Category Archives: Teaching

The Internet Saga Part 3

That comment the satellite installation guy made about an antenna for the BlueComm modem put a bee in my bonnet. I checked the modem we had and most models came with those rabbit ear antennas–ours didn’t. They weren’t expensive, less than $20, so I thought I’d order some from Amazon.

Well, the company that sold them didn’t ship to Mexico. Ok, I’d have them shipped to my friend in the US and she could send them to us. It would be a small package, no big deal. Boy was I wrong!

She tried Fedex. She had added a few things to my care package, including makeup and a cloth quiver for my son’s arrows. She was told that anything manufactured in China cannot be sent to Mexico. Both the quiver and the antenna were manufactured in China. Then that personal items like makeup also could not be sent. She said she felt like I was in jail and unable to receive items. Sure enough, cosmetics are prohibited items along with Garbage Pail Kids Cards, you know those awful cards from the 80s with ugly drawings of children like Pikey Nose Marge. I was unable to find anything specific about imports from China being restricted although technically the antennas would fall under the electronic equipment category I expect.

My friend then tried the DHL office. This time she tried to send just the quiver and antenna, no other “personal effects.” Sure, they’d send it but it would cost $140 USD. Holy crap! (See DHL import guidelines)

The offical USPS site doesn’t list cosmetics or things made in China as prohibited, so that was her next attempt.  Success! The package with the antennas and quiver would cost $22 USD and be here in 4-6 weeks.  Well, of course, that doesn’t figure the gas shortage in large portions of Mexico. So I expect it will take longer. 

In the meantime, I’ve had to cancel my online classes. The unseasonable rains have affected both internet modems. I’m trying not to dwell on that lost income.

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Filed under Economics, Mail Service and Shipping in Mexico, Teaching

The Internet Saga Continues

lag

Remember how one of the ladies that makes tortillas for my sister-in-law said that Los Amoles, the community WAY up the mountain had internet service. She gave my husband the contact number one day and we called. It took two days for the salesperson to return the call, but he did and I set up an appointment for him to come out and visit us the next day at 11 am.

He arrived at 11 am which was the last time he arrived on time throughout this entire agonizingly long process. We were ready to sign up immediately. It was satellite internet, via Star Go,  not wireless internet. It was designed to be used by banks and other institutions so there was always steady internet. It used the Hughes Network System, which has been around a while.

We had to be approved of course. So we gave him a copy of our property certificado (ownership certificate) and my husband’s IFE. There was some holdup at the main office because there wasn’t a street address but we explained that the certificate does list the block, lot number, and fraccionamiento (neighborhood) so the appropriate address would be domicilio conocido fraccionamiento La Yacata. (Known address Neighborhood La Yacata). Plus the salesperson sent the GPS coordinates of the house. With that, we could proceed.

We waited another week for a copy of the contract. Every day we contacted the salesperson who called the main office where he was told the office lady was busy and hadn’t gotten around to our contract. He called us the following week to tell us we should be receiving the contract, sent via email, that afternoon. We didn’t. Three days later, he came out to the house and called the main office from here. The office lady said that my email didn’t give an address–What on earth did that mean? No email gives our address. We went back and forth with the salesperson about this. So the lady at the office asked if I had an alternate email address. I did. The contract was sent. When I checked the contract, the original email was misspelled. That was the problem.

So, I entered a virtual signature just like I do for my taxes and sent it back. Nope, not good enough. We had to go to a cyber cafe to print the 10-page contract out and sign it, scan it and send it back via email. Nope, not good enough. Each page of the contract needed to be signed. Another scan and sent. Nope. Each page has to be signed on the right side. Another printout, sign, scan and send. Nope. It must be signed in blue ink, not black.  HOLY MOTHER OF GOD! Another printout, signed with blue ink, scan and send. Finally!

The installation would be scheduled in about a week. So we waited. By this time, we’d lost any enthusiasm we had for this internet service. A week later, the installation guy came. He unloaded his equipment and started swearing. He had forgotten the antenna. He asked if we really needed it installed today. He had driven from Leon. Yes, we wanted it installed. So he made some calls. About an hour later, he tracked down an antenna here in Moroleon and went to pick it up.

