Author: rsmith627

I am a Spanish teacher and football coach at Clarkston High School in Clarkston, Michigan.

New Passions

Image result for vipkid

It has been a while since I’ve had the chance to take a few moments and update this portion of my website, as life has been a bit hectic. Sharing languages with others has always been a passion of mine.

In the past year and a half I stumbled upon a company called VIPKid. VIPKid is a company based in Beijing China that allows students to take classes in an online setting with a native speaker of English who is usually located in the United States or Canada. I have began to use this as a way to supplement my income, and honestly it has been a game changer for my family.

In addition to teaching Spanish at my brick and mortar job, I am able to share my passion of language learning with students across the globe in China. We meet in an online classroom (think something along the lines of Zoom or Skype), and engage in a 25 minute interactive English lesson.

For language teachers VIPKid is a little bit different than what we are used to. In America we learn about Comprehensible Input (CI), but the Chinese model calls for forced student output and frequent correction of errors. It is not simply enough for the student to be comprehensible to a sympathetic listener. They are striving for perfection! This, and the fact that I am operating on Beijing time for my side hustle took a little time to get used to, but there are several things I love about this company.

  1. Mostly importantly, I adore most of my students. They are a younger group than what I work with at my brick and mortar high school. My students range between the ages of 5 and 16 for the most part. The vast majority of them are between 5 and 11. The passion for learning, excitement of exploring a new language, and the creative imaginations that these young people bring to class is both refreshing and encouraging.
  2. The ability to work from home. I often teach in a t-shirt, some basketball shorts, and occasionally my slippers depending on the temperature in my office area.
  3. The pay! The pay is amazing! A class is 25 minutes long. For that class I receive $8.50, plus $1 for showing up, and an extra $1 per class if I teach more than 45 classes in a month which is always. Essentially I am making $21 an hour to sit at my computer on the weekends and during breaks from school, in addition to other incentives that the company is running.

All that you currently need to work for this company is a bachelor’s degree and some experience working with kids, preferably in teaching. If this is something you might be interested in, please reach out to me, or check out my link by going to this link.

My P.Q. and C.Q.

¿Hola? ¿Cómo estás? ¡Estoy bien! ¿Y tú? Does any of it really matter? These are questions that I asked myself growing up and taking Spanish classes through high school. These are also questions that I hope my students are not asking in my own classroom; although, I am sure some of them are.

For our final assignment in CEP 812 we were asked to examine the ideas presented by Thomas Friedman, author of The World is Flat (I highly recommend this book if you haven’t already read it) on Passion Quotient (P.Q.) and Curiosity Quotient (C.Q.).  In his work Friedman talks about passion and curiosity being key attributes not only in learning, but also in individual success. These two factors are even more important with a high IQ. One can have a high IQ, but if there is no passion or curiosity they will find themselves asking “does any of this really matter?”

As a Spanish teacher, I use my own passion and curiosity and am hopefully able to inspire my students, as I was inspired by my own awesome high school Spanish teacher so long ago.


Revising My InfoDiet

This week in CEP 812 we were asked to revisit our information diet, which is to say, the information that we take in through sources such as Google, Twitter, Facebook, or even the evening news. Rarely do I watch television (except for during the political debate season, I am a huge politics junkie); however, I do take in quite a bit of information from the Internet. I get this information through news websites provided in my Google News feed as well as social media, especially Twitter. (more…)

Technology Integration Survey Data


This week in CEP 812 we were asked to create a survey to collect information from our colleagues about how technology is integrated into our community of practice as well as their interest in professional development. After receiving the responses to my survey I was able to analyze and come to conclusions about how my school can move forward in training teachers to incorporate technology into their classrooms as well as what types of technology we are strong on, and which types we are a bit weaker on. Click here to read an analysis of my findings and recommendations on moving forward as a school. Check out the infographic below to further illustrate the data that I gathered.


Gee’s Anti-Education Era

This week in my CEP 812 course we have been tasked with reading several chapters from James Paul Gee’s The Anti-Education Era: Creating Smarter Students through Digital Learning. In his work Gee includes a very insightful attack on human intelligence and the way that we go about problem solving.




Writing In The Second Language

As a Spanish teacher I understand that a key part of the language acquisition process is being able to write in the language that one is acquiring. Often times, language learners are reluctant to write in the second language. I have witnessed this often times in my Spanish class, as well as in the English language with ESL students.

In language methods classes we are often encouraged to have students keep blogs; however, having a student acquiring a new language keep a blog can be problematic. First, keeping a blog is just a modern way of having them answer a prompt that we would have had them write about in their journals in the past. We have changed the forum that students respond to the question in, but we have not changed the questions that we are asking. The second problem with blogging is that the language learner can easily become frustrated. Many language learners enjoy the experience of blogging but when we ask open questions in a language classroom, students will often quickly learn of their own shortcomings within the language. Lin, Groom, and Lin interviewed a group of ESL students about their experiences using a blog in class and found that blogging “increased awareness of their own limited linguistic ability” (Lin, 2015).

The question then becomes, how can we motivate students to write? As students are acquiring language it often helps them to be able to use pictures and illustrations to express themselves.


Image from

In my research of web based tools to encourage writing and literacy for those acquiring a new language, I stumbled upon Storybird. Storybird allows users to make books for free by selecting illustrations from the site’s vast library, and then to write stories to accompany the images – kind of a reversal of the typical writing process. What I like about being able to use an image to generate writing is that it may help students who exhibit writer’s block or express concerns in their ability to be creative.

Another feature that I really love is the ability to open up a project for collaboration. The author of a story book can add other users for collaborative purposes. Allowing students to collaborate on a project could help overcome limits in linguistic abilities as students acquire language at a different pace. While many studies have shown that blogs in ESL and World Language classrooms are instrumental in increasing proficiency, blogs are not perfect and come with deficiencies (Lin, 2015). Storybird is one possible way to address some of the deficiencies that blogging can present.


Lin, Ming Huei (2015). Learner Centered Blogging: A Preliminary Investigation of EFL Student Writers’ Experience. Journal of Educational Technology & Society , 18 (3), 446-458. Retrieved from