Want to learn more about TEFL and teaching English online during COVID-19? Now you can! Online TEFL teacher, Audrey held her first ever live Facebook webinar on Wedneday 10th June 2020 at 5pm where she talked all about her experience of moving from teaching in class to teaching online during the coronavirus pandemic. Watch the recording here, or read on for a flavour of her fascinating insights…
Why I started teaching English online
I started teaching English online a month after coronavirus started in Italy. My school cut back my hours so I thought I should do something that would bring in extra income. People say the online TEFL market is over-saturated but within the first month I had 150 teaching hours and I made great pay. In my second month I taught over 300 classes. If you put in the work, you’ll have no problem being successful. There’s no-one stopping you but yourself.
I teach for a company and have freelance clients
I work for a company called PalFish but there are online TEFL companies all over, like VIPKid, Dada, SayABC, Cambly and iTalki. i-to-i has a great list of online TEFL employers that tells you if you need a degree and which nationalities are accepted.
To work for my company, I had to upload my passport and certificates, do an introduction speech and deliver a demo class. The company gave me the material to study beforehand so I made the props and watched YouTube videos about total physical response. My company gave me students for the first two days. After that I promoted myself through their app.
If you live in a non-native English speaking country, you can TEFL online independently. I found students by posting on Facebook and word of mouth. I would recommend starting out with a company though. They will give you students and you might not get a bunch of freelance clients straight away.
It’s good to have a TEFL certificate
To start teaching online you usually need a TEFL certificate. I did a Level 3 course with i-to-i as I already had some classroom experience. If you don’t have teaching experience you could do a Level 5 course to gain more knowledge. Some companies also want you to have a degree. However, I don’t have a degree and I still found a teaching job. It’s also not that difficult to get an online teaching position without any teaching experience. You just have to see which companies don’t need it – i-to-i’s list is great for this.
You can find online teaching jobs all over the world although some companies have rules about which nationalities they will take. Not all companies employ South Africans but I know so many people from South Africa who have online teaching jobs – one of my friends has just got hired.
I make more teaching English online than I did in a school
You can make anything from $10 an hour to $30 an hour with online TEFL teaching. It depends what country your company is in, what country you are in, your teaching experience, if you have a degree, if you have a TEFL certificate, how many hours you work and the company you work for.
A lot of companies have pay scales. When you start out teaching, you start on the lowest level. I still made more teaching on the lowest pay scale than I did teaching in class in Italy. Teaching in person, I made about eight Euros an hour and teaching online I make about $22 an hour.
I would look for a company where you like the interface and not just think about pay though – if their interface does not fit your needs, you are not going to like it.
I don’t have a contract – but you can
Some websites ask you to sign a contract but mine did not. You can pick a company that gives you a guaranteed contract if this is what you want or one that doesn’t tie you down, if think you might move to Japan or to South Africa or to the UK. Visas, work permits and whether you need to register as self-employed depend on where you’re from and where you want to live, so you’ll need to check this out yourself.
I choose my own schedule
I teach seven days a week (we’re trying to stay indoors as much as possible right now) and I work 40 to 50 hours a week. Some days, I am up at 3 or 4 o’clock in the morning but other days I start at noon. You can make it work for you.
My company does not have a minimum number of hours that I have to teach but I do need to have 3.5 slots open in my schedule each week. I teach 2.5 hours on my ‘day off’ and the busiest I have been was a 10-hour day. The beauty is that you get to do it at your own rate. If you only want to teach 2.5 hours a day, you can. If you want to teach 100 hours a week, you can. It is up to you.
You can teach anyone
You have the option of teaching every age group and finding your niche. That is what is cool about online teaching. My students start from age three but you could teach children, teenagers or adults.
You can teach people from all over the world but the highest demand is in China. For my company I teach students in China and with my private tutoring I teach people in Italy. Some websites are specific to a certain country but there are others that have students everywhere.
I have students that have no English. You can teach using different voices and props and they can remember it. I have students that speak perfect English but have no-one to speak to. They want someone to correct those few grammar mistakes or teach them American slang. You have to adapt to the people and their level.
Online TEFL has challenges
One of the challenges of online teaching is wifi problems, often at the kids’ end. You have to be extra patient and repeat things if the screen freezes. Students who are new to online teaching also can have an adjustment period while they get used to the online platform.
You also have to be able to really read your students and adapt to them because they might zone out. You have to make sure you are keeping their attention. I use props and songs and always make the class interactive. If I have a child who’s not good at focusing, I will ask the parent to be in the room for the class.
A typical online TEFL class
I have 25 minutes classes, with vocabulary, grammar, stories and singing. I usually start with a little ‘Hello’ song and then a song based on the unit. Let’s say I was doing food. The unit would have a song about what food people like and then throughout the unit I would ask questions like, ‘What is this?’ and they would have to say correctly, ‘This is an apple,’ and then I would have to say, ‘Do you like apples?’
If I have university students, I’ll set up a presentation and do things like college exams practice and grammar. If it’s an older person, it’s important to make it educational but still engaging for an adult – think about whether you would like it.
Teaching online is different from being in a classroom
A lot of teachers come online and teach in the same way as they would in a classroom. You have to remember that a three year old is not going to have the same focus online as they would with you in person. You need to learn how to adapt to online teaching. i-to-i has a course that is all about teaching online. I think that is so important
Keep it entertaining. Keep it exciting. Whether I’m teaching an adult or a young child, my technique is always to have repetition and review. I always do a short review at the start of the class to make sure the student remembers the last class.
You don’t need a million bucks to get the equipment
I teach on my iPhone or iPad although for some companies you do need a computer. I bought some headphones with a built-in microphone for 6 Euros and I paid 2 Euros for a map. My tripod is made out of Lego. I have a desk with a chair and a desk lamp that is shining down on me.
I work with kids mostly, so I like having fun backgrounds. I like having rewards systems. I like having my stuffed animals and props. Most of my props are paper cartoons that I coloured in and I have a pencil on them. I will invest more later on but you do not need to throw out a bunch of money at the start.
I do not need to make my lesson plans. My online TEFL company gives me everything and I just teach it. You don’t need a million bucks. It is not that expensive to start your dreams.
Teaching online is awesome
TEFL gives you endless opportunities. The best thing about teaching abroad is that you get to experience different countries. You get to learn a new language. You get to give an opportunity to people but they are giving you a completely new lifestyle and traditions.
Teaching online was an awesome decision. i-to-i TEFL helped me achieve so many things in life that I never thought I would. If I hadn’t got my TEFL certificate, I would not be living in Italy, I would not be travelling in Europe, I wouldn’t have learnt about a new culture and experience. Thank you TEFL!
I know it can seem scary. There is always something that could go wrong but that’s life. This is your opportunity to do something that so many people are afraid of doing. Take the jump. It is so worth it. You can make a whole amount of money on your own schedule without needing a whole bunch of equipment or experience. It is the best thing I have done. I absolutely love my life.
Find out more
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