Erin Grant loves nature and the outdoors. Before VIPKid, she studied all kinds of crawling critters as a field biologist. She also served as a Peace Corps volunteer in Sichuan, teaching about the environment to kids in Sichuan. After returning to the US, she started a family and embarked on a 2-year RV-ing adventure with them! Teacher Erin dreams about reinventing herself once again, perhaps studying to become an RN, or embarking on another RV adventure with her family. To learn more about Erin, her background as a field biologist and Peace Corps volunteer, and her future aspirations, please watch our interview with her too!
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I use only 2d props. I hang them on rings organized by categories. They are hung on hooks on the wall next to my computer. I grab them as I need them in class and put them right back. No prep, no cleanup. I made this set of flash cards to make this easy for me. I use them to facilitate conversation with students and to illustrate ideas.
What companies do you teach for?
Do you have an outside job – related or unrelated to teaching?
I work in a toystore/ ice cream shop in my town and adore it.
How long have you been teaching?
I have been with VIPkid for almost two years. I will sign my 5th contract in January.
Have you always taught? Or did you start out in another field entirely?
I started as a field biologist, taught for two years as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Sichuan, China, got a Masters in Education but then left teaching to be a stay at home mom for ten years. I was so happy to find VIPKid that allowed me to get back into teaching but also stay at home with my children.
Tricks for staying alert:
Fake it til you make it. I know it sounds odd but if I pretend to be awake and happy and excited suddenly I find I am truly awake and happy and excited to be there. Every morning I wonder why I am doing this when my alarm goes off at 3 am. Then I sit down and see those kids and start smiling and before I know it I realize I am happy and awake and I remember why I do this! Oh, and lots of coffee!!! And red lipstick!
What is your schedule like?
I teach 3-8 5 days a week 10 classes b2b and occasionally I will add last minute classes on the weekend.
Favorite lesson (or level) to teach:
I teach levels 1-6 and honestly love them all. I love having varied classes and levels. I love the challenges of altering the curriculum to connect with each unique kid and each level. I love going from discussions of environmental issues to doing the Haka! I have a soft spot for the level 1 kiddos. I love preschool/kinder age and have a blast doing them. Having a background in Natural History I love the Reptile/Bird/Mammal lessons! Yes, someone out there loves these lessons! (Sometimes I have to bite my tongue- that is a Damselfly, not a Dragonfly. That is an Elk, not a Deer) I also love the new level 2 classes now that I have found my groove with them.
Erin, her husband Bob, and her children Matilda (9) and Milo (6). This photo was taken during a 2-year RV trip around America (2016).
At the Happiest Place on Earth!
What do you do between classes?
Take my headphones off. For me, this has been key. I sneak a hello with my family. Run to the potty. Grab more coffee. Do feedback. Put up my props I may have gotten out. It is amazing what I can accomplish in 4/5 minutes.
How do you use FeedbackPanda (what is your process)?
I have been with VIPKid for two years and started with FB Panda pretty soon after beginning. I have my templates chosen and altered already. I will admit I use the templates pretty much as is. I love TEACHER CARYN templates. So if I need a new one I always search for those first. I may change a sentence or add a particular skill that I do differently than is presented in the template but I do often just cut and paste the majority of the template.
When I open the class before class begins I open FB panda in a separate window on my laptop. The classroom is open on an external monitor. When I am in class I always begin with conversation- every kid, every level. Even if it is just “What did you eat for dinner? Noodles, rice or dumplings?” I will add this to the feedback at the top so mom knows what we talked about. I will also add if there is a particular skill they did well on or need a bit of help on. If it is applicable. This is often just a sentence or two, at most. I sometimes type this during class. It is actually less distracting than taking notes for me. After class, I copy and paste the feedback to the classroom tab. Close. Exit. Open the next classroom and begin again. I can do it in a minute.
I will admit–I use the templates as is often, sometimes I do not add extras–I just copy and paste. I have 40-50 percent response rate- 1350 5 apple scores and often get compliments on my feedback. You do not have to be scared to use as is.
