When people hear of teaching English, they may imagine a sterile environment, with children repetitively reciting English grammar. But teaching English as a foreign language (TEFL) can be so rewarding and entertaining, for both teacher and students.
With the recent surge in working from home, teaching English to speakers of other languages (ESOL) would be a great way to earn income remotely. Below is my story, why I highly recommend teaching English as a foreign language and tips on how to start.
My Start Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages
Shortly after moving abroad for the first time, I realized how in demand English was as a second language. While in high school and college myself, I took Spanish as a second language. Then, in preparation for my job search in the French-speaking part of Switzerland, I learned French.
When that plan fell through and I found myself planning for a move to the German-speaking part of Switzerland, I had to start learning German quickly. Languages have always been easy for me to learn, so none of those changes left me discouraged. Rather, I saw it as another opportunity.
After arriving in Switzerland, people asked me to teach English as a second language to their children. I had no credentials for language teaching but I did have experience in language learning. So, I started to look for a teaching ESOL course so that I could turn it into a side job for myself.
Teaching English as a Foreign Language (TEFL) Courses
While doing research, I learned that there are different quality TEFL courses, with varying reputations. The Trinity course, sponsored by Oxford in England, and the CELTA, sponsored by Cambridge, are considered to be top-notch. So, I found a school in London that offered the CELTA certificate.
Both the Trinity and the CELTA courses are in-person and intensive courses. I was in class all day for the better part of a month. It included theory and practical training, by way of observed teaching. That is correct – you are placed before a class to put the things you learn into practice almost immediately.
My fellow students were mostly British citizens and I was the only American. There was also a non-native English speaker from Poland. The only requirement that may be a challenge for non-native speakers is the ability to speak the language with native fluency. She did speak English with an accent but her mastery of the language was very good.
So if English is not your first language, but you do speak it well, you can still successfully pass a TEFL course and teach English to speakers of other languages.
Armed with a CELTA certificate, I began to tutor the children of friends in Switzerland. I really enjoyed teaching English as a second language and wanted to do more of it. Eventually I taught at bricks and mortar schools, but since 2013 I have taught strictly online.
My first online company was English First, teaching adults. This company is headquartered in Sweden but has offices in different major cities throughout the world. They started using an Adobe platform for their online classes, but then moved to use their own teaching platform.
Teaching English To Adults – How It Works
The classes are generally 45-50 minutes long for private and group lessons respectively. The lessons are taught using a Powerpoint style lesson board, which allows real-time interaction with the students. Some of the lessons include audio tracks.
The goal is to keep the class student-centered, rather than teacher-centered. As teachers, we needed to elicit as much verbal output from the students as possible.
In the group lessons, you can have as many as eight students at one time. Students log in from different parts of the world with differing time zones. The students can see the teacher (if the video is turned on) but they cannot see each other. They can speak to each other, though.
The pay for English First ranges from about $10-15 per hour based on credentials. This is the average for many online companies for adult lessons. There are incentives at $1-2 per class for bilingual classes.
The students are generally respectful of the teacher and other students in group classes. They sometimes find it encouraging to see other students in the class who speak their same language. While speaking in English is encouraged, they sometimes ask each other for help in their native languages.
Group classes can be challenging when teaching English as a foreign language. Teachers must memorize names and multi-tasking is key when taking notes. The notes that teachers take are to give tailored feed back for each student.
One-on-one classes can be a lot less stressful. The pace is slower. More emphasis is placed on conversation. The students are free to ask questions and the teacher can give tailored instruction.
The biggest challenge I find with one-on-one classes is when the students are reluctant to speak. In this case, there are techniques to get students to speak that are learned with time.
My Experience Of Teaching ESOL And Children
My experience of teaching English as a foreign language to children online is with VIP Kid, a company based in China and the US. VIP Kid offers private classes for children and teenagers. Children start as early as 3 years of age.
The teaching method of VIP Kid is very successful and they have a great reputation in China. This is one of many online TEFL companies to work for that are aimed at children in China, but it is arguably the best.
VIP Kid has a rigorous onboarding process but they pay very well by comparison. They also offer in-house continual training courses to help you succeed as a teacher with their company.
