Work from Home: Make up to $22/hour!

If you have a Bachelor’s degree, one year of teaching experience, and are a native English speaker, then VipKid could be right for you. VipKid allows teachers to teach online ESL classes from the comfort of their own homes, or RVs, or even hotel rooms! No, you don’t need to know how to speak Chinese. It’s a full immersion ESL program so it’s actually good that you don’t know how to speak Chinese. You don’t make lesson plans. That’s right, VipKid already has the curriculum in place and you just need to add a few props and your personality to make class fun and engaging. Don’t like to grade papers? No problem! With VipKid there are no papers to grade or homework assignments to give. If this sounds like the job you’ve been dreaming of, you’re right. I would encourage you to apply and see if VipKid is right for you.

Application: First, you will need to click HERE to set up your account. Once you have set up an account with VipKid, you will need to enter your information typically found on most job applications. After submitting your application, you will receive an email from VipKid to set up a time for your interview. This can happen quickly so keep an eye on your email!

Interview: During the interview, you will have the opportunity to ask the interviewer any questions you may but most information will be provided to you through email. The information is very thorough and covers most of the typical questions. You will participate in a short ‘mock’ class where you pretend the interviewer is a child and you are teaching the lesson. Don’t let this intimidate you. Have fun with it! Add some fun props to help you teach the lesson and remember to smile! If you pass the interview stage, the interviewer will offer you the job and you will be emailed instructions to set up a full ‘mock’ class.

Mock Lesson: Interviewees can expect one or two mock classes before being fully employed by VipKid. A mock class includes you teaching a full 25 minute lesson to a different interviewer. My advice is to include props to help teach the concept of the lesson, smile, and keep an eye on the clock. You will need to teach the entire lesson in no less than 25 minutes and no more than 28 minutes. Remember to have fun!

After you successfully complete one or two mock classes, you can begin setting up your schedule to teach! I would suggest starting with a few open time slots and allow yourself breaks in between. This allows for you to get comfortable with the program and as you become more cofident, you can open more time slots. You will need to leave parent feedback (required) after each class so be sure to allow yourself time for this between classes.  The best part is that you set your own schedule. Busy week? No problem. Kids have a game you don’t want to miss? No problem. Want to go out of town for the weekend? No problem!

I am here to help you at any, or all, stages of the interview process. If you have questions about setting up your bio or your VipKid introduction video, let me know! Feel free to comment below or contact me directly for more information and I will help you in any way possible. This is my dream job and I hope it will be your dream job, too.

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The Joys of Teaching

Well, it’s been 3 months since I started teaching ESL classes online. Although this may sound like a fairly easy task, the twist to this story is that I teach ESL classes online to Chinese students, which means there is a time difference of about 12 hours. Another twist to the story is that I am an independent contractor for the company, VipKid. Basically, they hire me but I have to market myself to the students and parents. If I’m not teaching them English, making the difficult task of learning another language fun, or I don’t present myself in a professional manner then the students and parents will choose not to book a class with me again. So why do I do it and do I still enjoy it? Those are the most frequently asked questions.

So let me break this down to you into 3 sections: the pros, the cons, and overall thoughts.

Pros:

  1. I’m working with kids! Kids are fantastic creatures that can bring a range of emotions from frustration, confusion, pride, and joy. These lovely and curious creatures are also very good at reminding adults about what really matters in life. Kids are typically happy people who love to smile and laugh and be silly. Isn’t that what we all want? To smile and laugh and be happy all day? Also, kids are not afraid to show emotions, even if they’re sad. One student logged on for class and someone from his home was leaving. The student didn’t want this person to leave and he was doing everything he could to convince the person to stay. The person left and the student turned to me with tears streaming down his face. He was not ashamed or embarrassed. This sweet student reminded me to embrace my emotions instead of hide them.
  2. I see success every day with each student! Sometimes in a traditional classroom you’re too busy being a manager to be able to spot those “light bulb” moments that each teacher cherishes.  Because I teach one-on-one, I am able to give 100% of my attention to the student. If they are struggling with a letter sound, sight word, or difficult vocabulary I can immediately adjust the lesson. I can slow down or speed up to give my student exactly what they need. This means I get to see more “light bulb” moments in each 25 minute session I teach. Some moments are big (like when my student read her first sentence on her own) and others are small (when the child that doesn’t typically smile suddenly laughs out loud) but there is always a moment.
  3. I am creating relationships. Although I have a lesson to get through and specific skills I need to teach in each lesson, I also have little snippets of time to talk to my students. They tell me who lives in their family, if they have friends in other countries, what foods they like and dislike, and what hobbies they enjoy. In turn, they hear stories about where I live, places I’ve visited, and random tidbits about American culture. One student and I had a good laugh when I explained the Tooth Fairy. (It truly sounds ridiculous when you have to explain the concept.) We’ve shared successes. We’ve shared laughs. And we’ve shared sadness.
  4. I decide my own schedule. While the company requires I teach 15 classes per week (or 7.5 hours) during “peak time”, I get control over which hours and which days. Do I want to work more than 7.5 hours a week? Do I want to work weekends or holidays? Planning a vacation? No problem! If I need to be out-of-town, I don’t schedule classes on those days. If I’m at home one weekend without big plans, I’ll add a few more classes. (I might as well if I’m awake.) I teach a variety of students. I have older students (10-12 years old) who speak amazing English and we have some of the best, and funniest, conversations! I have students who are just learning the alphabet and I spend a lot of time “talking” with my hands. I have students who are “regulars”, which means they book with me each week and I also have students once or twice a month.

