Donations for Hurricane Relief: I want to help, but what do I do?

Donations…During an event like this, most people want to help in some way, and usually the most convenient way is a monetary donation…However, I want to encourage my fellow humans to choose how they donate with care…Do your research please. Make sure you are putting money into the community, not into the pockets of those who are already wealthy. When I see on TV that the Red Cross is asking for monetary donations instead of supplies, that makes me concerned. It is BS. You need to know where your money is going…if you can’t physically buy and take supplies somewhere, check out some of the Amazon Wish Lists from local organizations, donate money directly to a local organization, or at least choose a national one with a good reputation of doing what they say they will do. There are so many ways to help, and the need is not going to go away anytime soon. Be smart with your money and donations, and don’t let your kind hearts be taken advantage of.

As a Houston resident, I feel extreme guilt for the massive media attention to our city, and the lack thereof for the smaller communities affected by this disaster. Don’t forget the little people. They need it more than anyone else. My personal favorite is the Texas Diaper Bank…I know that my donations will  help families all over Texas.

Here is a good place to start. Notice that the Red Cross isn’t mentioned on this…or many other lists of places to put your money…Just saying…

http://www.npr.org/sections/thetwo-way/2017/08/28/546745827/looking-to-help-those-affected-by-harvey-here-s-a-list

 

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When do you sleep? Whenever my schedule says I can.

 

I never gave much thought to schedules before motherhood. Sure, I was punctual and got to work on time, but I was always more of a “go with the flow” type girl when it came down to the events of daily life. Now I would not get anything done without them. You get to a point where it is just too much to remember if you don’t write it down. A schedule doesn’t have to be planned out to the hour (like mine), but finding a way to give yourself concrete goals and direction for each day/week will help you tremendously in managing  your life AND stress levels.

Here are two the schedules I use so you can get an idea of what may (or may not) work for you. Since I am off during the summer from my public school job, my current schedule has been a dream!

Summer Schedule:

4:00AM – Wake up to nurse the baby, snooze for 30 more minutes.

4:30AM – Wash my face, slap on some lipstick, and prep for my online classes.

5:00AM -6:30AM – Teach online.

6:30AM-7:00AM -Nurse the baby.

7:00AM-8:30AM -Teach online some more.

9:00AM-10:00AM – Catch an hour nap with the baby if he doesn’t wake up when I get back in bed. *This only happens because I trained  my baby to stay up LATE so I could teach longer in the mornings.*

After 10:00AM, the day is spent taking care of the baby, juggling housework, bills, errands, eating, and OCCASIONALLY another nap with the baby around 1PM if I am feeling exhausted. Usually though, I like to take this hour for some “me time” rather than sleep. You know, the finer things in life, like showering with the possibility of shaving my legs.

5:00PM – Baby and Mommy Power Nap!!!

8:00PM – Supper time and then I bathe the baby.

9:00PM – 10:30PM – Daddy gets home and takes the baby while I teach online.

11:00PM – Nurse the baby to sleep, watch 30 minutes of TV to relax (low volume with subtitles…better than nothing).

12:00AM – I finally go to sleep. Rinse, wash, repeat.

I am averaging 6-7 hours per sleep every 24 hours. It is broken into chunks, but it works. Unfortunately, in a few weeks I go back to real life, but I have a schedule for that too!

 

Regular School Year Schedule:

4:30AM – Wake up and shower for work, pack the daycare bag, and prep any morning classes.

5:00AM – Nurse the baby.

5:30AM -7:00AM – Teach online.

7:00AM – Wake the baby, nurse, and get him ready.

7:30AM – Drop baby off at daycare.

7:45 AM – Arrive at school, pump milk.

8:15AM –  Classes  begin.

11:45AM-12:15PM – Lunch and pump break. (Yes, I eat while milk squirts out of my body.)

12:15PM-3:15PM Classes.

3:15PM-4:00PM (Monday/Wednesday/Thursday) – Evening break. I do lesson planning on Monday. I have been teaching in this position for 5 years now, so most of my planning is done. I also take full advantage of our para and have her make my copies and help grade tests. Other days during the week if I feel exhausted I nap under my desk for 30 minutes. (I have no shame. I have floor pillows and the whole shebang.)

