Rainbows, Thailand and Fermented Pasta: Meet VIPKid Teacher Ashley

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For your average Joe/Jane, waking up at 3am to interact with a child under the age of 12 isn’t generally ranked highly on the list of things you like to do at that time of the day. Just thinking about it makes most people reach for the Advil and seriously consider a triple espresso. That’s because most people aren’t VIPKid teachers.

And then there’s Ashley…

“As soon as that first face pops up on the screen, it’s like a giant rainbow comes over my entire existence.”

If you’re thinking this is some anomaly of insanely good luck, or that Ashley has never been graced with a tough student/class, think again. Remember the mention of fermented pasta that probably made you click on this post in the first place? Of course you do. You’re probably skimming the article as we speak trying to find out what it’s all about. You see Ashley has an uncanny ability to see the fun side of almost any situation. Don’t believe us? Try this out:

Ashley’s daughter, who we can only imagine as having recently attended a particularly riveting science class, thought it a grand idea to put cooked pasta in an airtight thermos. And then, as one does, store it under the sink. For months.

Fast forward a few months, to the quiet still of a 4am morning. That fragile time of the day when your body is still tentatively figuring out its place in the world. Ashley is in class and has just launched into an earnest discussion involving happy purple penguins, when the thermos decides it’s had enough. So, doing what any thermos subjected to such misery would do, it explodes with a noise only 4am can appreciate. Ashley screams, fearing the worst and wondering if the house around her is still standing, when suddenly she hears an excited voice from the screen:

“Oooh, ghost! Ooooh”

While some of us would classify this under the “please let’s never bring this incident up again” category, Ashley remembered it as one of her funniest moments with VIPKid (although there was probably a perturbed phone call to the science teacher the next day, and a gentle plea not to give kids smart ideas involving household food items again). Way to take it all in stride Ashley!

Ashley’s daily routine is a little more mundane, but only fractionally. For her, VIPKid means freedom in the truest sense of the word. She was first introduced to VIPKid in an online group called Girls Love Travel. The question she raised at the time was, “how do you fund your travels?”

Any guesses what group she’s part of now? Teachers Who Travel of course.

Her commitment to traveling and working flexibly has seen her in Turkey, Italy and Thailand in the last few months alone. These are not weekend trips either, in Thailand she spent an entire month where her only real worry was how much sand stays in your sock after a day at the beach.

Feeling a little jealous, we asked Ashley how she maintains a high standard of classes and good rapport with students amongst this rollercoaster-like lifestyle.

“I bring a couple little props with me when I travel, a little VIPKID toolkit. I was able to pare down my prop collection to just four things, and they’re animals. Plastic toy animals, which happen to be in the majority of the lessons I teach, and then I can use them to illustrate what’s going on. If we’re talking about body parts I can be pointing to the leg of the elephant, or if it’s a story about a lion chasing a zebra I can do that. If the lesson is not about the animals, then I can just use them as a reward system too.”

With the props down, she says the most important thing is building relationships and tailoring her classes for each student.

For every regular student, she knows just when to cut in and correct pronunciation (it’s Lobsters, not mobsters). Every student is different in this respect, and for some, waiting until the end of their excited rant about that time they “rode a cannibal in Egypt” ensures their enthusiasm is never dampened. Ashley is confident her style is appreciated, and she is constantly praised by parents for her persistent attention to speaking native English.

“They’re not learning from material written by someone whose second language is English in the first place. Practically they’re getting the most accurate exposure to American English. I think it’s also novel for some of the kids to have a friend in America.”

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