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Teaching English Online from Bali, Indonesia - Q&A with Nikki Novoselsky
Written by: Nikki Novoselsky
Last Updated: December 18, 2020
What is your citizenship?
What city and state are you from?
How old are you?
What is your education level and background?
What sparked your interest in going to teach English online from abroad?
I was interested in teaching English online as a way to supplement my income and connect with students from a different culture than my own.
Why did you decide to get TEFL certified and choose International TEFL Academy?
I have always been interested in teaching. Teaching English abroad seemed like a fantastic way to indulge in this desire. I took the plunge to get TEFL certified so that I would have a good foundation of knowledge before I stepped into the classroom. I chose ITA because I lived very close to the main office in Chicago. After doing extensive research, the reviews and reputation of ITA far surpassed any other company. Also, ITA tended to my every question and had wonderful customer service before I even committed to receiving my TEFL certification with them.
Which TEFL certification course did you take?
Online TEFL Certification.
How did you like the course?
I enjoyed the course because my instructor was extremely responsive and helpful. The lessons were informative, and the tasks, although time-consuming, made me feel like I was really getting a ton out of the course. I felt more confident about how to prepare lessons for my future classes. The practicum gave me real life experience with students. This was the most helpful because it gave me a glimpse at what my life would be like teaching - i.e.: how to prepare lessons, how to adapt to students in the classroom, how to build rapport, etc. Teaching in the classroom for the practicum reassured me that I am more than capable being an ESL teacher, and I got the confidence I needed to head abroad.
How has your TEFL training helped you in your current teaching position?
The TEFL training gave me confidence in my teaching abilities. I learned how to prepare for class and how to be adaptable with different students. It also touches on cultural differences, which allowed me to deeply research other cultures and become aware of how this would affect my classroom.
What company do you teach English online with?
What are the qualifications required to be hired through VIPKid?
- Bachelor's Degree
- TEFL Certification
- Native English Speaker
Please briefly explain the application and hiring process for VIPKid:
First, I applied online — filling out my background information including education and work experience. I waited about 24 hours until I received the email that I moved on to the next step. The next step entailed a demo lesson where I had to record myself teaching for ten minutes. After you record yourself doing your ten-minute demo lesson, you find out within 48 hours if you are hired with VIP Kid. Quick turnaround! If you are hired, you get your starting base rate for each class, which can be anywhere between $7-$9.
Once you get hired, the process isn’t over. VIPKid wants to make sure you understand exactly how you should be teaching your students. I commend them for this step, as they have you enroll in a one-hour virtual course with an experienced instructor and other newbies. In this lesson, they teach you how to interact with the student and what you should do on different teaching slides. It is meant to make you feel more comfortable and confident in the classroom.
After the teaching workshop, you finally get to put your teaching skills to the test in a mock class. You will schedule a one-on-one session with a VIPKid mentor, who pretends to be a student. Your mentor will give you feedback on what you did well and what you can improve on. This mock class will determine whether or not you can start officially teaching students.
Do you teach English online from home or abroad?
I teach from Bali, Indonesia.
Is internet reliable in Bali?
Fast internet can be hard to come by, so I have a phone with an Indonesian SIM card. I buy unlimited data for $7 a month, and if my internet is ever too slow or unreliable, I use my hot spot to teach.
How long have you been teaching online?
How many hours on average a week do you teach online and what is your time commitment outside of teaching?
It varies week to week depending on my travels. Some weeks I teach 10 hours other weeks I teach 20-25 hours. When I first began teaching online, I spent 20 minutes preparing for each class. Now that I am more seasoned, I simply flip through the slides for two minutes and then begin teaching. There is not a ton of time commitment outside of the teaching hours.
How much money do you make teaching online with VIPKid?
On average, I make around $20 USD/hour. Your base rate can be anywhere between $7-$9 depending on your experience and how well you did in your demo lesson. Then, you get $1 each class if you start the class on time. If you teach 30 classes in one month, you get an additional $.50 per class. If you teach 45 classes in one month, you get an additional $1 per class. If a class is booked within 24 hours, you get an additional $2 for that class. Lastly, if you teach a trial class and that student signs up for the platform right after, you get a $5 bonus incentive. So, you can make between $14-$26 an hour.
Which age groups do you work with and what props/tools do you find most useful?
I teach students from 3 years old all the way to 15 years old.
- First and foremost, you will need a teaching background. What I did initially before I went abroad is, I bought a $3 roll of wrapping paper at Target. Then, I wrote “Welcome” and “Teacher Nikki” on two pieces of paper and taped it to the wrapping paper. Easy peasy! Going abroad was a different story since wrapping paper doesn’t necessarily pack well. I made an on-the-go teaching background with felt and glitter glue. I went to Michael’s craft store and spent $12 and two hours cutting and gluing... then well-ah! A portable background all set to go! I got a large square felt background. The larger you can find, the better because then you can cut it to the size that fits your screen and use the scraps as add-ons or props!
- Especially for your Mock Class, VIP Kid wants to see you have noise-canceling headphones. At first, I wondered why I needed these, but with time I realized they really do help the student hear your pronunciation. Also, it can help reduce technical difficulties with things like feedback or the student not being able to hear you.
