So you’re thinking of joining the next best thing, here’s what you need…
Engaging with and teaching second language learners online has never been easier, and as demand for teachers continues to grow, opportunities are limitless for those looking to teach online. But don’t kid yourself either, correct training and preparation are critical to success in this field.
Like a millennials’ picnic, all you need to kick-off the process is a happy, positive attitude and good Wi-Fi. With those two ingredients alone, you’re already one step closer to joining the thousands of North American teachers earning a living online. Your next step is choosing a school (let’s take a random example, like… I dunno, VIPKid), and understanding the specific requirements outlined in the application process.
This is more or less what you can expect:
1. Prepping: more than merely lesson-planning
Ask any teacher if they’ve prepared for their next class, and they (should) give you a list of objectives, outcomes, and possibly a contingency plan for a water balloon fight breaking out. But for online teaching, there is some mental preparation required in the lifestyle department too. Before you take the plunge, ask yourself: are you prepared to change your schedule and possibly work early or late hours? Can you handle working from home and being on your own (at least in a work capacity) without the damp sniffles of two flu-prone colleagues on either side of you? Take into consideration your personality, social habits and whether you’re more introverted or extroverted. Answering these questions will help adequately ready yourself socially, emotionally and mentally for your new working lifestyle.
For anybody with existing classroom experience, teaching is obviously not just a profession, it’s also an art form, and one closely-linked to the likes of ring leading a circus or directing a live-action film set. But engaging a single student continuously while monitoring their comprehension, understanding and then adapting your lesson to their specific needs is a learned skill. One-on-one classes mean ongoing engagement for the full 25-minutes or so of class.
2. Basic qualification: a degree
The vast majority of ESL companies will require some form of higher education in order to teach online. VIPKid is no different. Why? Because as an educator of young minds, it is a necessary standard, and it’s an expectation that paying parents have. If you were being coached to win a triathlon by someone who has never participated in one, you may feel a little less than confident in the outcome. So it makes sense.
3. The tools of the trade
When it comes to actually teaching, the tools required are fewer than toppings on a budget pizza. In fact, aside from your laptop and headset (with a decent webcam and microphone), you don’t need much else. Ruler? No. Protractor? Definitely not. Whiteboard? Well, that’s entirely up to you. For VIPKid, the hardware requirements look like this:
- Laptop/Computer or Surface Tablet (with at least 4Gb RAM)
- Windows 7 or for Apple devices, Mac OS 10.x
- Internet connection of at least 20 Mbps
- HD camera
- Headset with a built-in microphone
Other equipment that is not required but highly recommended includes:
- Good lighting: usually students like to see who is teaching them
- Props: don’t know how to describe something? Put your own kids’ Lego to use!
- Reward systems: nothing gets a student motivated like hoarding points
- Decoration: most teachers who are high in demand have a classroom to match!
4. Buffer-free connectivity
A stable internet connection is pretty much compulsory for any activity that takes place online. If you’re traveling and teaching at the same time (one of the many perks of an online ESL career), be prepared in advance. Aside from ensuring your Airbnb or hotel room isn’t located a stone’s throw from this month’s local fireworks display or the hottest dance club in town, you also need to be crystal clear that it’ll have Wi-Fi suitable for teaching.
5. A quiet teaching environment
Finally, an interruption-free teaching zone is important too. Having your dogs stage a turf war behind you mid-class won’t always go down well with your students (or more likely their parents – who are paying customers to remember). While your “classroom” could be a dedicated spot in the corner of the living room, when you’re in class, your environment must be conducive to just that – teaching.
Keep these points in mind when beginning your journey into an online ESL career. These industry standards act as quality control checks which ensure students are being taught by legitimate, passionate teachers and that you, their teacher, are as prepared as possible.