Starting out teaching online

Before and during the course, I had multiple interviews with different recruitment agencies as well as schools and training centres. Most of them were in China because the plan was to move to China. Why China? Well, there is a lot of demand for English teachers. I’ve always wanted to visit China, and I wanted to create a life out of the UK for a year or two. I had been offered a job with a well-known training centre, but I was keeping my options open.

When I finished the course, I took a few weeks off because it was Christmas and I wanted to have some time to myself, so I could rest because the course was intensive even though it lasted three months, and I had some flare-ups of a pre-existing condition I’ve had for years.

Once Christmas and New Year were over, I joined a few Facebook groups related to ESL teaching and other resources I could use for future lessons. I also started my job hunt again and decided to find a summer job because I thought it would give me good work experience if I struggle to find something full time. I found two summer jobs that looked good, one was in Ukraine, and the other was in Ireland. The one in Ukraine fell through because they misled me over whether they were offering me the job. Initially, they said yes, but then messaged me saying they haven’t decided and will let me know and signed off the email “Okay?” Rude much? The other job in Ireland offered me the job and sent me some paperwork for me to complete. Yes, I know, I still had that job offer in China, but I wanted to keep an open mind, and there was the possibility that the offer could fall through. It did. A pesky thing called COVID-19 (coronavirus) broke out, which profoundly affected China and eventually spread around the world.

Not only did the job in China fall through, but it also looked likely that this one in Ireland was going to. Because of this, I decided to do some online teaching. Not only would it be a good way to get some teaching experience under my belt, but I was also in no doubt that the demand would be relatively high. I had a look through the multiple websites that deliver online teaching either as an employee with a company or freelance. I opted to do freelance because I felt that I would have more autonomy when it comes to my teaching hours as well as how much I want to charge for lessons. I applied for two websites: ITI and VB. I wasn’t hopeful about VB because they want teachers with experience and qualifications. I had the qualification, just not the experience. However, I was feeling optimistic about ITI because I’ve used their website before as a student and I really enjoyed it. I wanted to apply for a teaching job on here for a long time, but I was put off by it because I didn’t think I would be a good teacher. I applied and hoped they would respond. About ten days later, they replied saying my application has been approved and I have to answer some questions regarding the teacher handbook and attend an onboarding conference call. Once that was all done, I was officially an English teacher on ITI.

Before I opened my calendar ready to take bookings, I had to decide my teaching hours. Do I teach every day of the week or Monday to Friday? What a silly question to consider. I opted for a Monday to Friday schedule. It’s what I’m familiar with, and I like to have the weekends free. The times was one that divided me. Do I create a routine and work 9-5 or work in the afternoon and evenings? Again, another silly thing to consider. Anyone who knows me best knows that I am not a morning person. I am a night owl. I decided to work afternoons and evenings. This could well change in the future, but for now, I was sticking to something I would feel comfortable with.

I was excited, but also nervous because this was something I had never done before, and I’ve never been great at dealing with phone/video calls even though I have done that kind of work before. I had my first English lesson about two days later with a Spanish guy, who was friendly and interesting to talk to. I’m sure you know by now, that when I’m nervous, I talk a bit too much, and unfortunately, this happened. Teacher talk time is quite a big thing in the world of teaching, and it is a cardinal sin for the teacher to talk too much. I was committing this sin, and I needed to break this habit somehow. When the lesson ended, I felt relieved because my first ever online lesson was done, but I also felt a bit down because I thought I gave a really shit lesson. He marked the lesson as completed but didn’t leave feedback. He hasn’t booked a class since then.

I had my next class approximately four days later with a Polish guy. He was nice, and we talked about all kinds of stuff, including our hometowns and even football, and depending on who you talk to, the Polish love football. He booked a package with me after that. I then had three lessons booked in on the last day of February. The first was with a nice Italian lady, and we talked about her hometown of Pisa. The next class was with a woman from Taiwan who was tiny and had massive headphones on. I tried so hard not to laugh when I saw her. I wanted to give her a placement test to complete because after reading her messages on ITI, I was concerned about her English level, but I was unable to find one that would be useful. I just had to do the lesson and assess her conversation skill. It was not good. I had pre-prepared a worksheet which had a range of questions for her to answer. She answered most of them reasonably well, but I did some follow-up questions based on her answers, and she kept saying “What?” It got annoying after a while, especially the way she kept saying what because it sounded whiny. The lesson came to an end, so I thanked her for her time and to take care. The last lesson was with a guy from Moscow. He was nice, funny and we talked about all kinds of things. He booked a package with me not long after our lesson.

Following on from the Taiwanese lady, she didn’t complete the lesson, so I had to wait for it to complete automatically and then I could leave feedback. On ITI, you have one week to leave feedback. I waited until the very last minute to leave it so she couldn’t retaliate. I left feedback saying she’s a nice lady but needs more than conversation practice lessons. Once I submitted it, I blocked her so she couldn’t book a lesson with me again. It was a bit naughty of me to do that, but I had to be honest, and I was also worried she would try and leave me bad feedback as revenge.

So that was it, my first (part) month of teaching online was done.

Lessons learned:

  • Stop talking so damn much in the lesson.
  • Be more organised when arranging placement tests for students to complete.

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