Oh, you teach English online! So, does it mean that you just chat with people on Skype and they pay you for it? Does one even need any teaching experience to do that? These are some of the questions I’ve heard from both teachers and non-teachers recently and they basically sum up what I think online teaching should NOT be about.
Teachers choose the online route for many reasons. Yes, it grants you greater freedom regarding your schedule and the money you make. Yes, it makes it possible for you to work from home, which might be a perfect solution for different stages in one’s life. Yes, it makes you less dependent on the job market in the country where you reside and on the hiring policies this market enforces or condones. Yes, it enables you to be mobile without losing your job. Yes, it allows you to teach the way you want and choose the students you are going to work with. And, yes, it all sounds incredibly convenient and comfortable.
Here’s exactly where the problem lies. When I see various job ads picturing online teaching positions as perfect side jobs for people who want to “make money without getting off the sofa” and are interested in “just talking to the students about whatever makes you passionate” I lose it a bit. Why would anybody assume that a teaching job is going to be dead easy? Because it is done online?
Let me assure you, everything that goes into preparing and delivering an effective English lesson in a traditional, face-to-face classroom, applies to teaching online classes as well. There are still lesson planning, material selection, problem anticipation, and needs analysis to think of. An online teacher has to develop a rapport with the students, monitor their progress, give feedback, assign and check homework, and, most importantly, make them interested, motivated and enthusiastic about learning. A lot of knowing what you’re actually doing is involved! On top of that, there are several other difficulties, unique to the online setting (described by Joanna Malefaki here).
Students choose to learn online for a variety of reasons as well. They hope for a more flexible schedule and location, for more personal attention, or they want to find a teacher who’d cater to their very individual needs. The last thing any student is looking for, I’m sure, is a person who decided to teach online just because they thought it would be an easy and convenient option to make money.
Here’s a word of advice for people who consider getting into online teaching.
Don’t do it if your sole motivation is to:
- save some time on commuting
- do something on the side to earn extra cash once or twice a week
- be able to work from home and without having to change out of your pyjamas
- make money chatting to people from your couch about whatever
- the fact that you have a stable internet connection doesn’t mean you should become an online language teacher (as many job ads would suggest)
- being passionate about certain topics and being able to speak English (or any other language) doesn’t mean you should become an online language teacher
- having some spare time on your hands in the summer doesn’t mean you should become an online language teacher
Those are exactly the things online language teaching should not be about!
I say it without trying to make teaching online sound like the highest of callings (or rocket science). To put it simply: would you ever consider becoming an English teacher? If the answer is no, don’t think of becoming an online English teacher.