Two years after leaving their US home, Vanessa Small and her husband have visited 14 countries and counting…How? By teaching English online, they’ve funded their jet-setting lifestyle and whoa have they made the most of their time at every single location. Blogger and cooking whizz Vanessa takes us behind the scenes of her DaDa classroom; discover if you have what it takes to rock the online English teaching world.
Vanessa, teaching online is blowing up right now in the world of TEFL. Tell us about your path to teaching English online…
It started after I went out on a whim and purchased 2 weeks for Tokyo, Hong Kong China and a layover in Seoul. After that my husband and I knew we wanted to travel long term. We started searching on how to do this and found out about teaching online. That night we bought the Premier TEFL 240 hour course. We finished it in 4 months, while my husband worked 3 jobs and obtained two bachelor’s degrees. I worked as a 3’s preschool teacher and obtained my degree in Early Education.
After that, we quickly found a stable job with Dada and went on the road 6 months later. It has been a year and four months of traveling and teaching. Coming up on our 2 year teaching anniversary.
As an online English teacher, what are the most important considerations when considering teaching platforms to join?
What are your needs? Flexibility or stability, for Dada our students are booked for us. No need to wait for parents to choose you based on reviews. I have a set schedule that we can change in the app with 2 months’ notice. I see the same students every week and some I have had since I started.
Other companies you have more flexibility being allowed to set the hours you want to work every two weeks. You acquire students based on the stability of parents’ reviews.
Check out my Dada teacher introduction video:
What does a day in the life of a busy online English teacher look like?
Morning: Currently I work in the morning Monday through Wednesday 8:25 am- 1:45 pm London time. Saturday and Sunday: 6:15 am- 1:45pm
Afternoon: It is usually spent doing assessments which are unpaid. I have about 10 each weekday and 12-13 for each weekend day. They should be about a 1,000 character write-up summarizing how the class went. What the child learned, areas to work on, etc.
Evening: Often it is spent still finishing up my assessments or cooking.
Our weekends which are currently Thursday and Friday we do sightseeing around the city we are in or take day trips.
What’s it like to teach online alongside your husband? Do you have similar schedules?
We have the exact same schedule as that is peak hours for our job. Our biggest struggle is usually working in separate areas where the students can not hear the other one teaching. Which now has been two-bedroom apartments but even sometimes that is not totally soundproof. Which is our biggest issue.
During your online teaching career you’ve traveled A LOT! Tell us all about it ?
We have been to 7 countries in Asia and 8 in Europe during our travels so far.
We started in Thailand on the islands. Then our route went to Cambodia, Vietnam, Laos, Indonesia, Singapore and then Malaysia, Singapore. We then went into Europe and the UK and so far have been to Germany, Poland, Czech Republic, Croatia, Bulgaria, Romania, England and now Scotland. Travelling soon for a week’s holiday to Dublin for St. Patrick’s Day.
Our biggest thing is making sure we do month stays, find the perfect Airbnb and try to stay away from anything touristy. We really like to embrace ourselves in the local culture. Airbnb is a great way to do that because often you stay in local communities. We are often found eating at local food stalls or at local pubs. Enthralled in historical sites and local traditions.
There are pros and cons to everything, right? Tell us your top three as an online teacher…
- Freedom to travel almost wherever we want.
- Working less hours, but making a liveable wage.
- Connecting with our students and having fun with them daily.
- For Americans, we must pay a self-employment tax. For not being in the USA for 365 days you can apply for an exemption on federal but not self-employment. The self-employment tax is rather high as well at about 18% I believe.
- Not being able to travel wherever we want. We can only travel to places that we can find excellent wifi. This means stable connection and connected to the router with speeds of at least download 10 and upload 4. Which limits a lot of places.
- Sometimes I wish I was able to have more contact with the students and their family. For example, contacting them on Wechat or visiting them if we were to travel to China. At their school, they have constant contact with their teachers on Wechat. So it is hard when sometimes they do not understand why they can not have our information. The company we work for just simply doesn’t allow that.
What do you wish you knew before embarking on an online English teaching career path?
Global events and politics affecting our work, lifestyle and or students.
What’s next for Vanessa? Continue doing what you’re doing, traveling and teaching online?
We plan to travel and teach online as long as humanly possible. Right now we have a good list of where we plan to be in the next two years.
Which include: Ireland, Serbia, Bulgaria, Italy, Slovenia, Bosnia, Slovakia, Ukraine, Austria, Romania, Germany, Turkey, Albania, Greece, Israel, Japan, South Korea, and Taiwan. As long as nothing changes we hope to see as much of the world as we can while working. We love our students and the connections we have built with them.
How can inspired wannabe online English teachers follow your travels and teaching updates?
Our travel updates and teaching experiences can be followed on the Food Travel Life blog, or check us out on Instagram @foodtravellife88.