Episode 1 Transcript
Vanessa: Welcome or welcome back. I hope you and your families are all staying safe and healthy. I am your host, Vanessa, and today we are chatting with a very experienced online English teacher to help others looking to get started teaching English online.
Jessie taught online for almost two years, working with adult students across China. A few fun facts about her: she is also a Yoga Enthusiast who studies Anatomy in her spare time. She enjoys spending time in uncomfortably hot destinations; who can blame her!
This episode is perfect for anyone curious about getting started teaching online and wants to know what it’s like to be an online teacher.
So let’s dive in.
Vanessa (V): Hi Jessie, welcome to the teacher talks podcast! We are so excited to have you here.
Jessie (J): Thank you. I am so excited to be on the Teachers Talk Podcast!
V: Awesome! Happy to hear you are just as excited as we are. So I gave the listeners a little bit of an intro about you. But I was hoping you could tell us what inspired you to start teaching English online?
J: Definitely. I absolutely love to travel. While traveling In southeast Asia (specifically Cambodia), I realized how passionate I am about learning new languages and thought this would be the perfect career opportunity for me!
At first, I wanted to teach abroad in China to immerse myself with Mandarin speakers, but I wasn’t ready to take the leap yet to move abroad, as funds were a bit limited at the time. So I figured teaching online would be a great way to introduce myself to the classroom while saving some money at the same time.
So I set off and found a job teaching English online to adults in China. Overall it was such a great experience. I really enjoyed working with adults because they were eager to share their culture and I learned a lot along the way.
V: Teaching online is definitely a great way to dip your toes into the online teaching world and see if teaching is the right fit for you before taking that leap to teach abroad.
V: Many of our listeners are probably wondering if you need any prior teaching experience or qualifications to teach English online?
J: That’s a great question! The good news is that you don’t need any prior teaching experience to get started! But most companies (especially ones based in China) will want you to have a bachelor’s degree and a TEFL certificate. Luckily, some companies don’t require a bachelor’s degree or TEFL, but they still consider it an asset.
I’m gonna let you in on a little secret, though. If you’re currently enrolled in a bachelor’s degree program or TEFL course, you can still get a job teaching online even if you haven’t finished.
When I was teaching online, I was working on a TEFL course at the same time. Recruiters just need to verify your enrolment status in a program or TEFL course. And they will provide their own training on top of that.
I enjoyed teaching while being enrolled in the TEFL course because it allowed me to use the knowledge from the course in the classroom in real-time. So everything I learned from the TEFL course was fresh in my mind.
V: Awesome, thanks Jessie, for that little tidbit of information. I’m sure our listeners will find that super helpful.
V: How did you originally find out about teaching online as a career?
J: Through word of mouth! I was applying for jobs in customer service and a friend suggested I apply to teach online.
After I applied, I heard back from a recruiter.
To be honest, at first, I was really hesitant to get started because I wasn’t sure I was qualified enough. But it all worked out! I was determined to learn a new skill and step out of my comfort zone a bit.
V: What was it like on your first day of class? How did you feel as a first-time online teacher?
J: Nervous!! It was a classic case of imposter syndrome. I was so worried I wouldn’t have the answers or my students wouldn’t be satisfied with the lesson.
After my first class, I felt AMAZING. It was a 45-minute class and the students were engaged, interacting with each other and asking questions the whole time.
To be honest, I hated presenting in front of people, but teaching English online helped me conquer those fears and become a better presenter because of it. It wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be. The students were so lovely and kept me on my toes and challenged me as an online teacher.
V: Do you have any tips for our listeners who are just getting started teaching English online?
J: Definitely. Be confident in yourself. It’s normal to have imposter syndrome at first if you’ve never done something like this before.
If you are still thinking about “trying it out,” I highly suggest you give it a shot! Teaching English online gives you a unique skill set and tools that help you inside and outside the classroom.
I’ve become more patient, self-studious, and confident in all aspects of my life and teaching online lead me to many job opportunities I would never have had if I didn’t do it!
J: Today, I’m working for an Education company as a TEFL Course Advisor. I went from someone who never heard of a TEFL certificate to an expert!
