We’re getting a taste of unprecedented, unlimited connectivity with the entire world.
Let the true power of the Internet really sink in—Wow. Right?
Popping into a video chat with a foreign language teacher or student who’s halfway around the world—I can only imagine that people felt as amazed when the home telephone just came out.
Like, “so this is how the future will be.”
Yes, friends, it truly is how the future will be. More and more online learning platforms are hitting the market. More and more online teaching jobs are cropping up all over ESL job boards, Craigslist, companies’ homepages and many other places.
Being an online teacher myself for about a year and a half now, I’ve noticed vast differences teaching these classes online compared to teaching in a classroom. I’ll go as far as to call these differences “revelations,” if I may. Revelations that showed me the benefits of teaching online and some insight on whether this style of work could be for you.
10 Revelations for Anyone Teaching English Online
1. Cameras Off = Casual On
Contrary to popular belief, not all classes online involve a video camera. Sometimes a student’s or teacher’s Internet connectivity is an issue. Sometimes you have to call a landline. Sometimes students don’t have a camera. Most of the time, students just don’t care for it.
Online English lessons without a camera (no face-to-face interaction) happen a lot more often than you’d think, and it actually works out for both student and teacher. The atmosphere is transformed from “lesson time” to “casual phone conversation time” because that’s more or less what it is.
The students don’t feel these “teacher eyes” and all of a sudden the teacher becomes more of a casual friend or someone you’d talk on the phone with,
Benefit: It’s a benefit for both student and teacher because what teacher doesn’t like a nice friendly phone call atmosphere? The same question goes for the student. Teaching online becomes less like work when it’s friendly phone call style lessons.
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2. Nervousness Drops Online
Teaching in person can be more anxiety-inducing for students. They may feel put on the spot, or like they’re being judged when they speak. Teachers, too, have to grapple with their nerves when standing before a packed classroom—or even when teaching one lone student face-to-face.
But online, you’re talking into a machine to some pixels on a screen. That virtual feeling makes the student feel calmer than if it were a real person a couple of feet away. It’s bizarre, yes, but students (with the camera on) are far less shy, uneasy and intimidated when compared to a physical classroom.
Benefits: It’s no surprise that this type of student (one with less nervousness) would be much more delightful to teach than one who’s really tensed up from speaking to someone on a camera or in person. It’s a nice feeling to no longer unintentionally intimidate learners too! After all, you’re just some pixels on a screen for all they know.
3. People Can Talk
You may have realized this same thing when teaching in a classroom, but when you’re online, people sort of throw out the classroom etiquette of limiting your speaking. Students don’t need to clam up and wait for the formal lesson to end. They don’t need to split up their time with other students and wait their turn patiently. Once the online lesson starts, they can speak without restrictions or formalities.
This is mostly true of people from countries with more talkative folk, where chatting with friends, family and strangers alike is a national pastime, but I’ve noticed it applies worldwide.
Students don’t feel like they’re in a normal classroom and most of the time it’s just a one-on-one class, so they go ahead and talk, especially if they’re feeling confident (which may brought on by the absence of a physically present teacher). Before you know it, time’s up! “See you next week!” you tell them.
Benefits: The main benefit I’ve noticed after this revelation came to me was, “Wow, they just do the work for me!” It’s so very true! It’s a win-win, really. They speak a whole lot, confidently too, while you just sit back, listen and watch the time go by. Not bad, not bad at all.
4. The Pay Is Excellent (Depending)
You don’t need to actually teach to realize this one, but it does give you an idea of what kind of lifestyle you can manage. On average, the salary for teaching online is around $12 USD/hour. Some places pay up to $20 USD/hour, but they tend to seek out teachers with stronger background experience, skills, certifications and so on. If your resume is jam-packed with great work experience, then more power to you!
Either way, if you’re living in a part of the world where that’s an excellent salary (like most of Latin America, southeast Asia, basically all of Africa, etc.) then you could have a dream lifestyle of working 25 hours a week and exploring the world in your spare time. Not to mention, the work is relatively simple compared to classroom teaching.
The most successful online teachers will tell you it’s both freeing and lucrative. Just look at Jack Askew of Teaching ESL Online. Not only has he had brilliant success with teaching ESL online, he even offers an affordable Teaching English Online Course that can get you up and running with your very own online ESL teaching business. It guides you through creating your own teaching website, finding students, growing your professional reputation online and filling your schedule with high-paying teaching sessions.
Benefits: This one was backwards for me because I realized that it could create a beneficial lifestyle for me before I even started teaching online. The main benefit is that you have the best reason to ever live in any of these places that you’ve always wanted to visit and live pretty well might I add. As a quick example, if I work around 20-ish hours a week here in Colombia, I make double the average salary here. Now imagine when I work forty hours a week—this makes for a pretty great overall lifestyle.
5. Students Flake
Since this isn’t exactly a classroom, people often disregard the classroom etiquette—with positive and negative results. Some students tend to be absent or cancel a lot more often than they would in a normal classroom. Perhaps they take it less seriously, or they don’t feel as guilty since they don’t have to tell you to your face, but I’ve had more frequently absent students online than I’ve had when teaching in schools.
