while, you’ll gain some regulars. These are students that book you every week when your schedule opens up. They are the best. You get to know them, their hobbies, and can just have regular conversations with them beyond the lessons. Most of my regular students are level 4 and above, as personally, the older/more advanced students are my preference to teach. I have a couple level 2s and 3s that keep coming back though 🙂
This is what made me want to apply for the job in the first place. This allows me to teach from literally any quiet space with good wifi. I don’t need to have the same schedule set out and or commit to anything further than a couple weeks in advance. I simply open the slots, parents book them, I teach them. Then I get paid. The end. That may be a little over simplified, but you get the idea.
As someone who lives a nontraditional lifestyle, it was important for me to find a job that had flexibility. I’m barely in the same place each week so there’s no way I’d be able to commit to the same hours! With VIPKid, I’ve been able to teach from South Korea, Ireland, France, Spain, and Canada!
With a company that grows so fast, there are bound to be some bumps along the way. Here are some things I feel that VIPKid could’ve done a little better.
Things changed fast for VIPKid. When I first started, my training mentioned things like Skype Groups and different ways of contacting the Firemen. Less than one week after I started teaching, that all changed. They eventually put out an “official” announcement about it, as they wanted people to contact them regarding various issues in a new manner, but you’d think they’d have to foresight for if they were changing policies so soon, to tell their new hires about them.
This goes for pretty much ALL new policies/changes. Most of the time, things are just implemented and maybe something is said about it in the weekly newsletter. More often than not, this is after it has already happened. This leaves teachers incredibly confused and unprepared. They seem to be getting better at this, like by giving out prep material for the summer and TOEFL classes before they’re taught, but at the same time, they just put out a new firemen contact method and only told people about it after it was out. I could list many other examples of this, but that would be unnecessary, as I think you get the idea.
Much of the curriculum is very dry or laid out in a confusing manner or simply dated. There is an area where the teachers can discuss this on Freshdesk, but much of the time it isn’t updated. Also, you’re occasionally given slides where you’re to sing a song, but have no idea what the tune is supposed to be — hope you’re good at improv!
There have also been cases of British English where it is otherwise mostly American, there have been spelling errors or activities where more than one answer really does work, but it’s not actually what it’s going for, which can just confuse the students.
Much of the time there are teacher directions on the bottom of the slide. Sometimes, they’re obvious and unnecessary (like telling me the answer is 5 when the question is “count the monkeys”). Other times, it’s talking about American landmarks and as a non-American, there are some I don’t recognize and the teacher directions say nothing beyond “discuss.”
Overall, the material is workable. Teaching abroad has given me great improv skills which have helped immensely in this job. For teachers that haven’t done so, or need more direction, the material could use an update.
These areas are where VIPKid has caused the most friction with its teachers. Many teachers seem to be in agreement these areas, yet VIPKid doesn’t seem to budge on it.
The Cancellation Policy
Presently, teachers receive 6 cancellations per contract. As we get to set our own schedule, that doesn’t seem so bad, right?
The issue comes in how the cancellations are counted. As of now, 3 cancelled classes count as 1 cancellation, and you’ll get at most 2 cancellations per day (even if your number of classes goes over this). ALSO, you get charged a fee for cancelling. $10 is you cancel in less than 2 hours or don’t show up at all, $2 if you cancel with less than 24 hours notice but more than 2 hours notice, and no fee if you inform them of a cancellation with more than 24 hours notice.
Here’s an example of why that doesn’t work.
Let’s say you work mornings and evenings in any North American time zone. You teach 4 hours in the morning, and 4 at night – a total of 16 classes. Uh oh. You’re sick. Because you’re human you don’t get 24 hours notice before being sick.
Here are the options:
- Teach whilst sick and get negative parent feedback that may affect your rating, a chance of pay raise, a continuation of the next contract, and future bookings. Try not to throw up on camera or teach from the toilet.
- Spend your day resting and recovering. Message the firemen, a couple of your classes may be a $10 deduction (likely 4 of them), and your later classes a $2 reduction ($48 lost). You also will receive 4 cancellations out of your 6.
Why 4? Isn’t the max 2 per day?
Well, one would think that. But because all times are calculated based on Beijing time, your 1 sick day in North America spreads over 2 days in China using up 4 of your allotted 6 cancellations because you got sick 1 time.
Many teachers then choose to not teach more than 3 hours per day (or per day in China) in the event that an emergency or sickness happens. This policy effectively punishes those who choose to work more, something that we are regularly incentivised to do.
Transparency & Consistency
There have been a few cases where policy is simply unclear. Many issues are not officially stated anywhere.
For example, a teacher may be teaching a class, and suddenly their student stands up and is without pants. This puts the teacher in a bad situation. Obviously having a naked child on their screen is a problem, so the teacher leaves the classroom. Because the teacher left and the parents complained the teacher left, the teacher was marked a no-show.
Most of the time, these were fixed and the no-show was not counted. However, it wasn’t until there were many complaints of a similar nature was it even officially address in an update with a “what to do” answer.
Another example is the recent issue of pay raises. Most teachers (myself included) were verbally informed by either their practicum teacher or interviewer that there is to be a pay raise in the third contract. As many reached the contract this was not received. As it was officially nowhere, there wasn’t much to be done about it.
Again, only after the issue was raised in the forums multiple times was the issue even officially addressed. Even still, it has not released a public policy one what the exact criteria is for a pay raise.
What To Do
When teachers have an issue, they are to send in a ticket via freshdesk. This is then answered by the support staff of some kind. Usually, they’re great and they solve your issue. The only problem I have with their system is the inconsistency in the application of “policy.” Some people who have the same situation get different results. This could be regarding pay, class finish type (think no-show vs. IT problem), a cancellation, or anything of the sort.
Much of the time if it’s not an easy fix, you get a non-answer. Sometimes you get a real answer that conflicts with someone else’s answer. The thing is, us teachers talk to one another. See above about community. The lack of consistency in the application of policy and transparency when things change creates confusion, distrust, and tension between its teachers and VIPKid.
Overall, I love VIPKid. I enjoy teaching with them and they have allowed me to travel around the world working remotely. I understand that with any company there will be some growing pains, and there are a few things they need to work on. I’m optimistic in that they will work them out.
Whether you agree or disagree with my thoughts on VIPKid, I’d love to hear your opinions in the comments below!