What Do You Need to Teach English Online?

As the sun sets on the coastal town of Santa Teresa, Costa Rica, the sky fills with a tangerine- and mango-hued sunset. I breathe a sigh of relief as the day’s heat begins to fade and order a mojito in preparation for the evening’s beachside party.

Once a remote fishing village on the Nicoya Peninsula, Santa Teresa is now a buzzing little town with a hypnotic allure that would tempt even the hardest of souls into a prolonged stay. The consistent heat, relaxed surf culture, and live and let live attitude bring a refreshing sense of freedom from society’s usual stresses. It’s hard to believe that only a couple of months ago I was enduring yet another Canadian winter.

Thankfully, I discovered a flexible income that is truly a traveler’s best friend. Imagine opening a program similar to Skype on your laptop. On it, you meet your students through video conference and teach them simple English for about 25 minutes. This is exactly what teaching online looks like.

You can set your own hours, as long as you meet the minimum of about 15 hours a month during peak teaching times. It can be done from anywhere in the world. And it doesn’t require any lengthy qualifications. If you’re a native English speaker and have a bachelor’s degree, it should be enough to lock down your first job.

Depending on the company you choose to work for, you’re paid about $6 to $12 per 25-minute class. Along with the per class rate, there are bonuses added to your hourly wage if you do a good job.

I’ve created my own schedule, teaching from 5 a.m. to 8 a.m., Monday to Friday. I earn about $1,000 a month doing this. However, you can earn up to $2,000 or more if you open up your availability. For me, this schedule is ideal. By 8 a.m., I’m done with my day, and I spend the rest of my time at the beach and meeting friends.

If you’re interested in funding your life overseas by teaching English online, here are some tips that will help the process move quicker. It’s worth noting that your pay rate often relies upon what your interviewer decides, so impressing him or her with the following ideas should help increase the amount offered.

Finding Online Teaching Jobs

A great way to get started is by looking for jobs on one of these three sites: VIPKID, 51Talk, and TutorABC. I applied to all three and found them to be straightforward and professional. Other sites I researched felt disorganized, scattered, and ended up alienating me with extensive English ability tests.

Each of the above companies requires slightly different steps for an initial application. However, all three require that you create an account and fill out and submit a form with your resume. From my experience, it took only 24 to 48 hours to hear back. From there, a Skype interview will be set up.

While TEFL or CELTA (two of the most widely recognized English-language teaching certificates) aren’t required, it’s worth noting that they will make it easier to lock down a job with higher pay.

Ensure Your Internet Connection Is Up to Speed

The first interview usually consists of a trial lesson. In it, the interviewer pretends to be a student, and you’ll need to be prepared to teach a lesson. This allows potential employers to see your skills firsthand, but it also gives them an indication of your setup: computer, internet speed, and “classroom setting.”

For my first interview, I failed to check the speed of my internet. I just assumed it would be quick enough…and it wasn’t. Skype kept cutting out during the interview. The interviewer let me know, right then and there, that I couldn’t work for their company unless I had a faster, more stable connection.

To ensure that your interviewer feels confident in your setup, and to make sure you don’t lose out on a teaching opportunity, get yourself properly connected ahead of time.

Gather All Materials Needed

Teaching online requires a simple setup and shouldn’t cost you much—if anything— to put together. You’ll need a decently running laptop, a webcam that’s clear, and headphones. I use my white headphones that came with my iPhone, but many others who want to impress their interviewer go the extra mile with a professional looking headset.

Optional items that will help you stand out during your interview are a mini whiteboard (with markers), alphabet flashcards, puppets, or any visual aids you can find. Teaching online can be a challenge because you are reaching through a screen to grab your student’s attention. Having visual stimulus helps you do this with little extra effort.

Not only will you grab your interviewer’s attention visually if you use props, but you will also show that you took the time to prepare. This will not only speed up the interview timeline but will likely contribute to a higher rate of pay.

Keep That Background Clean

Every single one of the programs I applied to required a clean background. As one of my interviewers put it, “We don’t want to feel like we are looking into your house.”

For me, the solution was a white wall. You can also hang a plain white sheet to create a similar look.

You can impress your interviewer even more by adding some visual aids in the background, such as plain, colorful wrapping paper; the alphabet; or a simple-to-hang chalkboard.

Relax and Have Fun

Not only did my initial interview suffer because I had an unstable internet connection, but I was also nervous. Because of my nerves, I wasn’t as engaging, fun, and dynamic as I usually would be.

Because I wasn’t relaxing and letting my personality shine, VIPKID, one of the teaching English mega sites, offered me a free online workshop. In it, I learned how to express more emotively and engage with my students with Total Physical Response (TPR).

TPR is a teaching method using body language and actions to help students understand a concept more clearly. For example, if you are teaching the word “bird,” you can act out a bird flying with your hands. One of my instructors likened it to “acting like Jim Carrey.”

With these simple steps, you should land your first teaching role in no time at all. After I completed the TPR workshop, I was almost immediately offered a position. Now I’m free to work my own hours and live where I please.

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