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For many teachers who love to travel, going to an exotic country and teaching the locals there is fascinating and a dream, but for others they love to teach online and as result have a whole range of students from many different countries.

It always sounds very romantic to say you are an online teacher because you can be anywhere any time and still have your job, you just plug in your laptop, tune into the wifi and you are away! But let’s get a closer look at this and see what the pros and cons really are.

What challenges are faced by teaching online:

  • Time zones

You may have one student in Columbia and one in China and one in Africa…well are you going to be away 24 hours a day? This can be a problem, particularly when you want to chat with all at once. But even if you want to have one on one lessons, it can really spread out your day too widely.

  • Getting paid

If you are an independent teacher, sure there is a lot of money to be made simply for a conversation, but the whole salary aspect can be a whole other headache that you don’t want to get involved with…that’s why we have the ‘accounts dept’ at school!

  • Motivation and engagement

When you are having already an amazing time travelling the world doing your own thing, checking in with your students can end up demotivating you somehow…it is still a commitment and a job that really isn’t done in your own time, it is still done in the time of the student.

  • Marketing to students and finding a niche

Anyone who has tried to do a business online has I’m sure discovered it isn’t easy to get those first few people interested, then you have to close the sale and organise a timetable, let alone get the cash…all this is time consuming and a whole other skill other than teaching. A lot of teachers are great teachers but not business people. It could end up a real headache.

But Traditional schools do have advantages for teachers, they:

  • Attract students

There is already a fully functional marketing department that does all that work for you. The school may will have a good reputation and as a result will be able to attract students independently of the teacher.

  • Deal with fees

The school will take the fees, use the fees to maintain the premises and run the school as well as pay your salary.

  • Schedule lessons

Schools usually have timetabling meetings done by people who are extremely experienced at it. The teacher just needs to turn up.

  • Pay teachers

Any problem with your salary means you go back to the school, you don’t get the student involved.

  • Provide resources and classrooms

The school administration should be providing all the resources and classroom settings you need.

  • Provide professional development programmes

If a school wants to keep teachers, they need to have ongoing professional development programmes that they pay for themselves. So teachers will get free training and updates as necessary.

  • Have a career structure

If you are interested in moving up the ladder in your career, a school may already have a situation that allows you to seek advancement. Much easier than plugging through the massive online world

  • Have an increment programme

The longer you stay with the school the more money you will make, just do the time and keep performing, no negotiation needed.

  • Provide all the customer service for students

Customer service is a highly under-rated skill that teachers know very little about when it comes to dealing with students. They only see the front end of the deal, they don’t see all the phone calls and polite exchanges done in the accounts office or administration centre that make the student feel at ease with their choice of school.

  • Deals with the vision of the school/business

The school should have a clear vision of where it is going. The teachers are involved in this of course, and will benefit too from the direction. The better the reputation of the school the more advanced the teacher may become because of the vision.

So here I am not saying online teaching is not good, by all means it suits a teacher who perhaps already has a long string of students interested in working with them online. This is good. But for many teachers who are thinking about online teacher, it’s not easy to get started, and often to be in a school as a regular teacher can make things a lot easier.

What do you think of being an online ESL teacher?


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