Most of you already know that I became a virtual teacher sometime last year in preparation for my transition away from private and elementary classes. (See Transition Year) While the pay was so much better being in US dollars, the hours were random. Sometimes I had 15 hours of classes, sometimes 9. That being the case, the final transition wouldn’t have been possible had not the company I work for expanded their reach to include children ages 7-14. (See Online Teaching)
I wasn’t part of the pilot program, but when the request went out in mid-June for teachers to switch platforms, I submitted my application and soon enough I was one of the first official teacher group for the junior English component.
The setup is a bit different from the adult classes in that it uses Zoom rather than Adobe Connect. Zoom is a bit easier to manage with drawing and writing options for all participants (both student and teacher). There were some technical bugs to work out, however. When enrollment reached a certain point, Zoom did some crazy stuff. It would kick the teachers out of classroom saying they were already signed in somewhere else. My theory is that some of the newest teachers didn’t have their own Zoom accounts yet and ended up signing in under another teacher’s name. I took matters into my own hands and created my own free Zoom account so that when the unceremonious ousting occurred, I could sign in to my own account and teach the class without issue.
Class length for the juniors is 25 minutes and one-on-one (student/teacher). Private classes at the adult level are 20 minutes and group classes are 45 minutes. I believe 25 minutes is just right. That gives the teachers 5 minutes before the start of the next class to send feedback, recommend advancement or repetition, and set up for the next class.
As the program was launched before all the classroom levels were completed, all students go through the same classes no matter their initial English level. That is supposed to change soon though and students will be slotted into levels just like the adults.
Most of the students are from Colombia with a handful of students from Peru, Argentina, Chile, Venezuela, and Mexico. Typically students take their classes after they arrive home from school and on weekends, which means that’s my availability as well so I get the maximum number of hours permitted.
Most of the students are delighted to be in class and we have a good time progressing through the lessons. On the other hand, there are the reluctant learners. They fall into two categories, those that are sullen in class and those that have parents feeding them the answers, so basically are not learning a thing. The poopy students usually loosen up after I acknowledge their lack of enthusiasm for the class and make faces at them.
The parents are another story altogether. I’ve tried addressing the student, who denies anyone is giving them the answers even though I can hear it myself. I’ve also tried addressing the parent, who denies giving the answers. Frustrated I brought the topic up in the company group chat and requested a letter be sent out reminding parents that their interference is impeding their child’s learning. We’ll see if that happens.
Another more recent issue is the hiring of a Latin crew of English teachers. Reading the teacher feedbacks (Student taked his time. Him and his father were disappointed.) makes me doubt the wiseness of hiring non-native English speakers to teach English. It’s not that I think the company should hire U.S. citizens only because there are definitely some positions that are more suited to Spanish speakers. For instance, sales, technical support and responding to student’s questions about grammar or course issues are certainly better done in the student’s native language. However, as this is an online English course, parents pay the big bucks to have native English speakers teach their children. If they wanted Spanish speaking English teachers, well, they already have that at the schools in their area.
So, I’m working 3 evenings a week and all day Saturday and Sunday. It’s the first time in years that I actually have a “weekend” even though it is in the middle of the week. I’ve been enjoying the days off, the teaching experience and the better income. All is not smooth sailing, however. Last month something happened with Telmex (the only internet provider in my town) and there was no internet for hours, right in the middle of my shift. (See Internet service back after 3-hour outage)
Then I was worried that the recent hurricanes and earthquakes might cause connection issues, but that didn’t happen, at least to me. Quite a number of teachers were affected though. So it’s a bit nerve-wracking being so dependant on such an unreliable service. Well, I guess I’ll ride this wave as far as it will take me.
Meanwhile, I bought the tile for the entire second floor of the house with my earnings.