Becoming an online ESL/EFL teacher: the pros and cons
When we all first considered being ESL/EFL teachers, what we had in mind was interacting with students face-to-face in a classroom, after all that is the way it has always been. However, in the past few years online English teaching has become more and more popular, so much that many teachers have quit their jobs to work on the internet. But is it worth it? It is, at least for me. I will tell you based on my experience a few pros and cons for your consideration.
PRO: Work from anywhere
You don’t need to commute every day, or spend money on transportation. You can work comfortably from home or a friend’s home, your own office and even while you travel.
CON: Many distractions
Especially if you work from home and you don’t live alone, be ready to get distracted or interrupted very often. Some people don’t get that you are actually working from home on your computer. As a result, they can disturb you and your student in the middle of the class.
PRO: Many job opportunities
Imagine how many people out there don’t have time to go to a language school or just prefer to have individual classes. A lot! You are going to get hired very easily, many people are looking for teachers that just teach them conversational English, so you can even get paid just for talking. And one of the biggest advantages is that you don’t need a bachelor’s degree or any kind of specialization to get hired.
There can be a lot of competition, especially if your native language is not English. Some people prefer native speakers rather than a teacher and you need to have a really good profile to convince people you are reliable. Also, ranking and reputation is extremely important, even more than the cost of your service. At the beginning it will be hard to get people to hire you, but my advice is to start with a low cost for your classes so you get a lot of students and a good reputation. Bad reviews will really affect you.
PRO: You interact with people from all over the world
Teaching online will give you the opportunity to meet a lot of people from different parts of the world, if you want to explore other cultures and exchange your own, you will be able to do it without having to travel. You will get to choose your students and this way you will avoid having to teach people you don’t get along with.
CON: Time zones
Sometimes, ‘people from all over the world’ means they live on the other side of it. It can be hard to arrange sessions with students when they live so far away from you that while it’s daytime where you live, it might be nighttime in their countries. Of course, this can be a pro or a con depending on you. Some people work better at night, and if this is your case, it could be an advantage for you.
PRO: You make your own schedule
You can decide what to do and when to do it. If you want to work hard and teach seven classes a day or take it easy and teach just one class in the morning and the other one at night, it is up to you. This is a great benefit since you can have time to do everything you want.
CON: Tech issues
Online communication can be a pain on the neck. If your internet connection fails or you have some technical issues with your microphone or headsets, your classes will be affected and some students might complain about that to you or even give you bad reviews. Remember all sessions online will be timed and to start and finish a class in time is really important.
Despite the cons, I believe it is worth it. At the beginning, it might be hard to get a good position, but after a few months, you will be making a lot of money from the comfort of your house or office.
Tips for Online Teaching
Let’s be honest, teaching English online is growing, and in the next ten years it’ll be twice as big as it currently is now. Already I’m sure you have a friend or two that is teaching online during their time off. In the future, I expect there will be a lot more of that, as well as plenty of teachers that will use online teaching as a great career.
Teaching online isn’t so different from teaching in a classroom. The biggest differences are, in general, smaller class sizes, an around the clock capability to teach and earn an income, and the ability to work and travel if need be.
A good teacher always has a lesson plan. Many online teaching companies have lessons already prepared, you just need to assign them to your students. Other companies want you to prepare your own material. If you have private students they are probably going to want a long term plan (unless they just want conversation in which case your job is a lot easier). So what plan do you have for your students? What plan do you have for the next lesson?
Your plan should start by incorporating the goals of the student. Of course teachers must evaluate a student and see what level they are at, but if a student wants to practice the present perfect tense, practice it, if a student wants to practice the First Certificate exam, practice it. Your job is to be the English expert and help the student learn what they need and want.
Coming up with lessons can be tricky at the start, but once you have evaluated your students and have created enough lessons it gets a lot easier. Remember to recycle lessons with other students. After a few years of making my own lessons, as long as you save them, you should have loads of lessons you can bring out on cue at any time.
Many people think that teaching online very different from teaching face to face, but if you make use of technology you can almost replicate a face to face class online. Webcams allow you to show your facial expressions and hand gestures and good headphones allow a student to hear you very clearly. Skype (and other programs) lets you share your screen with your students so they can see what you see. Use Microsoft Word as a whiteboard. This will allow you to play games, spell words, etc. You can use Google to find images to show throughout your lesson.
I will never say that teaching online is more effective than teaching face to face, but the technology now exists to allow for efficient language learning. One problem you might have is correcting your students. Sometimes, because of the time delay, it is difficult to correct your students while still allowing them to speak fluidly. I recommend waiting until they have finished speaking and then correcting them or save a few minutes at the end of the lesson and go over the mistakes. Besides technical problems this is the only teaching problem I have had online.
Tell your students to keep a written notebook of new words and phrases. Just because we are teaching online doesn’t mean they can’t use notes. A notebook is the best way to review what you have learned.