Cons:

  1. The hours. I’m not going to lie-it’s tough. When I first started, I just worked a few classes every day. As I became more comfortable with the format and what was expected of me, I decided to increase my availability. I worked about 3 hours every day (which is 6 classes) for over a month. I taught from 5:00am-8:00am Monday through Friday and only on weekends when I wanted to. My schedule was full and I enjoyed teaching more than I thought I would. That’s when I decided to go full-time. Right now I teach from 2:00am-8:00am Monday through Friday and a few hours on select weekends. I take a nap in the morning after teaching and I am usually in bed by 8:00pm. This means I have to make some sacrifices and I don’t get to do all the things I used to do but I truly don’t mind. I enjoy my job and catch up on my family time and movies on the weekend.
  2. The inability to cancel classes. It’s not that I can’t cancel my classes but I am only allowed to cancel (or miss) a class 4 times within a 6 month contract. This means I have to think ahead and make plans. What will I do if I’m sick? What if I wake up and the Internet isn’t working? What if we have an ice storm and lose power? What if I accidentally turn off the alarm and fall back to sleep? What if I need to travel out-of-town unexpectedly? I have to think of all the scenarios and try my best to have a back up plan. The main thing I have to remember is that the student is counting on me to be there. The parents expect me to be there. There is no calling a substitute so I need to be ready and willing to make sacrifices in order to honor my commitments.

My Overall Thoughts

  1. This job isn’t for everyone. You have to really like kids. You have to be willing to get up early. You have to be willing to be silly and make the student who is scared feel comfortable. You can’t be afraid of technology because if technology breaks, you need to know how to fix it.You have to be able to think on your feet. If your student isn’t understanding a concept, you have to be able to change gears, explain it differently, or pull out a prop to help them-you only have now.
  2. Be prepared for these kids to change you. Anyone who knows me knows how much I love my sleep (a full 8 hours every night) and how I don’t like getting up early. I like routine. I like to know what’s in front of me so I can plan on it. This job has taken my routine, my sleep, and my predictable ways and shaken things up. I get 5-6 hours of sleep and this is MY choice. I get up early…like 1:00am early and this is MY choice. I may not know every student I have the next day or what to expect in the classroom. I am truly pushing myself out of my comfort zone and this is MY choice. So why do I do all this? Because these kids make me smile. I can be truly exhausted (there have been times I’ve had less than 4 hours of sleep then taught 8 classes) but when the camera light blinks on and I see that face smiling at me, I can’t help but smile back. If I’m a little low on energy all I need is to hear the student say “I’m so excited” before class starts (they don’t know I can hear them) and boom–instant energy every time.
  3. Your heart matters. You need to have a desire to teach or help others if you truly want to be happy with this job. Yes, the money is nice. Yes, the hours are difficult. And yes, it may sound like it’s “too easy” or “too good to be true” type of job. But trust me, if you don’t genuinely love children, teaching, or helping others you won’t be happy doing this. There are many aspects that make this job perfect for me. I can work from home. I can adjust my schedule. I don’t have to make lesson plans. There are no after hours meetings. Recess or lunch duty are a thing of the past. But the very best part of this job is the smile. That sweet smile from a child when they are proud of themselves. When they are happy to see you. There is no better reason than that.

If all of this sounds like a dream job to you, too, click here to apply. May your journey with VipKid bring you as much happiness as it does for me.

