By Polly Clover
Summers off, Winter Break, coloring, and singing songs. That is what many say being a classroom teacher in the states is all about. I know firsthand that this is not the case. While I felt fulfilled and joyful many days, I also found myself feeling exhausted and discouraged. After five years of working very long hours at an embarrassing salary, I decided it was time for a change.
Time to Make Moves!
I was a classroom teacher from 2013-2018. In my final year, the feeling of needing a change hit me like a ton of bricks. I had nine days off from work and I was on ‘vacation’ at my mom’s house. Why? Because it was free and it was a quiet place to lesson plan and finish report cards. I checked off my to-do list and began researching: how to work with children but live a little, too. This is when I stumbled across International TEFL Academy. It took me about three days and two phone calls to decide that I would begin to obtain my TEFL certification, finish out my school year with my amazing students, then move across the world to teach somewhere that paid teachers a livable salary.
Hidden cafes, motorbike horns, hustle and bustle, and “teacher! teacher!” Hanoi, Vietnam was a fun introduction to my year in Vietnam. After teaching the most hilarious six year olds for a few months in a classroom in Hanoi, I decided to leave the amazing chaos and head south to the beach. I was instantly in awe of Da Nang, Vietnam and I couldn’t wait to see what it had to offer! What better way to explore as I pleased than to work as an online English teacher where I got to make my own schedule and work anywhere with Wi-Fi? Time to do that thing I had been longing to do: continue to work with children with a bit of live-a-little on the side!
The Teaching Part of Things
So many doors opened for me when I began to teach English online! I am now able to teach from anywhere in the world with reliable internet, make my own schedule, and roll out of bed straight to my work space (after making myself presentable from the stomach up). My work space consists of my computer and a few props. It’s not a bad gig, at all! In Da Nang, I was one hour behind my students that are in China. This meant that I was able to teach classes at a time that is very similar to theirs. Students in China typically take their online English classes in the evening on weekdays or all day on Saturday and Sunday. I teach a one-on-one 25-minute lesson to a student age 4-16. Some days, I open 16 slots a day in order to teach for eight hours and other days I open two slots in order to teach for one hour. This depends on my availability and my financial goals. Teaching online gives me freedom that teaching in a classroom did not. And, for those of you wondering, I work for VIPKID and GoGoKid. I highly recommend both companies!
And, the Exploring Part!
“I like to travel because it broadens my horizons and increases my knowledge.” My eleven-year-old student said this to me as we were having a free-talk lesson on travel. I had never clicked so well with a pre-teen before! While many of my students are amazing, I must say that the best part of teaching online is the ability to travel. While teaching in Da Nang, I took advantage of my days off and got out there to do what my student said and broaden my horizons. Some days, I stayed close to home to volunteer at a nearby animal shelter or set off to find a hidden cafe and there is no shortage of them there! Other days, I ventured further. I took two motorbike trips over the incredible Hai Van Pass, a 21 kilometer (or 13 mile) long mountain pass . The first time I did this drive, it led me to Elephant Springs where I spent the afternoon swimming with friends. The second go-around led me to Hue, where I visited a creepy but fascinating abandoned water park. Other fun journeys I took around Da Nang included a drive to the famous Golden Hand Bridge, a trip to Lady Buddha which then ended up at a secret beach where I spent an afternoon all by myself sunbathing and reading, and I also took several excursions to the charming city of Hoi An. One of my favorite day trips was snorkeling on Cham Islands. Some of us get so used to the daily grind that living a life that also brings joy and adventure doesn’t seem attainable, but I am here to tell you that it is! For me, teaching English online is how I am living that life.
Time to Get Out There
A big life change can be terrifying. When I decided to up and leave the life I knew so well and truly had never imagined not living, I had more emotions than I knew existed. Fast forward to now, the past year has been filled with unknowns, lonely times, and sad times; however, it has been filled with joy more than anything else. I never knew that hitting the road (or sky) to a place so far from home could teach me as much as it has! My best advice is to just get out there. If I can make it work, so can you. Go see for yourself how cool this great, big world is!
Polly Clover, 29, is from South Carolina. After being a classroom teacher in a public school for 5 years, she decided to obtain her TEFL certification with the goal of teaching abroad. After completing an online course through International TEFL Academy, she moved to Vietnam to teach English in a classroom as well as online. Additionally, she has taught online while visiting six countries in Southeast Asia.