My first class teaching online
It was the end of June 2016 and I had my very first class teaching online. Boy, was I nervous! Even after 10 years of teaching in a brick and mortar setting, I couldn’t calm my nerves for my first online class. The part that made me most nervous was using the online teacher portal. What if I messed something up, or my Internet crashed? I kept imagining something going wrong. On top of that, I had to get to know new materials from the company I worked for; VIPKID.
My original classroom setup teaching online
I entered my class 5 to 10 minutes early with sweaty palms and butterflies swirling around in my stomach. The sun was shining brightly inside the second bedroom in my chilly basement. My makeup was on (which would become a rare occurrence moving forward), and I wore the one orange top I had in my closet at the time.
Imagine me sitting on a small metal chair with a black pleather cushion. The “desk” was as high as the middle of my torso and had a bunch of books on it. My laptop just barely fit on there, let alone a few props. Everything was makeshift except for my $25 Logitech headset from Target which survived 6 months. I was backed up against the wall with a gray and tan chevron backdrop. I just barely fit through the space between my “desk” and the plastic bin with my props when I entered or exited my “office.”
Can you believe I lasted a year and a half with that setup?
my thoughts before teaching my first online class
As I sat in a quiet suburb outside of Chicago I wondered who my first student from China would be. Something that kept popping up in my mind was my penpal from high school. We never met in person, we connected through a penpal program my Spanish teacher told me about and wrote each other for 10 years. I wondered if I would somehow meet her through this unexpected job. As I thought about that my mind trailed back to receiving her letters in the mail.
Even though the Internet was available when I was in high school, I never imagined the possibility of working for a foreign country from my home. I never imagined I would one day become an independent contractor for a Chinese company while I was getting to know my Chinese penpal. My interest was always in teaching Spanish, but somehow I became an ESL teacher. Being bilingual led me to helping Spanish-speaking immigrants learn English, which was the most rewarding job I ever had. However, after around ten years in the public school system I realized I wanted more freedom and creativity in my work. That’s how I ended up teaching from my laptop in a makeshift office in my chilly basement.
Snap! My mind quickly bounced back to reality when a loud scratching noise came through my headset. Ow! Well, my first online student arrived. “Hello!” I smiled brightly. “Hi,” he said slightly robotically.
Experiencing my first class teaching online
Oh, I thought, not too enthusiastic there are, ya? I carried on and went through the slides.
*Later I learned how Chinese students don’t willingly speak as much during class, out of respect for their peers and their teachers. It’s considered a waste of time if you share your opinions or converse in class- even if it is educational discussion. Read the book Quiet by Susan Cain where she mentions a Chinese student’s perspective while attending university in the US.
My first class was a unit assessment at VIPKID. The student seemed to know the materials well. The 25 minute session whizzed by. When I finished the lesson, I thought, “that’s it?” That was easy! I can’t believe I just got paid for that.
I virtually got paid (no pun intended) the same amount as I did per-hour as a brick and mortar teacher. Yet when I taught in a public school I spent hours upon hours prepping for my classes. First, I had to think of creative ways to captivate my students. Then I had to create the materials. Next I made copies all while hoping the printer wouldn’t jam and no one would talk my ear off in the copy room.
Teaching online though? The company made the materials. I previewed them and grabbed some props to accompany the lesson. The student showed up and we had a blast! Seriously? Could this be my new “job”?
Was there anything bad about this job?
The kicker was waking up early, but eventually I figured out a workaround for that, too. I put VIPKID on my LinkedIn profile and another company, iTutorGroup, reached out to me. It just so happened that that particular company had 24/7 bookings because they offered classes to adults. It took me two years, but eventually I started waking up at 7:30 instead of 5:30 or 6:00. And now I wake up at 8:00! Sometimes I even take the day off because I need to work on my business, which is helping other teachers become successful teaching online. I never would have thought that I would create my own business that sunny day sitting in my my makeshift office when I had my first class at VIPKID.
The opportunities are endless when you work from home as an independent contractor. I am beyond grateful for the work I do and for you reading this post. I feel lucky to serve you and have you as a part of this community. Thank you!
I would love to hear about your first class in the comments and if online teaching has opened new doors for you.
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