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When you think they’ll never grow up…

For the parent of young children, the parent in the trenches, the parent that is constantly picking up toys, fighting over bath time, and desperately trying to get their child to just eat something–anything! I’ve been there and I know how many people have probably said to you “cherish it, they grow up so fast” and you’re sitting there with a smile on your face, nodding and answer “oh, I know” but deep down inside you’re really thinking ‘they will never grow up and I’m stuck in this continuous role of food, bath, homework, bed’. Well, let me assure you that they do indeed grow up! And just about the time you think you can’t take another day of hearing about the “girl drama” at school or lose another 30 minutes of your life in the school pick up line, well, that’s when you blink and they are all grown up.

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Suddenly, you realize it! You see the clock of life ticking away and you begin to think ‘I have to cherish each moment’. You want time to slow down just a bit. You want to watch his game one more time. You want to have one more meaningful conversation in the car. You want just one more family dinner spent around the table laughing long after the food is gone. And that’s when it hits you-they were right. They grow up. It happens in an instant. And suddenly you do cherish every single Lego you stepped on, every Barbie you picked up off the floor, and every temper tantrum throw at the grocery store.

It may not happen quickly. You see, my kids are four years apart and separated by five school years. When my son left home (yes at the tender age of 15 to go to college) we were absolutely thrilled! It was exciting! He was accepted into a special program that allowed him to live away at college while earning dual credit for high school and college. We were proud! He was beyond excited! We had no idea this was the beginning of the end. We were wrapped up in enjoying his success and having our first child go off to college. I mean, we still had our youngest at home and didn’t realize this was the beginning of the end. We had plenty of time before we were “empty-nesters”. Or so we thought.

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The years my son spent in college seemed to go very quickly. We enjoyed football games with him, we visited often (I mean, he was at our alma mater), and he came home whenever he wanted. Then our daughter entered high school and I realized how many activities we missed with our son. Sometimes my husband had to work late and missed part of a game, or I was stuck at the school for parent-teacher conferences and missed my own son’s conferences. I remember telling my husband “this is it, she’s the last one, we need to make sure we go to everything” and that’s exactly what we did. We were there for every home game she cheered at, every softball game, every musical, play, track meet, and basically any time the doors were open at school-we were there! That doesn’t mean it was always easy. The bleachers were hard. The games were long. But we were there, reminding ourselves this is the last time.

And time passed. She graduated. She went off to college. And I realized I’m not sad about her going to college and leaving home. I’m just as happy for her as I was for my son! Yet, it’s also different. When my son left, it was exciting. It was a first! When my daughter left, it was still exciting but the dynamic of my family as it had been for 23 years was changed forever. High school is over. Conferences, games, appointments, booster meetings-all over. And while I’m thrilled to see my children excel in this new phase of their lives, it does leave me to reminisce quite a bit. I realize that this is an opportunity for my husband and myself-a little window of time- to do all those things we put off the last 23 years while raising the kids. This is our chance before we hit the next stage in life and have grand children. 

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So I will cherish each family activity I can while we’re still a family of four. I will laugh a little harder. I will put my phone away. I will enjoy those tiny moments when I see my kids talking to each other about absolutely nothing and enjoying each other’s company. I will remind myself this is what it’s all about. Because I’m quite sure I will blink again, and my children will have their own children and my family dynamic will change again.

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Why I Love My Job

Teaching.

It’s a simple word but nothing about the teaching profession is simple. Teaching is a complex profession that includes teaching methods, ideologies, politics and policies, and ethics. While it’s easy to get caught up in the latest debate about school funding or the best teaching method to use in the classroom, the one thing all teachers can agree on is that we teach for the students. One thing I do know is that the best part about teaching is the children. Helping one child, seeing a student smile after a rough day, laughing with a student, or watching a student conquer a difficult task is so rewarding as a teacher! The downside of teaching…meetings, substitute prep, classroom expenses, recess duty, lunch duty, the non-existent plan time, and all the long hours after the school day was over. (I know I regularly worked 50-60 hours a week as a traditional classroom teacher.)

 

When I left the classroom in 2010, I didn’t know if I’d ever go back. I wanted to. Teaching is my passion but the long hours, overcrowded classrooms, and lack of funding made me question how badly I wanted to re-enter the teaching work force. Honestly, I just wanted to help students learn. Plain and simple. But I didn’t know how I could do that without going back to the public school system. Then I found VIP Kid. Working for this company has reignited the love and passion I have for teaching and helping students succeed! I teach one-on-one classes with students online from my home. We laugh and have a good time and best of all, I see all those wonderful “light bulb” moments every teacher lives for.

Is VIP Kid right for you? Are you a former teacher who is now a stay-at-home mom? Are you a retired teacher would misses the student interaction? Maybe you teach in a regular classroom but would like to supplement your income. If you meet the following criteria, I invite you to take a look at VIP Kid and all this company has to offer.

