VIPKID: “Do You Speak Mandarin?” And Other Common Questions About Teaching ESL Online
Hi, all. As an update, I am still teaching for VIPKID and loving the flexibility! I’m not currently focused on this topic with my writing. I’ve written about my past experiences with the company, as I’ve been with them for five years. If you are looking for current resources on the hiring process, you may need to specifically reach out to VIPKID about the hiring process. I last updated this information in January 2020. Thank you!
Hello, hello! Yes, it’s been a while since I have done a post on teaching with VIPKID. This post is very much overdue. It’s hard to believe I’m already quickly approaching the end of my first 6-month contract with VIPKID, and I’m happy to say that I’m planning on sticking around for a while.
My student-base continues to grow, and I’m also growing as a teacher throughout each interaction with my students. Like most teachers that start out, I was very skeptical as to what I was getting into, but I have to say I’ve been more than pleasantly surprised with VIPKID, and the company’s ability and willingness to continue to grow, develop, and change education for the benefit of all.
With that said, I’ve been very fortunate in being able to refer 3 other new teachers to VIKPKID during my first contract. VIPKID is continually hiring and seeking energetic, passionate, and adventurous teachers to step up and take on this opportunity to teach ESL online.
Below are some questions that I frequently get asked about my job. I thought it might be helpful just to break down each answer, and if you should have further questions about working for VIPKID, feel free to comment below this blog post, and I’ll be sure to respond to your question.
1) Do you have to know Mandarin Chinese to teach ESL for VIPKID?
A short and simple answer to this question is “no”. I wish I knew Mandarin- that would be awesome, but no, unfortunately I don’t. The good news is that you don’t have to know a single word of Mandarin Chinese in order to teach for VIPKID. Would it benefit you in the hiring process, and could you possibly get paid more for your qualifications? Absolutely! Also, VIPKID recently sent out information about trying to reach students in more rural areas of China, and they are specifically looking for English speakers who know and speak Mandarin. So, either way, if you know Mandarin or don’t know Mandarin, VIPKID could potentially hire you based on your education, background, and teaching experience.
2) If you don’t know Mandarin Chinese, how do the students understand what you’re saying?
This is a very good question! First off, I have a wide-range of students. Some start off knowing little or no English, while others have been taking English in school, they have had a private tutor, or their parents can speak English. With that said, there are several ways to help someone understand a language, even if you can’t translate it into their own. Most of the following information is talked about in the VIPKID initial training videos, but I’ll go into some detail about how teaching someone a different language can be fun and interesting without having knowledge of the student’s language.
TPR- Total Physical Response
Body language is key when learning a new language. As a teacher, I’m expected to use not only my mouth to speak, but my facial expressions, my arms, legs, and other parts of my body to help express a general idea across to my student.
Obviously, looking at a computer screen with a teacher speaking in a different language, especially for 25 minutes, could be a bit boring. That’s where props come in handy! Props can be a lot of fun in the classroom, and they can also help a student better understand the language. They are definitely a needed investment with VIPKID, but I have to say that most of my props I did not buy. They were gifts that my son received for birthdays, Christmas, and other holidays. So, if you have children, I’m sure that you will have plenty of props to incorporate into the classroom already. Different props and printables are also recommended for an additional reward system for the students. You can see an example of reward system and prop that I use in my classroom.
Speak Slowly, Speak Clearly, Be Patient, & Smile
Yes, there’s a lot compacted into speaking slowly, clearly, being patient, and smiling, but they are all important attributes for the job. Do I speak slowly with every student? No. Some students are more advanced, so I do adapt as needed with each class. Being patient can be more difficult, especially with a super chatty student that doesn’t want to listen, but it’s helpful to keep in mind that the class is only 25 minutes, and you do the best you can with the amount of time that you have.
A smile is pretty much plastered on my face throughout class. I learned this lesson the hard way after my first evaluation. My evaluator had mentioned that I looked bored and too serious throughout a lesson with an older student. As I went back to re-watch myself, I noticed that I smiled very infrequently throughout the lesson, and I seemed too intense.
