Online Teaching – is it right for you?

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‘What’s it like being an online teacher?’

‘What are the pros and cons?’

‘How do I get into it?’

‘How do I develop the role?’

 

These were just some of the questions rattling around my head before I took the plunge and became an online teacher.

Thinking back, one of the key moments was spending some time analysing –>

I was teaching a mixture of conventional face to face classes and some private 1:1 tuition. The potential move to full time 1:1 VoIP- based work forced me to acknowledge the differences between teaching 1:1 and class work and do some soul searching. Assuming that most of your internet work will be on a 1:1 basis can you answer the following:

  • Do I prefer 1:1 teaching?

It’s hard work because you must focus constantly. There’s no escape. You need to be perfectly prepared as you don’t have the sneaky option of figuring something out while the students work in pairs!

 

  • Will I miss that interaction with a whole class?

Multi-student teaching online is quite possible but 1:1 is the more usual scenario so, again, you’ll lose the option of pair and group work, which creates a certain dynamic in the lesson.

 

  • Do I crave that staff room chat with other teachers during the day?

Sure, you can keep in touch via the internet but it’s not as easy, especially as schedules seldom sync. To be honest, if you’re a sociable person, teaching online can be lonely work.

 

 

Having passed through those hurdles I’m thoroughly enjoying the work. Here’s why.

  • The commute is great – it’s about twenty seconds to the study from the kitchen.

  • The students are fantastic. They’re committed to learning and appreciate the 1:1 attention they receive.

  • I can concentrate all my efforts on the student. I can develop, and deliver, a personalised scheme of work based on the needs analysis we co-produced.

  • Flexibility abounds. I work with my students to plan lesson times and it’s perfect for my working day (or evening or weekend). The work programme can also go off at a tangent if you both find it beneficial. Change the plan? No problem!

  • There is great variety in the work- as long as you have the breadth of students. I teach a range of ages and abilities. Some are preparing for exams while others are concentrating on general English skills. There are those who require business-centred English and others who are preparing for a particular event – a holiday, perhaps. Given this broad church, I enjoy the challenge of preparing suitable lessons for each student.

It might be: –

A2 through to C1, vocabulary for a Marketing presentation or phrases that I can use in a pub during my forthcoming UK holiday, an introduction to the present continuous tense or the suitable use of ellipsis in an advanced exam essay. That lot keeps you on your toes!

 

OK, so what else, as I remove the rose- tinted specs?

Well, there are times when you are on your own…

Critically, there’s no IT manager to turn to when Skype fails. The IT equipment is your classroom. Be prepared to spend some money on it and look after it. I recommend a decent desktop PC or laptop with a very good camera & microphone. If the student can’t see or hear you, how will they learn?

Then, there’s the disconnect that exists because you are not in the same room as the student. It’s true that you pick up all those non-verbal cues when face to face in class and that these are harder to spot working remotely. However, you can tune yourself in to concentrate and catch most of them over VoIP. It comes back to the previous point though. You need a good broadband connection and a decent camera / microphone to pick up those nuances. An extra tip: Get the student to sit far enough away from their camera so that you can see their hands. All those hand gestures they use add so much meaning.

So, we come to the question about developing a role. You can go it alone and source your own clients. It’s possible and many tutors do it. I found it hit and miss and wanted to get stuck into teaching. Working with homestudies has allowed me to teach (profitably), develop my skills whilst teaching and removed the headache of marketing myself.

 

OK, a checklist for you. How many of these can you answer with a ‘yes’?

  • I enjoy 1:1 teaching and can handle the pressure

  • I don’t mind working alone for long stretches

  • I like variety in my teaching

  • I am PC literate (but no geek)

  • I have a suitable office or quiet space I can use

  • I’d like some help finding suitable students

 

A word in your ear …….

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