A few things you should know:

  • You must work 7.5 peak hours (Beijing time zone) each week.
  • You need to have at least a bachelor’s degree and one year of experience teaching.
  • You need to have experience or exposure to K12 schools in the U.S. or Canada.

If you have questions, please comment below and I will do my best to answer them. Be sure and follow me on social media (Twitter, Instagram, and Google+) for more education and lifestyle updates.

If you are interested in applying to teach at VipKid, click here.

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Finding Time for Your Hobby

Hobbies. You’re probably thinking “who has time for a hobby?” You do! I started seriously scrapbooking in 2003. I had tried other hobbies but they frustrated me (like cross stitch) or I just wasn’t good at them (like sewing). When I found scrapbooking, I was immediately addicted. I had very little money and no place to scrap but I made it work. I gave myself a tiny budget ($20 a month, I think) and I would scrapbook on the coffee table after the kids went to sleep. When we moved two years later, my hobby took a backseat. I was so busy with a new job, getting the kids settled, renovating the house, and training a puppy, and having exchange students I didn’t touch my scrapbooks for 5 years! Honestly, I think I was more stressed during those 5 years because I didn’t scrapbook! Christmas of 2009, my husband bought me a Cricut machine and I realized how much I missed having a hobby. This time, I was fortunate enough to have a bigger scrap budget and even devote an entire room in the house to scrapbooking and here is how I made it work.

My goal is to find 30 minutes a day to work on my hobby. Trust me, I rarely meet that goal but I keep trying! Some days are easier than others. For example, on laundry days, if I’m waiting for the washer or dryer to stop, I’ll pop into my scrap room and work on a layout until the washer buzzes. It may only be five minutes but the time adds up throughout the day and before I know it, I’ve completed a layout for the day in my spare time. Sometimes, my husband will be working on his hobbies so I’ll take a full 30 minutes and enjoy being in my scrap room. Another tip is that I leave out whatever project I’m working on. That encourages me to stop into my room if I have a spare second. If I had to drag out all my supplies, and find a photo, then paper, I’d probably never get anything done!

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I have many albums that I work on simultaneously. I have four iris cases that I keep my projects in. That means, I have four albums I am currently working on, plus my Project Life style album. Now, this is in addition to other albums, like Christmas, or football, or my kids’ albums.  Right now I’m trying to finish a vacation album from seven years ago. Yep, 7! I pulled out my project case and the album. I already have the photos in the album and the case has specific papers and embellishments I want to use in the album. I leave this on my scrap desk so whenever I have a few minutes, I can glue something together. It is very, very rare that I have 30 minutes to sit and scrap, let alone an entire day! But the time adds up, and slowly the projects get finished. (You can see how I scrapped 1,000 photos in 3 albums on my YouTube channel.)

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By using small snipets of time throughout the day, keeping my projects organized with iris cases, and keeping my current project on my desk, I am able to enjoy my hobby whenever my schedule allows. While I do have other hobbies I enjoy, such as knitting, baking, and reading, scrapbooking is the hobby I enjoy the most and truly want to make time for every day. My hobbies might not be something you would enjoy but I encourage you to go out and try a hobby! You might try three or four different hobbies before you find the right one but don’t give up.

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Recess is Important

Removing Recess?

Physically active, recess, outdoor play, movement-whatever word you want to associate with it but our kids need to move! Young children learn through play. Many schools are removing or limiting recess time and cutting back on PE classes in order to provide more instructional time during the school day. This means young children are spending more time sitting in desks and having less social interaction with peers.

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Teachers are noting more classroom behavior problems, fidgeting, restlessness, and ADD/ADHD behaviors since recess has been limited. When teachers from a school that provides multiple recesses and opportunity for movement throughout the day are asked about classroom behavior problems they say they don’t have many. A connection? I think so!

Let’s take a look at the early childhood theorists such as Froebel, Dewey, Montessori, and Piaget. I have written many, many papers about the beliefs and practices of these theorists and basically, although their ideas and methods differed, they ALL agreed that children learn through play. Children need movement and play! The NAEYC agrees, just look at their position statement on developmentally appropriate practice. Preschool and kindergarten in the U.S. were founded on the ideas of child-centered play and learning through play, yet society has begun to move away from the concept of learn through play.

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Get them moving!

