Online TEFL teacher Audrey went live on i-to-i’s Facebook page to share her experiences of teaching English online with TEFL company PalFish. Watch the full webinar or read on for edited extracts.
What is PalFish?
Palfish is an online teaching company for TEFL teachers. It is an app, not a website and it’s all touchscreen because that is easier for younger students.
PalFish’s main courses are for children aged three to 15. They are one-on-one lessons, so you only have one student at a time, which I love as it’s so personal. PalFish also has Freetalk, where you have a phone or video call with a student (usually a high schooler, college student or adult) who wants to work on their conversation skills. I did that too when I started with PalFish and it’s super fun.
I have been working for PalFish for almost one year now. I started with PalFish on 24 March 2020. Today, I hit 1,364 teaching hours and I have even had a month off for vacation
What are the requirements to work for PalFish?
There are a few requirements to work for PalFish. Requirement number one is that they only accept TEFL teachers from the UK, USA, Canada, Ireland, New Zealand, Australia and the Philippines (although Filipinos teach a non-native English programme and are paid at a different rate).
You must be 18 years old or older to work for PalFish but there is no top age restriction – you can be 50, 60 or 70. One of the top teachers is in her fifties. She is on fire.
To teach with PalFish, you also need a TEFL certificate. However, you do not need any previous teaching experience. Of course, it is helpful if you do have experience but if you don’t have any that is absolutely not a problem. Personally, I think PalFish is a great company to start with because all the lesson plans are made for you and they tell exactly what to say.
The final thing you need is a tablet or smartphone – not a laptop because PalFish is an application, not a website. I find that PalFish works best with iOS so I use an iPad but any tablet works. All you need is at least 4GB of RAM to be able to operate the class efficiently and, if you live somewhere with a lot of background noise, I would get headphones.
Does PalFish accept South Africans?
Unfortunately, PalFish does not take South Africans and they do not accept non-native English speakers, except Filipinos.
If you are from South Africa or you are a non-native English speaker, there are many job opportunities for you so don’t get discouraged. If you are having trouble finding work, email [email protected] and they will help you.
Which TEFL course is best if I want to teach online?
PalFish accepts either a Level 3 or a Level 5 certificate. I have a Level 3 120 hour TEFL certificate but i-to-i also have an amazing Level 5 Course which talks in detail about teaching online, one-on-one teaching and teaching children.
If you are dithering between the two, think about whether you have prior experience or need more in-depth training and that extra practice. I think they are both amazing but I love that the Level 5 has that online teaching course inside it because being an online teacher is different from teaching in a classroom.
What is the recruitment process for PalFish?
PalFish has a few parts to their recruitment process. The first part is setting up your profile with basic information. PalFish does not require a traditional CV. Instead, you click on boxes and write information about yourself, like where you are from, your TEFL certificate (so they can verify it) and prior work experience.
Next, you move onto a written and audio introduction. For your written introduction you should talk about things you like to do, how long you have been teaching and any experience you have with kids.
Your audio introduction should be a bit slower paced. You could say something like, ‘Hello, my name is Teacher Audrey. I am from California. In my classes, we are going to do _____ by learning _____.’ Your audio passage is important because parents can hear your pronunciation, your speed, how fast or slow you talk. You need to make sure that you speak slowly so that the parents understand you. If the parents don’t feel that they can understand you then they are going to assume that their kid might not understand you.
If you are accepted, you move onto the interview stage. This is not a traditional interview but a 25-minute mock class, based on one of the trials that PalFish offer to see if students want to buy the course. Make sure you enter the interview class beforehand so you can study it and practise. You should also get your props ready, wear a blue shirt (as that is PalFish’s dress code) and put up a backdrop. At the moment, my background just says ‘Teacher Audrey’ but I have had busy backgrounds with maps and the alphabet. I use a pinboard that keeps everything together and makes it easy to move around.
If you pass the mock class, you then do a short quiz about PalFish and Chinese government regulations. It sounds scary but it is super easy. It has about 10 questions on topics like what age kindergarteners can go to school, which is all in their official handbook. Once that finishes, you get the official approval and you are good to go.
As PalFish is not a school, it is open and hires all year round, although processing times can be longer if you apply during a Chinese holiday. Usually, you can go from the start to finish of your application in one to two weeks, depending on how much time you want to practise.
What happens after I’ve been accepted for PalFish?
After you have been officially accepted, there is something called lesson preparations. These are six classes that you run through. You get a score and it tells you what to improve, what to tweak and what you are doing great on. These are very important to do because it allows you to get bookings. They also help you to get rid of your first timer’s nerves, so you are not nervous when you have a student.
After that you have a two-class probationary period to see how you do and check that you show up. Hopefully you do – it does not look good to be absent on your first class! After that you are an official PalFish teacher.
The first few days you are on PalFish, you are put on the priority list. If you prove yourself as a great teacher and you are interacting well, you will keep on getting bookings. You also need to market yourself to the sales team, the admin and the headteachers. They are the people that assign the classes. If you post moments and photos, do videos and show your personality they love it. They learn who you are as a person and they give you more students.