Teaching English as a Foreign Language With VIP Kid
Classes are 30 minutes long and require lots of energy. Since children’s attention spans are short, keeping them engaged for an entire ESOL class requires ingenuity. Props and realia are strongly encouraged. Proper lighting, an attractive, school-themed background and a stable internet connection are required.
Since learning English as a second language is so important in China, parents are willing to pay a premium to ensure that their children get ahead. Children in China spend long hours in school and English is a subject that they already learn there. Online ESOL classes are simply to reinforce what they learn and provide them with conversational practice.
So when it is time for the English classes for school-aged children in the evenings, lessons must be high-energy and entertaining. Otherwise the children will quickly lose interest, as they are already tired from a long day.
ESOL teachers must be willing to show their silly side and let loose. The children enjoy games and songs and receiving rewards.
The slides used are similar to the Powerpoint type slides of other TEFL schools, but more interactive. They allow students to write on the screen, pick items up and move them on screen, to sing and to watch short video clips.
Children look forward to their classes and become attached to their regular ESOL teachers. Teachers enjoy watching their students grow and progress in their ability to speak English.
Use my link for support during the VIPKid hiring process and then please contact me directly.
TEFL Working Hours
Teaching English as a second language from home can be very flexible, with varying hours. Teaching adults is the most flexible as adults can take classes at any time of night or day.
Many online companies have a minimum hourly requirement of their remote teachers. This can be as little as 5 hours, or more than 10 hours. If the hours are not met, the remote teaching contract may be terminated.
The schedule for teaching children from home is more limited. Children in China usually take classes in the evenings (Beijing Time), with the peak times from 7-8.30pm BJT.
If you live in Europe, opening your schedule for afternoon classes BJT could be after 7am CEST (Central European Summer Time). For those same afternoon classes, a teacher in North America would be very early. Many teachers in North America have adapted to this schedule successfully. In other words the schedule can be tricky to manage, but is totally possible with good planning.
VIP Kid allows you to set your own remote teaching schedule, but offers you incentives to keep that schedule open. VIP Kid has no minimum hours to meet per week.
Meet Great People Teaching ESOL
Working closely with people from around the world is interesting. You get to meet people and learn about their cultures and their reasons for learning English. You also get to watch them grow in their language ability.
They love to chat. Some go just to practice rather than to learn. Some want to know what life is like in the English-speaking world. Others travel often and may know more about your own country than you. Many also enjoy when you attempt to pronounce their names or words in their language.
All in all, the students are lovely to get to know, and they make teaching fun.
TEFL – Use What You Already Know
If you are a native English speaker, you are already halfway there. The other half is to learn how to teach someone a language that you simply knew from a young age.
You will soon see that student abilities vary. As with everyone, some people are good with languages while others just aren’t. When you teach students with no prior English knowledge or experience with the Latin alphabet, it can be a challenge. You will usually find these cases at bricks and mortar schools, or if you go to teach in their countries. This is rare to find in online classes.
For example, big name English schools in English-speaking countries cater to business professionals and not necessarily new immigrants. Government sponsored schools cater to new immigrants. In any event, there are ways to teach these people. This is why a good TEFL course is important.
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How To Start Teaching ESOL
If your TEFL program assists with job placement, they can help you get off to a good start. Many programs encourage graduates to move abroad to teach English in foreign countries. If moving abroad is not your goal, working online from home is a wonderful way to teach English.
After earning your TEFL certificate, you can start to look online for companies to teach with. For example, English First, VIP Kid, Gogo Kid, and HAWO (51talk) are all good places to start. All schools differ on how complicated the onboarding is. The hiring process can take a couple of months to complete.
Things To Consider When Teaching ESOL
Since teaching online involves interacting with people from all over the world, there are things to keep in mind. Race could play a part in whether you get hired or not. Some areas of the world are not open to people of other nationalities. Also, some schools prefer certain accents. An American will not be hired at a school that is looking for a British accent, and vice versa.
Young children from China may have never seen black or white people before. They may even be afraid of people who look different. They show this by refusing to go on camera for the class. Be on your best behavior when teaching kids because the parents are always close by or watching on another device.