Physical activity can be incorporated into the classroom! Create lessons that involve partners or small groups. Make discussion a part of the daily routine and allow the students to talk to each other. I made a rather radical and somewhat controversial move when I removed all the desks from my classroom. So many students were fidgeting with their desks or materials and constantly leaning back in their chairs so I decided to remove all the desks. I had tables for small groups and one or two desks for children who preferred to work at a desk. The students had clipboards and lapboards to use as they sat on the floor, sat with pillows, or used the comfy chairs around the classroom. Removing the desks was radical but my students were able to interact with peers, I had fewer classroom behavior problems, and the configuration allowed for more movement within the classroom. When the students were restless, we’d “take 5”, which was a time out from working. I would put on a CD, we’d all stand up and participate in silly movements to the songs (such as Dr. Jean & Friends). We were moving and laughing and letting off steam. When we finished two or three songs, the students would always settle back down to work. Be creative!

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The bottom line

When children attend a preschool, we expect them to have a certain amount of time outdoors. We expect them to work and talk with peers in the classroom. We expect the classrooms to be center based and allow the children to learn through play. When children enter kindergarten, we hope to find the same type of atmosphere but once our children enter first grade, we suddenly expect them to sit in a desk for long periods of time, not talk to their neighbor, and have little time outside for free play. Children are not suddenly capable of sitting in a desk for 7 hours a day once they turn six or enter first grade. Don’t be afraid to add movement into the school day however you can. The children are counting on you.

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Traveling on a Budget

Growing up, summertime meant time for a family vacation! We would usually load up the van and go somewhere on a three week adventure. We almost always drove (flying for five people was expensive back then) and mom always had a cooler full of drinks and sandwiches. When I became a teacher, I assumed summer would still mean vacation but my husband’s job is busiest during the summer months so we’ve had to make some compromises. But the longer days and warmer nights still make me long for a vacation. Here are some of my tips for stretching your dollar when planning a vacation.

  1. Plan a Stay-cation :: So you really can’t afford to go anywhere this year. It camping-700215_640happens! But that doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy some rest and relaxation while staying at home. Take some time for a BBQ in the backyard followed by making s’mores in the firepit. Maybe you have a movie marathon and binge watch some of the family’s favorite DVDs. A relaxing day at the local pool followed by a treat at the local snow cone shack is a good option when you need to get out of the house for a day. Visit the local sites that you never see such as a museum, art gallery, or boutiques. See if there are any orchards near you and go on an orchard picking adventure. Do you want to switch up the boring nightly dinner? Try a different themed meal every night. (We used to do this once a month when my kids were younger.) Monday could be Asian food, Tuesday is Italian, Wednesday is Puerto Rican, Thursday is French, etc. Don’t forget to go for evening walks at the park or even catch fireflies at night (if you’re lucky enough to have them in your area).
  2. Neighboring Attractions :: So you’ve saved a little money but not a lot. Trymountain-91385_640 searching the Internet to see what attractions are within a six hour drive. (I chose six hours because that’s about as far as we can go for a short getaway. You may be able to travel farther away or have something closer!) Maybe rent a cabin or apartment and try some of the tips listed for a stay-cation. It’s an expensive way to have a change of scenery without blowing the budget.
  3. Drive -don’t fly :: Flying can be expensive! When my kids were young I passenger-traffic-122999_640never wanted to deal with the hassle of dragging the kids, and everything that kids need, onto an airplane. We always drove. Always. We decided to make the journey to our destination part of the vacation. Find interesting stops along your route and plan either a quick side trip, a fun meal, or maybe an extra day for a special location.
  4. Groupon for hotel deals :: Groupon often has excellent hotel deals but you hotel-389256_640may have to be flexible on your destination and travel days for the best deal. If you’re planning a last minute trip, hop onto the Groupon site and see what deals they have. You may be inspired to take a weekend getaway to place you never thought of!
  5. Eat breakfast at the hotel :: I almost always make sure the hotel offers a free breakfast. We eat as muchbuffet-breakfast-1172151_640 as possible at the hotel breakfast and plan on a lighter lunch. We also stock the hotel refrigerator in our room with drinks and snacks so we have something to snack on in the evenings or have something to grab and take with us if we’re in a hurry.
  6. Lunch at a bistro or food truck :: Eating out for every meal can get expensive! Stop at a cute bistro, local diner, or even a food truck for a cake-1241413_640quick bite at lunch. When we were in Europe, we enjoyed going into small grocery stores and finding food for lunch. Part of the adventure was not knowing exactly what we were eating!
  7. Find free attractions :: Try out the local farmer’s market (we visited one in Prague and had a great time). Not only can you find handmade items but also great food. Visit locals gardens or parks and even some museums or art galleries are free. Before you leave on vacation, search the internet. Many times cities will list a calendar of events and many attractions are free.
  8. Rent a house :: If you’re going to stay in one place for a while, try rentingedisto-island-378596_640 a house or condo. We spent a week in Charleston, South Carolina and decided to rent a condo on the beach. It sounds expensive but it was actually cheaper than a hotel and we had a kitchen to make a few meals and save even more money. We used the website VRBO and absolutely loved the experience. Another time we traveled to San Antonio for a week and wanted to bring our dog. We found a house on VRBO that accepted dogs. We brought a portable crate for our dog and he stayed at the house while we were gone during the day. This was much cheaper than paying the vet to kennel him and we were all happier to have our dog with us.
  9. Groupon for international travel :: If you plan to travel internationally, I would highly suggest Groupon. Many times the Groupon will include cinque-terre-828614_640airfaire, hotel, and even rental car! Just last week I saw a deal for an 8 day trip to Italy for $599 that included international airfare and hotel!
  10. Ask the locals :: Chances are the locals know the best places to go for food and entertainment. If you’re at a restaurant, just ask your server, or maybe ask the cashier when you’re buying a souvenir. Ask around! You will probably find a hidden gem.

