Do you want to teach English online? Are you wondering about how to get started, how long it takes to find a TEFL job or even if you can combine online TEFL with another role? You’re not alone! South African TEFL teacher, Rosland, has been teaching English online for two and a half years and now combines her teaching responsibilities with a management job.
Rosland hosted a live webinar to share her experience of teaching online and answer all your questions. Watch the full webinar or read on for edited extracts.
ROSLAND’S TEFL JOURNEY
How did you choose your TEFL course?
I was a production manager for an agency in Cape Town when I decided I wanted to do TEFL and teach in China. I had an idea of what TEFL course I wanted to do and I knew I wanted to get a placement in a big city and get a good salary but I wanted to keep my options open around teaching older kids, teenagers, adults or kids in a classroom.
I scheduled an appointment with the i-to-i TEFL team so they could advise me on what course would best help me get the job I was looking for. The i-to-i advisor recommended the Level 5 TEFL Diploma which covers teaching in a classroom, teaching English online and teaching business English to adults.
I recommend chatting to the team at i-to-i if you’re unsure what TEFL course is most suitable for you. They will be able to help you choose the best course, based on the outcomes you want to achieve and the experience you have.
How long did it take you to complete your TEFL course?
I did my TEFL course while working full time in Cape Town and it took me about five to six months to complete. I spent one to two hours every day after work plus a lot of the weekend going through the course material. I was trying to get through it quickly, so I could get my certificate and start applying for jobs. I was really excited about starting the journey of teaching English in another country.
Once I completed the course, I got my TEFL certificate emailed to me straight away. The actual certificate arrived in the post about a month later.
How did you find your first TEFL job?
I started looking for jobs in schools in China in the last two months of my TEFL course. I looked on Dave’s ESL Café and the LoveTEFL Jobs boards and found a recruiting agency called Horizon Recruiters. I told them where I wanted to be placed, the type of school I wanted to teach at, the salary I wanted to earn and the hours I wanted to teach.
The recruitment company sent me a host of schools that met my requirements. I interviewed with about five schools so I could keep my options open. I did my interviews in lunch breaks in my car in the parking lot of the company I was working for in Cape Town.
The following day, the recruiter let me know that all the companies were happy with me, so it was my decision where I wanted to teach. I chose the school that had the best offer. It was a private, international school that was also offering accommodation and meals. They were going to pay for my transport to China and all the documentation, such as my visa, my health certificate, my police clearance certificate and the fees for authenticating the documents.
Why did you start teaching English online?
I was supposed to leave for my teaching job in China but then Covid broke out and I was stuck in South Africa. The school didn’t know what it was going to do and they were quiet for one or two months. I could not wait for them, so I started looking into online teaching. I didn’t really know much about online teaching at the time but I had learnt about it in my TEFL course.
I eventually got an online teaching job about two to three months after leaving my job in Cape Town. I taught with them for three months and then my company in China reached out and asked me to teach classes for them online.
How long did it take you to find a job after completing your TEFL course?
When I applied to teach in China, I was still in the process of completing the course – I had two modules left. Technically, I had my job before I had completed my TEFL certificate.
When I couldn’t go to China, it took me about two to three months to find an online teaching job. It differs for everyone and it depends on how much time and effort you put into it and if you’re ticking all the necessary boxes.
What is your current TEFL job and working hours?
I currently teach three Grade 1 classes. My smallest class has three students and my biggest class is 15 kids. I have 10 classes a week, which are all about an hour long and I create all my lesson plans, class worksheets and exercises. I also have to create the mid-term and end of year exams, as well as marking the test and exam papers and submitting reports for all of the kids.
I have a set schedule which I’m given by the headteacher in China. My first class is at 3am South African time and my last class is at 11am South African time (9am to 5pm in China). You could basically say that I’m a teacher in a traditional school but I teach online because I’m not physically there in China.
I stop teaching at about 11am. I had so much time left in the day that I took on a new management job which I now do alongside my teaching job. I really enjoy doing both jobs but it does take a lot of work and effort to manage the two alongside each other.
FINDING A TEFL JOB
How long does it take to find an online TEFL job?
How long it takes to find an online TEFL job really depends on how much time and effort you put into applications, making a good introduction video and researching all the online TEFL companies that are out there to find ones that are a good fit for your situation.
For the majority of companies, you need a TEFL certificate. Some online companies also ask for a degree but, if you have a lot of experience teaching or with kids, you don’t necessarily need one.
I think some people have this perception that, once you have your TEFL certificate you will find a job within that week. It can be quite time consuming as you need to do the research into the companies that are hiring and create a really good profile for every company you apply to. It definitely takes effort – as would finding a job in any field.
How can I create a good introduction video?
If you’re applying for an online TEFL job you need a very colourful, child-friendly background, with a sign saying, ‘Hello’ or ‘My name is…’ and some kid-friendly pictures. You don’t have to dress super formal but do but do wear good, clean attire.
Start your introduction video by saying your name and your qualifications. You should then speak about your experience of working with kids or being a teacher, a little bit about your hobbies, past jobs and experiences followed by why you want to be a teacher in this job.
They want to see how you speak, what you look like and if you’re comfortable speaking as well as get an overview of your experience and qualifications. In an online introduction video, they will be looking at how you use TPR and how animated you are.
Can you give an example of what to say in an introduction video?
