Breaking Down Cultural Barriers: Meet Teacher Claire

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