Installation took about 3 hours. The installation guy said that the service would be bad for about 24-48 hours as it calibrated. Fine. He also mentioned that the internet we already had would work just fine if we had an antenna. Hmm, I’d have to look into that.

Over the next few days, we were further disappointed with the service. Even though I was very clear that I needed enough Mbps to teach online, the package only came with 3 Mbps. So we called the salesperson again and asked if we could increase the service to at least 5 Mbps. He said we would need to call the main office. So we did. My son asked about the high ping–more than 300. The service technician said that since it was a satellite service, it would always have that ping, making it usable for online gaming and Skype calls. We decided to up our service to 5 Mbps anyway.

The service technician sent me a list of requisites via email. Among them was a picture of the modem and router numbers. No problem. I even typed the numbers below the photos. The pictures were not clear enough. So we took another set and sent them. Nope, still not good enough. Ok, a third time. After those too were rejected I decided to cancel the request. We’d manage with the 3 Mbps.

And we are. The satellite internet works for everything but classes and gaming. It’s stable, reliable if a bit slow and extremely expensive! The amount of internet we use for other activities means that we don’t have enough for the full month, about 3 weeks really. Then it becomes even slower, rendering it useless for most things. 

We’ve discussed trying to get out of the 2-year contract, but for right now, we’ll let it stand. Something is better than nothing right?

 

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Filed under Cultural Challenges, Economics, Teaching

Internet Saga

i-dont-always-have-a-slow-internet-connection-23899039

If you remember, after quite a quest, we managed to get internet service at our house in La Yacata. The first month, it worked like a dream. Thus, my decision to move my office from The Little House in Sunflower Valley to La Yacata.

Then came the time to pay for the second month of service. We headed to OXXO, which seems like it just might make banks obsolete, to pay the bill. And the next day, our internet service tanked. Instead of getting upload/download speeds of between 8 to 10 Mbps, they hovered at .08 or less. Nothing would load.

We thought perhaps it was a one-day deal. Maybe there were some adjustments being made to the service. Maybe a glitch in the system. After all, the month before had gone without a hitch. Only, the bad stats continued and continued and continued. I canceled a week of classes.

We called the service support line. After all sorts of “troubleshooting” that we had already done, the service representative hung up on us. So the next day, we tried again. This time the service representative admitted that since we were officially outside the coverage area, there wasn’t really much he could do to help us.

So we went to the place where we had bought our modem and requested a service technician. We were told he’d be out around 4 pm to check things out. I canceled my classes again. At about 4:30, the service technician called and said he thought the problem was that our payment hadn’t been processed. I knew that was a bunch of hoo-ha since I had received an email confirmation of the payment. He said he’d look into it and call back. He didn’t bother to come out to La Yacata.

So if the service technician wasn’t interested in coming to us, we’d take the modem to them. The next day we boxed it up and went back to the office. Their solution was to wait for the service technician to come from Morelia and have him take the modem home with him. Moroleon is officially outside the coverage area. The fact that the internet works in certain areas is apparently a fluke that this office was capitalizing on. So in theory, connecting the modem in a coverage area would “reset” the internet and allow us again to have usable service.

It took two days for our modem to take its trip to Morelia and back. The result was that yes, for a while it did what it was supposed to do. And yet, there were sporadic outages and low service periods which unfortunately often coincided with my teaching hours.

Some research on the company shows that overall the internet service only rates 3 out of 5 stars and that even though they promise nation-wide coverage, that’s not necessarily the case. There had to be something better out there.

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Filed under Cultural Challenges, Economics, Employment, Small Business in Mexico, Teaching

Failing at your own business–Teaching Chinese kids online

Camille Online

Now that I’ve moved my home office to La Yacata I thought I’d try my hand at teaching at one of the many Chinese online schools since they pay double what I make teaching kids in Colombia. Of course, there are the ungodly hours to contend with since China is on the other side of the world. But again, since my office was now at my home, I figured I could get up early enough and then tuck myself back into my bed after teaching a few hours.

One of my friends has been promoting a school she works with (gogokid). There was a sign-up bonus for her, so that’s where I started. I also decided to hedge my bets and responded to an email from a recruiter on Linkedin. Of course, invitations to interview came rolling my way.

