I taught in private language schools for over 6 years and throughout that time, I always wanted more time and freedom to be able to do what I wanted both in and out of the classroom. I never knew exactly how I would achieve this or if this was even possible. In 2017, however, this became a reality. I had just arrived home from teaching abroad and I was feeling lost. This gave me a chance to ask myself what I really wanted to do. Though I didn’t have a very clear answer, I knew for sure that I still enjoyed teaching. I went back to teaching at a language school for a few months. I then realized that I wanted to teach English privately in a one-to-one setting. Back then, the reason was simple: I liked that I could address the unique concerns every student has with English. That was when I decided to become a freelance private English teacher. I never expected that it would give me everything I always longed for when I was teaching in a classroom.
Melissa Alvia is a graduate of OnTESOL’s 120-hour Advanced TESOL certificate. She is currently a freelance teacher in Toronto, Canada.
Time to Pursue Personal Interests
One of the things I love about being a freelance ESL teacher is the flexibility by which I can spend my days. My hours vary everyday but these variances allow me to incorporate personal activities into my daily life. I am able to do personal interests like reading, dancing, exploring the city and spending time with friends and family. My days are full but they are packed with both work activities and personal interests. So my personal and work lives blend seamlessly together. What this also means though is that work is part of my daily life even on weekends.
Freedom to Design Your Own Curriculum
Another perk of being a private teacher is that I get to set my own curriculum. In a one-to-one setting, students are far more comfortable about opening up and speaking. This is such a luxury because it allows me to understand what my students need. This has subsequently developed my awareness and sensitivity to any frills while lesson planning. Every student is different so needs can vary — and even with a single student, their needs evolve over time. It’s been very rewarding to see my students grow because I have also grown. The breadth of experience I have had these past 2.5 years has been incredible. My students range from ages 15 to 50. Through them, I have developed a better understanding of language proficiency tests (like IELTS, CELPIP, or TOEFL), literary essays, college entrance exams, university applications, and research papers, resume building/interview preparations in their respective fields.
Your Students Inspire You Everyday
The best part of my job is meeting students and hearing their stories. Their unique life experiences are always very captivating. It’s also really amazing to see them get creative with English. There’s something really special that happens when non-native English speakers use English as their medium of thought. Often times, they use uncommon terms and create their own expressions that result in very beautiful, fresh and awe-inspiring sentences or discourse. I experience this on a daily basis and it never ever gets old. My students always inspire me not only for their courage to chase after their dreams , but also for their contributions to the English language and to the city of Toronto.
-Teach English Worldwide with TESL Canada Accreditation!-
Organizations Who Support This Career
It’s important that I point out that I am extremely lucky in that I have people who have nurtured and in fact, grown my business. The first is Jison Choi , the incredible Marketing Student Services Coordinator for the prep school TAIE International, where I teach on the weekends. She is such an enormous source of motivation especially when I was just starting out and wasn’t very sure of myself. She has always encouraged me to pursue this direction.
Then there is Chongro Overseas Educational Institute (COEI) , a student agency based in Seoul for Korean students studying abroad. This was the first place I ever worked as a private teacher. I owe much gratitude to Eunsuk Hong and Joohong Kim, two counsellors who work with COEI, who support many freelance teachers with work. They had the wonderful idea of providing one-on-one teaching services to their students. To this day, I spend the majority of my time providing individual sessions in their office in downtown Toronto.
Both Jison and COEI truly believe in me and see the value of my work. They connect me with students carving out their lives in Toronto and who can benefit from a private English instruction. I honestly wouldn’t have made it this far without them. Thanks to them, I haven’t had to hustle and advertise my services on my own.
Another very important person is Clare Linton, the visionary Recruitment Coordinator for OnTESOL, who opened doors for me to new opportunities that I never dreamed I could do: produce written and spoken content about my teaching experience. She has given me a voice to talk about the deeper message of what I do, which has given my services great credibility.
A Job Not Without Its Challenges But Worth The Effort
Being a freelancer can be scary and intimidating, but having a team that believes in me and sees the purpose of my work has made it easier for me to get over the common hurdles many freelance teachers face.
So if you want to be a freelance English teacher, find the right connections. You’ll know they’re right because these people will bring out the best in you, which then spills over to you wanting to bring out the best in your students. That connection that you’ll have with your students is what will truly build and sustain your clientele. It has only been 2.5 years, but I’ve found that what students really appreciate is someone who understands their struggles, who can pinpoint and make them conscious of their strengths and help them create a path that will maximize their potential.
Teaching one-to-one has been a truly gratifying experience. Because of it, I get to really enjoy my life and for that, I am so grateful.