Teach TEFL Online | Everything You Need to Know

Do you want to teach TEFL online? Find out everything you need to know here, from finding a job to the general lifestyle. Today, we have Nicola telling us about her online teaching experience, and the pros and cons.

Who wants to teach TEFL online? Everything you need to know

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Teaching online specifics

Which country do you base yourself on when teaching online? Why?

As an online English teacher, I have a ton of flexibility to move around. I’m still based in the USA but I’m able to take longer trips pretty often.

What is required to teach TEFL online?

I teach TEFL online with VIPKID. VIPKID requires that teachers are native English speakers with eligibility to work in the USA or Canada. Teachers must have a bachelor’s degree and at least 1 year of experience teaching, tutoring, mentoring, counselling, or working with children in some way. A TEFL certification is not required to apply but if you don’t have one, you’ll have to do an extra 10-hour TESOL module during the application process before you can start teaching.

What is the best thing about teaching online?

I love the flexibility of teaching online. I get to work from home or anywhere with good WiFi and I can completely make my own schedule. This is awesome because I can work more when I’m at home with good WiFi and then easily take off time if I want to travel somewhere more remote. Teaching online is also so much fun! I love that I don’t have to do lesson planning or grading, and I get to focus all my time on my awesome kiddos.

What is the worst thing about teaching online?

When teaching from the USA, class times can be pretty early. Since all my students are in China, I have to teach hours that suit their schedules. This means most classes are in the evenings, Beijing time, which is early morning in the USA. On the east coast, for example, I usually work 6 am – 10 am every weekday.

Working for VIPKID teaching English online
Working for VIPKID teaching English online – Photo by Nicola Rae from Seenic Wander

Is there a big digital nomad scene where you base yourself? Is it easy to make friends?

When I travel, I love to check out digital nomad hotspots. It’s a great way to make friends, but you can really make friends travelling anywhere. My favourite ways to meet people are through Facebook groups shared Airbnb and accommodation, house-sitting, and just by talking to people around me.

What is the average monthly salary for an online ESL teacher? Do you manage to save a lot?

Because online ESL teachers can teach as much or as little as they like, your average monthly salary is totally up to you. I usually work around 20 hours a week and make between $1600-$2000 a month. If you wanted to work more, you could earn more. Likewise, if you had lower expenses, you could work less.

Moving abroad

How did you find your teaching online job?

I applied to VIPKID a few months before I started travelling. It can take a few months to build up a regular client base, so I recommend starting sooner rather than later. With VIPKID, you simply open up your desired schedule and parents on the platform can book you. You don’t have to arrange anything with classes yourself.

See also  Everything You Need to Know About TEFL in Japan

How do you find your accommodation?

I find my accommodation through house sitting! As a house sitter, I watch someone’s home and pets in exchange for a free place to stay. House-sitting jobs can be found all over the world. They range from a few days to several weeks in length, so I try to find a longer house-sitting job in unique places. House sitting is perfect for me as an online English teacher because I have privacy and good internet at home, but I still get to explore a new place. Because house sitting means free accommodation, there is lots of potential to save money.

>>> If you’re looking for other ways to ensure financial stability while indulging in your passion for travel, consider leveraging a high-yield savings account <<

What did you do to prepare to move abroad?

When I travel, I try to pack as lightly as possible. I never end up needing most of the stuff I pack anyway so going light is the way to go for me. A few other practical things to do before going abroad are

  1. Sign up for travel health insurance. I use IMG Medical to cover medical expenses and emergencies abroad.
  2. If you plan to drive abroad, get your IDP or International Driving Permit. It costs about $20 and you can get it through AAA.
  3. Alert the US Embassy of your travel plans using STEP or the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program. This will help you get home safely in the event of an emergency.
  4. Unlock your smartphone. This way you can use a local sim card when you arrive at your destination. To unlock your phone, call your carrier and ask them to unlock it. The phone must be completely paid off.
  5. Join ex-pat Facebook groups for the cities you plan to visit. This is a great way to find housing or meet new friends before you arrive. They’ll also be able to give you local tips to help you prepare.

Did you get culture shock? How did you overcome this?

Sometimes things happen while travelling that throw you for a loop, but try to have a good sense of humour about it. You’ll get used to your new surroundings eventually. I actually experience more culture shock returning to the USA than I do travelling!

Looking out over a skyline
Looking out over a skyline – Photo by Nicola Rae from Seenic Wander

In the online classroom

What age range do you teach?

My VIPKID students are ages 4-12. They are all ability levels.

On average how many students are in the online class?

With VIPKID, the classes are all one-on-one. Many other online English companies do one-on-one as well. Some companies do small groups, but I don’t know of any online companies that do large group classes.

What do you need to be able to teach TEFL online?

To teach online, you need a laptop that can handle video and audio streaming, a headset, and a reliable internet connection. VIPKID runs classes through their own platform so you don’t need to use Skype or a screen share platform. VIPKID recommends that you have internet speeds of at least 20 Mbps.

See also  Teaching in Taiwan | Everything You Need to Know

What is your favourite game if you have spare time?

My students and I love playing Tic Tac Toe!  It’s great for teaching game vocabulary like “Your turn.” And “Now it’s my turn.”

Do you have any funny experiences from teaching?

I love it when kids show me their toys and pets! Since VIPKID is an extracurricular English class for many students, they have classes when they’re home. This means I get to meet their families and see what life is like for them when they’re home. One of my students loves showing me her cat. At the end of every class, she lifts him up to the camera to say “Hello!”

Nicola on a row boat
Nicola on a rowboat – Photo by Nicola Rae from Seenic Wander

A typical workweek

What does your workweek look like?

Teaching English online with VIPKID is totally flexible so my schedule looks different from week to week. When I’m home for an extended period of time, I teach from 6:00 am – 10:00 am Monday – Friday and a few evening classes on weekends. When I’m travelling, the schedule depends on the time zone of the place I’m visiting.

What do you like to do when you are not teaching?

I love working on my blog about teaching online while house-sitting! I also like trying new foods and taking cooking classes, failing miserably at surfing, and spending time in nature.

Do you have any bad experiences teaching online?

Sometimes it can be stressful if the internet is spotty or if there is a power outage. This doesn’t happen often but when it does it’s very difficult to continue classes. I highly recommend using a hotspot on your phone as backup and teaching with an ethernet cord whenever possible to prevent tech issues.

Personal experiences

What advice would you give to someone thinking about teaching online?

If you’re thinking about it, start now! Since the schedule is totally flexible, you can teach TEFL online with a full-time job or as a way to save money before travelling. If you’re teaching abroad in a foreign country, teaching online is a great way to make some extra income. Since it takes about two months to get regular bookings, start sooner rather than later.

What is the most rewarding part of your job?

I love seeing my kiddos grow over time! The VIPKID program is very well-researched and fun for students, so they learn quickly. The classes are fun and I love hearing my students tell me about their day and interests.

Any other comments that you would like to add?

One of my passions is helping other travellers start teaching English online with VIPKID! I write a whole blog about it and I help coach new teachers through the application process. If you’re interested in teaching with VIPKID, use my code NICOL0117 when you apply. Send me an email at [email protected] and I’ll be there to help you every step of the way!

Meet the guest blogger: Nicola Rae

Nicola Rae is an online English teacher, house sitter, and travel blogger. She’s known for getting lost in new cities, befriending big lizards, and eating impressive quantities of guacamole. Read more about practical long-term travel on her blog or Facebook page.

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TEFL Online | Everything You Need to Know

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