Traditional Classroom Teaching
Traditionally, the ESL industry has enticed teachers to work in far-away lands on the promise of being able to travel and experience new cultures and lifestyles while earning (just) enough to live on.
While tolerable for a few years, this poor pay and lack of prospects does not sustain most teachers for long. This is why there is such a high turnover of teachers. Most only teach for a year or two, before getting a proper job.
Some do continue to teach for many years due to a love of the job. However, most would like to see a higher income for their considerable effort and experience.
The language academy owners make a very comfortable living from the exploitation of teachers and are not likely to increase salaries to a level that teachers would like.
The alternatives are to continue to work for low pay, to try to secure one of the much sought-after director posts in a school, or to find alternative employment.
Many ESL teachers also resort to teaching private students outside of their contracted hours to make up for the shortfall in salary. However, many employers frown on such moonlighting and some teachers can face the sack if caught.
The World is Your Oyster
Online teaching, whether as a part-time supplement to a full-time job, or as a full-time job in itself, gives the teacher access to a ever expanding global market.
Unlike opening a bricks-and-mortar school, an ambition of many ESL teachers, teaching online requires a minimal outlay and has minimal running costs.
An online school also takes students from an essentially infinite pool of eager learners, rather than the traditional school which relies on students living in its catchment area.
The freedom that comes from working for yourself, of choosing your own hours and of selecting your own students is an enticing motivational consideration.
Conscientious online teachers are rewarded further by seeing their students progress much faster than in the traditional classroom.
Online classes are more intimate and lack many of the distractions that teachers must put up with in the classroom.
Unlike a classroom, the working conditions under which an online teacher works are far more relaxed.
Imagine teaching in a classroom with no shoes or socks on! I tried this once in Spain much to the horror of the students. Shoes, it seems, are an essential in Spain.
Neither does the teacher have to spend half an hour in traffic, or struggle through pouring rain, to get to the classroom.
An organised online teacher can arrive for the lesson minutes before it begins with everything prepared and ready to go.
On considering a career as an online English teacher it is natural to examine the motives of your students in taking online classes.
Just as for the English teacher, for the student of English, online classes are convenient.
The student can take classes when and where they want. They are no longer tied to a school’s rigid timetable.
The student has no travel costs, rarely misses a class, and gets 100% of the teacher’s attention.
Adult students, particularly professionals, or those studying for university entrance exams, find that being able to fit their studies into their busy working lives is a great attraction to taking classes online.
Taking into account all the extra costs of attending a language academy and of having to share the teacher’s attention, students soon realise the benefits of online studies.
Many students who have studied for many years find it very difficult to speak English. This mainly comes from their shyness and reluctance to speak in front of their peers in a classroom environment.
Thanks to the intimacy of online classes, students need no more feel embarrassed by their mistakes while speaking.
From my own experience, students make tremendous progress in the safe learning environment of the online class.
A small core of these students, as few as 15 to 20, makes a very committed study group for the teacher and provides a regular source of income.
The important thing for an online English teacher, and for any small business enterprise, is getting noticed.
No matter how impressive your teaching abilities, or how inspiring your dedication is, if nobody knows you exist, as an online English teacher you won’t, at least not for very long.
Just as a real-world English Academy has a façade that tells the world that it exists, the online teacher needs a virtual equivalent.
I’ll explain how I got myself noticed another day.