VIPKid is a growing online teaching platform where educators teach ESL to Chinese students. It’s not surprising that it has a passionate following—it was ranked #1 by FlexJobs in Forbes’ 2018 “Top 100 Remote Work Companies Report.” But what’s the real story behind its success? Is VIPKid too good to be true?
Here, we address five myths teachers might have heard about VIPKid. Spoiler alert: They’re not true. In fact, teaching students online can actually reignite that fire for your career, provide supplemental income, and be downright joyful. Huzzah!
1. There’s just no time!
This is probably the biggest hesitation for many educators. Flexibility is critical for any side gig to work, and that’s particularly true for taking on more teaching responsibility. Can you imagine more lesson planning? Dealing with more parents? Well, you don’t necessarily have to.
Time-management ease is a major factor in VIPKid’s success. Most tutors for the company work part time, and teachers are able to se their own (Beijing) hours. For most full-time teachers or parents with teaching degrees who stay home, that means 30-minute time slots in the early morning hours of their own time zone or in the evenings. Weekend lessons are popular too.
Keeping time management in mind, VIPKid provides lesson plans for you and leads interactions with the parents (let that one sink in). You just need a computer, a good Internet connection, and your teaching passion!
2. I’m not a techie, though.
If you can operate your home computer and it has an HD external camera or an HD internal camera (if you’re using a somewhat new laptop), you’re almost good to go. Add a headset/microphone and Wi-Fi connection, and you’re ready for teaching in your home office, bedroom, kitchen—whatever you’re going to call your virtual classroom.
VIPKid teacher Martha (pictured above), has been teaching in a classroom setting for more than 28 years. Martha knew technology was reshaping today’s classroom and wanted to get on board.
“I wanted to up my teaching game,” Martha says. “I started with VIPKid to learn strategies to be more effective in my brick-and-mortar classroom.”
It became, Martha says, so much more. When Martha gets home from school, she simply opens her laptop and gets connected with her students in China. “When that computer opens up and I see my favorite VIPKid students, that’s the highlight of the day.”
3. I have to speak Mandarin, right?
While VIPKid students do speak Mandarin, VIPKid teachers are not required to have any Mandarin-speaking background.
VIPKid teaching is a one-to-one virtual classroom setting. For each class, the teacher and student use slides provided by VIPKid. Teachers use a lot of actions and movements with an emphasis on phonics for young students and repetition to build up to free speech. There’s a ton of great blogs with helpful instruction tips and teacher resources.
VIPKid tells us that the first requirement is simple: Keep it fun! Teachers use a lot of available VIPKid-approved games and props to keep it lively for young learners. The company praises its staff for their passion that drives deeper student engagement (you know, your usual, awesome self).
4. Our cultures are different. I’ll have trouble making a connection.
Teachers and VIPKid families share a common ground that drives an authentic connection: Chinese families emphasize the value of education—and are willing to prioritize and put additional money toward it—as do American teachers. Learning English in a fun virtual environment where everyone is equally committed is a no-brainer.
The idea of creating a generation of global citizens is at the heart of VIPKid’s mission for education. As VIPKid CEO and former teacher Cindy Mi says, “It’s about knowing the world and empathizing with other cultures. In China we talk a lot about this ‘shared future’ concept. But how do you share a future if you don’t really empathize or understand each other?”
It’s a culturally aligned goal: Inspire and teach the next generation of citizens who will then understand one another better.
5. Teaching in a virtual classroom lacks a support system. #Lonely?
It’s initially a weird concept for any work-from-home, virtual job situation. Where are your people? Whom do you ask for the file with the thing to show your student the picture with that other thing? And … to whom do you just vent?