Taylor, teaching online is blowing up right now in the world of TEFL. Tells us about your path to teaching English online…
Well, a friend of mine went live on Facebook about her fun job working at VIPKID. I watched her video and was like, “I could do that!” The hours were perfect for me as a stay-at-home mom. I had all the qualifications at the time, which was a bachelor’s degree and teaching experience. I thought “Why not!” So with my friend’s help, I applied.
It was a pretty long, intense, multi-step interview process, but I made it through and got the job. I didn’t expect to love it as much as I do! It has changed my life!
As an online English teacher, what are the most important considerations when considering teaching platforms to join?
There are hundreds, if not thousands of online ESL companies competing in the market right now. Each one of them has their own pros and cons depending on what an individual is looking for. For example, some companies want you to pick a schedule and stick to it for the long term. Others let you change your schedule each week.
Some companies have a system that books the students for you. Others have a system where the students and/or parents choose their own teacher. Some companies pay less but have more hours and teachers get fully booked. Other companies pay more but don’t have as many hours. Some companies have strict cancellation policies while others have lenient ones.
My advice is to figure out what’s most important to you (high pay, schedule flexibility, etc.) and research companies that fit the majority of your own preferences. Not every company will fit each person’s situation. But it’s definitely a fun, interesting search!
What does a day in the life of a busy online English teacher look like?
Morning: Get up at 4:30 am. Make lots of coffee, get ready (I usually just sleep in what I teach in), log in, and teach! I’m usually finished teaching by the time most people get up. Then I have the rest of the morning to play and take care of my kids, run errands and anything else that might come up.
Afternoon: I teach afternoon classes a few times a week. Usually, just one because I am home with my kids alone. The students are mostly from the Middle East or Europe. Then I take a nap with my kids.
Evening: I teach evening classes several nights a week. My husband is home by that time. At one point, I was teaching mostly at night. I was teaching large group Chinese preschool and kindergarten classes during their school day (around 15-30 students at a time). It was so much fun!
Now my evening classes usually consist of adults from all over the world wanting to practice their English conversation skills.
I’m in bed by 7:30/8:00 pm every night!
Have you traveled/lived abroad during your online teaching career? Tell us all about it
I have not lived or traveled abroad to teach ESL. It has all been online from home. I have traveled to visit family across the state and taught at my in-law’s house, but that’s about as far as I’ve gotten with my TEFLing. With two young preschool-aged children, I don’t have the time or plans to travel abroad any time soon.
There’s pros and cons to everything, right? Tell us your top three as an online teacher…
Pros (There are definitely way more pros than cons! But I guess if I can only choose 3 pros):
1.) The high pay. Most companies pay somewhere between $16-26/ hour. And they really do! However, you are considered an independent contractor and will owe taxes at the end of the year because they are not taken out each paycheck. But it’s still great pay for such a fun, easy, flexible job!
2.) The flexibility. I work for 6 companies where I can change my schedule each week. I plan my life and then plan my teaching around it and still make good money. Can’t beat that!
3.) Being able to stay at home with my children. Like I said before, I am finished working by the time most people even get up, including my children. I love being able to stay at home with my daughters and work without the two interfering with each other. I’m very fortunate to have found this industry at this time in my life.
1.) Early morning hours. The higher paying companies are in Asia, and there is a 12-14 hour time difference between where they are and where I am. That means having to get up early to take advantage of the times they tend to take classes. It took a while, but my body eventually got used to getting up that early and now I usually wake up minutes before my alarm goes off.
2.) Prep time and after-class reports. At first, it takes a lot of prep time to become familiar with the lesson structure/content. Also, it takes prep to get your timing down too. With most online companies, you have a time limit to get through an entire lesson’s content. It takes practice. After-class progress reports for the students can also take some time to finish if you are thorough. However, with time, both prep time and after-class work decrease once you get a system down.
3.) Technological issues. These are unavoidable with online teaching. Whether it’s on the student’s end or the teacher’s end, they happen to everyone. Sometimes there are power outages. Sometimes the internet just cuts out. Sometimes for no reason that you can see, you and the student can’t hear or see each other.
There’s also the dreaded “echo”, where the lag causes you to be able to hear yourself talk seconds after you do talk (which usually happens when the student doesn’t wear headphones). Tech issues are frustrating and can get very annoying, but just remember that they happen to everyone, and you just have to work through them as best as you can.
You get to teach both children and adults online across 6 different online teaching companies, you must love the diversity! How do you manage your schedules?
I have to have diversity! I get bored easily with a monotonous schedule. I also want to learn everything I possibly can about this job that I love so much. I have taught one on one classes, small group classes, large group classes, children, adults, with video on, audio only…I am thriving in this industry and the diversity keeps it new and exciting every single day.
Just ask my husband about how I manage my schedule. Very carefully. He has actually created me spreadsheets to help with that. I have double booked myself before, scheduling more than one company at the same time, so it’s important to be on top of it all the time. Basically, the easiest way I have found is to keep color-coded time sheets and constantly keep checking and changing it as my schedule changes.
We all dream of having the freedom to choose our own hours and BYOB (being your own boss – we can talk about bringing your own beer later ), what’s your favorite thing about it?
My favorite thing about being my own boss is, well, being my own boss! I make my own schedule. I set my own goals. I am solely responsible for my failures and successes. I also don’t have coworkers. However, the online ESL teacher community is so supportive!
All the Facebook groups I’m a part of have been an invaluable resource. That’s where I learned about Premier TEFL! Without those groups, I would not be the teacher I am today. So, even though I don’t have a boss or co-workers like teachers in a brick and mortar school, I can still get the guidance and support that a (good) boss and co-workers can provide.
What do you wish you knew before embarking on an online English teaching career path?
1.) Before becoming an online English teacher, I wish I would have known just how many options I had. There are the well-established bigger companies that are better organized, but the teachers can feel like “just a number” and dispensable sometimes.
There are smaller and newer companies that are still working out the kinks, but treat their teachers like they are heroes. There are just so many choices, and it would have been nice to know that when I was first starting out.
2.) I also wish I would have known that there was such a supportive community. I pretty much winged it at first. It was once I found the groups that I began to flourish.
3.) Lastly, I wish I would have known just how much fun it would be! I applied for my first online teaching job on a whim. I had no idea that it would stir something inside of me that I didn’t know was there. I wish I would have known how much I would love my regular students, or how fulfilling it would be to watch someone on the other side of the world learn something from me. If I had known all this, I would have started sooner!
Where do you see the online English teaching market going? How big is the demand for teachers like you?
I have seen the market blow up in the last year! Hundreds of new companies continue to emerge, and as I learned in the Premier TEFL course, the number of people learning English all over the world keeps growing! The demand for online teachers is huge! I think that the booming online ESL industry is just the beginning. I’d say that in my children’s lifetime, most education will be online, which definitely has its pros and cons.
What’s next for Taylor? Continue doing what you’re doing, travel and teach online perhaps?
While my children are young, I don’t see myself traveling and teaching anytime soon. However, no one knows what the future holds! I have always wanted to travel the world, you know. Who hasn’t?