VIPKID: Tips for teaching while sick

Hey VIPKID friends!

Okay, I have some tips to share because I just had the worst week of teaching.  I have a run-of-the-mill head cold, but man, is it hard to teach online when you’re sick!  Here are my tips from the trenches.

1. Don’t waste a cancellation, but be realistic too.

As you know, you only get 6 cancellations per contract.  I’m of the mindset that I’m not going to use a cancellation unless I’m REALLY sick.  I haven’t used any yet and I’ve been teaching for 10 months.

At the same time, you have to be realistic.  You are offering a service, and if you cannot perform the service well, then you’re short-changing your students.  Parents and students will understand, everyone gets sick.  So use your best judgement!

2. You NEED a headset with a mic mute button.  

LIFESAVER.  Seriously!  When I felt a cough or sneeze coming on, I would ask a question and immediately mute myself so I could cough on mute while they answered.  I feel like it takes some practice, but I got pretty good at muting discreetly.

3. Tell the kids that you’re sick if you need to.

I was trying to be discreet, but at one point, I had a full-on coughing fit.  I put up one finger in a “just one moment” motion, turned off both my mic and my camera, and got a drink and wiped my eyes.  It took less than 30 seconds.  After that, I decided to tell my student.  I pretended to cough and sneeze and taught them the word “sick.”  No parent was there, but if they were, I would have put it in the feedback.  If you feel the need to tell the parents in the feedback, write something like this: “I apologize that I am a bit sick today.  I did not want to cancel our class, but I apologize for my coughing.”  People understand.  I would bet you would get kind feedback with some response like “Teacher, take care of yourself and feel better.”  But of course, there is a possibility for negative feedback.  It’s the risk you have to take!

4. Have everything in reach to help you.

I had Kleenex, water, coffee, and cough drops handy and within arms reach.  I never taught with a cough drop in my mouth, but I think I could have done it.

5. Take it easy.

Whatever you can do to help yourself have a smooth day, do it.  For me that meant not opening my usual short-notice classes, and using a simple reward system all week.  It also meant that I didn’t rush to complete feedback between classes, but took the five minutes to reset and relax, and then I slowly completed feedback at the end of the morning.

Overall, I have to say that teaching online while sick is infinitely easier than teaching in a brick and mortar school while sick.  Of course, I teach only 3-4 hours compared to 8.  But you can sit the whole time if you’d like, you don’t need to be moving and expending so much energy.  Plus, if you have a schedule like me, you can recuperate and take afternoon naps!  Bonus!

Happy (healthy!) teaching,


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