There are also extra opportunities with PalFish. There are things you can do like a book recorder, meaning you record some of the books that go onto their apps. I am currently doing social media videos for them. I have had a lot of really cool experiences coming out of PalFish.
Can you help me to get started with PalFish?
I have been with PalFish for almost a year and I have now started coaching other teachers through the application process. I have officially had 30 teachers approved on PalFish and I currently have 18 more people in the process of signing up. Coaching is completely free to you – all you have to do is use my link and my code. I get a little bit of money from PalFish but I do help you a lot. I stick with you through the whole process.
If I coach you, we will go through the basic information and your profile together and I will send you my written introduction and audio message, so you can use them as a guide for what yours should look and sound like. Before your interview, I will send you interview notes along with a video of the mock class showing you tone control and another on how to interact with the app.
After you have been accepted, I will tell you what you need to do to pass the lesson preparations. I will also tell you exactly what prop you need for every single trial class (I even sell a PalFish trial pack for teachers who want to buy it), send you a 19-page marketing guide with a posting schedule and enter you into a group chat.
I will be here with you through it all. I truly care about my teachers. If you want to reach out to me, Facebook or Instagram is the best. You can find me @travelrichmoneypoor.
How much does PalFish pay?
PalFish has an hourly rate that ranges from $16 to $22, depending on your level and you also get a $15 prop bonus. Level one is the first level and as you move up your pay goes up too. Each class is 25 minutes long, so you actually get paid for the first 25 minutes and the second 25 minutes rather than for an hour.
The levels are based on a points system. Each class you teach is worth four points and double slots are worth eight points. If you were not absent last month, you get 20 points. If you were not late last month, you get an additional 20 points. If you keep eight time slots open on your schedule, you get an additional amount of points each week. If you sell a trial you get 40 points. That is why your hourly rate can be anywhere from $16 to $22.
You can also get bonuses. If you teach 100 classes in a month, with perfect attendance and have had no complaints or lateness, you get a bonus. You can get a bonus for being the top trial seller or for being one of the top 20 teachers. You can make very good money from these bonuses if you qualify. I was awarded both in my third month on PalFish so it is very possible for you to do it.
PalFish pays you once a month and, as you’re an independent contractor, you are responsible for filing your own tax. Each month you might have different pay, depending on what hours you work. I average around $100 per work day. If I work 23 days in a month, I make around $2,300 that month. If I work 27 days or 28 days, I am going to make more money.
Our official pay day is on the 7th of each month but we usually get it between the 3rd and 7th. They pay into Payoneer, which is like PayPal but has less fees
What hours will I work?
PalFish is very flexible. You are supposed to have a minimum of eight slots open a week, which is four hours. They don’t have a maximum. You can work as much as you want but, during the school year, it is normal to have four to five hours maximum during the week because Chinese kids go to school until 4pm and often have other after-school activities. Remember, you are working on Chinese time. If you’re in the UK, this means that you will typically be teaching between 8am to 1.30pm because of the time difference.
At the weekends you can work from 9am to 10pm Beijing time. When I first started, I did 11-hour days at the weekends, which was crazy. Now, I work five hours a day for six days a week, so I usually have around 30 hours a week. When the summer comes, I will probably move more towards 40 hours a week.
If you go on vacation you can close your slots. However, you should send a message to your admin to say the days that you are not going to be available and let the parents and your headteachers know too. If your account is inactive for too long, you will get removed and have to email them to get put back in. Communication is key. I always tell my admin and my students and their parents four weeks in advance.
Does PalFish provide lesson plans?
PalFish provides all the lesson plans. You log into your app and boom the PalFish lesson will come up. You will see a picture of the lesson and then something called TG, which is the Teacher Guide. You click it and it literally tells you what to say and gives you questions to ask. However, I do recommend that you check your lesson plans before you go into your classes, so you understand what you are supposed to do and can then teach freely on your own.
Teaching online is different from being in a classroom. You need to make sure that you are being super bubbly and welcoming. It catches their eye a little bit more. Make sure you put out all the props you need on your desk. Most students have a pretty decent attention span and are very respectful of their teachers. However, you might have a few that are a little young and get tired easily. If you notice a kid is a bit distracted, pull out your props and use movement and more of a song-like voice.
Why I love PalFish
PalFish has changed my life. I can move wherever I want, when it’s safe to do so again. I don’t need to say, ‘I need three months off to visit my family.’ I can pick up my iPad, pick up my binder of props, put it in my backpack, hop on an aeroplane and go. That is why I am so dedicated to helping other tutors out. I want you to have the same options that I do. If I can do it, you all can do it.
Online teaching did not seem like a real job and then I started and wondered why I did not do this years ago. It is an amazing job. You pick your own schedule. You can work as much or as little as you want – that is something that I love. I get to tailor my job around my life, not my life around my job.
FIND OUT MORE
Listen to the full webinar
Download our FREE teaching online guide
Follow Audrey on Instagram @travelrichmoneypoor