Teacher Melissa sat down with Mark to learn about his experience teaching adults English as a second language. Mark exemplifies the motto ‘never say never,’ as he didn’t believe he would be teaching English to adults (or children!) online this time last year. In fact, he said the suggestion was crazy. But so is a global pandemic, the pentagon releasing UFO videos, and Ryan Reynolds buying Wrexham AFC. 2020, right?
But Mark went on to prove himself wrong and completed a 120 hour TEFL course to begin his journey. With over 50 years of experience in the corporate world, Mark may seem like an unlikely TEFLer, but that’s the beauty of the industry. It’s there and it’s accessible from anywhere at any time! Despite his drastic change, Mark didn’t discard his corporate experience, in fact, he utilized his expertise to specialize in Business English, teaching ESL to adults and preparing them for their future in global commerce. In the interview, Mark discusses:
- The benefits of teaching adults English and Business English
- Why a 120-hour certificate is so important
- Why teachers need to be patient
- Advantages of working from home
- Why teaching English online is for anyone!
Change Your Career to Teach Adults English
In the video interview Mark discussing why he started teaching English to adults online, what platform he used (Preply), how he increased his profile score and how he got his students!
Read on to find out what enticed Mark so much bout teaching adults English, and why teaching English to adults is so rewarding.
Hi Mark! Can you introduce yourself?
As Melissa said, my name’s Mark! I’ve got a history of about 30 years in the corporate world. I was very fortunate enough to work for two of the largest corporate companies in the world. One being Pauls in the dairy industry, and I was also very fortunate to spend a few years with Ferrero Roche, the famous chocolate company. Ferrero gave me and my wife the opportunity to live in quite a few different countries while we did that. So from a work perspective, that’s sort of my history. I’m very corporate and have been for 30 years.
Do you have any experience with teaching Adults English online?
You gotta be crazy…
If somebody had told me a year ago “Mark, you’ll be teaching online” I would have said to them, “You gotta be crazy. It’s not gonna happen. I would never be able to teach online.” Yeah, that’s honestly a year ago.
Yeah, and I mean COVID has affected all of us and affected everybody globally. So hard that my company obviously had to close due to COVID. So I remember somebody mentioning to me when we were closed and sitting at home, “Mark, why don’t you get into online teaching?”
Never say never…
Teaching was the last thing that I thought I wanted to do and probably the last thing I thought I could do. But as time went on and on we knew it was going to be a long war of portfolios. “Let’s give this thing a go,” and so I started off by doing two certificates through Premier TEFL with the first being the 30-hour Teaching English Online certificate. And then I thought at the same time, Teaching Business English will probably be more Mark, coming from 30 years of corporate life. I really didn’t think that I’d be able to teach a class of small kids.
If I could just suggest I think anybody that wants to get into online teaching, it’s ‘have faith in yourself’. That’s when I realized that the 120-hour course is a must-have if you want to make it a success of online teaching. Once I got the 120-hour certification, I could see a major difference in the number of classes that students were booking. So the 120-hour course is a must for anybody considering doing online teaching.
Is the 120-hour course more than just a requirement?
Absolutely. As you said, most of the schools put it down as a requirement. Some don’t. But besides that, if I look at my 30-hour courses, they’re more of an add-on to the 120-hour course. So, when I did the 120 hour TEFL course, I realized the vast difference between just doing a short 30 hour compared to doing the required 120.
I think the 120-hour course certainly gave me a lot more confidence in my teaching. Because I learned a lot more, you navigate through the whole lesson formation and how to manage the classroom, you know, they go through it step by step very professionally, that in itself gives you a lot more confidence. And so that is, I would say a 120 hour TEFL course makes your teaching easier because you feel a lot more confident yourself.
What are the advantages of teaching English from home?
For somebody coming out of the city and having to leave the house every morning at six and get home late, teaching adults English is a very flexible lift. I mean, you can get many lessons provided you’ve got the right equipment. And that’s one thing I will advise to anybody that wants to go into online teaching. Just make sure you’ve got the right equipment, a good laptop, obviously, and your internet connection must be really top-notch. Otherwise, it’s going to look unprofessional.
The main advantage is obviously that it’s very flexible. I mean, you can set your own hours. It’s entirely up to you how much money you want to make. If you really don’t want to earn money primarily from teaching and you just want to do it part-time. And so in advantages, you’d be from the comfort of your home. So you’re earning money, your expenses are laced, because you don’t have the fuel costs of borrowing to work and back and all that sort of stuff. So, you know, it really is a win-win situation. If online teaching is your thing, they’re the advantages of working from home.
And are you planning on traveling and teaching adults English?
Yes, I certainly am. I’m pretty new to this. I really didn’t think that even in the short period that I have been teaching to actually go this fast. You know, I signed up hoping maybe I would get one student this month and hopefully one next month. I’m currently doing my demo with another school and we should be waiting for the results on that. And if more classes come in, then we can generate more money, then we will certainly look at traveling around the world to see more countries. And that’s really one of the big advantages of online teaching. If you can get enough classes, the world is your oyster. You can go anywhere.
Do you have an age preference for teaching English online?
There’s always this Business English, obviously because that’s my forte. I have no sort of experience in physically teaching anybody anything. So in Business English, I thought that I could master a niche in the online market. So my preference is students from the age of 18 who are wanting to study in the business industry.
