10 Reasons to Become an Online English Teacher

In spring 2020, the world shifted. Those of us who could work online started doing so immediately, whilst others were made unemployed or furloughed indefinitely. I had been teaching English online occasionally since completing my teacher training in 2013, but suddenly every lesson was online. Teachers and students had to pivot overnight, adapt to a different learning experience and familiarise themselves with Zoom, Cisco Webex, MS Teams and other online platforms. It was a lot to process.

Teaching English has enabled me to leave my home county of England and move abroad, firstly in Italy and then to Germany. My job has introduced me to thousands of interesting, fun and friendly students. It has funded countless holidays, including an epic six-month sabbatical around Asia. It has given me a deeper understanding of my own language and appreciation of others.

If you’re interested in finding a job which is fun, flexible, location-independent and the perfect complement to full-time travel or living abroad, teaching English online could be a great choice for you. Whether you want it to become your full-time job, or be a fun side hustle, there’s never been a better time to start teaching online. In this post, I’d like to share 10 reasons to consider becoming an online English teacher.

You can be location-independent
This is probably the most attractive aspect of teaching online. In theory, you can work from anywhere on the planet as long as you’ve got a consistently good internet connection, including a beach on a tropical island! Realistically you will probably be working from a hotel or hostel near the beach, rather than on it, but you can certainly find some gorgeous places to spend your working hours. You need to make sure that your internet connection is reliable and fast enough to support video calls, without disconnecting or buffering. 

When choosing a location, you have to investigate whether you need a visa, whether you have a legal right to work there, and when, where and how to pay taxes. There is a lot to research but remember, thousands of foreigners who have done what you’d like to do. Get online, join the ‘Expat’ and ‘Digital nomad’ groups on Facebook, read through other people’s posts and learn from their experiences.

You can meet people from all over the world and learn about other cultures.
This is hands-down my favourite thing about being an English teacher. This job introduced me to people from around the world and taught me so much about different cultures, customs, routines and traditions. I’ve lived and worked in Italy and Germany, which has given me a deeper understanding of these countries, their languages and their traditions. I’ve also taught countless students from Europe, Asia, Africa, and South America and had so many eye-opening, fascinating conversations with them.

You can work whenever you want
Do you work Monday to Friday and want a side hustle? You can book evening and weekend classes. Want to fit around childcare arrangements? It’s easy to do especially if your schedule is similar week-by-week. Are you a morning bird? Make the most of those time differences and book lessons with students in other parts of the world. Do you work best in the evening or at night? Maximise your productivity and work with your circadian rhythm, not against it. You can register with multiple schools and decide which courses you want to take on. You can schedule lessons that fit around your lifestyle and routine, rather than fitting your life around your work.

Many companies have no minimum or maximum working hours.
Some schools set a range of between 5 – 25 hours but may offer more hours during particularly busy periods. This is great if you want to book as many hours as possible, or have a lighter workload one week. It is worth comparing the scheduling system between different schools, as some require you to commit to the same hours each week, but others have a very flexible system where you simply select the days and times you want to teach and your students can choose from those timeslots.

Most online schools provide their own teaching material and lesson objectives
Most schools provide their own English curriculum and teaching platforms. Teachers and students log in to a “virtual classroom” where they can have a lesson over video chat. Students are assigned a level (from beginner to advanced) and you are given suitable teaching material. It means little to no preparation is required from you, so you can focus on delivering the material in a way that is interesting and engaging to your students. Some schools that provide their own material include Magic Ears, Lingoda, Palfish, Tutlo, Learnlight and VIPKid.

There is a huge amount of pre-made teaching material online
If you are a brand new teacher, it can be overwhelming trying to work out what to teach. I advise you to start off with an online school that provides its own material, but as you gain more experience, you might want to organise your own private lessons or work for schools which let you use your own material. There are millions of good worksheets and lesson plans available, either for free or through a paid subscription. You can be creative, experiment and customise material to make it suitable for your students. Some of my go-to websites for pre-made teaching material include Lingua House, Onestopenglish and Off2class.

Classes are usually smaller than in-person lessons
Anyone who has taught in a traditional classroom will know it takes a lot of energy to co-ordinate a large group of students. However, online lessons are often one-on-one or in small groups (4-6 on average). Your students get more talking time, individualised attention and feedback from you. You can tailor your lesson material to meet their specific needs, priorities and interests. I’ve found that you build stronger connections in small groups too. If you’ve got 6 or more students in your class, I suggest making use of the breakout room feature if you can. Zoom, Webex and MS Teams all have this option and it makes your students can work in pairs or smaller groups on specific tasks and have more talking time.

Many schools don’t require you to have formal education or a university degree
While most online schools only hire people with a teaching qualification (like a CELTA, TESOL or TEFL), others are more interested in experience. They don’t require you to have a teaching qualification or university degree before applying. If you have some experience teaching children or adults, that’s a great start, but there are also schools that employ people with no experience at all. Cambly hires native English speakers – no experience or degrees required. Palfish is another popular company which hires native speakers with a TEFL certification (no real world experience required).

If you have always wanted to teach but didn’t know where to start, teaching English online could be a great way to gain experience and develop your skills. If you decide it’s the job for you, I recommend getting a teaching qualification as it will give you a better understanding of teaching and give you an edge on the competition. You can get certified online or through an in-person course. You can find out more about the different teaching qualifications here.

You don’t have to commute to work anymore.
I used to spend 30-60 minutes travelling to in-person lessons. Now I walk a few metres from my bedroom to desk area. I don’t miss spending hours on buses and trains, and love that I can drink my morning coffee from my favourite mug, sit in my comfortable desk chair and make myself a healthy lunch every day (rather than grabbing a sandwich on the go). If you live in a city with expensive public transport – like me! – you can save not only time but a great deal of money by not commuting. You can use the money saved to invest in a supportive, ergonomic chair and desk, and making yourself a comfortable workspace. As my students only see my head and upper body, I don’t need to wear formal business clothes anymore. I can wear shorts in the summer or snuggle under a cosy blanket in the winter.

You can work while visiting loved ones
You don’t have to choose whether to work or visit your family or friends – you can do both! As long as you bring your laptop and headphones with you, and have a stable internet connection, there’s nothing to stop you staying with loved ones while doing your regular teaching hours. If you want to work a bit while visiting people or having a holiday, you could schedule morning lessons and leave the afternoons and evenings free for fun and adventures.

I hope you’ve found this list helpful! If you’ve got any other questions about teaching online, please leave them in the comments below.

Ciao for now

The Curious Sparrow

Photo by Avel Chuklanov on Unsplash

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