3:15PM (Tuesday and Friday) – I am allowed to leave early since I have a shorter break than the other teachers, so on Tuesdays and Fridays I peace out and spend extra time with my baby.

4:00PM-4:30PM- Work after school tutorials for extra money on MWTh.

3:30PM or 4:45PM – Pick up baby from daycare.

5:00PM – Nurse the baby/ Baby and Mommy Power Nap!!!

6:00PM-7:30PM – We eat supper, relax a little, and then I wash up dishes/throw on some laundry while the baby plays. He is finally old enough to entertain himself for a few minutes.

7:30PM – Bathe the baby.

8:00PM – Nurse the baby to sleep. (He comes home exhausted from daycare and starts sleeping earlier again.)

9:00PM – 10:00PM – Teach online.

11:00PM – I sleep.

I try to average 7-8 hours of sleep during the school year because I honestly need the energy. When I am fatigued, I cut out the night classes and go to sleep early. I DO NOT WORK SATURDAY NIGHTS OR SUNDAYS. NOPE. NOT GOING TO DO IT.

And there you have it, my life scheduled down to the minute. Do I always follow the script? Nope. Life happens. But I try my best to make sure I take care of my baby AND myself each day.

 

 

Goodbye, Chester. You didn’t know me, but I knew you well.

I am not going to say much about the epidemic of musician suicides, but this one hits hardest for me so far. This band was with me through the roughest patches of my life, at my lowest points of depression and addiction through high school and college. They put into words the things that I felt but could not say out loud. RIP Chester. I am sad for you and  your family, but I understand more than anyone.

I see a lot of people writing angry things about what you did. They have obviously never been in that position. Anyone who thinks suicide is a “cowardly” way out has never known just what type of mental state or amount of willpower it takes to go through with such an act.

Mental illness is a disease, but no one will talk about it. Depression is a dirty word that makes people uncomfortable, so we sit in silence while it consumes us. It is more acceptable to talk about an STD than it is to talk openly about depression. People that don’t suffer from it don’t understand why you can’t just get over it. You don’t get over it. You learn to live with a piece of yourself missing or medicate yourself to the point of being a zombie. Some of us deal better than others, but it never goes away.

Your music always gave me comfort that someone else felt the way I did, and even though I didn’t know you personally, I felt less alone. Thank you.

VIPKID: A Quiz and a Mock Class

You got the interview…you passed the Demo Class…They even sent you a contract!!! Time to teach, right? WRONG. There is one more phase to the multi-level hiring process at VIPKID.

Teacher Prep. First, you will have a couple of days to review all of the teaching prep material and take a short quiz. You can take it multiple times if you need to. *Tip* The quiz is primarily about technology and standards, so make sure you read and watch everything from these two sections of the prep material.  I would also recommend reviewing the curriculum introduction for Level 2. They do not ask you specifically about curriculum in the quiz, so if you want to book your mock AS SOON AS POSSIBLE, I would get the quiz out of the way and go back and review the “Theory” for each level later once you have booked your Mock Class. The booking times for this are much more flexible because most of the Mock Class Mentors are American.  You will have six days after completing the quiz to do your mock.

The Mock Class. If you do AMAZINGLY well at your first Mock Class, you will be offered a contract and begin teaching. This doesn’t happen often, so don’t get discouraged if you need to do Mock 2. If you do a good job and the practicum instructor feels that you have the talent, but they believe you need to work on a few things, you will continue on to the Mock 2 class to prove your ability to take constructive criticism and apply it to your skill set.

