Tips to Fill Your Booking Calendar

You’ve been hired… now, what’s next?

The most important thing you can do is to get bookings. While this might seem obvious, you’re at a crucial point where this is super important.

Most companies will highlight new teachers in some way for the first week or two that you’re available. After that, you’re on your own to get parents’ attention. And you need to get their attention!

Currently, most companies have the parents choose the teacher. In many ways, this makes sense. The parents know their child, and they know what they’re looking for in terms of results. Some parents think their child will work best with a fun teacher, others with a nurturing teacher. Some parents want a teacher who is strict and makes many corrections. After that first period of “new teacher promotion,” you’ll be on your own to capture parents’ attention. So, How can you do this:

  • Your pictures. Most companies will request multiple pictures If you only have one, good with a professional-looking headshot. .That is to say – YOU should look like a professional. Feature your face, smile big! Fill the frame with your face and maybe just the tops of our shoulders. Other pictures can be lifestyle pictures. I recommend you avoid anything that might draw attention away from your value as a teacher.
  • Your bio. Most of us have some really interesting things in our backgrounds… however, if it doesn’t directly showcase your ability to teach, LEAVE IT OUT. I worked with a friend who applied to a big teaching company (no names, but their color is orange 🙂 ). When she had no bookings, I skied to see her bio. Now, this lady is WONDERFUL with children but has never worked as a classroom teacher in a traditional school. I suspect that she didn’t think her experience would be valued, so instead, she shared her (very impressive) military career. I put it out to her – the parents don’t care about that! They want to hear about what kind of teacher she is and her experience. I convinced her to share her ongoing experience both as a volunteer and as a paid tutor with children. Making this small change made ALL the difference in getting bookings. Remember – it’s not about what YOU think is important. Instead, it’s about what’s TRUE about you that the PARENTS think is important.
    Your tags. Some companies, such as VIPKID, append tags onto the teacher’s profile. It could be worth opening a ticket and finding out what yours are. Then you’ll have a better idea of what parents are expecting when they book you. The tags on my VIPKID profile came from my mock teaching mentor. She selected: experienced, supportive, phonics and reading, pronunciation correction, and grammar. I know when a new parent books a class with me, they have seen this on my profile and that’s what they expect.
  • Your credentials. So – you have the required documentation for your degree and your certification and uploaded them. That’s good. You’ll also likely include this information in your bio. Be sure to check how this translates! Use a couple of different translation sites (Baidu, Google, Tencent). Translate from English to Chinese… and then, copy the Chinese and translate from Chinese back to English. Don’t just click the “reverse” button. I have found by following this procedure, sometimes the final English is very, very different than the original English I entered.
  • Your schedule. Open up the hottest time slots. Do it.  This is 7:00-9:00 PM, BJT (Beijing Time). This is the peak demand period. OPen those up, and keep them open consistently. If you can only work Mon-Wed-Fri, then open them up during those days. Be sure to check 24 hours in advance so you don’t miss a booked class. If you have the option, open them “short notice.” Some companies – such as VIPKID – allow the option of short notice bookings. If you can do it, open those slots short notice – just be sure to check within the time frame to see if the class is booked. A Teacher-no-show is not something parents want to see on your profile, especially if you haven’t taught many classes yet.  Opening up these high demand class periods puts you in the prime zone when parents are seeking teachers. If you don’t want to teach during this time period primarily – do this to get started. During summer vacation, you will find greater demand during Chinese morning hours (U.S. afternoon/evening). But to jump-start getting you noticed, getting bookings, and getting parent feedback, start where the need is the greatest. Make yourself available to fill that need!

Note: Some teachers favor teaching one or two “all-nighters.” I am not telling you to do this, or not to do it. I have not, and I will not for the purposes of increasing my bookings. First of all, my system (in another post), worked for me. It took time, but I was able to take the time to grow my student base. Secondly, I have no intention of teaching overnights on a regular basis. Because of that, I don’t want to take the chance of giving a parent the idea that I will be available at that time in the future. If I ever decide to regularly teach overnights, that’s a different situation.

I think that some teachers have had success with this for several possible reasons:

  1. The were able to pick up some trial classes, and when the parents enrolled the students, they looked for the teacher with whom they’re already familiar. After all, they had a good experience with you that led them to sign up with the company, so they liked you.
  2. Teaching more classes raises the chance of getting parent feedback, and good parent feedback is the ticket when it comes to getting parents’ attention and geting them to book you.
  3. I have heard that teachers are shown in the search in a sort of algorithm. The more you are booked, the more likely you are to “percolate” to the top of the results. I have no idea if that is true…. but if it is, it’s another reason that pulling a couple “all-nighters” might help you out.

Keep in mind: There is the occasional teacher who will pipe up on social media and say they tried all-nighters, and it didn’t help their bookings. So, if you decide to do this, keep an open mind in terms of your expectations.

  • Feedback from other parents. THIS is why it’s so crucial that you’re ready when the company tells you to open clots. If. Parent sees you are brand new to the company, it makes sense you won’t have feedback from parents. On the other hand, if you’ve been with the company for a couple weeks and have no feedback… they’re probably going to turn to another teacher. Now, that’s NOT the end of the world, and it doesn’t mean you’ll never get booked. It can mean, however, that you’ll have a much longer wait until you are able to start filing those slots.
    Once you start teaching classes, provide thoughtful, appreciative notes to the parents on the child’s class performance. The most important thing you can do to get good parent feedback is to teach well; the second most important thing is to write excellent class notes. Click here to view the best, quickest explanation I’ve seen. (This is a video, yes, but it’s silent. You need to read the content.)

This is a lot to take in. Hang in there: In a few months, this will come naturally. In the meantime, here’s your checklist:

  • Optimize your pictures and biography to showcase why you are a great TEACHER that parents want for their child
  • Optimize your schedule by opening the slots with the HIGHEST DEMAND for teachers.
  • Optimize your chances for good parent feedback by teaching to the best of your ability and providing thoughtful, constructive, and appreciative notes on their child’s class.

I’m Sandra Girouard, and I’ve been blessed with a long teaching career – first as a music teacher, then an instructional technology manager. When my family’s needs meant traveling and later moving around the country, I began the adventure of homeschooling and eventually working online. Teaching online has allowed me to return to passion my of working with children (besides my own), and lets me spend time each day with students and parents at home and across the world. If you’d like some specific feedback on increasing your bookings or have any other questions about teaching ESL online, I’d love to hear from you. Click here to send me a message.

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