Don’t underestimate your influence
I’ve currently got a student that has a good Ph.D. degree. I never would have thought, he’s a highly qualified man with a doctorate degree, and I’ve just started teaching online and I’ve been able to assist this man in his high profile job.
I mean, that’s the wonderful thing about online teaching. You must never underestimate the value that you can add. But teaching adults English is incredible. The fact that you’re teaching somebody that you also want to learn a lot about their culture, and I do learn a lot about their culture. It’s so fantastic.
And how long did it take for you to embrace the whole process?
From the day I decided “let’s go for it” and actually finishing my first few certificates, I think it was roughly 14 days. Yeah, after that I applied probably to five or six different schools around the world. And then feedback came back via the schools that were about the 120-hour certification.
So I then decided straight away to do the 120-hour course. Once I had done the 120-hour course and upgraded my profile on the different platforms, I started getting student requests within a week of having changed my profile. So the whole process was from starting my Premier TEFL course to getting our first student. I would say it took a month and a half at most, probably less than that.
Is it important to have patience when teaching adults English online?
Absolutely, you’ve got to be patient. Because initially, you might get quite a few students, and then you’re going to find a low where you don’t get new applications. Yeah, I’m currently on one of the platforms where, at any given time, there are roughly 91,000 tutors online. That’s just one school. So, obviously, the demand for English is obviously high. I mean, there is a tremendous demand for online teachers.
But all one has to realize is that because of COVID-19 a lot of people have gone into online teaching. So if we look at our virtual classrooms, you need to teach to make it applicable to your niche market. And to gain that extra student or to gain more students, you sort of need to differentiate yourself from the other teachers.
How important is rapport when teaching English to adults?
In my experience of teaching adults English, you have to create that rapport and that connection with the student. So building a very close relationship with your student is going to make them come back for more classes. That’s what I tried to do in my first lesson, I really try to build up a strong rapport even in that very faceless set.
Strong connection = Strong schedule
Because that’s going to determine if a student is going to book another class with you, you know, so the advantage is, if you do establish that connection, you literally have a student for work, whether it’s for a year or two, or even three years. It’s going to take their English to the level that they wanted it to be.
But I would say more so in the Business English world. You have to build up a very strong rapport, where I think maybe with children not that much because you’re teaching a group of maybe 10, 20, 30 children. So it’s a bit difficult to build on one-on-one while teaching a group. Yeah, in Business English, I think the one-on-one aspect is definitely crucial.
Is there a specific age to teach online? Can anyone teach online?
There is no age limit. I mean, I’m in my mid-50s, and I’m starting my first month into teaching adults English, and I never would have thought this. I think it’s for everybody. And you might initially think that you don’t have a passion for teaching, but you might start this thinking, ‘look, I need the income because of COVID. Let me just try online.’ And you’ll be surprised like I was. After the second or third lesson you think to yourself, wow, I should have started this 5 or 10 years ago, you know? That it’s actually fun and fantastic. So I’d say, you know, provided you’re patient if you meet new people and get up to help them learn English, absolutely go for it. There’s no age limit.
You’ve got a beautiful map and flags, is that something that is required for the adult classes?
It’s not required, but I think you can just look into differentiating yourself from other teachers. Because when I started, I only had a white background and I thought that was sufficient until I just came across the flags in the shop one day and I thought “Yeah, that would look good” and I put that up. And you know, when the students came to the next lesson, and so for the first time, there was a great response from the students. So I thought, one must listen to the students and what they think about you, your classroom, and your feedback.
What advice would you give to anyone who would like to start online teaching?
Become the student
Listen to advice. If you’re going to go for it, give it 100% effort from day one. If you go 100% from the beginning, you can realize very quickly that online teaching is not what you thought it was.
I’m not one of those people that is afraid to speak in front of crowds. But, you know, to just sit and actually try and teach somebody a language. I thought that I would certainly never be able to do that. Two months down the line, we’re sitting in a virtual classroom and we have students around the world. We are teaching them English and it’s such a rewarding thing to do as a profession. I would certainly recommend it to anybody.
But as I said, if you’re gonna do it, go for it. 100% from the beginning. I guarantee you three months down the line, you’re gonna wish that you got started five or ten years ago.
Do you have a final comment for those considering TEFL?
I’d like to say to all those that are contemplating doing it, just go for it. It’s one of the most rewarding jobs you can ever do. You’re gonna love it, guys, thanks for having me!
An authentic journey
Mark made the transition from working at some of the biggest companies in the world to teaching ESL to adults from home! With over 30 years of experience in the corporate world, he specialized in Business English to help non-native speakers achieve their dream. From teaching students, Ph.D. graduates, and experienced businessmen, many have benefited from Mark’s virtual classroom. Mark’s journey is a testament to how you really can begin teaching English anytime, from anywhere. No excuses!
Start YOUR journey, anywhere, anytime!
Mark’s unique experience is one example of many, and yours can be anything you want! ESL lessons for adults don’t necessarily have to be in Business English, they can be in anything! You can specialize in a range of topics, whether it is grammar, exam preparation, or subject-specific lessons like science, maths, etc. You can teach adults English, or you can teach children, it’s really up to you! But, before you start your adventure, you might need one of these accredited TEFL courses 😉