Breaking Down Cultural Barriers: Meet Teacher Claire

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When Claire signed up to teach with VIPKid, she thought she’d discovered an interesting opportunity to grow her experience in the world of education. She had no idea that she had just changed her life.

VIPKid teachers are able to work from their own home and the comfort of their favorite pair of yoga pants. But for many teachers, this isn’t just a side hustle to earn extra cash.

“I have fallen in love with teaching all over again, and that’s due to VIPKid,” Claire tells us. We’re flattered, but we wanted to understand more about why.

You see, Claire has worked in the world of education for nearly 30 years, both as a teacher and a school administrator. Though her background is primarily in special education, in recent years she has missed having direct interaction with students and the fulfillment that comes from cultivating those relationships.

Many months ago, Claire happened to see a VIPKid ad on Facebook from a trusted friend and wanted to know is this for real? “It sounded too good to be true,” she admits. Not long thereafter, though, Claire had determined that this was the next step for her. She became a VIPKid teacher.

“From the start it was truly all about connection,” says Claire. “I don’t invest my time and energy into something just because it’s a job. I do it because it’s my passion.

That passion drives her to do more than just show up to work. For Claire—and many others like her—it turns out that the online classroom isn’t only about teaching and learning the English language, but also about forging true human connection. To build a rapport with her students, Claire intentionally digs into their interests and strengths, asking for their parents’ input about how she can customize her lessons to each student. She’s found that she can be more effective if she’s able to take her lessons to a more personal level.

As a result of that personal touch and extra care for the families with whom she interacts, Claire has developed a close friendship with several of the parents of her students. Through conversations over time, they’ve discussed not only her students’ education, but they’ve also shared insights about their own unique cultures, traditions, and beliefs.

“I knew not one thing about Chinese culture,” she admits. “I felt very inept with my own knowledge base. I realized I really don’t know a whole lot. [Since I started] I’ve had parents teach me about the Chinese education system, the Chinese New Year traditions, and much more along the way.” The bond Claire has formed with her VIPKid families has taken this teaching experience to a whole new level.

In fact, in 2018 Claire made the decision to visit China to experience the culture first-hand and meet some of her new friends in person. It all started with an offhand comment that she might visit China in the next year. And before she knew it—with a little push from her VIPKid community—she was on a flight headed to Beijing.

“I really wanted to see and experience the Chinese culture for myself. Their traditions and values seem to make them who they are, and I had a desire to experience that.”

So, Claire hopped on a flight with her daughter Emily to explore and connect in person. When her students’ parents offered advice, tips, and even accommodations—she took them up on it. From detailing subway instructions to preparing home-cooked meals, every part of her trip was positively impacted by the hospitality and friendship of the families she met through VIPKid. And with an open mind and a willingness to try the food, experience the traditions, and participate in the culture, Claire found that she was able to build even stronger relationships.

Claire and her daughter visited with nearly 10 of her students and their families, getting a look into a wide variety of living styles, socioeconomic situations, and cultural backgrounds. She found that each family had a common thread, though: “They all have a love for their country and their traditions, and they were very proud to share that with us.”

When Claire reflected on her experience, she noted the things that made us all alike, rather than the contrasts in our cultures. She recognized that while she observed a competitive society, at their core each generation of families just wants better for their children, just like in America. And perhaps surprisingly—perhaps not—language was mostly a non-factor in Claire’s experience.

Simply put: “We did not allow language to be a barrier.”

Now Claire is back in the US and continuing to teach, but this time with a whole new perspective. Her time with VIPKid has not only rejuvenated her love for teaching, but it’s given her a whole new perspective on a culture she previously knew very little about. And at the end of the day, she gets to do what she loves. 

“I missed seeing the way kids light up,” Claire told us. But as a VIPKid teacher, she gets to experience that joy and those lightbulb moments daily. She also gets to experience the joy of breaking down barriers between cultures around the world.

Ready to join Claire and other VIPKid teachers in creating something special? Sign up to teach with VIPKid here

77 COMMENTS

  1. Hi Claire,
    You sound like an amazing person. I’ve been teaching with VIPkid since October. I have several students that have returned to my classroom multiple times. I would like to get to know them better–deepen the connection. I’ve been trying to think of some ways to do that.What are some ways that you got to have a more meaningful connection with your return students?

  2. Wow, what a powerful experience – thanks for sharing! I just started my first contract with VIPKid and am trying to learn and absorb as much as I can about the company and teaching English as a second language prior to opening my first classes. I had put my teaching career on hold to be a stay at home mom with my small children but it is incredible that I can experience both and continue to grow in my passion for teaching! Thank you for being so inspiring!

  3. This is awesome. I can relate to the feeling – IS THIS FOR REAL?? But after 3 years with VIPKID I can say YES, this is for REAL! (And so great!)

