Bridge graduate, Rachel Story, is a world traveler and online ESL teacher from Tennessee. She has been teaching, traveling and living around the world with her husband Sasha since 2010, and is currently in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. Together Rachel and Sasha have created the blog Grateful Gypsies, which documents their travels and provides tips to those looking to pursue opportunities teaching English as a second language.
In this post, Rachel tells us all about her online teaching job with the popular company VIPKID, which allows her to teach ESL from her laptop and live as a digital nomad.
Teaching English online is becoming very popular. It’s a great way to move abroad without the stress of lining up a job first. You could even bounce around different countries until you find one you like, earning money along the way. Aside from traveling, it provides the opportunity to simply work from home.
I teach online for VIPKID, and in this article, I’ll give you a look inside online teaching by sharing details about what it’s like to teach for this particular company, including info about the job itself, and some pros & cons.
About the Online English Teaching Company, VIPKID
VIPKID is a Beijing-based online English teaching company, paving the way for online language learning. Started in 2013, it has grown exponentially over the past year. In January 2016, they had a few hundred teachers. Now, they have grown to have over 20,000 teachers and over 200,000 students, and they don’t plan to stop growing anytime soon.
VIPKID’s mission is to provide children in China with an American elementary school education. Their one-on-one immersive program is based on the US’s Common Core State Standards curriculum. Children from the ages of 5-12 years old are able to have classes with a native English speaker without having to leave the comfort of their home.
You must have a Bachelor’s degree in any field and at least one year experience teaching or working with children. This can include working at a daycare or summer camp and can even include babysitting.
Currently, the pay is $7-9 USD per class with the potential to earn a $2 bonus per class. That makes the earning potential $11 per class, and with classes 25 minutes each, that’s up to $22/hour.
The 25-minute classes are scheduled in 30-minute time slots because you have to put in feedback for the parents when the class is finished. The extra 5 minutes gives you time to do this while the class is still fresh in your mind. Your base pay is calculated based on your previous experience plus your interview and demo. The company deposits your salary directly to your bank account by the 15th of each month.
You set your own schedule and the parents book the teachers. You will make a profile for yourself that has all your information plus a VIPKID teacher bio that you write and a video the parents can watch.
The company suggests you open up 15 time slots (7.5 hours) each week as this will provide more opportunities for parents to book your class. There is no limit to how many time slots you open up so you could potentially teach up to 50 classes every week!
VIPKID Peak Hours
As the kids you’ll tutor are school-age, VIPKID happens after school. The peak times for classes are from 6pm-10pm Beijing time every day as well as 9am-10pm (all day) Saturday and Sunday. Beijing time is 13 hours ahead of Eastern Standard Time (EST) and 12 hours ahead during Daylight Savings Time (EDT). This is what the time looks like in different time zones….
VIPKID peak hours in:
On the weekends and in July and August, you have the option to teach more hours as the kids are not in school.
Equipment You’ll Need to Teach English Online with VIPKID
The company makes all the lessons as PowerPoints – so, you don’t have to prepare any lessons yourself. You simply need to familiarize yourself with the PowerPoints.
VIPKID has designed its own teaching platform on their website. It’s a sophisticated video chat similar to Skype. There is a box to upload the PowerPoint lesson where it’s visible to both the teacher and student, two smaller boxes for the video so the teacher and student can see each other and a chat box where you can type messages to the student. It looks like this:
Your VIPKID virtual classroom
The Pros and Cons
I believe that the pros seriously outweigh the cons when working for VIPKID, but I want to give you an honest snapshot of all the ups and downs of the job.
The first reason VIPKID appeals to so many people is that it’s a flexible job you can do from anywhere you have an internet connection. It’s also pretty awesome that you can do the job so long as you have space and an internet connection.
Another awesome thing about this job is being able to take time off to travel or do whatever else you want very easily. It’s very easy to schedule travel time around classes. For example, you could bust your butt one week, then take 4-5 days off to go on a short trip, then jump back into it.
One concern a lot of people have when starting this job is whether there will be any support. While there were complaints from teachers in the company’s first two years, they’ve got a great support system in place now. All the new support systems they’ve implemented over the past year were a result of teachers’ requests.
They often add stuff like this to help you feel good about what you’re doing.
At the end of the day, this is a pretty simple gig. Show up with your orange t-shirt on, load up the lesson, and spend 25 minutes cruising through it with one student. Working for VIPKID is also fun. You get to bring in toys and other props, make silly voices, sing songs, and play games. Happy kids = happy parents = happy company. As a teacher, you play a big part in keeping that harmony.
The Online Students at VIPKID Are Great
We can’t talk about VIPKID without mentioning the stars of the show – the VIP kids themselves. One of the best parts about working for them is all the adorable little emperors and empresses you get to meet. Before long, you’ll start having regulars who book your class on a weekly basis.
Finally, working with VIPKID is a great intro to the ESL world. If you’re thinking about teaching abroad, before signing a year-long contract, going through all the red tape, and spending $1,000 or more on a flight, give it a try for six months with VIPKID. If it goes well and you like it, you’ll be better prepared for that first job and you’ll have experience on your resume to boot.
Life isn’t all rainbows and unicorns, and that’s the case working with VIPKID, too. To begin, the time difference can be pretty rough. For example, during the winter months, a teacher on Pacific Time will be facing peak teaching times of 2-6 AM. Ouch. This is a deal-breaker for many potential teachers, and it’s totally understandable.
Unlike other online jobs, you have to teach your classes at a specific time and place. Parents book the classes and expect teachers to be there. This isn’t a job you can just do when you feel like it. You have to set your schedule in advance and then stick to it.
This shouldn’t be a problem for most of our American and Canadian friends living in the cozy first-world bubble, but if you’re working with VIPKID from developing countries, this can be a concern. You need a reliable, relatively fast connection to make this job happen.
Unstable Hours at The Start
One thing lots of teachers complain about is the unpredictability of hours. This is especially true when you’re just starting out. Parents choose their own teachers for classes, primarily based on your profile and your reviews. If you don’t have any reviews, you might see a lot of empty time slots to start.
Finally, the job can be quite tiring and repetitive. Sure, it seems super easy – you wake up, pour some coffee, sit down at your computer, and speak English for 25 minutes. Do this six times in a row, though, and you realize how draining it is.
Conclusion: Just Go for It!
At the end of the day, the pros seriously outweigh the cons. At least for us, having the flexibility and a job that pays $21/hour with potential for bonuses makes it well worth dealing with the time difference. Quit dreaming about working remotely and having more freedom in your life, and just go for it.