Want to know our top tips for teaching English online? Of course you do. Teaching English online is one of the largest growing job opportunities in 2020, and why wouldn’t it be? The flexibility, earning potential, convenience, and low-barriers to entry make it an appealing option for English speakers from all walks of life.

And we haven’t even mentioned how well teaching English online makes a “work and travel” lifestyle easier than ever.

Because who knows, you might become an all-star online English teacher. But you might also find a job you truly love and enjoy. 

How to be a top English teacher

1. Stay on top of your lesson planning

For new online English teachers, lesson planning can feel like a daunting, impossible task. And it is essential that you create lessons specific to your learners. If lesson plans are provided for you – even better! This will ensure you avoid turning up for a lesson with nothing planned. 

You might feel tempted to wing it from time to time, but we always recommended having some backup lesson plans ready to go. It can quickly become exhausting if you fall behind with your lesson planning.

2. Lather, rinse and repeat with lesson plans

You’re not necessarily looking to win the “most creative online English teacher in the world” award. You can find out which activities work in a remote-teaching setting and utilize them with your different students. You don’t need to reinvent the wheel every time you have a class. But having a streamlined lesson planning process will be your best asset. If you do choose to make every single lesson different, then check out our tips and tricks to make your classes more interactive.

3. Create a comfortable, quiet work space to teach English

We have a hunch that you’ll take yourself more seriously if you’re working in an environment that looks more professional. Instead of slumming it on the sofa for your next lesson, consider creating an environment conducive to getting your best teaching done. This could mean a nice desk, reusable props, or a better camera. You could even have something as simple as some posters or artwork in the background of your virtual classroom. A map of the world always looks good! Invest in yourself and your workspace; you won’t regret it.

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4. Be clear about your working hours

One of our favorite online English teaching tips: set boundaries. Your employer will usually want to know your exact availability and your willingness to take on new English language students. Some employers will also require you to be contracted to them in terms of weekly working hours. But you need to be clear with yourself about how many hours a week is feasible for you to teach English online. By creating healthy boundaries, you will help yourself succeed over time and avoid TEFL burnout. If you are looking for extra flexibility with working hours, check out our ultimate online teaching platform guide. Here you can find out more about companies who may not require you to sign a contract when you start teaching with them.

5. Get dressed

Pretend like you are going to the classroom to work with your student in person. The more “dressed for the part” you make yourself, the better your performance will be. Leave the comfy sweats in your drawer and put on pants with a ZIPPER instead. Or if you’re going to wear pyjamas or sweats, at least have them covered up so your students can’t see.

6. Enjoy the flexibility

Becoming an online English teacher is the ULTIMATE example of workplace flexibility. We hope you take the time to enjoy the conveniences this work arrangement brings. Mid-day coffee runs? A week-long trip to Japan for the hell of it? Sounds good to us. Time for you to make it happen. You can set your own availability so if you want to take every Monday morning off, you can do that. Take advantage of it – you deserve it!

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7. Connect with other virtual English teachers in real life

Working online has its advantages, but one of the downsides is a creeping feeling of isolation or loneliness. We’ve found that the online English teachers who succeed in the long run engage with others in the same boat. By using group chats, regular meet ups and Facebook groups, teachers can allow themselves to relax, vent and stay engaged. You can also share your own tips for teaching English online with them and vice-versa.

8. Give yourself time to settle in before your first lesson of the day

Don’t set your alarm for five minutes before your first lesson of the day. Give yourself plenty of time to not only roll out of bed, but to actually wake up. Because if you start your lesson and you’ve just woken up, it shows. Try to energize yourself for the first lesson by having a cup of coffee, a brief walk in the fresh hour, having a shower or by having a snack. Trust us, it helps keep you focused. 

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9. Take yourself away from social media

Listening to a nine year old read an entire page out of a book aloud might take what feels like a lifetime. And your go-to boredom antidote is to click open that Facebook tab to get your daily dose of digital dopamine. We recommend you avoid it at all costs. Using your phone or checking social media during a lesson isn’t just rude, it’s distracting. On most smartphones nowadays, you will be able to check your activity log to see how much you are using your phone. We’d recommend keeping an eye on this to see how you’re spending your time, both online during lessons and offline. Most phones will also allow you to temporarily mute notifications which is an excellent tool when you are in the middle of a lesson.

10. Do a weekly review

Reflecting on your weekly lessons is always a good place to start when planning future lessons. Taking notes and highlighting what well and what went wrong is great for assessing your own performance. Get yourself in the habit of reviewing your lessons weekly. Sometimes, it only takes 20 minutes. By doing this, you will be able to keep on track with your lessons and performance. In no time you’ll be operating like a well-oiled machine. 

11. Communicate with the people around you

Letting anyone who might interrupt your virtual classroom know your availability in advance is essential to avoiding awkward live-exchanges with your students. Did you ever see the clip of the man who was being interviewed for the BBC when his children interrupted? If not, you can see it below. This calamity, despite its hilarity, is what you are trying to avoid. You can use a sophisticated system such as the tried-and-true “sock on the door,” share a digital calendar with your family or friends or put a notice up on your fridge to let people know you are busy. If you live alone, even better!

12. Take clear breaks

Sustaining the life of an online English teacher means powering down and stepping away from your laptop regularly and with intention. Rather than just opening YouTube and focusing on a screen again, use your breaks to get away from your virtual classroom.

What’s more, as you get in to your online English teaching groove, it might be tempting to have back to back lessons that result in a marathon work day. We would recommend that you give yourself a chance to unwind, stretch, take a break, and get fresh air regularly instead. Break up your lessons throughout the week, because it will keep your mental health in check too. 

13. Track your hours independently

Many online English teaching platforms have hired hundreds, if not thousands of online English teachers. We wouldn’t be surprised if they missed an hour that you worked when remitting payment. It is easy done, but inconvenient to the average teacher. By having your own internal tracking system, you can make that you’re more likely to be paid in full for your lessons.

14. Keep developing your own skills

It never hurts to pull out your old TEFL workbooks and training lessons, or to sign up for that free webinar on the latest techniques for teaching a foreign language virtually. Consider making it a quarterly goal to do some personal professional development in the TEFL world. There are also loads of shorter courses online that will help you to refresh your knowledge and further your existing skills.

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15. Create a good relationship with your advisor

Your advisor is going to be your #1 resource when things go wrong with a student or you’re feeling overwhelmed by the job. Make a point of investing time into creating a solid, open, and communicative relationship with your main advisor. This means sometimes sending emails just to check in. This also means being transparent about your feelings and asking for help when you need it. Because if you are overwhelmed or struggling and no one knows, then they will find it difficult to help you.  

These online teaching tips are just the beginning

As you settle into your new role and start to learn the nuances of teaching English online versus classroom learning, you’ll collect so many tips and tricks to help you become the best teacher ever. These tips are just the beginning for you. And if you want to become a superstar English teacher then make sure you take these on board.