I was on my third week of a 4–6 week bed rest order from my Doctor. Weeks earlier I had returned from a Christmas vacation in Canada only to be unable to walk more than a 400 meters. This was a problem! I was working as a babysitter and ESL teacher in Berlin. I was walking, climbing stairs and carrying toddlers around Berlin every day, as I worked concurrently on singing and reaching my dream of singing on the opera stage.
Bed Rest?! I shook my head in disbelief. It was never like me to stay in one place very long. I took the doctors orders but with not much improvement, I was going stir crazy by the third week. That is when a wonderful door was opened for me with VIPKID!
It was amazing and so exciting to be able to work from home, to sing and smile at the students all the way in China! I was teaching a lot those first weeks. I averaged 95 classes a week (Remember, I had to make up for 3 weeks without pay. A Master’s of Opera doesn’t come cheap). But after teaching 18–20 students from 5 am to 3pm CET, I was tired and barely had energy to write my comments. I wasn’t a VIPKID wonder teacher who could write feedback in the 3 minutes between classes. I wanted to provide helpful, detailed, and memorable feedback so I had to do it immediately after I finished.
It took hours! Literally between 2 or 3 hours. My 10 hour day of lessons, turned into a 12 sometimes 13 hour day of work. This was not something I factored in when I opened my schedule, but I didn’t want to cut back my teaching, I enjoyed every part of the teaching. I also didn’t want to compromise the quality of my feedback. I just wanted to find a better method of writing my comments and a better method of tracking my students and courses. I was not the only one who wanted this.
My boyfriend, Arvid, and I share a one bedroom apartment in the middle of Berlin. He is German, but he can still sing the ‘Hello song’, all of the Goodbye songs, and his personal favourite ‘How’s the weather? It’s Sunny!’ What he saw was how much extra work I was doing writing comments and using a huge excel spreadsheet to try and organize my students.
He is a software engineer, so I told him down to every detail about a program I thought would be useful. How I would like to track my students and their progress. How I continually used the same framework to my feedback and always signed off “Kind regrads, teacher Dani” and then would have to go back and fix my typo and make it “Kind regards, teacher Dani” because for the life of me, I could never type it correctly on the first try. I wanted a system that would hold a template with all of this info so that I did not need to retype it 20 times at the end of my work day, but could add details specific to each student as I went.
Then one day he said,
“I can build that”
He built a functioning prototype for FeedbackPanda in about a week. I was thrilled! Even though the initial process of establishing my templates and courses was a bit time consuming, I knew that this work would pay off huge the next time I taught the course. It also paid off when you got to see students’ faces light up because you remembered their nickname, their pet turtle’s name or their favourite colour.
Soon, I would have days where all of the classes I taught would already have templates ready to be used and generated and I was able to recognize and get excited for regular students. I was relieved of the stress of trying to manage the templates and student data in an excel sheet. Everything was automated. It was beyond amazing!
I soon realized that this is a tool that every teacher needs and it actually makes us teachers better. Teachers need it so that they can spend more time teaching or more time preparing for lessons. They can be more detailed with their feedback and follow student progress more easily. In turn, giving them more time to spend with their loved ones or getting to their next destination as they travel the world.
The response has been overwhelming, with teachers who love the tool. Some people are affectionate saying that they could hug and kiss us! One teacher said that she believes we are likely saving marriages. Another said that their love of teaching has been restored. Whatever it is, we are so happy to share FeedbackPanda. We hope that it can take care of those tedious tasks to leave teachers free to take some much deserved time for themselves.