Here at i-to-i, we love to hear about different TEFL experiences. So, when we discovered OnlineJack on our TEFL community we were very excited to hear about his unique approach to TEFL, and how he started his own business teaching English online! Take it away, Jack…
Where are you originally from?
Preston, England (some call it Depreston, but I have great memories growing up there).
What were you doing before you started your online teaching business?
Before all this began, I taught English in both Bilbao and Valencia in Spain. The first year I taught business English lessons, and the second year I taught in a language school. I had such a great experience in Spain and would love to live there again one day.
Where are you now?
Now I’m living in Asheville (if you like beer, come to Asheville!), which is a small city in the mountains of North Carolina. I met my American wife in Ecuador, and after our time in Spain, we wanted to move to America to put down some roots. It’s the perfect place for us and we’re really happy and settled here.
Why did you decide to teach?
When I got back from travelling, I needed to work again, but I wanted to find something flexible so I could visit my girlfriend (now wife) in America while she was finishing college. So, I started teaching online for a start-up without doing any training beforehand. I was teaching conversational English lessons and I remember my very first student asking me about the difference between the 1st and 2nd conditional; I had no idea what she was talking about!
But I worked at it, got a TEFL certificate, and it didn’t take me long to get the teaching bug. I threw myself into becoming a better teacher and loved connecting with my students. I know a lot of people talk about how you need to follow your passion, but I kind of fell into English teaching and developed the passion for it soon after.
Why teach online?
Teaching English online is going to be huge in a few years – take my word for it! I was actually talking with Fluency MC today about this, and I have seen such a big interest from teachers who want to teach this way. People are starting to see online as not just a viable option, but as a place to thrive, because there are advantages for both the teacher and the student in that you can pick a time that suits you to learn (and teach) English. It’s really clear to me that there are a world of opportunities for teachers, whether through one-to-one lessons, or by producing content like videos, courses, exercises etc. Throwing yourself into English as a teacher can really make a difference to the lives of your students – project what matters to you, and you’ll reach a large audience and inspire others.
What age students are you teaching?
I’d say the average age of my students is around 28. I specialise in business English and IELTS preparation, but I do know of other teachers who are teaching children online successfully and having fun at the same time. Most of my students come from Russia, but since I’ve started, I reckon I’ve taught students from at least 30 different countries!
How are you finding the experience of teaching English online?
I love it and would recommend it to anyone; as it has allowed me to be in control of what I teach, and has also given me the opportunity to continue in this industry without having to live elsewhere. Living and teaching in different countries is an experience that I am really thankful for, and I will most likely do this again, but at this moment in time, being in America is where we want to be.
Teaching online has also given me more purpose to what I am doing, with all the restrictions that were present while working in a language school immediately taken away. My mindset totally changed too, and I really wanted to put the student firs – I see myself as more of a language coach than a traditional teacher, and I try to make each lesson as specific to the student as possible. I started a blog about teaching online to inspire others to do what I’m doing – the income is pretty good too, as you can charge what you feel your teaching is worth!
What’s the best thing you’ve discovered about being an online TEFL teacher?
Tough question! But if I had to choose one, it is the realisation that teaching online opens up a whole new world of possibilities for teachers. There are no restrictions to what you can achieve by starting your own thing, putting your creative energy into it, and seeing where it takes you.
What do you love most about your job and why?
I love being able to inspire people who really benefit from me teaching them. Going online has given me the opportunity to connect with students easily, and I know they’re willing to make the necessary changes to their learning in order to make real progress. It’s this connection and relationship that makes teaching so wonderful for me.
If you had one piece of advice to give to someone thinking of teaching English online, what would it be?
Find a student today as this is the best way to get things rolling! You can do this by going through your contacts and reaching out to those who are learning English. Offer your services and give the best lesson you possibly can. Then, ask for referrals and grow your student base from there, and you can do all of this while choosing a teaching niche, setting up your website, and doing all that other fun stuff.
What are your plans for the future?
I have big plans for both my online teaching and my blog. I want to start creating video courses for English learners, while growing my website and inspiring others to get online. My blog is only a couple of months old, but already there has been a big interest in what I’m doing, and I really love helping others get started.
Random Question Time!
1. Window, aisle or middle seat on a plane?
Has anyone ever chosen middle? Window.
2. Are you the same person as one year ago?
I’m growing as a teacher and a person every year, and now I feel more assured and confident about where I’ll be in the next five or ten years. I was also a vegan a year ago, and I’ve just had shepherd’s pie for dinner, so I guess I’m very different in that sense too.
3. If you could take 3 things with you on a desert island, what would they be?
I’d take a really comfy hammock, a big bag of salt and vinegar crisps, and a six-pack of local Asheville beer. I’d wake up with a hangover and wouldn’t be sure what to do on day two, but the first day would be brilliant.