Here is a little story about how I became an online ESL (English as a Second Language) teacher and am now currently teaching the sweetest kids in China, despite the Chinese Government's crack-down.
In the spring of 2018, I decided it was time to pursue my TEFL certificate and begin my dream of teaching English overseas. I have always wanted to travel and the thought of being able to live in a foreign country blew my mind. I was scared but ready to embark on this new journey.
I enrolled in ITA's (International TEFL Academy's) Online TEFL Course and completed the work as well as my practicum within a timely fashion. I continued to volunteer-teach at a local middle school to help working adults learn basic English skills. This was all while I lived in Nashville, Tennessee.
I was hired by VIPKID and began teaching English online with them in late January of 2020, but with the introduction of COVID-19, things began to majorly change. It was a lengthy hiring process, but I am glad I worked for them for 1.5 years. I learned so much from them, but I also made great connections with a few of my students' parents along the way. In order to ensure I could continue to support myself; I made a drastic move to a different area of Tennessee where I could be close to family and not have to worry about rent.
By May of 2020, I was almost ready to head out to China to teach English in person at a school that had hired me. I had all my papers just about ready but could not get the process of getting a visa started because of border closures (due to COVID) and people not returning to work. By August 2020, things were still not moving along very well, so I made the decision to reside in Tennessee for one more year and hoped that next year, things would be better. In the meantime, I continued to teach for VIPKID.
Around mid-2021, I realized that things were still not quite back to normal and that no one really knew when or if things would return to what we once considered normal. In August of 2021, the news broke that the Chinese Government was cracking down on Chinese companies that provided for-profit private tutoring, including online ESL platforms. All major online Chinese ESL companies were dramatically shut down. Luckily, VIPKID gave us about a month’s warning before it happened. I was able to connect with many of my students' parents via WeChat so I could have a way to stay in touch with them.
Before the end of October 2021, we all knew online teaching was coming to an end for any online ESL company that was based in China. Some teachers began private teaching, but one teacher began a Facebook group where she provided many amazing resources and proved to us that private teaching CAN be done outside of the existing platforms we had come to know and love. I was invited to the Facebook group and immediately thought, “YES, YES, YES!” I was so excited with the thought that I could continue to see my regular students. I hated the thought of not being able to teach them anymore through VIPKID.
In late October of 2021, I tested private online teaching out. I started teaching on Zoom and ordered books on Amazon but quickly learned that there was a much cheaper way to do this. I needed books and coursework that were available online.
Here are the tools and resources I've found work best for providing private online ESL lessons to children in China:
1. Classroom Software
Zoom worked well enough to begin with, but most parents were unsure how to download it so I quickly turned to trying out Classin and absolutely loved it. It works very easily, and you can send a QR code to the parents for the student to enter their very own classroom…. and…… it’s FREE!
2. Coursework & Reading Materials
I also attended a zoom class from another teacher who has been successful in creating her own online classes and I learned a lot from her. She was also in the Facebook group called “Adventure Abroad English: Private Teaching Tips.” This lady informed us of where she got a big collection of coursework and reading material. I saw a little preview of it and saw the price - $25 for nearly thousands of teaching coursework ranging from National Geographic, to Cambridge, to wonders, etc. I wasted no time in signing up for it It is basically a large Google storage where you can find material that you want to use depending on the student and level he/she is in.
3. Lesson Planning
Another place I have found great coursework is Flip the Classroom. A former VIPKID teacher took the role of creating his own PowerPoint lessons similar to the style of VIPKID, but completely new and original materials. You can get a monthly subscription that allows you to use the lessons and teach them to your students. The creator is currently still making more lessons as you read this - he is a busy man! Subscription is about $15 a month. One great deal that you don’t want to pass up!
4. Rates & Payments
Getting paid can be tricky. I started collecting money on PayPal, but the fees are very high and when you're only charging $10 per 25-minute session, the fees accumulate fast and you realize what you're charging is not quite enough.
I was told about a payment system called Stripe - parents in China can use WeChat pay and it transfers through Stripe and into your bank account. It does take a small fee, so when you make your prices for your classes, take that into consideration. I only teach for 25 minutes, and a lot of my students just want to practice speaking English, so I feel very lucky to have found this opportunity.
These are the rates and package options I now send out to the parents of the students I privately tutor online:
This brings us to the present, December of 2021 - I currently have five students and possibly adding more if the parents like the trial classes I will provide their children with. Only three of these students are from my previous VIPKID lessons, the others are referrals from my students' parents. Referring teachers is the best way you can get students. Offer deals to your student's parents and they will refer you and help you get more students because the parents in China want us to continue to teach their children. WeChat is the best way to communicate with them. You can easily translate messages if they do not speak English.
6. Appointment Scheduling Software
Some teachers use Calendly to keep track of their teaching schedule but I just use an old-fashioned calendar. I have a consistent schedule with my students.
Feel free to join the Facebook group and subscribe to Flip the Classroom. There are many resources on the Facebook group page, you are sure to find something that will fit what you are looking for. Not one teacher is teaching the same or charging the same amount. You can make it your own and give your students what they need to learn English.