- Puppets: I have a boy and girl puppet that I use to help explain concepts and words. Sometimes it can be nice for the student to hear and see a new visual that isn’t you if they are not understanding a specific part of the lesson. For VIP Kid, they reference their characters “Meg” and “Mike” a ton–practically in every lesson. Even though my puppets aren’t Meg and Mike, I pretend that they are, and the kids don’t know the difference.
- Dolls & Stuffed Animals: I teach a lot of trial classes where we teach “mom,” “dad,” and “family.” So these little dolls are absolutely perfect for that lesson. If you don’t have any dolls, don’t fret. You can also use puppets. I like to have both on hand. I have a small stuffed dog that I bring in the lesson every so often and the kids love it. I mostly use the dog in the trial or level one lessons to sing along during the songs. It adds a nice extra flair without going crazy. VIP Kid also has “Dino” as their mascot. I use my little stuffed dog as Dino.
- Cardstock is the easiest and cheapest way to create props, and I use these a majority of the time. I simply got cardstock and drew items that kept coming up in a bunch of my classes. For example in Trial classes, I use apples, bananas, mangoes, and stars a lot. So I drew them on a piece of cardstock and cut them out. Every time a student gets a star, I hold up my cardstock star and the students love it. You can even make the star out of felt as well. I also drew Teacher Nikki on a piece of cardstock to hold up at the beginning of every class. This is a great and incredibly easy- to-make visual for the student to remember your name.
How do you consider cultural differences when teaching online? Does this influence your teaching style?
I consider the culture greatly when teaching online. Chinese parents often want their children to learn as much as they can in each lesson. I am very cognizant about correcting students when they make a mistake and making sure they understand the error they made. I also try to extend the material and teach more than what is on the given slide. I sing songs, dance, and have conversations with the students to give them a more enhanced learning experience.
How does VIPKid review your performance? Are there rewards for having great reviews?
Every third contract, you are eligible for a pay raise if you receive great reviews from parents. The higher your review ratings are from parents, the more likely you are to get booked. However, the company itself does not reward you or pay you for high reviews. You may get more tokens if you have higher reviews, which you can use to purchase things like $5 Amazon gift cards.
What is your favorite thing about teaching online?
I love that I get to work from wherever and in my pajamas! Also, I love how flexible teaching online is. VIPKid doesn’t have any requirement of how many classes you teach a week, which is amazing if you want to take extended vacations or just need a break. With an unpredictable traveling schedule, I am able to teach a bunch of short notice classes. It’s really nice to be able to teach as much or as little as you want.
Would you recommend teaching English online?
I would totally recommend teaching online. It's an awesome way to supplement your income while having fun and connecting with students in China. Teaching online has granted me location freedom as I travel the world.
Tell us a little bit about Bali, Indonesia:
- There is no public transportation. You can take Gojek everywhere for super cheap, which is like Uber. Or, you can rent a motorbike and scooter around. There is a huge expat community in Bali, and it is super easy to meet people with tons of options for meetups. Nightlife is ubiquitous in the south of Bali with tons of places to go out and mingle.
- Indonesian food is super cheap around $1-$4 a meal. There are a ton of Western restaurants with great food as well. This typically is more expensive, but still super cheap ranging anywhere between $3-$10 per meal.
- There is so much to see in Bali. The island itself has numerous beaches, diving/snorkeling opportunities, rice fields, and waterfalls. Indonesia is comprised of thousands of islands, which are incredible to explore as well. With a short plane ride or a fast boat, you can venture out to see many of the beautiful islands.
What are your monthly expenses?
Bali can be as cheap or as expensive as you make it. You can live in a cheap apartment and eat local food and live for around $500-$800 a month. Or, you can live extravagantly in an extraordinary villa, eat like a king/queen, and travel every weekend for around $2200+ a month.
Personally, I am in the middle. I live in a villa that is $450 a month plus $70 for electric, water and gas. I eat 2 meals a day at cafes every day, which ends up costing me around $220 a month. I pay $40 for a scooter rental every month to travel around, and an additional $15 for Gojek for times I don't feel like scootering. $7 for unlimited data on my $10 SIM card. Travel can vary. This can cost me anywhere between $100-$500 depending on the trip. If it is international, I expect to pay more depending on the country you are visiting. Visas can cost $80 a month if you are renewing a tourist visa. However, you can only renew 4 times. I paid $500 for my social visa, which lasts me 6 months without having to leave the country. There are numerous extraneous expenses depending on if you are buying new clothes, souvenirs, getting massages, facials, manicures/pedicures, etc.
Ultimately, I spend around $1200-$1500 a month (when I am only traveling domestically and not going out of the country).
How would you describe your standard of living?
I live pretty extravagantly while still being mindful of expenses. I eat out at cafes every day. I get a massage every week and my nails done every other week. I live in a nice villa and take nice trips every month. I definitely feel like I splurge, yet still spend less every month than what I was spending in Chicago.
In your opinion, how much does someone need to earn in order to live comfortably in Bali?
To live comfortably, I would say you would need to earn $1500, which is completely doable teaching online.
You can follow Nikki's adventures on Instagram at @ohtheplacesyoullflow_.
Hailing from Chicago, Nikki is an online English-teaching yogi who quit her 9-5 corporate job to travel the world. She is a huge foodie that feels most at home writing in cafes while trying every delectable dish. When she’s not teaching online, you can find her teaching yoga, lounging poolside with a coconut, hiking in nature, or having deep life conversations with friends. She is a wandering soul with an ever-growing bucket list and an eternal desire to travel the world.
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