Starting out as a TEFL teacher – Graduate Story

Tamsin's story of becoming an online TEFL teacher

Never been a TEFL teacher before and thinking about becoming one? Well Tamsin, an i-to-i graduate, was in your shoes in the summer of this year (2021), then she plunged into the wonderful world of TEFL and hasn’t looked back since!

Want to know more about starting out as a TEFL teacher, how Tamsin did it, and what you could be doing in a few months from now? Then, read on!


Can you introduce yourself?

Hello, I’m Tamsin and I am from sunny Cape Town, South Africa!


What was your working background before teaching?

I actually come from a pharmaceutical background, and I used to be a pharmaceutical rep. It was after the pandemic that I lost my job in the industry. I was at a crossroads in my life, because of the high unemployment rate in South Africa, and I felt like my career future was all a bit doomed. I had coffee with a friend and when she simply said “Tams, go back to the basics, what have you always wanted to be when you grow up?” the answer was simple, I have always wanted to be a teacher.


Why TEFL and i-to-i?

Not knowing what to do for an income, but desperately wanting to go into teaching, I came across i-to-i, and decided to do a TEFL course with them. It took me about 5 months to complete the 320-hour course. It was challenging, yet enjoyable, and the times I got stuck (assignment 2 was rather difficult!) the i-to-i team were phenomenal with all their guidance and support. I was struggling with my confidence after all the change I had been through and there were times when I questioned myself and I asked myself “what were you thinking?!” on more than one occasion! However, the i-to-i team were always there, and Jordan, specifically, always encouraged me to keep going.


Why did you decide online teaching was the right path for you?

I had no choice really, as I’m a single Mom, so I couldn’t be going all over the world! But I really do love teaching online.


How did you get your job with Preply, and what was the application process like?

I found Preply on the LoveTEFL jobs board. It was a fairly quick application process, but I did struggle with my demo video, which I tried to do like a million times! The demo video was more of a tedious process than the actual application process! But Jordan (from the Jobs Team) helped me with it, so we got there in the end!

Preply doesn’t really interview you, it’s more of a platform for you to use and become more of your own little empire, where you build good relationships with the students and they, in turn, recommend you to their friends and family. It was less than a week that I was on Preply before I had 6 regular students signed up. It’s a great platform!

Teaching online guide

What did you find challenging about starting out?

Definitely the trial lessons, as you don’t get paid for trial lessons. So, you can have 11 trial lessons and you won’t get paid, so it just seems like 11 hours wasted. But, if you change your mindset, and if those 11 students buy further lessons from you, you will see the value. You’ll soon have 11 new students, that didn’t know about you before! So, although trial lessons can be disheartening and hard work, there is a purpose to them and light at the end of the tunnel! They are definitely worth doing.

My lessons were also few and far between at first, but I now have a whopping 37 regular students, and I have managed to form really special bonds with them. I have learnt so much from my students, who are from different cultures, in such a short space of time. It’s hard work but I’m having the time of my life! I have also managed to secure five, 5-star ratings thus far! It’s challenging as a Tutor, as you get tons of rescheduling in a very full calendar, and sometimes no-shows, but I wouldn’t trade this job for the world.


Are you currently working full-time as a TEFL teacher?

Yes, I am. I currently have 37 regular students and online TEFL teaching is my only role.


Where are your students based? Are you mainly teaching young learners or adults?

Most of my students are adults but I have also teach 2 children, and they are all based in Europe. The majority of the students are from Poland, Italy, the Ukraine, or Turkey.


What are some challenges of online TEFL teaching?

It’s hard work sometimes and it’s difficult to separate business from home life, because you work where you live and live where you work! It can become difficult to switch off but I have learnt to book time off for myself and do more of the things I like doing when I’m not teaching. After all, mental health is very important! Especially when you have lots of people relying on you, as you do with teaching.


What do you like best about online teaching?

I like the fact that I am my own business, so the harder and smarter I work, the more work I get! It’s all up to me! I know I have students with me now that will stick with me for life, which is also a great feeling. And I’m following my passion and doing some good in the world.


Any top tips for teaching online?

Don’t give up! I know it’s hard work at the start, but it’s all worth it in the end. Take time to look after yourself; book time off, sleep in, and go for a walk in nature. It’s important to find a balance. Like John Lennon used to say, ‘Everything will be OK in the end and if it’s not, then it’s not the end’.


Great words to live by!

Want to find out more about Tamsin and her teaching? Check out her Preply Teacher profile!

Ready to get started with your own TEFL journey but need to get qualified first? No worries! Arrange for a free call back with one of our TEFL experts, and they will be able to help you select the right course for you.

Already qualified and ready to look for jobs? Check out the amazing range available on the LoveTEFL jobs board. And our amazing jobs team, headed by Jordan, are always on hand if you need any help with your application!

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