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Is Teaching Online for You? 5 Qualities of an Online English Teacher

Teaching English online is very different from teaching in a classroom.

The lesson planning skills you acquired in the TESOL certification course will definitely help you to create interactive activities for your students and replace the textbook with songs and videos, but your personality will also make or break your experience teaching English in front of a screen.

Teaching online just doesn’t work for some people!

In this blog, we will look at different qualities that online ESL teachers must have in order to succeed.

Read: Compare Online ESL Teaching Jobs

Read: What is TESOL / TEFL / TESL?

1. Interactive

Fully and properly learning a language requires engagement and interactivity at every lesson and, as a teacher, it is your job to facilitate that.

As an online teacher, you will encounter shy, even silent students in the classroom- after all, you might be the first foreigner that they’ve ever seen or interacted with one-on-one.

Promoting interaction in the virtual English classroom empowers your learners and assists them in developing their communication skills.

Making the lesson interactive is a common struggle for new online ESL teachers, as it can be difficult to bridge the gap between two screens.

This is where incorporating TPR (Total Physical Response) into your lessons becomes crucial to success.

Effective online teachers put that extra bit of effort into making the entire lesson interactive from start to finish.

This keeps the students engaged and, hopefully, enthusiastic.

I like to refer to online ESL lessons with children as “edutainment”: all teaching points can be made entertaining while remaining effective by simple measures such as games, chants, paddy-cake, songs, and charade-type games.

Read: How to Get Started as an Online ESL Teacher

2. Enthusiastic

This probably goes without saying, but being a teacher (especially to children) inherently requires positivity and enthusiasm.

When teaching online, the importance of this increases greatly compared to teaching in person- although you should certainly have an upbeat attitude in a classroom, as well.

From my experience, this is because you need to put forth that extra bit of effort in order to get past the physical and symbolic screen.

What you lack in the ability to move and be tactile, you must be able to make up in cheerfulness and enthusiasm for whatever topic is on the schedule for that day.

Anything can be made fun and enjoyable, and any form of positive reinforcement is bound to improve the student’s mental state, as well.

Read: 6 Tips for Teaching Online

3. Attuned

Having the ability to become attuned with the student sitting in front of you is particularly important when teaching English online.

In a classroom, you can fairly quickly start to sense when a student is becoming confused or agitated and can take necessary steps to intervene before they are mentally check-out.

Not being physically present with a student thus adds an extra hurdle that effective teachers know how to jump over.

Teaching online requires you to be able to read and gauge a student within the first few minutes. If you don’t succeed with this, you risk them feeling incompetent and swearing-off online lessons.

By remaining in tune with the student and utilizing your mental “teacher tool belt”, you are guaranteed to have a more positive and effective lesson every time.

Read: How TESOL Online Works

4. Adaptable

Along with being capable of fully attuned to each and every student, effective online teachers must demonstrate their adaptability.

This begins with the demonstration class typically required in order to get hired.

The interviewer will pretend to be a young student while the interviewee begins conducting a lesson.

Throughout the demonstration, the interviewer will change their behavior, engagement, and display of understanding in order to test the teacher’s ability to adapt.

This does not necessarily mean that you need to be flawless, as none of us truly are, but it is a crucial skill to have.

Planning how to level up or level down certain aspects of a lesson dependent upon how the student responds is only one of the great habits to practice in order to improve your adaptability.

5. Imaginative

If all else fails, remember to use your imagination.

Constantly push yourself to come up with new methods and interaction styles that aim to break-up and eliminate any monotony in lessons.

An imaginative teacher will use innovation to keep the subject matter from becoming dull and repetitive.

Being innovative means not being afraid to veer off track in order to be on track in the end. Every student and every class is unique and will respond differently.

Embrace this! Using your imagination and encouraging students to follow your lead is, by definition, edutainment.

Combining all of the above-mentioned character traits will allow you to be imaginative in each and every lesson and, if you dedicate yourself to this, you will be effective at teaching any language skill.

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