Tag Archives: ESL Teaching

Teaching Kids Online

 

Camille OnlineMost 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.

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Transition year

mototeacher

If you recall, a few months ago, I outlined my busy work schedule (Juggling all the eggs in one basket) and wondered if really these things were worth the effort I was putting into them.  I decided shortly thereafter that they were not.  Thus began the transition year.

The first to go was my Saturday classes. (See Saturday classes)  Some days I had been pulling in a whopping $600 pesos, but more often, I had a single class.  $50 for a 6 hour day was not profitable.  So when my student finished the book we were working with, I told his mother that I was going to take a break from teaching on Saturdays.  She and her 8-year-old son were disappointed, but I consoled them that I may start up again in the Spring.  The uncle, who had been my student but gave his hour to the nephew, sent me an email demanding to know why I wasn’t going to teach English anymore.  I explained that I was still teaching English, just not on Saturday mornings.  I had too many other obligations and I needed more time to do things like laundry and shopping.  He wasn’t happy.  Oh well.  Can’t please everyone.

I still taught online Saturday afternoons, but I wanted to transition to my new place in Sunflower Valley (See A Room of Her Own).  It took over a month, but I finally was able to make the little house my base of operations rather than the school.  Having a kitchen made the afternoons easier.  There’s a little store across the street, so whipping up a light meal for a hungry teenager boy was more manageable.

Then I started dropping my afternoon private classes one by one.  The first to go was in mid-November.  We finished our book and that was that.  She begged and pleaded that I not abandon her.  I told her that I’d start teaching in the spring but that if she really wanted classes, she’d have to come to my little place in Sunflower Valley.  She said she would. We would see.  That freed up 2 hours a week.

Then in December, right before Las Posadas, I dropped the other 3.  All of them said that yes, it would be a good idea that I took a break, but that they didn’t want to lose their classes.  Maybe I could drop everyone else, and just teach them?  When I said that I really was planning an extended break, like maybe until Semana Santa, their eyes went wide and said, well, they’d be waiting here for me to return and give them classes again. That freed up 2 afternoons per week.

I didn’t start teaching afternoon classes after Semana Santa. Instead, I began going through my things at the school, readying it for my final transition.  I reviewed the supplementary books I had made for each grade level for errors and changes.  I also checked that there were assessments and exams and grade sheets for each unit of all 6 levels.  I would be leaving the entire system in place for whoever takes my place.

Finally, in July, I told the owners that for health reasons I would not be returning the following school year.  It’s not that I hated my job at the school.  After all, I had designed the entire ESL program myself.  I was getting some results, not as much as I would have liked, but some.  I had my own classroom, which is a rare perk in the schools around here.  Yet, at $65 USD per week, it was not in my best interest to continue. The health problem wasn’t invented.  I’m really working myself to death at this rate.  

I interviewed and recommended 2 teachers, one for first, second and third grade, and the other for fourth, fifth and sixth grade.  Yep, two teachers were needed to replace me.  I agreed to do a training session with them in August before everyone returns to classes.

The owner asked if I would consider staying and teaching at least 2 groups or at least the phonics classes since the main focus is pronunciation there.  Nothing doing.  I would, however, make a book for the sixth-grade group for the new teacher to use.  And if I got around to it, make a recording for the phonics books.

My first schedule with my newest online job came out the week after we finished classes.  Twenty-six hours paid in US dollars.  So provided I have a full schedule each week (and with online work nothing is a given) I’ll nearly triple my income for half the work and less than half the time.  

Hasta la vista baby!

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Failing at your own business–online teaching

determined woman

Out of the blue in April, I received a response from an online teaching company that I had applied to in January. Well, HOT DOG! They paid in US dollars which is a whole lot more than more than measly pesos and averaged 10 to 15 USD per hour. Sign me up! 42 emails and 3 months later, I’m about to start.

So what happened? Well, I started with the screening test. It had a variety of grammar, vocabulary, and idiomatic expression questions. No problem. Then there was the voice recording attachment. That took me a little bit to figure out, but I did it. I apparently did well on the test and my voice was acceptable (not too much of an accent) and since I highlighted that I have experience working with Spanish speakers on my resume, I received the official job offer letter and I was invited to fill in the HR paperwork.

The first round of paperwork came with instructions on how to fill it out. I was to sign and return the job offer letter, the confidentiality waiver, the employee handbook, the pre-employment background check release form, and the handbook acknowledgment form. So I did.

It was the second round where I had some issues. The paperwork involved included a direct deposit form, an I-9 form verifying that I was legally allowed to work in the US, employee information sheet, W-4 and the optional payroll card enrollment form. Not one was correct the first time I turned it in. The easiest to fix were the employee information sheet and W-4. The company required a US address, so I gave them one. (See Trade Route Established)

The I-9 should have been a piece a cake. I’m a US citizen, right? Well, I am, but that isn’t good enough. I had to get someone to verify that I was. As I haven’t been in the US in some time, my driver’s license has expired, but my passport was still current. (See Renewing our passports in Mexico). As I would be a remote employee (not in the same state as the company) I would need to go to a notary and have my passport verified as authentic. Easier said than done. The nearest US notary was in San Miguel de Allende and I didn’t have the time nor the money for the trip. So I asked another person who also worked for this company and she said that she had gone to the local presidencia (town hall) and had them stamp the form. So I went and asked and they said no. I had to go to an official notario (notary) and they charged the big bucks. I took my Mexican driver’s license(Getting legal–license to drive), my US passport and my Mexican permanent residency card. (See Residency at last).

The notary requested the company letter requesting the verification to be translated, which I went and did. When I returned, he wrote the official identity verification letter for his files, which I proofed. He signed and stamped the company letter and charged me 1,100 pesos. Yikes!