So what can you expect at your first Mock Class? It is basically an extension of everything you did in the demo, except this time you will teach a full 25 minute class. Your target audience is still a very young student with little or no English speaking ability. Practice the same methods I discussed for the demo class. Use all of the feedback you received from your demo and apply it now! Here is what you can expect:

  1. The entire process is one hour long. Make sure you are there EARLY. I can not stress the importance of being on time and prepared enough.
  2. The first five minutes you will introduce yourself briefly to your Mock Class Mentor. You will most likely see an American face at this stage.
  3.  You will have about 15 minutes to teach slides 1-14. Timing is everything. Anticipate approximately one minute per slide. You can spend less time on the first few warm up slides to give yourself some breathing room later. If you  find yourself falling behind, make sure you at least touch on one or two of the items on each slide. Remember to encourage your student to speak in complete sentences, even if they are just repeating what you say.
  4. Once you have finished slide 14, your mentor will stop you and give feedback. Listen carefully to what they say, because you will be graded on your ability to APPLY this information in the second half of the mock. I was allowed to ask questions at this phase, but I was so nervous my mind went blank. That’s ok! But if you like to be super prepared, have some questions jotted down before you even start.
  5. Now you will finish the lesson slides 15-23. Again, USE THE FEEDBACK YOU WERE GIVEN BY THE MENTOR. If you do NOTHING ELSE, make sure to demonstrate that you can take their critique and apply it on the fly (with a smile of course)
  6. If your timing was good and  you finish on time,  your mentor will give you feedback again for the last 10 minutes and ask you questions about how you think you did, what you would improve upon, etc. If your mentor has to stop you before you finish, it’s not the end of the world. Use that as a talking point during the feedback.
  7. AND NOW, YOU WAIT! You will receive an email with your results, just like with the interview/demo. It could be hours or it could be days. The email will explain whether a) you are hired,  b) you passed to Mock 2, or c) you just aren’t what the company is looking for right now. If for some reason you fall into the last category, don’t be discouraged. We have more applicants than ever which means it is HARD to get through. The good news is,  you can take everything you learned and apply again with a new email address, or just wait out the three months.

I know, I know. This sounds like a lot. Too many hoops. But trust me, it’s necessary and totally worth it. Teaching in an online environment is a whole different animal than anything you’ve ever done before, and you will be grateful on your first day when you nervously await your first, sweet little Chinese student.

I will admit there are WAY TOO MANY “helpful” videos out there at this point. Save yourself some time and don ‘t get too caught up in the youtube hype. I only used a few to prepare for the mock, and Hope Williams was my favorite teacher simply because she teaches in a style that I am comfortable with. I also watched Sharon Tavares, and what do you know, she was my mock mentor! I want to stress how important it is not to copy these teacher videos exactly. Your mentors have seen them all (and some of them might have even made a few!). They want to see YOU. So if you watch a ton of videos, remember to use the information and make the class your own. There is more competition than ever for these positions, so bring them YOU, because you are unique!

You want to teach with VIPKID? CLICK HERE to apply.

Fidget Spinners: Another teacher complaining?

Yes, I am.

I read this article about fidget spinners and couldn’t agree more. Check it out.

http://time.com/…/4774…/fidget-spinners-adhd-anxiety-stress/

My two cents as a teacher? I have always kept a few foam squishy toys to *discreetly* offer my constant tappers, wigglers, fidgeters, standers, and walkers because it is something that has worked for my anxiety (I am a tapper). I have only had two students actually benefit from my “fidget toys”. One was a student who compulsively picked off his SKIN AND HAIR, and having something to mutilate other than himself was a huge benefit. Every day when he came to class he would ask me for it, and eventually I sent him home with a few to keep at all times. Another was a boy who was absolutely brilliant, but could not sit still and could barely get through a thought without being distracted. A fidget toy made a SMALL difference for him refocusing his energy. The rest of the students I tried this with have always just caused a distraction with them. Two students out of hundreds that I have taught actually saw a benefit, and one was so marginally small I don’t even know if I can count it. Put that in  your research.

And this particular toy is no different. There is no cure all for ADHD, ADD, Anxiety, Depression…To mass market a product like this and give hope to struggling parents is terrible…but it’s more terrible to turn mental disorders into a children’s toy for recess. I’m sorry, but I am pretty sure the entire 5th grade class does NOT have ADHD…Just sayin…

VIPKID: How do I pass the Interview and Demo Class?

Simple answer. PREPARE.

The interview was the most nerve wracking part of this process for me. I had never done anything like this before. It almost felt dirty, performing in front of a camera for someone halfway around the world. I had worked myself all up…and I shouldn’t have. Here is what will happen.

