How to Teach English with VIPKID from Your Car or Truck
As a full-time RVer (fifth-wheeler) and online English teacher, it has been my goal to figure out how to teach successfully from any location in the USA.
After several months of trial and error, I can finally say that I have mastered the art of teaching on the road. In this post, you will find all of the right tools and advice on how to teach English with VIPKID from your car or truck.
Why Would You Want To Teach Online From Your Car Or Truck?
Simple. As an RVer, it’s common knowledge NEVER to trust the internet at a campground. The signal is weak at best. In some cases, our fifth wheel is parked in a remote campground where I also don’t get service on the jetpack or my phone.
Being able to teach from our truck has allowed me to drive into town or the nearest location where cell service is strong. It has helped me teach from all over the country without any teacher IT problems.
Internet On The Road
This is the most common question I get about teaching from my truck. How do I keep a stable internet connection?
You will want to get yourself one of these:
Verizon Wireless MiFi 6620L Jetpack 4G LTE Mobile Hotspot
We purchased this jetpack over a year ago and it has been our saving grace. So what is it? A jetpack is a mobile hotspot. These jetpacks have unlimited data WITHOUT throttling (throttling is when the wifi slows down with the more data you use). We connect our phones and computers to this device and have dependable wifi wherever there is Verizon service.
We use an upward of 300 GB per month; this includes teaching for VIPKID, Netflix, browsing, etc. We pay a flat rate of $140/month, however, the monthly prices on these devices vary.
We are renting this device from someone who has a grandfathered-in plan through Verizon Wireless, which is why the price may vary depending on who you rent from. This is NOT illegal, but since we are renting it from someone, they choose the price. Be sure to contact the seller about their monthly price before purchasing.
We pay the monthly bill through Zelle, a safe and secure payment method. Again, we have had this device for over a year and it has saved us thousands of dollars and a lot of headaches.
A Backup Internet Source
Although we haven’t had to use it often, a backup internet source is very important. Luckily for us, we have the coolest data network and phone service plan out there. I highly, highly recommend switching from your current provider to this:
What Google Fi does is take service from the strongest cell towers in the area. Perhaps the strongest in a certain location is T-Mobile.. our phones take from that cell tower. Perhaps we are in an area that has a really strong Sprint signal.. our phones use the Sprint network, etc. etc.
The best part? We only pay for the data we use. No, it’s not a prepaid phone plan. We simply pay $10/GB used. If we use 3 GB, we pay $30 for that data, plus a monthly charge of $15 for services, support, and calls.
Here is a peek at our bill from last month:
Google Fi’s International Coverage
Another awesome aspect of Google Fi is that it’s an international network. This means that our phones work from almost anywhere in the world (170+ countries). Data will continue to be $10/GB and texting is free. Calls are $0.20/minute.
When we were in New Zealand, Micheal had Google Fi and I had Verizon at the time. Micheal used his phone just like he would in the US, but I could only use mine when connected to WiFi.
Keeping Your Computer Charged
Computers die. What happens when you’re teaching from your car or truck and the battery light is flashing at you in the middle of a class?
I recommend this portable charger:
GISSARAL 35KmAh QC Portable Charger
This charger will charge my Macbook from empty to full power. It is more than enough to get through all of my classes, even if I have a long day of teaching. This charger is also good for charging any hotspot device, cell phone, rechargeable lights, etc.
Lighting Up The Vehicle
Teaching from the US means that we must wake up at crazy hours of the day or night to catch the peak time slots. This means teaching in the dark is going to happen. Keeping the vehicle well-lit without killing your car battery is a major issue.
Here is what I use to keep the car lit while teaching:
LED Desk Lamps Dimmable Portable Rechargeable Metal Reading Light
Brilliant Evolution LED Puck Lights
These puck lights keep the shadows from appearing on my face or background. I set these up all around the vehicle (four in total) by placing them on ledges or squeezing them into the headrests. These are battery powered and can be purchased from Amazon or at your closest Walmart.
VIPKID Background For Your Car
Your background is very important because you don’t want to give the students (or their parents) the idea that you are teaching from your vehicle. These families pay a lot of money to have their children take classes with us and it might not sit well with them that their child is taking a class from someone sitting in a car.
The background that I bought is perfect. I purchased a world map tapestry from Amazon:
LIVETTY Tapestry Abstract Map Wall Hanging
First, I hang a bedsheet behind me (any sheet will do – the darker the better to keep the sunlight out). I cover all of the back windows so that the sunlight doesn’t beam through. Next, I hang the tapestry in front of the bedsheet. I use clear pushpins that go unnoticed.
I purchased the 59″X79″ large tapestry so that it was sure to cover the entire back window. If you have a smaller car, a smaller size tapestry will do.
1. I keep my props in a bin next to my feet for easy access.
2. I put a pillow on my lap where I place my mousepad and mouse.
3. I prop my computer up a pillow on the middle console so that it is eye-level.
4. Setting up this classroom takes me about 7 minutes. It’s much easier than it appears.
5. The cost for all the props and equipment was easily paid for after my first day of teaching from my truck.
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Thanks for the post! I’ve taught with Qkids for the past year and a half and love it, but I really want to have the option of teaching while camping. I had heard of purchasing Verizon unlimited off ebay but just wasn’t confident it would work. You relieved some of my fears, and given me the courage to give it a try. 🙂 I’ll also look into Google Fi. I thought it only worked in populated areas, and we are in rural NY. Verizon service is great, so I guess Fi would rely on those towers.
I’ve heard great things about QKids; I’d actually love to chat with you more about that company it if you don’t mind? 🙂
Anyway, I do highly recommend the Verizon Jetpack. We were able to use our Jetpack for streaming, teaching, and everything in between without any lag or slower data. This was a huge plus. If you decide to get one, I recommend asking the seller about the plan and data beforehand. Make sure that the data isn’t throttled after a certain speed.
The only downfall with the Jetpack is that it’s a bit pricey compared to Google Fi. We currently live in rural Minnesota for the summer and rely on Google Fi for our cell phone provider. It has been an awesome backup for me with teaching as well. And you only pay for what you use rather than paying a steady rate each month for the Jetpack.
I hope this helps 🙂 Feel free to send me a message if you have any more questions!
Hi, Laura. I just started working for VIPKid last month and really (no, REALLY) wish I would have stumbled across your posts earlier. They are so helpful!!! I am a wife and mom to 3 and we have a very unconventional life. We often travel in our camper (when we can), or stay in airbnb’s when my husband has specific work locations. I am always on high-stress mode when we are about to move to a new location, campground, or airbnb… (Does the internet work?, What kind of lighting will I have?, What do I really need?). I can rarely open slots in advance without worrying over whether or not I can teach properly but I have a lot of regulars and booking requests being made… I LOVED reading your posts because you are experienced in the field of ESL work and travel. I would love to get more information from you and pick your brain on the blogging front. Thank you for your awesome advice. And I hope you and Mike are safe and well during this time. Peace- Shannon
So glad you reached out and I’m really happy to hear that our blog has been helpful for you! That’s our goal 🙂
I totally understand the stress you feel while traveling. Luckily, I feel like I’ve mastered it.. except when people look in the car window while you’re teaching LOL! But that has only happened once in two years so no big deal!
I’d be happy to answer your questions. Go ahead and shoot me an email: firstname.lastname@example.org
All the best to you!