  4. So happy that you were able to visit with your students, Claire! This is a goal of mine as well. My husband and I would like to do a China trip and visit the core areas where my students are (which is basically nearly everywhere)! We would love to stop in Beijing, Shenzhen, Chengdu, and [if we could swing it] visit one of my long regulars in Inner Mongolia! I love this job and the cultural exposure it brings!

  5. Awesome story! I taught in Vietnam for 2 years and upon returning the the US I was missing teaching. VIPKid has been a great help with that feeling I missed from teaching kids in Asia.

  6. This is amazing!! I am a new VIPKId teacher and I am so excited to build a connection with my students!! I am making it a goal to visit China, just like Claire!! ???? Very awesome.

  7. This was a great read! I love working for VIPKID – I remembering signing up and wondering the same thing “Is this for real?” but the kids are amazing and so much fun to teach!

  8. I’m on my 7th contract an absolutely love VIPKID. I worked in the public school system for many years. This is like the best of both worlds. Thank you VIPKID.

  9. I am close to my 3rd contract. I love teaching at VIPKID. If I was younger I would move to China! I love the culture and the people very much.

  10. What a wonderful opportunity! I can only imagine how amazing it would be to meet the students and walk around in their homes and experience the sights and smells of the Chinese culture.

  11. I love to see the kids light up! I used to be a second grade teacher and have been having so fun for the last month teaching with VIPKID I have found my passion again!

  12. I am brand new to VIPKID… only 21 days in, but I knew from the very first lesson I taught, that I wanted to visit China! Thank you for this inspirational and motivational blog!

  13. Thanks for sharing. I would also love to visit China but for now I meet every Friday with some Chinese children whose parents are enrolled at the Medical College of Georgia in Augusta Georgia. It is as close as I can get by helping these Children while they are in the states for a brief time. Kathryn Jones

  14. I love VIP Kid. It has finally taken off for me, and I love it. I get up real early, it sometimes interrupts my evening family time, but i absolutely don’t mind, and my family loves how much I love it! i want to always be a VIP Kid teacher.

    • I totally agree with Teresa and so many of you! This job is a life-changer. It is a life-changer for the kids as well as us. I have had many jobs since 16, but I’ve never loved one THIS MUCH. I love these wonderful children. They are worth every early morning cup of coffee, every class prep, every effort!

  15. I totally agree with Teresa and so many of you! This job is a life-changer. It is a life-changer for the kids as well as us. I have had many jobs since 16, but I’ve never loved one THIS MUCH. I love these wonderful children. They are worth every early morning cup of coffee, every class prep, every effort!

  16. Hello Claire,
    We have much in common. I taught 29 years and my experience has been working with second language learners. Teaching was not just a job for me either. I LOVED working with my students and making connections with their parents and the community. I am now retired but I have renewed the joy of teaching with VIPKID! My “job” is really more of a wonderful hobby that brings me great joy and fulfillment . My students are delightful and their parents are most supportive. I only hope that someday I too can travel to China and experience firsthand the beautiful culture, warm people and rich history of
    China. You have inspired me to work toward that goal. Best wishes to you.

  17. Wow! What a great experience! Thanks for sharing! That would definitely change your perspective on teaching the students!

  18. Claire I can identify with your post. I am a retired educator. I really missed the students when I retired too. There is such a special bond between students and their teachers. I am amazed at the connection I feel with my VIP Kid students. I loved reading about your trip to meet your students.

  19. Claire – I have a similar background (special ed., and then admin. as a principal and curriculum director), but I MISSED KIDS!! I am loving teaching with VIPKID – the students are amazing, and I would love the opportunity to go to China. It has been added to my bucket list!!

  20. Claire, I experienced the same rejuvenation of my love of teaching through VIPKID. I had worked 20 years in education and thought I was burnt out but wanted to work from home. When I saw the VIPKID ad I thought “I could do that!” And I have just signed my 6th contract with VIPKID and still love it.

  21. I am very happy you were able to visit China!! My planned trip fell through :'( But I will plan another. It is so encouraging to see others who were able to make the journey.
    Happy Teaching!!

  22. I just started teaching about a month ago, and I am truly feeling the same spirit. These kids make my heart hurt! Seeing the student grow as a speaker in each class is such a great feeling.

  23. Kathryn Jones has taught for many years as well. I have found this new challenge of teaching on line to be very rewarding, especially now that I am getting more and more regular students. I am very grateful for this opportunity. I will say “You are never too old to learn new things!”

  24. I think it is wonderful that you built a relationship with both the parents and the student! I know we can ask questions on the feedback form. How were parents able to respond to you?

  25. Hi Claire. I absolutely related to your comment that you fell in love with teaching all over again. I have been teaching over 14 years and have been feeling burned out. I look forward to this new teaching journey. Thank you for sharing!

  26. This is beautiful. I love making the connections too. One student has become my virtual tour guide. He teaches me a little more about China and Chinese culture after each class. I will be visiting in 2019 I believe!

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