The Steps:

  1. You will receive an email congratulating you on making it to the next step, and then receive instructions on how to schedule the interview and first demo class. You will have several options, but try to do it as quickly as possible. Remember, *most* of the interviewers are in Beijing, so *most* of the times will be early mornings and late night. (They have started having a few American folks do the interview since I applied last month, so you might get lucky and score a normal time.)
  2. Make sure you review the material that they provide for you. You will immediately have access to the power point slides you will be teaching from. USE THE MATERIAL THEY GIVE YOU IN THE PORTAL. DO NOT WAIT UNTIL THE LAST MINUTE. GO OVER IT AGAIN AND AGAIN. You will be teaching a lesson that targets a very young child with little or NO English ability. Keep that in mind as you prepare. Practice your pacing. Time yourself. Watch yourself teach (even if you just open the camera on  your computer.).  Watch other VIPKID teachers on Youtube (but be careful which ones…some are not so good…I will share a list of the good ones later on). Have some props. Nothing crazy. All I had was a whiteboard, a stuffed animal, and some dollar store flashcards. For my interview, I had also already set up a small, plain background with some good lighting. Get AN ORANGE SHIRT. Go to Goodwill. Spend a dollar. Wear it backwards if you can’t find one without a logo. That’s what I did (and still do now that I am teaching). It is VIPKID’s official color. If you look like you already have the job, chances are you will project that during the interview and demo class.
  3. The interview will be a total of 30 minutes. You will not have access to the actual teaching platform until about an hour before your interview time (or so they say). I was able to access it four hours early. Your email should have given you a .pdf with detailed instructions on how to get into the platform and use it! Get in there as soon as you can. TEST YOUR EQUIPMENT. Practice things like clicking through the slides, drawing lines and circling on the slides. This is an important skill to demonstrate. The first half of the interview will be basic interview questions…Nothing hard. “Tell me about your education” and “Tell me about your experience with children” were the only two things my interviewer asked me. I had a young Chinese man interview me. They are stationed in a busy call center with many distractions. He looked like he couldn’t WAIT for me to stop talking. Don’t let this intimidate you (because in the last half of the interview he has to pretend to be a 5 year old child in your class). SMILE. Bring lots of energy and animation. Talk at length about your experience with children. For the second half of the interview,  you will present the sample lesson as your interviewer takes on the role of a small Chinese child. My interviewer was easy going and did not give me a hard time. Greet your “student” warmly. Speak slowly. Be energetic! Remember to use SIMPLE LANGUAGE. Try not to add any words that are not on the slides. Use lots of hand gestures, and give praise often. Use the reward system. When I did my interview, you had to draw teeth on a smiley face. Some people may tell you to use your own reward system…Don’t go there yet. Keep it as simple for yourself as possible right now. Try to relax and have fun.
  4. If they cut you off towards the end, don’t worry. They have to keep a tight schedule, and you will (hopefully) soon find out that staying on schedule is a very important part of VIPKID. They will ask if you have any questions. This is your chance to ask anything you want about the company, the process, or even how you did! At the very end, they MIGHT ask you how much money you would like to make per hour. I have heard reports both ways. They asked me, and I told them. I got exactly what I asked for. Obviously, don’t tell them something ridiculous like $40/hour. The current range is $14-$22/ hour. Be sure you justify the amount that you wish to make with your experience. For example, “I would like to make $XX/ hour because_______________________.”.
  5. And that’s it. A little preparation will go a long way in this process.  You will do a lot of work to get hired, but then it will be smooth sailing!

After the interview is over, it could take up to 48 hours to hear anything from the company. I got the results in my email within an hour. They will provide a rubric with what you did well, and where to improve if you advance to the Mock 1 Class. Keep in mind, the Demo Class is where the majority of your points are scored from, WHICH DETERMINES  HOW MUCH MONEY THEY WILL OFFER YOU. Many people with advanced degrees have failed the interview due to lack of preparation for what VIPKID expects. They have standards and a company philosophy just like any other job you have worked at, and you must conform to those standards if you want to survive.

Here are some videos that I found extremely helpful, and in my OPINION, give a good idea of what the company is looking for. These three teachers all have different styles, so you can see some variety and different ways to do things. Click the links below to watch!