The notary verification wasn’t enough for the company. A company employee needed to verify the notary verification and the passport. However, as I was still a remote employee, I was told to pick someone to sign the paper for me acting as a company representative. I requested a little more information on this and was told that it could be anyone, as long as I trusted them. Ok. So I had one of the kindergarten teachers sign off on it.

After all this, I scanned and sent the forms along with a copy of my identification to HR. Rejected! It turns out I had never signed my passport in the four years that I had it, so it was not valid. Ooops! I signed it and scanned everything again and sent it all along, again.

Then my direct deposit form was rejected. Apparently, foreign banks are not acceptable. So I would have to apply for the payroll card. So I did. Only I couldn’t figure out how to submit it. The fax number on the application form was incorrect. When I tried to get more information from the website, I was redirected. After repeated emails to the company, they responded that I could email the payroll card application which was nowhere to be found on the application. The company representative was so kind as to include it in her clarification email. So I emailed it. Then I had to wait for confirmation from the payroll card company. Once I got that I emailed it to the online teaching company. The card was sent to my US address. It took 10 days for me to get the card number since my trade partner was on vacation, but finally, I got it. I set up the virtual bank account.

The next step was to resubmit the direct deposit form with the virtual bank account connected to the payroll card. I was to submit it with supporting documentation. Unfortunately, now my printer was giving me fits. It would only print in black and white. Then quit printing altogether. It took two days to get it working again. Then it only printed in blue. Well, it would have to do.

But when I sent my direct deposit form, it was REJECTED. I couldn’t believe it. I sent an email asking what more they needed since I’d submitted every bit of documentation requested. The only thing I could figure was that the bank watermark wasn’t visible because I could only print in blue.

So I begged the school secretary to print it out for me in color. I then rescanned everything and sent it again. ACCEPTED!

Next, I received an email that they urgently needed my state tax form. However, the state that I listed does not have a state withholding requirement, so there was no form to submit. I emailed that information to the company. Jeez! A lesser woman would have given up by now. But not me!

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Authentic Teacher, Authentic Learners and me

Welcome to the January 2013 Authentic Parenting Blog Carnival: Authenticity

This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Authentic Parenting Blog Carnival hosted by Authentic Parenting and Living Peacefully with Children. This month our participants have written about authenticity through character, emotions, and establishing authentic communication with their children. We hope you enjoy this month’s posts and consider joining us next month when we share about Honesty.

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small poppins

The word authentic means “something that has the authority of its original creator. . . The adjective’s original meaning in English was ‘authoritative’; the modern sense ‘genuine’ did not develop fully until the late 18th century.”
–from the Dictionary of Word Origins by John Ayto.

Today, looking through the paper, I came across a help-wanted ad for a teaching position. Hmm, this could be just what I needed, I thought to myself. I could use that extra bit of money and it would only be a few months, 6 at most, until the school year ends. I wonder what happened to the other teacher that he/she didn’t finish out the year.

Then I noticed the name of the school. It happened to be the same school I had worked at 3 years ago and quit before the end of the school year.

Now, I’m not the type of person that just gives up on something, especially teaching. I love to teach. That year I was teaching first grade and it couldn’t have been more delightful. Students are so open and excited to learn at that age. So what happened that I felt there was no other option but to pack up and leave?

The coordinator accused me of incompetence. She said that I did not turn in my lesson plans or complete the activities required in the classroom. It wasn’t true. As it wasn’t the first lie she told about me to the school owners, I knew it wouldn’t be the last and I felt the time had come. I had all my materials moved out 30 minutes after school finished that day. I don’t know this woman’s reasoning, perhaps she was jealous, perhaps she felt insecure about her own English, perhaps she just didn’t like me. Whatever her rationale, from that day on, I refused to continue to give authority to someone who would speak lies about me. So I walked out.

Since then I have discovered or rediscovered passion for my work. I teach ESL students that range in age from 4-75 with a twist. I’m no longer the typical teacher with a certain agenda to plow through. I no longer have to answer to anyone for the number of pages we cover in a day. We play language games, listen to Shel Silverstein’s Where the Sidewalk Ends: Poems and Drawings silly ly poems, sing songs, and always have time for a conversation that is only slightly unrelated to the class topic.

As I am teaching English in Central México, not in the United States, I teach my students not just a language but a culture and a way to communicate with persons of that language and culture. It means sometimes explaining the dirty jokes, or correcting pronunciation or grammar, or talking about the history and transformation of the language over time. It’s more than memorizing where to put the verb in the sentence. There are things that just can not be translated and there are things that for which no words are necessary, so we look for alternate ways of communicating together. It doesn’t get much more authentic than that.

And my students learn, as only they can in an authentic language learning setting. They come to class full of excitement, express disappointment that the class hour has finished and look forward to the next lesson. They have learned how to be authentic students as well, something sorely lacking in a traditional classroom. I grant them the authority over their learning and they teach me what it is they need to learn. It’s a win-win situation. This is how it should have been all along.

Instead of taking that traditional job, (although I could use the extra bit of money) I will continue spending my days with my not-so-little anymore son, whose wacky teacher I have always been.

See Also: Learning and Teaching Year 1, Learning and Teaching Year 2, Learning and Teaching Year 3, Learning and Teaching Year 4, Learning and Teaching Year 5, and Authentic Teaching and Learning and me

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APBC - Authentic ParentingVisit Living Peacefully with Children and Authentic Parenting to find out how you can participate in next month’s Authentic Parenting Blog Carnival!

Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants:

(This list will be live and updated by afternoon January 25 with all the carnival links.)

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