Describe your feedback style/structure:
I am pretty laid back. My feedback is detailed because it is included in the template. But I do not always add much personal stuff. I add what we talked about at the top. As a parent, I like to know something to talk with my kids about at dinner or bedtime. I like to know what they shared. I will add a skill they did particularly well or something they need to work on if it is applicable for this particular lesson. As a parent I feel like I want to be able to glance at the feedback and see if there is something, in particular, to work on or to praise the child for or to talk about. If there isn’t something there then I know it is business as usual. I don’t want to wade through a lot of extra sentences.
Good feedback must contain…
I like the parents to have the sentences and vocabulary that we are practicing written out. I find it essential to have the complete sentence structure examples listed for them. I choose templates that have the sentences, vocabulary, sight words and skills written out for the parents. Yes, they can look this up–but for a busy parent, they can use these to help their child if they choose.
What do you like to see when checking the Teacher-to-Teacher Feedback (notes on students from teachers in the VIPKid/Gogokid portal)?
I honestly don’t use them much. I like to approach each child with a clean slate. I like when a teacher warns me something about parent and their approach to classes or to feedback. For example, Mom likes a lot of corrections. Mom likes conversation/ Mom doesn’t like extra conversation. Mom likes detailed feedback. Mom often gives 4 stars. etc.
Here is how I keep track of my classes. I have 3×5 cards in a recipe box. Separated by level and unit. I have just a few words of notes, mostly to help me with pacing. I will write “fast” or “slow” or “slide 13 extra time” if I need to remind myself. I prop it up under my monitor and can glance at it. I will pull out the cards for the classes for the day in the morning and see if need to take notes on any classes haven’t done. Taking the notes is just a few minutes file them at the end of the week. Or during a no-show. The check mark tells me I have a feedback panda template for this one prepared. I have three recipe boxes.
Here is my classroom. Everything is out where I can grab it while I am teaching without hardly glancing away from the kid. I put it immediately back. No prep. No cleanup. My 2d props are organized by category. Then put on rings and put on hooks next to me. I have other full-size 2d props in an expanding lid rack from IKEA to the left of my desk. I have a small dresser that has props for trials in the top as well as a few random 3D props and Noisemakers. I have rewards in the drawers too. Tho I currently use google slides for most rewards. I have a Chromebook and an external monitor. My desk can lift to standing. I also always have a blanket and a stool for my feet. Helps my back. My backdrop is simply a piece of quilting fabric tacked to the wall behind me. I’ve changed it a handful of times in two years.
This is how I take notes in class. Super super simple. Time. Name (that they give me which may be different from the one on screen) one or two words to remind me what we talked about or what need to work on or did well. With trial have learned to write the sex of the kid along with other details to share because I often forget. Here is a level 2 interactive note card as well.
Has FeedbackPanda helped you manage your job and personal life? Any specifics? (e.g. before and after)
I could NOT do this job as I do it without Feedback Panda! It is essential for me. For me, the focus is the kid in front of me. I focus on connecting with that child and meeting their needs. Using the templates (even as is, without modifications) allows me to focus completely on the child at hand and not on taking notes. I am able to teach 10 classes back to back every day. I finish my feedback usually between classes and if not within a few minutes of the day ending. This allows me to have another job, and be with my family, not focused on feedback. I used to stress and focus on notes and take a long time trying to figure out what to say to parents. Almost like “teaching to the test”. I was “teaching to the feedback”. It stressed me out and did not improve my teaching. Once I gave up that stress, allowed myself to use the templates as they are and add only essential new information I found it improved my teaching and my connection with students. And parents never noticed the difference or commented. In fact, I get lots of compliments on my thorough feedback.
Feedback Panda costs me “half hour” a month ($10=half hour) but saves me more than half hour every day.
What are your interests?
I hike and camp and love traveling. My family did a two-year road trip in an RV a few years ago and I still dream of jumping back in the RV and going again. I read a lot. I play with my kiddos.
Any other comments you wish to communicate…😊
Thank you for FeedbackPanda!