The most relaxing part about a vacation is knowing you won’t have to pay for it when you get home. So stick to your budget and don’t worry about feeling “cheap” on vacation. Chances are the kids won’t have a clue and you’ll feel better knowing you’re not spending more than you can afford. Remember, it’s all about the memories. Take pictures. Relax. Enjoy spending time with each other.

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Be the One to Make a Change

So you’ve landed that new teaching job. Maybe you’ve changed schools or grade levels for the next year. You’re excited! You have big plans! And then you discover your new teaching job might not be everything you dreamed it would. Here are some tips to teaching in an environment when you feel alone.

Find someone like you. It sounds like such a simple statement. Almost easy. Unless you’re the person trying to find someone like you in a sea of people not like you! Think outside the box. You’re a teacher after all, you do this all the time! This person may not be in the same school, or the same district, but there is another teacher out there, searching for their “school soul-mate”. If your school doesn’t have another teacher who teaches with the same ideas and principals as you, maybe you will find this person at a grade-level collaboration or a district-wide meeting. If you still can’t find your teaching soul-mate, try writing a blog to find others who share the same teaching mentality. Another option is online forums, organizations, or even your alma mater!

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Be persistent! In college, I learned that teaching in a school that used Saxon math or Saxon reading was probably going to make an uncomfortable teaching environment. I listened to my professors tell stories of new teachers forced to teach using scripts but secretly thought “well, I won’t ever teach in a school like that…c’mon!” Fast forward a few years and I found myself interviewing for jobs in a small town where my husband had found work-and yes, every elementary school used Saxon math. If I wanted a job, I was going to have to find a way to work using Saxon math without giving up my own teaching ideas.

Actually, I think being forced to teach a scripted math lesson, such as Saxon, actually made me more creative! I was told I had to use the script and the daily worksheets in my math lesson. Every teacher in the school sent home the daily homework and all the other parents expected me, the new teacher, to do the same. After all, the parents had heard I was a first year teacher (gasp-although I was really a second year teacher) and surely had no idea what I was doing in the classroom. Granted, the first time I heard I was going to teach Saxon math, I went home and had a mild break down. I may or may not have yelled and cried and threw a fit. Then my husband looked at me and said “so what are you going to do about it?” That’s when I remembered what one of my professors had suggested…if you find yourself in a school using Saxon and you don’t want to, try to find a way to show them teaching can be done without using a script. And that’s exactly what I set out to do.

I had taken a lot of college classes, was accepted into the professional school, participated in more observations that I like to think about, had several semesters of student teaching, passed all my teaching exams, and completed my residency teaching year with flying colors. I had invested a lot of time and money in learning how to make lesson plans and teach children! I did not want to read a script to my 17 seven year olds and expect them to understand the abstract concept of mathematics! So I did it my way-kind of. I created a hands-on math lesson that coincided with each Saxon lesson I was supposed to teach. I would engage the students with my lesson and use the scripted Saxon lesson as a review. I made sure to include all the same points from the Saxon lesson in my newly created hands-on lesson and the worksheet was a nice little review in case the students had questions or little Johnny was still struggling with a concept. The parents still saw the same homework page as all the other students and at the end of the day, I didn’t feel like I was “less than” when I left the classroom.

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Slow and steady. You cannot change everything the first year. Find what really bothers you and find a way to make it your own. The Saxon math lessons were definitely not the only problem I had with the school district but it was something I felt I could tackle and make it my own while still abiding by the districts rules. With each passing year I felt more confident and was willing to try something new for the school or my classroom. By my fifth year at this school, I removed all the desks from the classroom! You can’t imagine the shock on the parents’ faces when I said we would use tables/chairs and pillows on the floor. I was upfront and honest with the principal and parents. I gave them my reasons for wanting to try this new method in the classroom and assured them if it didn’t work, I would bring the desks back to the classroom. Surprise-the kids loved it!

