VIPKID - Teaching English Online

VIPKID - What is it like to teach English online?

My first week in Bali was much like a true vacation/adventure and the first one I had really taken since driving a motorcycle for over 5,000km in Vietnam. It was time to find an AirBnB apartment with a good WiFi connection to teach some English online with VIPKID.  After realizing I wasn’t going to get the hours I wanted teaching at an English center in Vietnam, I decided to find other ways to supplement my income while still leaving time to explore the world.  So far, my experience with VIPKID has been phenomenal as it is 1-on-1 private lessons for 25 minutes and thanks to technology (video chat) I’m able to make a connection with the students.

I haven’t been a teacher for very long, but I remember being a student. I can relate a lot of my skills from educating employees and customers during my previous jobs to teaching English. The English language centers I worked for in Vietnam were nice places, but I believed they were limiting the teacher’s ability to provide the best learning environment for their students.

I tried tailoring my classes so that I could encourage the more advanced students to do more challenging work, while providing more 1v1 time to kids who needed more help with the basic lesson information.  The school I was working for told me that one student (out of 30) I was teaching between two classes complained to his parents.  It just so happens the student was a problem child, didn’t want to participate and should have been asked to leave the class until he was better prepared to participate.  The other kids in the classroom, who I could tell enjoyed my classroom environment, were now forced to go back to the school’s single style curriculum that prohibited their learning ability.  Based off what the parents were paying and my moral obligation to them I decided to finish up my classes at the school and transition all my teaching hours to VIPKID.

My experience with VIPKID so far has exceeded my expectations.  Going into it I wasn’t sure how it would work out as I would not be teaching the same student again and again.  I do have some students who enjoy learning with me and will book me consistently if they can find availability in my schedule.  Because I like to have a flexible schedule I usually do not allow my schedule to be open more than five days in advance.  So it can be hard for the students who enjoy my classes to find openings.  I’ve been with VIPKID for 70 days now, have taught 259 classes and have taught 221 different students during that time.  Meaning only 38, or 14.6%, of my classes have been with a student I taught previously.

I go back and forth on whether the limited ability to teach the same student again and again is good for them.  From my experience, I’ve found it more exciting to teach new students, which allows me to stay energetic and excited in the classroom.  Teaching a student multiple times is more challenging because you get used to each other’s style.  They’ll learn how to get away with certain things and I run the risk of running out of content to keep the student engaged and excited.  Some other teachers might feel the exact opposite and prefer to teach the same student. I’m confident that each individual student’s learning style follows this same rule. From this experience, I believe that through trial and error, a student’s learning style can be matched with a teacher’s instructing style, and when a student finds those similarities they have the freedom to re-book that teacher to benefit the way they learn - and those students who are looking for something fresh and exciting have the ability to book different teachers each time.

VIPKID does a great job of holding the teachers and students accountable as they have a five star rating system. The teacher MUST rate the student’s performance and provide feedback at the end of each class. The student’s parents then have the option to rate the teacher as well.  Obviously, the higher your rating the more students will try to book you when you have openings on your schedule.  I have 44 parent feedbacks so far with a rating of 4.95 stars out of 5.  I have 43 five-star ratings and a lone three-star rating that is under review. (Hopefully to be negated soon due to some underlying factors.)

The pay is better than what you will find in most English centers in Asia.  I average about $20-$21 an hour each month.  This includes extra incentives and/or partial payments for classes when a student does not show up. I book a decent amount of last minute classes which, for me, lead to “trial” classes for students who are thinking of joining VIPKID.  A decent amount of these will cancel for various reasons (IT Issues, forgetfulness, child not ready, etc.) and in that case, I only get paid 50% of the class rate.  Last month I taught 126 classes and had 41 students cancel.  Classes booked less than 24 hours before class will net a bonus of $2 per class. Even if the student cancels I still earn an extra $2. Also, when one of my trial students decide to join VIPKID I earn a $5 bonus. So, if I book a last minute trial class and that student signs up I earn 70% more than a normal student class booked more than 24 hours in advance.  On average, the cancellations and new student sign-ups for me have about equaled out to my normal hourly rate for each month I’ve taught.

Now, this kind of money is nowhere near what I used to make in the USA, but it allows me to sustain my savings and participate in more activities while I travel around the world this year.  I typically work between 12-25 hours a week depending on my schedule. If I work 80 hours a month and live reasonably I can cover all of my housing, food and traveling expenses for a month. 

Teaching online is not for everyone and it’s not my long-term plan, but for now it provides me with a little income and a mental reward knowing that I’m contributing back to the world in a positive manner.  If you have any questions or would like to know more about teaching online please don’t hesitate to drop me a line!

(Editing and Proofreading by: NK.  Even an English teacher needs help with English!)