Tag Archives: failing at your own business

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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Prepper Me

Revolucionaria

So awhile ago, I came across a website looking for writers.  I clicked the link to investigate.  It turned out to be a Prepper site.  You know… the end is nigh, prepare now to survive and so on.  I thought to myself, well, maybe I could write stuff like that.  After all, I did complete the A to Z Why La Yacata is the best place to survive whatever disaster series.  So I asked my blogging group.  Did they think I could write Prepper stuff?  And yep, the ladies convinced me that I definitely could.  So I applied.

Several days later, I received a response.  I was super excited.  After several emails back and forth, my trial topic posts were Cooking with Cast Iron Cookware and The Medicinal Use of Garlic which I was subsequently paid for and were published on the site.  Go ahead and check them out!  I’m pretty proud of them!

Bare OrganicsMe- I got accepted to write for that Preppersite. Son- Does that mean we have to move to a military compound- Me- No, but we need to get those zombie deterrents up.

Then I submitted several other topic ideas, including Lessons Learned from Mexico’s Recent Earthquakes, and received positive replies from the post coordinator, but no dockets to write any articles on the topics I submitted.

Well, I guess I’m not a Prepper after all.

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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 as an Online Book Reviewer

me reading

So it’s been 2 months now since I began reviewing books.  I’d say I’ve been having mixed results. I had to work my way up from level 0 in order to qualify for paid review options.  In order to do that, I had to do several volunteer reviews.  Well, nothing wrong with that.  I mean, I want to improve my reviewing skills after all.  

I made it to level 2 and the new options opened up.  Unfortunately, I choose a book that was horrendous as my first paid review.  I mean, I really wanted to give up.  Terrible grammar–just awful. But I soldiered on and finished it.  I wrote a review and got paid $16.  Cool.  Then I won a $10 amazon card from the daily giveaway.  Cool.  A few more reviews, a little more cash and by the end of the month I made about $60.  

Then the bottom fell out.  I used Grammarly to edit another paid review and apparently Grammarly was wrong.  I had 4 grammar errors.  My reviewer score dropped to 0 again.  That will teach me to use only one grammar checker.  Well, as I liked what I was doing, I went ahead and started over again.

I worked my way up to level 2 again.  And for a second time, I picked a humdinger of a book. The information said it was 225 pages, but it really was 451 pages.  When I agreed to review it, I hadn’t paid attention to the fact that it wasn’t available in mobi format either, only in pdf.  So I couldn’t read on my Kindle. I had to sit in front of my computer to read.  It took me a week to finish, which for me is a long time.  I wrote the review and submitted it.  

One of the requirements was to write a private blurb to the author to demonstrate I had read the book.  Well, I had, so no biggy.  Only the author rejected my comment.  There was a “dispute” opened.  The instructions for the private blurb were to concentrate on the end of the book, which I did.  However, the author felt that didn’t prove that I read the book.  He wanted more “suggestions.”  I spent over an hour pouring over the notes I had written about the book (yes, I had NOTES) and sent another paragraph with things that could be improved on.  Then the author responded again.  I replied and wished him well, hoping that would be the end of it.  I waited a week and requested the dispute closed.  Apparently, the author wasn’t quite finished and sent another comment.  I responded and waited another week.

Then, to add insult to injury, the other book I reviewed was REJECTED based on that same private blurb requirement.  The moderator sent me an email.  “Though the book may have been read fully, it is hard to determine if it was by reading the private blurb. For this part, it is beneficial to give specifics of the ending and how it ties to the rest of the story rather than giving one fact and an opinion. Thank you.”

Well, I did read the book.  I didn’t comment specifically on the last chapter, but the end of the book in general.  Whatever. How is it that when I did confine my comments to the end of the book, the other author opened a dispute saying I didn’t read the book.  What’s a reviewer to do?

I sent an email to the site organizer with this information and asking what exactly I should include in the private blurb since I’m damned if I do and damned if I don’t. Furthermore, since the second book was reviewed on my site, but REJECTED by the moderator, I can remove the review, right?  I also suggested that the order of the whole setup be changed.  Instead of first submitting the link to the post on my blog, I should submit the private blurb.  Then if that blurb is rejected for some random reason, I am under no obligation to post the review.  If the blurb is accepted, well, then that’s just dandy, the review gets posted and I submit a link to said post to get paid.  I probably wasn’t as tactful as I could have been.

A few days later, I received a response.  The head mucky-muck of the whole shebang said yes, he would allow me to resubmit the private blurb and that in the future there would be an option to do so in the event of a rejection.  No comment about my proposal.

In my next submission, I commented on the final chapter and added if the moderator wished, I could summarize each chapter prior to the final chapter as well in order to prove I had read the book. I also included the link to the post but specified that it was scheduled a week later.  I know, I should just let it go and not try to be right–but hey, then I just wouldn’t be me.

Then bam and bam, two more rejects.  I swear that moderator has it in for me.  This time because the link didn’t work.  Well, this part was my fault.  I entered the link AND “scheduled for x date).  I had no idea that everything I wrote in that box would get turned into a link. I emailed the head mucky-muck.  He said he’d fix it.

I had submitted two posts with this process and the second post was rejected AGAIN.  And again it was my fault. The moderator decided to check the link two days before it was scheduled to be posted.  I emailed the mucky-muck.  I’m sure he’s tired of hearing from me.

Then, as sort of throwing a bone to a dog, I won the daily drawing for a $10 Amazon gift card.  Of course, I had to prove that I downloaded the free book, which I had, by forwarding the Amazon confirmation email, which I had saved.  Upon receipt, I was given the gift card and applied it to my Amazon account.

Then I did the daily Twitter retweets, which should earn me about $6 because I have so few followers.  

I worked myself up into a tizzy about this.  Then, when I calmed down, I figured that it’s a learning experience if nothing else. I did finally get payment for 3 of the reviews mentioned above for a total of $40 USD, including the retweets.  

I currently have 2 books to review and we shall see how long these payments take.  If it continues to be too many hurdles to jump, well, I’ll just concentrate on something more lucrative.

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