When I started working as an online ESL teacher, I had no doubt in my abilities to handle any situation that may arise in the virtual classroom. If I could go back in time and give myself one piece of advice, it would be: nothing can prepare you for the job because there is no way to predict what will happen. There are plenty of other pieces of advice I would’ve given myself, however. Read on to find out what they are.
About the Author: Manuela Stef is currently teaching ESL online. She is a graduate of OnTESOL’s 250-hour TESOL diploma, Teaching IELTS course, Teaching Business English course and Teaching English to Young Learners course.
1. Expect Less Bookings And A Lower Income In The Beginning
Your bookings will be sporadic at the start, so you can’t expect to be making as much as someone whose bookings are consistent. Moreover, the majority of your bookings will most likely be trial classes and no-shows are quite frequent for trial classes. With trial classes, expect to have them assigned as last-minute classes. There is not much that you can plan as far as pop-up classes are concerned. It’s important to simply be ready to enter the classroom.
In the beginning, there are a few things that are under your control as far as bookings go. Each teacher is responsible for setting up a profile. This is so that parents and students can look at it prior to booking teachers. This is your chance to make a first good impression and for parents and students to get to know you. It is important to make the profile as complete and as appealing as possible. Do not skip answering any question as each answered question shows how complete and lively your profile is. Make sure your introduction video on your profile is enthusiastic, and not bland or monotone. Additionally, when filming your introduction, include your hobbies and some pictures of your real life.
2. Prep Work Is Necessary
Depending on the company, several curricula are available for the students to choose from. The courseware that my company offers tends to be repetitive. It consists of a text that the student reads about four different times. Following this, they answer the same follow up questions each time. Throughout the readings, you will teach grammatical notions, but students can only read the same text for so long before they become bored. That is why, despite ESL companies advertising there being no prep time required, you do need to do some minimal prep work. When I prepare with that particular courseware, I simply make a note of the slides that I plan on skipping through because they are too repetitive.
Keep in mind that prep time is required for all curricula, not just that one.
In regards to the courseware I work with, to keep the student engaged in class, I try to get their opinion and answers once on the text after we’ve read it. I then ask my own questions. I like to give them hypothetical scenarios and ask them what they would do. Then, if they are at an intermediate level or above, I also go further by asking why they would do that or what would change their answer, etc.
3. Rest Is Important
Take a day off once a week! You will often be awake at ungodly hours and being enthusiastic for hours on end, early in the morning, is challenging to say the least. This is also borderline impossible if you do not catch up on your sleep at some point. I open up my schedule Monday to Saturday (from 5:28 a.m. to 9:15 a.m.) and I take my Sundays off to catch up on sleep. Sometimes , I am guilty of doing part time hours instead of resting, however. I noticed that I’m able to provide my students with much more attention when I have had a Sunday to rest.
Furthermore, you are allowed to take a vacation and decide not to teach during that time. A vacation is for recharging your batteries. You cannot do this properly and wake up at three or four in the morning to teach classes. In my opinion, this is the perfect recipe for burnout and exhaustion.
4. Things To Take Into Account And Setting A Schedule
1) How many hours in a row can I teach before my energy levels go down?
2) How many hours a week can I realistically put in right now?
3) How many hours of sleep do I need each night to fully function?
In my case the answers are the following:
1) I can teach three and a half to four hours in a row before my energy plummets.
2) Anywhere from 17 to 24 hours. I started out with only 10 and slowly but surely worked my way up to 24.
3) I can fully function on six hours of sleep.
While there are many more things to add to the list, these are the essentials of what I wish I had known before I ventured into online teaching. It has involved much trial and error!