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Jan 11th, 2020 by David O Connor

Is Online ESL Teaching Right for You?

Is Online ESL Teaching Right for You?

By Delanie Honda, ALO7 Teacher & Interviewer

If you want the experience of working with international students without having to leave your country then online ESL teaching may seem like the perfect option for you. Or is it?

Although there is a plethora of websites offering online ESL teaching positions (taglines like “No experience necessary!” and “Earn up to $22/hour!” are hard to ignore) it’s important to research the best companies out there. Before jumping down the rabbit hole of researching, however, you may just want to ask yourself if online ESL teaching is the right fit for you.

Just because anyone can teach English from home doesn’t necessarily mean it’s the best choice for themselves or for their future students.

No matter which online company you decide to work with, or whether you choose to teach children or adults, you should consider these questions before sending off your applications or redecorating your study with a child-friendly background.

1. Are you able to commit to a regular schedule?

One of the best benefits of working from home is that you are in control of your own schedule. This is still true with online ESL teaching but keep in mind that some companies have a minimum hours-per-week requirement. If you teach online with ALO7 or other companies that offer consistent bookings, they may ask tutors to commit to a fixed weekly schedule.

Even if companies have a completely flexible booking option, such as Cambly, keeping set hours can be helpful in gaining regular students who book you consistently. While not having a fixed schedule is not a requirement for all companies, be aware that not having one may limit your options or full earning potential.

2. Can you wake up and be energetic early in the morning?

This depends on where you are living, but as many tutors are living in the US and working with students in China, time zone differences are an important factor to consider. If you plan on teaching Chinese students, tutors in the US have to wake up at 6 am or earlier to teach during China’s peak tutoring hours, which are usually 6-9 pm BJT (Beijing time). Like any job, showing up late for a class or being absent because your alarm didn’t go off in time is not considered professional.

Not only should you be able to get out of bed early, but you must also be ready to be energetic and peppy. Whether you are teaching children or adults, no one wants a monotone teacher for a 30-minute class! You do not have to be a clown, but having high energy and enthusiasm is one of the best ways to engage students and make their learning experience fun.

3. Are you prepared to deal with cultural differences?

One of the most shocking things that happens to some ESL teachers is getting called “fat” or “ugly” by a student. For many of us, this is considered an insult and our feelings are hurt. But, in some cases, these comments are not always mean-spirited. Sometimes it’s a problem of translation; others because these words do not have the same negative meaning in other cultures. Being able to take these comments in stride and use it as a teaching moment is key. After all, understanding when it’s appropriate or not to use certain expressions is part of learning a language too.

On the flip side, it’s wise to educate yourself about any faux pas or taboo subjects that you will want to avoid. For example, you might be surprised if your student laughs at you for wearing a green hat for St. Patrick’s Day, which in China is a symbol for a cheating spouse.

Interested in becoming an online ESL Teacher in China? This is one of the most unique online teaching jobs you’ll ever find

4. Do you have patience?

This seems obvious, but teaching requires a lot of patience. “It’s only a 25-minute class, I can deal with that!” you might be thinking to yourself. But sometimes the minutes can drag on if a student is being stubborn or is having trouble grasping a concept. Or sometimes it’s a parent who keeps interrupting the lesson to correct their child, instead of letting you do the teaching. Sometimes, even a bad internet connection can drive you totally bonkers. While internally you might be frustrated, keeping your cool is essential for a successful class. Luckily, tutors can often turn to their peers in online communities for advice and support. Others who have experienced similar issues can help you think of creative solutions or techniques to help you through any problems you encounter.

5. Is this right for you, financially?

Online teaching can certainly be lucrative and there are several bloggers out there who claim to make several thousand a month. While it is definitely possible to make a good salary with online ESL teaching, you should be prepared for any unexpected dips in bookings, especially during major holidays. Besides, there is always a certain level of uncertainly with online work and you should always budget for this, in advance.

Companies sometimes choose to change their policies around schedules, incentives, or other requirements, which could mean that your chosen company is no longer the best fit for you. Switching companies can be an arduous and time-consuming process because you will need to complete the interviews, onboarding requirements, and build up a new base of students, which impacts your income for the month.

Similarly, as an independent contractor, you may have to submit your taxes differently. As this can be a confusing subject, it’s best to consult a professional to be sure you have the right information and are submitting the correct information.

If you answered “Yes,” to all of these questions, then online ESL teaching could be the ideal job for you. Your next step is to research which ESL company you would like to work with, as there are many options out there with different requirements and specifications. You will want to do your homework before you begin applying and interviewing.

One option is to check out teaching online with ALO7, China’s largest digital English Language Teaching product and solutions provider. Tutors report having stable bookings, a supportive tutor community, and quality curriculum to use with ALO7 classes.

Apply to teach ESL online with ALO7!

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David O Connor

David O Connor

David is China by Teaching’s chief contributor. When not offering sage advice about teaching in China, David is a headmaster of a Bilingual kindergarten in Beijing. David is a lover of craft beers, book clubs and super long road trips.

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