Nancy Taylor, Hope Williams, and Jennie Anderson are amazing!

 

So you got that happy email? Find out about the Mock 1 experience next time!

Interested in starting the process? CLICK HERE to apply!

 

VIPKID: How do I apply?

So I clicked that annoying Facebook ad. The initial application process is simple. You must complete a short form that basically only asks for your level of education and experience working with children. I honestly put less than five seconds of thought into my application because I still wasn’t convinced that it was a legitimate offer.

The Application Requirements:

  • You need a Bachelor’s degree. It can be in anything. Seriously.
  • You must have some type experience working with children. Again, this can be ANYTHING. Babysitting, Sunday school, volunteer work…heck, even just being a mom would qualify.
  • You need a webcam, a headset, and good internet. (I got a headset for $7 off of Amazon that has worked perfectly.)
  • The last thing that they stress is that you must be able to work some pretty strange hours. It is no longer a company requirement that you work a certain number of *peak time* shifts, but it is definitely recommended if you ever want to teach a class…especially in the beginning.
  • And that’s it. Really.

Somehow, with the bare minimum of information that I included, I received an email invitation for an interview within one hour of submitting my application. I was so excited! Until I realized this meant an awkward conversation over a webcam to sell myself as the perfect VIPKID teacher.

On the next episode…I tell you how I got through the interview and demo class, and then passed my Mock Class on the first try (which is apparently next to impossible to achieve).

Expecting the Unexpected: I’m a Mom?

I wasn’t planning on having a baby just yet. When I found out the news in March 2016, I cried. Not happy, “touched by an angel” cry. Ugly, “why me?” cry. It wasn’t the way I imagined it. I wasn’t prepared. I wasn’t married. I wasn’t even speaking to the father at the time. I didn’t know anything about babies. I made it a general rule to avoid them at all costs. I was scared. I hadn’t even been sober a full two years. I was barely taking care of myself again. How in the world would I manage?

Luckily, I had fixed my credit in the two years I had been free from the “haze” and I was in a stable career. I also had put up a few thousand dollars in the hopes of buying a house one day before I died. I was literally in the middle of moving from my 1 bedroom apartment into a 2 bedroom town home the day I took the pregnancy test, so that was a lucky break. Honestly, I was in the best mental and financial shape I had ever been. My situation could have been much, much worse. Still, I knew it was going to be a hard road and I wasn’t completely confident in my life skills.

I threw myself into the preparation aspect of it all so I wouldn’t have to think about the  reality of my situation. I applied for every credit card I got an offer for to give myself ample emergency funds. Not going to be able to afford that damn house any time soon…so why stress about my credit?

Supplies. Babies need stuff. Lots of stuff. Amazon has great discounts and specials if you know how to shop. I signed up for Amazon Prime and slowly stocked up on as many diapers and baby supplies as I could afford to have auto-shipped each month. I calculated approximately how many diapers I would need of each size and started getting size 1 delivered, then size 2, etc. (So far it has worked out perfectly. I had a few extra size 1’s, but only because I did not factor in the surprise baby shower gifts I got.) I bought 75 packs of the fancy Huggies wipes when Kroger ran a promotion of Buy 5, Get them $1 each. (I had to visit five different Krogers three different times to make that happen.) I visited Goodwill. Every. Single. Weekend. I got brand new and barely used baby clothes size 0-12 months for $1 (or less) each. Floor gym $3. Boppy Pillow $2. Blankets. Sleep sacks. Toys. Baby books. You name it, I probably got it at Goodwill for 90% less than most parents paid for it. Crib? Craigslist.  A friend whose baby is a year older than mine gave me her swing, jumper, and stroller for a fraction of what she paid for it. The most expensive purchase I made was a nice Pack ‘n Play with a changer and infant bassinet. I paid $100 open box for it on Amazon…list price $180. (and it actually pretty much saved my life after an unplanned C-section and my brilliant upstairs nursery) I read the blogs. I joined the forums. I got the apps. I did everything a “good mom” should do.

