A few weeks ago I was talking on the phone to my friend Ben. He listened to me go on and on about money and time and blah blah blah. Then a few hours later he texted me with a ton of suggestiotns. One of them was VipKid. In case you haven’t heard of it, it’s a company that hires Americans and Canadians, with Bachelor’s degrees in any field, to teach English online to kids in China. I did a quick review of the company on Google and learned that it was ranked highly by Forbes, and Kobe Bryant is an investor. So, I felt good about things.
Getting hired was pretty much a 3-step process and none of those steps involved leaving my house. First I had to fill out an application on their website. It took five minutes. Basically, they wanted to know my name, if I had a degree, and if I had any classroom experience. I’ve never been a teacher, but here’s the thing: they accept ATTENDING SCHOOL in the US (K-12) as classroom experience. So, I put that down. And from that point forward, they’ve kept referring to my classroom experience as though I actually have any. I’ve even started to think of myself as someone with classroom experience!
The second step was a few interviews online. They have their own portal, so Skype or FaceTime wasn’t necessary. The interviews were surreal and magical at the same time. They consisted of a video chat with a woman in China who pretended to be a 5 year old. And I had to, like, teach her English. She was the most adorable 35-year-old kindergarten student I have ever met.
I was provided with a power point in advance so I would know what to teach. My first lesson was on feelings! I watched a few videos on YouTube to prepare, and I learned that the easiest way to teach English to kids who don’t speak any English is to basically make a fool of yourself. If you want them to learn the word angry, you repeat it over and over again while making a very angry face. The same thing goes for “sad” and “happy.” My normal facial expression is typically flat for any event, so this was definitely out of my comfort zone. But it was fun! I looked so sad! And so angry! And that grown woman really seemed to be learning from me.
During my second interview, I had to teach an intermediate level student (they’re usually 7 or 8 years old.) And by that, I mean a grown woman pretending to be 7 or 8. During the lesson, she (the grown woman) would do things like draw pictures instead of paying attention, to see if I could keep her focused. I responded with a level of enthusiasm and ridiculousness that I didn’t know I was capable of.
To be honest, I made a lot of mistakes in these interviews. But I was very enthusiastic, I used a lot of funny voices, and I created a kid friendly background in my apartment (colorful maps and stuff on the wall). I also used a lot of props, that I either made myself or found in my apartment (stuffed animals, drawings I made).
You also have to come up with a reward system for the kids if they get an answer right. I decided to draw a picture of a smiley face on a whiteboard and then add a tooth to his mouth every time she got a correct answer. VipKid gave me that idea and apparently it’s a big hit! I forgot to investigate if the tooth fairy exists in China, but this seems related?
After passing the interviews, VipKid asks for a copy of your passport and your diploma, and you’re ready to start! Parents in China will be able to see a video of you, and look at your availability to determine if they want to book you.
One thing to consider is the hours you’ll be working. The kids have to go to school during the day, so most of the time they’ll want to take these English classes after school or in the evening. China is literally on the other side of the world, which means their afternoons and evenings are the early morning here in the States. If you live on the East Coast, it’s not so bad, but if you live on the West Coast, you might be teaching classes at 4 and 5 in the morning.
The pay rate is determined by your education, your experience, and how well you do in the interview. It can range anywhere from $14-$22 per hour. I’m making $20 per hour, which isn’t bad for a job I can do in my apartment, that involves speaking in funny voices and acting out animal sounds.