Thankfully, I learned from that initial evaluation, and now a smile is on my face throughout almost all of class. This is so important because the student can’t see your whole body, they just see the upper half of your chest and then your face. Smiling is key to show that you want to be there, you’re excited about teaching, and having this interaction with the student. I find that I even tend to smile more throughout my day, and that’s not a joke, I really do! Obviously, each teacher has their own unique personality, and you’ll click with some students and maybe not some others, but you’re teaching style will shine through and students will be drawn to you when you’re passionate about what you’re doing.
3) Do you have to have ESL experience to teach with VIPKID? What are the qualifications?
In order to teach with VIPKID, you need a Bachelor’s degree, and teaching experience is highly recommended. I do have a friend who is still within her first month of teaching with VIPKID. She does not have a teaching background, but she does have experience being in a classroom as a teacher’s aide. I have not heard of anyone getting hired that does not have a Bachelor’s degree or higher education. This is a must. As for ESL experience, I did not have any as I entered the position, but there are training videos that everyone is required to watch and then take a short quiz over in order to be hired. There are also two teacher mock-classes that must take place before a teacher is hired. This all aides and assists each interviewee in understanding what it takes to not only teach ESL, but to teach ESL online.
As for higher education and continuing education, VIPKID is doing a wonderful job setting up workshops that are available for teachers to grow in their knowledge of teaching online. There’s also opportunities for teachers to gain an ESL certificate through higher education with VIPKID. I’m not a part of this program, so I can’t give much feedback on it, but I have heard some teachers say they are happy that VIPKID is providing them with this opportunity to grow in education as they work. I also appreciate that VIPKID has added videos and workshops discussing Chinese culture. This is really helpful to any teacher that is not a native of China. I’ve only watched one video on the education system. And I’m looking forward to watching more.
4) How do you sit that long in front of a computer?
Well, I only sit a maximum of 3 hours in front of my computer, and I do take breaks by standing up, running up the stairs really quickly between classes, and using the restroom if needed. But, some teachers teach standing up. I’ve also seen teachers sitting on fitness stability balls, so whatever floats your boat. And I would probably make these adjustments if I was teaching more than 3 hours as well. So, however you want to set up your online classroom is fine. I even saw a bike computer station on Amazon, so I’m sure if you wanted to go that route, you’d be able to as long as you could teach effectively.
5) Is VIPKID just a part-time job?
Yes, kind of. I work part time. The hours are early morning and/or in the evening. I choose to get up early and teach. I will rarely teach in the evenings. But, depending on where you live in the world, and your time zone, you may be able to teach during the day. Or, if your schedule permits, you could teach an 11-13 hour day/night if you should choose. I do know some people that have and still do this. There was an incentive that started last September 2016 for who could get the most classes taught in a 3-month time frame, so yes, some people did go nuts with that. With that said, some people do live in the same time zone as China, so they are able to teach during normal work hours.
VIPKID hires teachers on a 6-month contract. When I was hired, teachers were required to teach a minimum of 7.5 hours a week during peak hours, which is in the evening, Beijing time. This was never a problem for me, and I do usually easily exceed 7.5 hours a week. I haven’t read it in an update yet, but I have received a notification e-mail about a change stating that the 7.5 hour minimum is no longer required, but just recommended.
The beauty of the job is that I can set my own schedule and take days off as needed. VIPKID also allows for a 2-week unpaid vacation during the 6-month contract. These weeks are not supposed to be consecutive. I haven’t heard of anyone complaining about this; it seems completely reasonable to me, and if the minimum requirement per week is only 7.5 hours, then you could easily squeeze that in 2-3 days in one week during peak hours.
Does This Sound Like a Job For You?
If you’re interested in teaching for VIPKID or you’d like to know more information, please feel free to comment below.
Did this information help you? I’d be very honored and grateful if you used my link when applying for VIPKID. I do get a small kickback by you using the link provided.
Have you started the application process? Be sure to e-mail me VIPKIDTeacherAmberJ@yahoo.com