Sandra Girouard

Name
Sandra Girouard


Referral links/websites you’d like us to include

gogokid referral code 4VT37XM click here.

VIPKid referral code SANDR0012 click here.

My blog is You Can Teach Online.
My remote services company: Pecan Media Services 

Your Location
Irondale, Alabama

Company(ies) you teach for
VIPKID, Gogokid

 

Tell us about yourself!
I am a super busy person. Friends tell me I’m organized, but I don’t think that came naturally. I think it was more of a necessity to keep up with everything! I’m a homeschooling parent in a family that has spent a lot of time moving and traveling. I love to craft, espeically knit and crochet. And our entire family studies tae kwon do. All of this, in combination with teaching, definitely fills my days!

What is your teaching journey?
I graduated from college on May 13, 1989… and was in a classroom on May 15, 1989! I was a full-time teacher for over a decade, taking off a short span to attend graduate school and work for a regional nonprofit as their director of education. As a teacher in public and private schools, I served as the music specialist as well as the instructional technology manager. Working with so many different grade levels – and having to study benchmarks and curricula when it came time to write grants – gave me a fantastic foundation for teaching ESL online. During my time in grad school, I focused specifically on technology as well as early childhood.

After we started a family, we were surprised to find ourselves moving around the country, following my husband’s work. This led to our exploration, and ultimately embracing of homeschooling for our family. It’s not something I thought I would do in my life, but it’s worked out quite well for us.

What led you to start teaching online?
A couple years ago, a friend of mine shared her referral link online. It seemed too good to be true, but I figured I had nothing to lose by checking it out. I applied, but then – life happens, and it fell off my radar. Ten months later, I received an email encouraging me to continue the process. I did, was hired, and have been teaching steadily ever since. When I experienced my first non-Chinese New Year booking drop (during June exams), I decided to branch out to multiple companies. For about six months, I juggled three different companies. That was too much for me. I currently am very happy with my two companies. I have also on occasion taught on Palfish, although I don’t teach their children’s curriculum.

What are the biggest challenges you’ve faced and obstacles you’ve overcome transitioning to teaching online?
I’m pretty comfortable experimenting with technology, so I took to most of that pretty easily. I’d say the biggest issue has been dealing with travel or power outages. Travel usually just means thinking through my props, hotspot and my volume level a bit. Power outages are another issue. Last spring, we purchased a home not knowing how often power is lost out here. The first power outage found me teaching on my porch (in the early morning light) using my phone as a hotspot. Luckily, that only last about half an hour. Since then, we’ve had longer outages. We quickly learned to connect an inverter to our truck and run my computer, modem, and lighting from it. Whew!

Have you found anything particularly helpful or advantageous?
I find that keeping focused makes all the difference: Focus on the student (what am I hearing right now? What do they need?) Focus on the parent (what do they want their child to get from this class) and Focus on the company (staying compliant with policies and procedures). That’s a lot right there – no need to bring any more complexity to the process!

How does online teaching complement your lifestyle?
It’s been a huge blessing to our family. With homeschooling, parents who work from home (my husband does as well), one car, and being active in tae kwon do, teaching ESL online allows me to bring it good money doing something I love during a time that doesn’t conflict with any of our family activities. I cannot stress how huge this is.

What professional accomplishment as an online teacher are you most proud of?
I am both proud and very humbled by the parents that repeatedly have put their trust in me to work with their children.I’ve been working with some of my students for over a year now. It really makes me feel a strong sense of accomplishment, that the parents are happy, but also a strong sense of responsibility.

What personal goal have you been able to reach because of online teaching?
A few years ago, we hit a difficult patch financially. It happens, but just as we were recovering, we had a year during which we had a child hospitalized, my husband’s company folded (resulting in a job loss), and a rental property we owned was severely damaged by the tenant. VIPKID came in on the coattails of this, and I felt like it saved my sanity. Here was a way to bring in much needed revenue… and doing something that I really love. You can see why I thought it sounded too good to be true!

What is your favorite lesson (or level) to teach?
I love the beginners. I really love helping them through those initial experiences of sorting out what they hear, what they say, how to form sounds, and how to make those cognitive and psychomotor connections!

How has FeedbackPanda changed your daily routine or enriched your life?
So much better. I wouldn’t do without it.

Before Feedback Panda, I kept my feedback in a spreadsheet workbook. Although I kept complete records, it was cumbersome. It wasn’t always simple to search either, if two students had the same name or if a student changed his or her name. I tried Feedback Panda because of the free trial (again – what did I have to lose?). For about two weeks, it took me the same amount of time to do feedback…And then I hit a sweet spot. I started having more feedback already stored, and when I needed ideas from another teacher, I was recognizing teacher names that seemed to sync with my own approach and would be straightforward to adapt and make “my own.”

Describe your Feedback Style/Structure :
My feedback always contains:  

  • Me saying how happy I was to meet the student or see their child again
  • Reference to what we covered in class
  • At least one specific note about the student’s performance. I like to highlight something great they did, but I have learned that parents also appreciate when we point out a specific area the student needs to target and ideas on how to accomplish that.  
  • An expression of gratitude…
    • for booking me (there are a lot of us to choose from!).  
    • for any feedback if it was recently given.
    • for the student’s good performance in class
  • I close with saying how much I am looking forward to our next class, or how I hope to see them again soon!

Complete the sentence: Good feedback must contain...

  • Specificity
  • Gratitude
  • Above all, kindness
2019-03-22T06:01:40+00:00

About the Author:

Hi there, fellow ESL teachers! I love traveling far and wide, playing piano, listening to Finnish metal, reading books from every genre, Netflix bingeing, cooking, rescuing animals, watching the stock market, linguistics, studying German, and renovating my old cabin-style home! One of my goals is to visit at least 25% of the UNESCO World Heritage sites, but in the meantime, I live in Florida with Thisbe the Dog and Pete the Cat. If you'd like to ask me questions about any of my articles, please feel free to follow me or contact me on Instagram @ESLwithGabrielle.