Perhaps they’re busy, or perhaps something important truly came up last minute, but it does happen.
Benefits: This could be a huge benefit depending on the cancellation policy of your school. For example, where I work, if a student is absent or doesn’t show up, you still get paid. Since online students have a higher no-show rate than students in physical classrooms, you’re getting some easy money.
6. Teaching Kids Pays
Online English learning has also reached the children’s market and it’s big!
It’s becoming more relevant in places like Singapore, China and Korea and it pays well! Probably 50% more than it does teaching adults. So while I only teach adults, teaching kids could work out but it comes at a price. It requires much more effort, some singing, dancing, acting like a clown and real involvement whereas teaching adults is usually helping people out with their plateaus in fluency. Depending on your character, it could be an option.
Benefits: Like I said, if you have the right personality to teach kids and dance around, then this area will please you, especially in the salary category. It could be something to consider or something to try out. Who knows, you might like it!
7. Students Prefer It
I can’t tell you how many times students tell me how much they prefer online instruction to their usual classrooms. “I’m usually so busy!” “I have to drive a long way to a school.” “I can do this at home, it’s great!” I hear stuff like this consistently and it’s true.
It’s easier and more convenient for students and, with that, they prefer it to sacrificing time from their already busy schedules to go all the way to a school. I tell you, I hear it at least once a week.
Benefits: This works out for the student for obvious reasons, but for the teacher it’s fantastic as well. Growing popularity = growing customer base. Not to mention, students who are content with the learning platform results in happier and more productive students.
8. Your Experience Palette Increases
Teaching in a school in a foreign country (let’s say Thailand) is like eating at a Thai buffet restaurant. You get the best of what Thailand has to offer and a lot of it.
Now, teaching online is like going to this ultimate restaurant buffet that has a lot of EVERY country and the best of what they have to offer. It’s like a sampler plate for the ages. Teaching online (depending on the school) can expose you to students of every age, of every cultural background on every corner of the globe.
It’s like a smorgasbord of tastes and experiences of teaching. I actually have a day (Tuesday) that I call “Continent Day.” I have students from all over, including four continents in just one day.
It’s fascinating to understand students from different cultures and how they think, learn, speak, etc. Instead of just teaching to students with one cultural identity, you could teach multiple and truly expand your teaching horizons.
Benefits: The main benefit is the exposure to various cultures and tweaking your teaching style to make it more international and universal. You learn what works with some people and what doesn’t with others. It truly makes you a more worldly person.
9. You’re More of a Coach Than a Teacher
One of the companies I work for refers to the teachers not as teachers or instructors but as “coaches.” At first I found it a bit odd, but then I realized that it was a perfectly fitting word.
As I’ve mentioned before, since the classroom is online, the game changes. The classroom becomes a different environment where there’s no whiteboard, no teacher standing above over students and no classroom culture of “student obeys teacher.”
Instead, the playing field is more level and you’re more like a coach who helps them out the same way a coach would help out a golfer’s swing.
This sort of alters your job description but afterwards you realize that coaching is just as rewarding, if not better.
Benefits: As a coach, you sort of shy away from rehashing the stuff they already know and instead go over how to make them better at the stuff they need to improve, the same way a coach would.
Coaches don’t teach players new stuff nearly as much as they train players how to do what they already know how to do better. And this here makes your work not only easier (teaching new concepts can be tricky, you know!) but also more gratifying. You’ll hear “Thanks to you…” pretty often.
10. It’s the Gateway Drug
This one is the most recent revelation to hit me like a stack of bricks and it’s the truest. Teaching online exposes you to a lifestyle unlike any other. To sum it up in a sentence: You get paid to sit at home and have conversations with most students.
With this in mind, you sort of delve into this underworld of working at home, away from managers, colleagues or anything else that totally turns you off from getting up in the morning. It’s an underworld where commuting doesn’t exist. You’re free. With this extra hour or two you could earn more money or do what you’ve always wanted to do—whether that’s exploring a foreign country or watching your favorite shows and eating Doritos.
This underworld where work feels a lot less like work and you forget what actual work feels like but since you’re getting paid, you don’t really care. These are just some tidbits of the gateway drug that is not just teaching online, but working at home.
Working at home exposes you to a lifestyle that makes it hard to say no to. A lifestyle that makes you think “How could I go back after finding this?” A lifestyle that shows you something new. Something unique. Something that makes you realize “I can’t go back to another school/office. Especially if I can do this at home.” It’s real.
Benefits: This all depends on you. Depends on how tired you are of your routine. Depends on how fed up you are with the way your life is going. Depends on your willingness to try something new and ride it out.
I’ll tell you this, after teaching online, I don’t see myself putting on the button down shirt and slacks and taking the 9 A.M. commute anywhere else again. Ever. Just can’t. But again, it all depends—it depends on you.
Everybody has revelations, some of these revelations even have the power to influence us to get up and do something. For me, these revelations have introduced me to not only the present and future of teaching, but to the present and future of myself.
It’s new grounds and perhaps these revelations may encourage you to give it a try.
You might have some revelations of your own along the way!
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