Apparently, the platform my friend works with is in demand, at least for interviews. When I tried to sign up for a slot, there weren’t any available for at least a week. I kept checking back and some evening interview slots came open. Again, since I’m now at home, an evening interview wouldn’t be so bad so I signed up.

I checked in 30 minutes before the interview since it used a video conferencing platform I wasn’t familiar with. I checked the teacher recommendation list provided by the school as well. Believe it or not, one suggestion was NOT teaching in your pajamas. Umm, well, I had my pajamas on, but I put a sweater over it so you couldn’t tell.

Another suggestion or rather as it turns out, a requirement, was adding pretty visuals like words and cutouts to the background. I have some stuff I kept from my elementary and kindergarten teaching days, but they were stored neatly in the boxes piled under the steps and I really didn’t want to dig them out for the interview. The blue background required by the company I already worked for would have to do.

I looked over the slides provided for the sample teaching class. They were simple, maybe about a preschool level. There were some interactive aspects. Clicking on various sections of the slide would cause music to play, chimes to sound and the figures to dance around. Well, ok. And the vocabulary was hand/arm. I figured I could use some TPR (Total Physical Response) to present the material.

I was also able to check my latency or lag time during the interview. I found that on average my latency was around 200 milliseconds behind, which considering I’m in the middle of nowhere Mexico, I didn’t think was too bad. I’m not sure all every online school would be ok with that though.

The interviewer was a young lady from China, in her early 20s if I were to guess. She looked to be in a cubicle at an office, probably the main headquarters for this particular school. She asked me questions about my teaching experience the answers of which she could have easily gotten from my resume. She seemed confused when I explained I had a degree in Education with a specialty in English as a Second Language and not a TESOL certificate. I explained that I also have a teaching certificate from the state of Nebraska and a teaching license from the state of Virginia and have been teaching kindergarten and elementary students in Mexico for the past 10 years. I have also been teaching adults and children online for the past 2 years. Again, all of this was included in my application.

The next segment of my interview was to teach a 10-minute sample class. The interviewer would pretend to be a 5-year-old Chinese child. This part went pretty badly in my opinion. I don’t know any Chinese and this “student” didn’t know any English. I used some TPR and managed to muddle through the lesson but I could tell the interviewer wasn’t impressed.

The feedback the interviewer was quite harsh. She said I should watch videos on YouTube to learn how to use TPR. She said that I should put pretty things in the background. She said that teaching Chinese children was completely different than teaching Mexican children. She said I should design an additional reward motivation system to encourage the child to interact even though the platform provided up to 5 stars that I could give the child for motivational purposes.

Although I kept smiling and nodding as she ripped my teaching session apart, I was feeling quite discouraged. It left me somewhat traumatized in that I have no desire to respond to the other email requests for interviews that are piling up in my inbox. After a day or two, once the negativity was tempered with time, I thought back at her comments.

Yes, teaching Mexican children is completely different than teaching Chinese children. Although I’m by no means an expert, over the years I’ve learned what sort of things motivate participation, what sort of references to use so that the very young understand and I have had the decided advantage that if all else fails I can use my Mexican Spanish for classroom control and basic clarification in addition to my clownish TPR efforts. I didn’t have either Chinese cultural background or the first clue about its language structure going into this interview.

I could have used more TPR. I could have added pretty cutouts to the background. I could have come up another sort of reward system. I could have also put on a business suit instead of teaching in my pajamas covered with a sweater if I was really serious about succeeding.

So I can say, that I did learn a good bit about how I might improve my interviewing skills for this type of position. The question remains whether I really want to.

While I think perhaps teaching Chinese 5-year-olds online isn’t for me, several ladies of my acquaintance do quite well teaching Chinese students online. I follow one blog China Figure it Out who actually lives in China and has been teaching with VIPkids for some time. She chronicles the challenges she has had with cultural issues and teaching techniques. I recommend reading her extremely helpful posts BEFORE taking the plunge into early mornings and late night teaching sessions.

There are a huge number of Chinese online schools out there (Whales English) and it can be quite lucrative when compared to teaching for pesos at a Mexican school so don’t be discouraged by my failure. Rather use my experience to learn what NOT to do and carry on! If one interview goes bad, improve what you need to improve and try again. I’ve included links to some of the online Chinese schools in the post if you want to give it a go!

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Filed under Employment, Teaching