My first year was a bumpy ride. My confidence in my teaching skill was questioned. My kids weren’t thrilled with the move and really wanted to move back “home”. My husband’s job was very time consuming and stressful. We also decided to get a dog and remodel our house. I look back now and wonder what we were thinking-maybe we’d gone temporarily insane-but maybe this is just what grown ups did. I remember telling myself I just needed to survive but that was little comfort because that’s what everyone tells the first year teacher-this was my second year! It did feel like my first teaching year all over again because it was a new state, a new district, a new grade, and my support system from my first year wasn’t here.

Veteran teachers are a gold mine. Although you might think that these teachers and you have nothing in common you are wrong. These teachers have taught for years and they know a lot of stuff! They have probably experienced every frustration you have during their own careers. Although I was intimidated by my co-teachers at first, I eventually began to open up and be myself around them. I mean, they had been teaching a lot longer than I had, they lived in this town longer than I had, and all the parents wanted their kids in the other teachers’ classrooms. That leaves a memorable impression on the new teacher and I was pretty intimidated by their reputations. But as my time at this school continued I found that my co-teachers were actually my biggest cheerleaders and truest friends (I still talk to them today). Without their support and knowledge I don’t know if I would have made it past my first year.

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It seems scary and overwhelming but persevere. Change takes time. And persistence. And a lot of sweat and tears. Just as you wouldn’t expect a struggling student in your classroom to blossom into your star student overnight, don’t expect your teaching environment to change overnight either. Chances are you became a teacher to make a difference so go out there are make a difference in the school, the district, or with other teachers. Be the voice for what you feel the students need.

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Conquering the To Do List

The television shows, social media, or just chatting with friends. We see the other people and how they seem to “do it all” and wish we knew their secret. I’ve had people tell me they don’t know how I do it all. Honestly, I don’t think I do much and I think there are certainly a lot more people out there who accomplish more in one day than I do! But it did get me thinking about how I spend my time during the day and if I can be more productive. So I started watching webinars and reading books to find out what the “really productive” people do to get so much accomplished in the same 24 hours. Here’s what I’ve learned.

  1. Write down everything you do and how long you spend doing it.
  2. What do you want to change from that list?
  3. Prioritize your items.
  4. Accept you will have to say no.

After one day, I discovered I wasted too much time on the Internet, I wasn’t accomplishing my most important tasks first, and I had to say no to a few things I enjoyed. Basically, I had to make some adjustments and decide what was really important to me. Now, I spend very little time on social media. I found that social media was really sucking a lot of time out of my day and was doing nothing to make me happier or more productive. It was actually doing the opposite! I also limited my time watching YouTube. I could easily sit and watch video after video and have nothing to show for two hours of my day. I decided enough was enough and when my coffee is finished…so is my time on YouTube. One of the best things I read was ‘how your spend your time shows what your priorities are’. Wow! I didn’t want anyone in my family to think that Facebook or a YouTube video was a priority over them. That was enough to motivate me to make some changes.

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I’ve always made lists. I love making lists so I can go back and check items off the list. It gives me a great sense of accomplishment. I still make lists but now all those lists are neatly contained in my planner. If I have quite a few tasks to conquer I try to make the mundane tasks a bit more interesting. Often, I will listen to an audio book while decluttering or filing. I will turn on my favorite record (yes, an actual vinyl record) while I dust or mop. And if I have a few decluttering tasks, I may set a time for five minutes and see how much I can accomplish in the allotted time. You’d be amazed how much more will get done.

So what do I do all day? Well, I’m a wife, mother, PhD student, substitute teacher, and blogger. I also manage the day to day workings of the house which includes laundry, cleaning, yard maintenance, bills, and doctor appointments. Those titles are just for my day job. I also have hobbies like reading, baking, knitting, and scrapbooking that I make time for. Spare time with my family includes home renovations and home improvement projects, traveling, watching TV or movies, and playing games. Now you also need to factor in that I live in a remote area. I cannot just run to the mall for a pair of jeans or swing by Target when I need a new towel. Nope. The closest mall to me is 2.5 hours by car. If I need my car worked on, well that’s 3.5 hours to the nearest dealership and another 3.5 hours back home. Living so far from all the luxuries I love (like stores and malls…and Starbucks) means I have to schedule everything in my life and I think it has forced me to be more productive.