I use the knowledge I’ve gained from teaching online as the foundation for my career. It all started with applying for a role, gaining the experience and qualifications and slowly understanding the industry from both sides (what students want and what teachers and schools can provide).
I would have never learned what a TEFL certification was unless I applied for a teaching role and had to obtain one myself. I’ve used the situation I was in as leverage to where I am now!
V: What was it like to teach English online?
J: It was exciting! I never knew how the class would go, I had expectations and a lesson plan, but you never know if students will engage. This helped me focus on my listening skills so I could ask meaningful questions and encourage their progress.
Most lessons are somewhere between 30-60 minutes long! It is super helpful to work on your time management skills by keeping track of time and following your lesson plan prompts, as you will find the time flies by fast!
I also enjoyed working remotely as I didn’t have to worry about commuting to work -which was such a relief since I only had access to public transportation at the time. Working from home allowed me to save money on commuting and eating out.
I had more control over my work environment and really enjoyed that aspect. Working remotely also gives you full autonomy over your schedule to make plans throughout the week and create a flexible schedule that doesn’t fit into the 9-5 PM routine!
V: Do you have any interesting or funny stories to share?
J: Ya! So when I met a new student, I would break the ice by asking students to share what province in China they were living in or share something interesting about themselves. Most students shared favorite foods, activities, and family members, but for a few higher-level students shared fascinating aspects of their lives.
One was a retired businessman who wrote poems in his spare time about his late wife and always wanted to talk about meaningful things! Poetry is quite advanced for students in TEFL courses, but he would share with the class. It was beautiful!!
On a lighter note, I also enjoyed hearing students quarrel over which province in China has the best food!! It would always make me hungry, but I learned about cuisine all over China, such as Peking Duck, fresh seafood for Xiamen, or giant noodles from Lanzhou!
V: How hard is it to build your teaching client schedule?
J: It’s pretty easy, actually. I worked for a platform that took care of booking my clients. Students were randomly assigned to TEFL teachers. Since there was such high demand with this company, I only taught new students. But this way, each class was unique, so I enjoyed that approach.
It depends on which company you work for, but you might work with regular clients or have new ones every week.
Building your own schedule is easy, but retaining clients can be the tricky part. It is really important to make a genuine connection with your students and set clear learning objectives at the beginning, so students can follow along and make the most of their session with you and feel more inclined to book with you again in the future.
V: Did you have to create lesson plans for every class? (bonus question not recorded on the podcast)
J: Lesson plans are provided by the company you work for to ensure it’s appropriate and relevant.
But I would recommend reviewing the content and adding prompts or questions that would help engage students—checking to see if they have understood the concepts and can apply them in conversation.
This also helps with students’ retention as they have a familiar lesson layout but know when they will be asked to participate and share.
V: How do you make a good first impression on your students?
J: Remember that teaching is also a privilege and you are considered a role model. Each student learns differently and you will need to be aware of how to treat every student as an individual.
Assigning specific homework or suggesting articles to read on their own time, whatever it is, be creative! Don’t forget to listen, as much as you are there to teach, asking more questions and learning more about your students helps them feel valued and heard.
V: How do you teach English online effectively?
J: USE VISUALS, ask students to practice asking their peers questions. Engagement is KEY! Share more articles in real-time. Students have access to more information more than ever.
Make sure you are steering them in the right direction!
V: What are the best/peak hours to work?
J: Depends on your students/their location/ and your schedule! I worked with adult learners in China – keep in mind I am located in Toronto, Canada.
I found the peak times were 6:00 AM – 11:30 AM EST (after work for Chinese students). This worked well for my schedule during the morning and I enjoyed the evenings off. So to answer this question, it would vary on your students.
Most likely, after the 9-5 PM hours majority of people work, you might also work weekends when people have free time!
V: Can you really make a living teaching English online?
J: Online teaching can provide a steady income if you work with platforms that have set hours. You may need to work for one or more platforms depending on the demand from students.
I was juggling a few jobs while working as an online teacher, but I didn’t want to give up on the job because I valued the work and felt that I was making a difference.
Teaching online wasn’t my lifelong career, but because of it, I met so many incredible people with like-minded goals – to keep learning and growing to be the best version of yourself.