That’s great…but what about the actual baby? I don’t think it hit me that a human was inside of me until his heart rate plummeted during my induction and I almost lost him. I didn’t even know it was a him at the time. (I had opted to wait and let it be a surprise because they are so few and far between as an adult.) As the nurses swarmed around me, reassuring me that everything was OK, NOTHING was OK…It became real. The gravity of it all hit me.  For over nine months, I had carried this baby inside of me and never really had that “magic mom” moment women always go on…and on…and on about. I thought I was different. Something was wrong with me. But the floodgates opened. I started shaking uncontrollably as they frantically prepped me for an emergency C-Section. Tears fell. Everything I had ever wanted changed in a single moment. The only thing I really wanted was this baby.  The second I heard his first cry was the moment I took my first real breath. My life started when he was born. As I read that last sentence, I am fully aware of the fact that three years ago, I would have laughed at the corny, lame ass person who would write something like that. But now I am that person. That mom. His mom. And even though I thought he was the last thing I wanted at the time, he is everything I need now.

 

 

VIPKID: What is it?

One day (very recently) I was stressing about money. I have a new baby. I am the only source of income for the two of us. The medical bills are piling up. Not to mention I live in the most wonderful country in the world…which means the three months maternity leave I took were unpaid. I am also a teacher in the most wonderful country in the world. I am hurting for cash.

So what did I do? I wasted precious hours of my life watching other people’s happy, care-free lives unfold on Facebook, wishing I had been financially responsible much sooner in my life. Suddenly, I noticed one of those ANNOYING Facebook ads…It was for a company called VIPKID. They were offering $14-$22/hour for online English tutoring…Hmmmmm…No way this is legit. Googled it. High ratings. Hmmmmmm…Alright Facebook.

I clicked the link…and things got even better. The hours are crazy. But crazy PERFECT for me. Since the children you teach are in China, you have to teach during peak hours in their time zone (if you want to get any classes booked). I am in CST, so our peak hours are 5AM-9AM during the week and 8PM-9AM on Friday and Saturday.

Why is this perfect, you say? My baby is 5 months old, and I want to spend every minute I can with him. This job allows me to work before he wakes up and after he goes to sleep. I don’t need to worry about putting him in daycare while I work over the summer. I don’t have to find an employer who is sympathetic to a nursing mother determined to pump milk for her baby as long as possible. Plus I am a teacher already so it would not be a significant amount of extra training…

Next time…What happened when I clicked “Apply”.

 

Are you interested in applying? Click here to apply and receive a $25 referral bonus upon hire.

The Quest for the Perfect Side Job

I am interested in too many things. I dabble here and there, and stumble across some good opportunities along the way.  Even my current teaching position was obtained by pure chance in an email from an alternative teaching certification program that I was no longer active in.

After college, I tried really really REALLY hard to maintain a job in my field of study. Art degrees, am I right?  Basically, this meant spending several years barely making more than minimum wage for various sign shops and small photography studios. Making a decent living meant keeping up at least one part time job on the side. Unfortunately, even with all of that working, I still managed to run  up a pretty penny’s worth of credit card bills and other debt associated with being a young, uninsured artist. YOLO, they said…Do it big, they say…And I did it. All of it. But they forgot to tell me I would eventually have to pay for it.

I have had some pretty decent side gigs and I have had some pretty shady ones too. I have freelanced design and photography. I have waited tables. I have done BPO photography (which required creeping down people’s streets to take photographs of their soon to be foreclosed homes). I have done transcription and captioning work. I have graded standardized test essays. I plan to elaborate on all of these in a later post.

My most current side job conquest seems to be the best so far. It’s a company called VIPKID. It seems kind of corny at first, but I got hired and I am actually really excited about it. The job is teaching English to young students in China online. I can literally work in my pajama pants. Which is great considering my new working hours are during times normal human beings are asleep. It really is wonderful for me though. As a mother who is nursing a young baby, my options for a decent wage are limited. I can’t really stop in the middle of a restaurant shift to pump milk for my baby (who would have to be in daycare that I couldn’t afford to pay for). VIPKID lets me set up my own hours and my own schedule. I can work while the baby sleeps, and have my summer days free to spend with him. Did I mention the pay is great?

This will be my first full week of classes since being hired in April, and I am planning to document this journey in the months to come. Stay tuned!