Posted on June 6, 2019 | By Jenni Fogg
27th Nov 2018
We’re featuring an interview from a friend of LoveTEFL, Lauren – a PGCE-qualified primary school teacher from the UK who has worked for five years in Spain in a bilingual school. She’s also worked in summer schools in the UK as a teacher, activity leader and manager. Making some extra money, working from home and flexible working hours appealed to Lauren who decided to have a go at online teaching. Take a look at our interview:
How does the recruitment process work?
Well, I went into the process a bit naively as I have a lot of teaching qualifications and experience teaching English as a Foreign Language – I thought I would fly through the process without any setbacks – unfortunately it wasn’t that easy.
The recruitment process starts off simple enough – outline your background, teaching qualifications and experience in a video. When you’ve uploaded this with your CV and certificates, you’ll find out quickly whether you’re through to the next stage. For all the companies I looked at, a degree was a minimum requirement but there was some flexibility around a TEFL certificate. Personally, I always think it’s a good idea to get a TEFL certificate before you start teaching.
The next step I had was an online interview with a recruiter – this was a short conversation about my experience based on my CV and intro video.
Following this, I had a demo lesson – this was a short mock lesson where the recruiter played the role of a child. This was challenging and pretty odd too – a fluent adult pretended to be a child with zero English! Thankfully, resources were sent in advance to allow me to prepare. They sent some feedback through to me and moved me onto the next stage – an online training course. This took a couple of hours to complete and it covered the software and expectations of the company. This was followed up with a mentoring session to help me prepare for the evaluation class where you teach a 40-minute lesson to real children.
What was your evaluation class like?
The first time I did an evaluation class – I didn’t pass. Despite my experience and qualifications, I didn’t meet the company’s expectations as I didn’t use TPR (Total Physical Response) – this is when you use actions and gestures to help students follow instructions, for example you use the same gesture every time you want your students to listen and repeat. As the process can be really competitive (there are lots of teachers for relatively few positions in some companies), you can be turned away for many reasons, such as not giving every child a go. I spent some time researching using TPR in online teaching and then passed my evaluation class with a different online teaching company.
What should someone preparing to do an evaluation class expect?
The hardest and scariest part was the evaluation class where the parents were in the background deciding if I was good enough or not. They can be a tough crowd to please and add an extra level of stress to the class. The children can also misbehave or make mistakes on purpose to see how you react. Thanks to the training and mentoring, I knew how to switch off a child’s microphone so they didn’t distract the whole class. Despite my teaching experience, use of a puppet, flashcards, props and TPR, the feedback I received said I still needed to do more!
What are your top tips for teaching online?
There are some things you’ll need to purchase before you can teach online: an ethernet cable (that connects your laptop to the internet, instead of using Wi-Fi), a headset and good lighting. Bear in mind you might be teaching very late at night or early in the morning when there’s no natural light.
It’s also a really good idea to buy props, a puppet and a background – such as a map of the world, the alphabet or colours and numbers.
Research and learn some TPR basics – especially for giving instructions such as listen and repeat, underline or circle the answer and stand up/sit down. There are lots of YouTube videos which will help you with giving commands using TPR.
Finally, learn how to use the online platform –enable/disable the children’s microphones, use the tools to draw, award rewards and enable/disable the mouse. In my first interview, I asked the recruiter to complete the activity and couldn’t understand why she wasn’t doing it – her mouse wasn’t enabled so she couldn’t do anything!
What are the challenges of teaching online?
Parents can give feedback on every lesson so there is always a feeling of pressure to perform. If parents do complain, you might lose the course you are teaching and may struggle to get a new one. If online teaching is your only source of income, this could be quite stressful.
The hours can be inconvenient – one of my classes is at 3am! This might be a problem for some people as peak hours are 3am-6am and 12-3pm. This means it’s not easy to work Monday – Friday as I’m still working full time in a primary school. I currently do all my online teaching at the weekend.
It can be difficult to get a homeroom (the same group of students who you teach twice a week for the duration of the course). This took me a month. If you have any absences, such as sickness or a family emergency, you lose your bonus and risk not being assigned more classes. This is the main complaint from teachers across the board – if you take any time off for any reason, you risk not getting more work.
What are the benefits of teaching online?
Firstly, the teaching platform is sleek and easy to use – you can deliver classes that are engaging for the learner with very little preparation. All the materials are provided, including videos, pictures and songs. There are lots of activities included which students use the software tools to complete.
The kids are generally enthusiastic about learning and well-behaved. The company I work for is based in Beijing and most of the children I work with are at beginner level, so I teach basic words, letter names and sounds.
The money is good and there are plenty of incentives – I earn $15 per 40-minute lesson then there are bonuses if I complete every unit without taking any absences.
Obviously, there is no travel cost – I do everything from home!
Any final thoughts?
The world of online teaching is growing and there is a lot of competition out there. However, as more companies start opening, online teaching is definitely going to become an exciting option for extra income for TEFL teachers!