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My typical day starts at 6:30. I do the typical mom stuff and make coffee, feed the pets, pack lunches and make sure everyone is out of the house on time. Once the house is quiet, I spend about an hour enjoying some coffee and my guilty please–YouTube videos. Then it’s time for some exercise and I spend 30 minutes on the elliptical bike (while reading or listening to a book) followed by breakfast a shower and getting ready for the day. Typically, I have a daily cleaning task to accomplish in the morning (see my post on a cleaning schedule) and maybe some errands or a doctor appointment, etc. The afternoon is spent blogging, writing my book, and working on writing my dissertation (it’s an ongoing process). I will take a break and enjoy lunch with my husband because he comes home for lunch on most days. By 4:30, I’m in the kitchen starting dinner. Evenings can be working on a home project, attending my daughter’s many school events, catching up on a Netflix show, or enjoying a game or movie with my family. When there is a day I substitute, everything I just mentioned flies out the window as I am gone from 7:30-4:00. I just try to catch up on cleaning tasks when I get home and start my regular schedule over the next day.

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One thing I’ve learned is that conquering my to do list is an ongoing process. Every month, I reflect on my productivity and see what I need to change or adjust for the upcoming month. Setting small monthly goals helps me stay motivated and keep my eye on the prize-so to speak. Some days it doesn’t all get done. That’s ok!! I just move a task to another day of the week and keep going. And don’t forget to reward yourself. If I managed to get everything done that day, I will take some time to do something I enjoy. I might paint my nails, enjoy a relaxing bath, or watch a movie with my family. The best part is I can do it guilt free because I know I worked hard and met my goal that day!

 

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Hunting Down a Bargain

I confess, I love a great deal! I get a lot of satisfaction knowing I saved money and stretched a dollar. No, I don’t buy stuff just because it’s a good deal but when I need something, I do everything I can to never, ever pay full price! Everything from cars, to clothes, to vacations, and all the little things in-between. And here is how I do it.

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Living in a remote area means I do a lot of online shopping! As much as I love the convenience of online shopping I do not like to pay shipping costs or pay full price for an item. So I started looking for deals. First, I find a lot of great deals on Groupon. I have purchased everything from pet supplies, to jewelry, to online courses, to vacations through Groupon! You do need to be aware of the typical prices on items you find on Groupon because sometimes I have found a better price elsewhere. Just because it’s on Groupon does not necessarily mean it’s the lowest price. Keeping an eye on emails from Groupon allows me to find a great deal and save the item for Christmas, birthday, or other special occasion. Sometimes Groupon will even offer a coupon code on top of the already low prices! That’s a win-win situation for me!

Now, before you hit that buy button on Groupon, let me tell you about Ebates! Any time I buy something online I make the purchase through Ebates whenever possible (they don’t always offer the store I’m purchasing from). For example, let’s say I’m purchasing a Groupon for a vacation to Ireland (I really did this two weeks ago). Groupon offered a 5 day vacation to Ireland, including airfare and hotel, for $549. I purchased two Groupons (one for myself and one for the husband). I went to the Ebates website, typed Groupon into the search, then clicked on the Groupon logo. I was redirected to the Groupon site, purchased my vacation packages, and earned 6% cash back through Ebates! I also use Ebates when I purchase from Amazon (which I do frequently), online clothing stores, online make-up purchases, and anything else you can think of. Ebates is especially helpful when I’m Christmas shopping! My cash back balance will accrue and I will eventually have the money sent to my PayPal account but there are other payout options. I have also used Ebates to purchase my daughter’s graduation announcements via Shutterfly, booked hotels through Expedia, and even magazine subscriptions! If you are an online shopper, I highly recommend getting an Ebates account!

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Other ways I save include using the Amazon Prime, Ibotta app on my phone, being a member of a wholesale club (like Sam’s Club or Costco), utilize grocery store’s coupons and gasoline rewards program, and even rewards program from various stores (such as Maurice’s Ulta, Sephora, Bath & Body Works, etc.) Being an Amazon Prime member allows me to have products delivered quickly to my home (2 days is pretty amazing) and I also sign up for Amazon subscribe and save. I mainly use the subscribe and save feature for repeated items (such as dog food and over the counter medicine) so I never run out. The Ibotta app on my phone simply allows me to save extra money on items I am already planning to purchase. I browse the rebates for anything I have on my grocery list, buy my items at the store, then simply scan the UPC and take a picture of my receipt. That’s it! When I have enough saving in my account, I typically transfer my Ibotta balance to my Amazon account.

I used to clip coupons and stock pile items but my local grocery store changed their coupon policy, which forced me to find other ways to save money. By using these sites and rewards program, I am able to purchase anything from household items to Christmas gifts and still save a little money at the same time.

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