Many of you may have noticed that I have been rather quiet on this website for the last month or two. The reason for this is that I have been going through a major life change. I love teaching, but sometimes I love it too much. It has not been uncommon in the past for me to find myself staying at work until six or seven in the evening. I have also had virtually no weekends. This isn’t because of the workload, but because I am sometimes too much of a perfectionist.
Here is where the problems arise. I suffer from depression. Trying to juggle work and home life where I was spending so much time at work and so little time at home became very taxing, and I was beginning to fall even deeper into my depression. Sadly because of this, I decided to end my career as a general education teacher. It was one of the hardest choices I have had to make, and I wouldn’t have made it without the incredible support of my peers and administration at my school district.
So I left teaching… and I was lost. I tried working at a car dealership, following the promise of “a greater earning potential than I could ever imagine.” I realized quickly that I was not a car salesman, and I didn’t really want to be one. I wanted to teach. That deep pull of working with kids and doing something meaningful still had a hold on me. That is when I learned about VIPKID.
VIPKID is an online teaching website where native english speakers teach online to children living in China. The way the program works is that once hired, a teacher chooses time slots that they are available, and parents schedule their children within those slots. There are peak times available in which students are more likely to book with you, and many students will often want to work with you on a consistent basis. You are paid for each 30 minute class you teach.
I love this job. Many teachers work here in the morning hours before going to work at school; there is a minimum requirement of 8 hours per week of teaching. I however decided to take it on as a main source of income, and I usually teach around 50 classes each week. What I really love about VIPKID is that it is a one-on-one digital teaching environment, and each student’s learning plan is custom-tailored to their specific needs. Students also work through the website’s online curriculum when not working with the teacher, so they are prepared when class starts. I also love the flexibility; I am usually finished with work before my family wakes up, and I can spend the day with them. This is the way that I believe teaching should be.
Oh, and the commute isn’t bad. There usually isn’t too much traffic from my bed to my desk.
I recommend any certified teachers to at least check out VIPKID. The flexibility really allows just about anybody to fit it into their schedule, and it is the most fun I have had in a long time. Click here if you would like to know more or want to try it out. I hope you enjoy it as much as I do.
For teachers to take ownership of blended learning in their classrooms, they need be co-leaders of their own learning. This program is designed to transition leadership from the facilitator to the teachers over the course of the program.
The first two meetings have a large focus on the facilitator as the leader of the program. In these sessions it is the facilitator’s job to engage the learners and to develop the idea of blended learning amongst the learners. As the program progresses, it will become more of an open collaboration forum with a central theme for each session. The facilitator will be directing the conversations and addressing any concerns or questions. The second nine weeks of the program are devoted to building up the learners to become confident in using blended learning in their classrooms. To do this, learners will direct the conversations for the evening. At this point many other teachers should begin to feel confident enough to share ideas and help solve other’s problems. At this point the facilitator becomes more of a mentor, and even becomes part of many of the conversations.
One of the great ideas behind this PL is that the facilitator is not planned to be the only leader of the program. Early adopters of blended learning will be tasked as campus leaders to help others become more confident in the practice of blended learning. The dispersion of leadership helps all learners to become successful in blended learning.
Collaboration is a paramount component for successful PL. For our blended learning PL, we need to create an atmosphere of honest, open collaboration. People need to feel safe expressing their ideas and concerns.
In our face to face and video conference meetings, we need to focus on promoting collaboration between teachers. Goals of the PL will be focused on group-oriented tasks. Teachers will have multiple opportunities to discuss and problem-solve as well. All meetings will have a discussion component to promote the idea of collaboration.
Outside of the monthly meetings, discussion boards will be created for teachers to continue the conversation. There should be a focus on the idea that if someone runs into an issue they can post it online, and other teachers can share ideas on how to work through that issue. These posting boards will also be a place to voice concerns about blended learning. The PL facilitator will address these concerns in a productive way to help create a safe environment for meaningful conversations to take place.
One of the most important considerations we can make when developing PL is the specific needs of our audience. What is the background knowledge that our teachers are coming with? What learning style suits them best? How do we foster meaningful conversations between all of our staff? For our PL to be wildly successful, we need to ask ourselves these questions.
What background knowledge do our teachers have about blended learning?
Our educators are as diverse as our students are. Some of our teachers are master technology specialists with backgrounds in digital learning practices. Some of our teachers still use flip phones. Most of our teachers fall somewhere between these two extremes. We need to think about how we can tailor the PL experience for all of these learners.
What learning style suits our learners?
This is an important question, and I think that the answers will vary greatly. That is why I believe that we should incorporate a variety of learning experiences from collaboration to modeling to videos and to articles.
How do we foster meaningful conversations?
I think that as a district, we are doing a fantastic job of this already. I think that we can easily apply what we are already using to this new model of PL. The only addition I suggest we add is an option to communicate with other teachers easily outside of the PL environment.