As an example, in my introduction video I might say:
Hi, my name is Rosland. I’m an online TEFL teacher and I have two and a half years’ experience of teaching English online. I have a Level 5 TEFL Diploma as well as two degrees. I taught English for a strictly online company for about three months, where I taught one-to-one classes that were 30 minutes long and all the lesson material was prepared. The remainder of my experience is teaching for a private international company online, where I prepare my own materials. I teach Grade 1s and the lessons are about 60 minutes long. My classes have about 15 kids in them and I teach them grammar, writing and speaking. I also do report writing and exam preparation. I also have experience in management roles and marketing. I look forward to working for your school because I like… [what you like about the school]
Thank you so much for viewing my introduction video. I hope to hear from you soon.
What countries are good to teach in overseas?
If you want to teach overseas, sit down and think about what type of life you want to live. Do you want to go to a hot country or a cold country? Do you want to go to a coastal country or a country in the mountains? Do you want to go to an Asian country or a European country? Do you want the country to be close to the time zone where you currently live? Do you want to teach in a private school or a private school? Do you want to teach in an English centre? Think about that first and also your expected salary.
A good place to start is a Vaga Brothers’ YouTube video. It’s four years old, so some of the information might have changed but it’s a nice summary of the different countries you can teach in if you don’t really know where to start.
Do you have tips on how to do well in an interview?
My first tips are to be calm, dress well and write down everything you want to speak about in the interview. List out things like your teaching experience and take time to read up about the company, so you can talk about why you want to work with them.
In the interview, speak about the experience you have with kids or teaching. If you don’t have previous experience, take points from your previous jobs that are beneficial to teaching, such as skills in communication, management, planning or presentations or if you work well in a team. You can also speak about points you’ve learnt during your TEFL course. For example, I was asked about my teaching style. I said that I really enjoyed learning about the PPP method in the TEFL course and would like to implement it in my classes going forward.
Let them know about the equipment that you have, such as a headset and a quiet place to teach. One interview question they often ask, especially if you’re from South Africa, is if you have a back-up power plan for load shedding, so it’s worth thinking about that. Interviewers also will often ask you how to deal with a misbehaving child.
Finally, have an idea about what salary you’re hoping to receive from the company and be ready to ask for the information that you need, like what your schedule will be, the minimum hours you need to work and whether you need to prepare lesson material or if it’s provided.
TEACHING ENGLISH ONLINE
Can you recommend any resources for online TEFL classes?
Many online TEFL companies provide the lessons. You log on and find the lesson you need to teach and the material. Other companies do require you to create your own lesson material, based on the curriculum that they need to cover for the year.
One of the resources I use for presentations and class worksheets is iSL Collective which is free. I also recently paid for a subscription to Twinkl which allows me to download worksheets, presentations, flashcards and games. Another site I use is K5 Learning which is helpful if I want to find worksheets for the kids.
When I taught grammar to older kids, I used Grammar to delve a bit deeper into grammar rules. For my exams and also to practise listening, I use a site called 123 Listening. The kids listen to the audio and it also gives you the worksheets for the kids to select the correct picture or write down the word that they hear.
I also use YouTube to make lessons a bit fun. Two of the most popular ones are CoComelon where they sing songs about different topics, like colours, fruit, shapes, body parts, and the Singing Walrus which I like when I’m teaching phonics because it shows you how to write the letters.
How can I play videos when I’m teaching a lesson online?
Depending on what platform you use, you can usually share your screen. I share my screen throughout my whole lesson because I create my own PowerPoints. The kids see the PowerPoint and I’m a little circle on the side, teaching.
When I play my videos or want to show them something on Google, they can see my screen so I just play the video and they watch as I play it.
What are the pros and cons of teaching online alongside another job?
I think the pros are that you earn more money and, for me, I have a mix of what I like doing. It also allows me to stay relevant in both fields. If I want to go into either marketing or teaching in the future, I have relevant experience that I can use when I’m applying for jobs.
The cons are that it’s a lot more work, a lot less sleep and lots of time management and planning. I definitely feel it in those weeks when I have not planned my time well and have to say ‘No’ to going out because I have a lot of work to do. The other con is it can lead to a bit of burnout if you’re working constantly – but I enjoy it.
How many hours will I work in an online TEFL job?
Some online TEFL companies set a minimum number of hours you need to cover each week and tell you what times you can teach. You can then decide how many hours within each day you want to do to fulfil the number of slots for that week. Other companies allow you to set your own schedule.
Some people work for multiple schools, so they might teach for a company in China and then, once they are done with the Chinese day, teach for a company in Europe. Most online schools don’t worry about you working for another company as long as it doesn’t clash with their schedule and what you’ve already agreed with them. I work for one school and have another job on the side. It depends on how much time you want to put into it.
How soon will I get paid after starting an online TEFL job?
When you sign a contract, you normally get paid after a month of teaching unless you’ve not reached their minimum fee pay out. The companies that have a policy around minimum pay generally put this in place because of the charges for transferring small amounts of money into an account.
For example, a company may only pay you once you’ve made 200 Rand. If you’ve worked a full month but only made it to 150 Rand, you won’t get paid that month. It will roll over to the next month. However, most of the time, it’s a really minimal amount so it’s easy to reach and get paid out in that month.
How many students will I have in an online TEFL class?
The size of the class depends on the company. You can get one-to-one classes, two-on-one classes (so two students to one of you, as the teacher) or you can get up to five kids in a class.
I teach about 11 to 15 kids but that is because I teach a class in a school.
What are your tips to overcome nerves in your first class?
Nerves is a part of TEFL, I would say. I definitely get nervous if it’s been a while since I taught.
However, remember, you know what you’re doing and you’re well prepared. The kids are on the screen. They are not going to really see your nervousness. Fake it until you make it. Once you’ve done the first class, you will know what to do and what to expect.
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