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Teaching English Online from the USA - Q&A with Joelle Mulzac
Written by: Joelle Mulzac
Last Updated: January 14, 2021
What is your citizenship?
Dual - USA & Brazil
What city and state are you from?
Stamford, CT, USA.
How old are you?
What is your education level and background?
What sparked your interest in teaching English online?
Initially, my goal was to pursue a lucrative career as a software engineer, but eventually I realized that it would never lead me to the life I truly wanted.
I have been to several different countries, such as Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, South Africa, and the Dominican Republic. In all of these countries, I had wonderful experiences and made new friends that have changed my life for the better. However, instead of having just one big trip a year to look forward to, I wanted every day of my life to be full of excitement and adventure.
Deep down, my dream has always been to travel the world and eventually move to Brazil, where part of my family is from. I thought about all the stressful years I would have to spend in a cubicle before I could finally get there, and I decided that I couldn’t wait that long. I needed a flexible job that could give me the freedom I wanted then!
To make a long story short, so many of my friends recommended that I teach English online that I gave in and took the plunge, and I don’t regret for one second that I did! I’ve gotten to meet people from around the world, learn about their cultures, and have a hand in helping them achieve their goals!
Why did you decide to get TEFL certified and choose International TEFL Academy?
After doing research on how to become an ESL teacher, it seemed that the logical first step was to become TEFL-certified. Of all the TEFL programs that I found, International TEFL Academy was the only one that seemed legitimate to me. ITA had everything I was looking for in a TEFL program and more, such as lifetime job search guidance, support groups on Facebook, and international accreditation.
Also, after reading about the experiences of many alumni on ITA’s blog and watching their Instagram Story Takeovers, I saw exactly where a TEFL certificate from International TEFL Academy could take me. Inspired by these experiences, I decided to request more information about the program. Erica, my assigned admissions advisor, took the time to answer my many questions. After our conversation, I knew this program was for me and wasted no time enrolling!
Which TEFL certification course did you take?
I took the standard 11-week online TEFL course. I also took all three of the specialty courses: Teaching Young Learners, Teaching English Online, and Teaching Business English.
How did you like the course?
I can’t give enough praise to International TEFL Academy and their TEFL course. The course didn’t feel like other online courses that you just work through passively, and I didn’t feel like I was missing out by taking the online course rather than the in-person one. I truly felt that I had gotten a high-quality education.
More than anything, I really appreciated the support I got from the instructors. My instructor for the 11-week course, Jasmine Shepherd, was always kind enough to review my assignments and offer her feedback before I submitted them, and she took the time to write a letter of recommendation for me after I graduated. I will always be grateful to her for her guidance throughout the course.
How did you like ITA's Teaching English Online 30-Hour Specialty Course?
I feel that the Teaching English Online specialty course definitely helped to enhance my skills as an online teacher and prepared me for success in the field. Some of the things that I learned were how to set up a teaching space, considerations for teaching children vs. adults, what to expect from an online interview, and how to create a proper introduction video.
How has your TEFL training helped you in your current teaching position?
I have utilized every single thing that I learned in my TEFL course to this day, from TPR to implicit grammar instruction to using realia (real objects). In my TEFL program, I didn’t just learn how people learn English, but how people learn in general. For example, I always have images, objects, or other visuals to go along with vocabulary or to illustrate other points that I teach in class, since these are what make them stick in your students’ minds.
What company do you teach English online with?
I work for a children’s school based in Beijing, China.
What are the qualifications required to be hired through your school?
- TEFL Certification
- Native English Speaker
- Teaching Experience
Please briefly explain the application and hiring process for your school:
The hiring process was extremely simple and straightforward. I saw a job posting for the school one day and decided to apply right then and there. I sent them an email with my background, qualifications, and resume. After about a day or two, they got back to me requesting proof of my US citizenship (i.e. passport), a headshot, and a copy of my TEFL certification (I was due to graduate in just a few weeks, so they said I could send it after graduation).
Do you teach English online from home or abroad?
Because I work online, I’m able to teach wherever I go! I’ve taught from my home in Connecticut as well as during my trips to Colorado and the Dominican Republic.
Was internet reliable in the Dominican Republic?
Teaching online in the Dominican Republic was, in all honesty, an absolute nightmare. Twice I had to stop classes because of the extremely unstable internet connection. The biggest mistake that I made was not purchasing a sim card while there. I thought, “I’m only going to be here for 3 weeks, and all of the AirBnbs I’ll be staying in have WiFi, so why spend the extra money?”
I came to regret my poor decision later when the WiFi went out at the AirBnB I was staying at in Puerto Plata with my friend. Thankfully, our hosts were always kind enough to let me use their home offices to conduct my classes, and this was really the only option I had.
To avoid ending up in my situation, I would definitely recommend purchasing a sim card or getting an international plan whenever you travel abroad, whether you’re staying for just a few days or a few months. You will then be able to use your phone as a hotspot if you have problems with the internet connection.
How long have you been teaching online?
I have been teaching online for about a year and a half now.
How many hours on average a week do you teach online and what is your time commitment outside of teaching?
I work on a part-time basis. I teach for a few hours in the mornings Monday to Friday. During the holiday season in China, I also have the opportunity to work evenings during the week. Outside of class, I spend about half an hour each night preparing my lessons for the next day, and about ten minutes filling out feedback forms after my classes.
How much money do you make teaching online with your school?
If you open up all the Beijing peak hours (6-10pm BJT Monday- Friday and 9-11am BJT Saturday and Sunday), you can easily make $1000 USD or more per month from one Chinese company alone.
Which age groups do you work with and what props/tools do you find most useful?
I currently teach children between the ages of 7 and 11. When I first started teaching, I used a lot of props. But now that I’ve built a rapport with my students, I’ve found that very few physical props are needed to engage them. My students have been content with stuffed animals, videos, and I-Spy games that I find online. I also use drawings and objects to illustrate and help them memorize new vocabulary.
How do you consider cultural differences when teaching online? Does this influence your teaching style?
I believe that it’s extremely important to take cultural differences into account when teaching English. It can mean the difference between making a good impression or a bad one.
During the time that I’ve been teaching Chinese students, for example, I’ve done endless research on the intricacies of Chinese culture. I’ve come to understand what subjects I can and can’t talk about, their views on certain matters, and what gestures they consider offensive. I’ve even made an effort to learn a few Chinese words and the structure of the language so I can better explain differences in the English language.
Taking the time to learn about my students’ culture has definitely helped me build rapport with them. They see that I’m genuinely interested in their culture, so they’re more open to learning about American and even Brazilian culture from me. It all comes down to respect. If you respect your student’s culture and make a conscious effort to learn more about it so you don’t offend them, they will be more likely to respect yours and want to learn from you.
How does your school review your performance? Are there rewards for having great reviews?
The school that I work for is very different from other online Chinese schools in that they have a set pay rate. There are no incentives or bonuses for doing things like showing up early to class or performing well, but that also means that there are no financial penalties for things like showing up late. My school is much more relaxed in that way and to me that’s the most appealing thing about it.
The staff at my school has been very good to me even since I was hired over a year ago, and I feel very appreciated by my supervisors. They praise me when I do well and offer kind advice when they notice that I’m struggling with something. To me, their kindness and patience towards me has been the greatest reward any company could give me. My whole experience with them has been much more personal than it would have been with a bigger online ESL company.
How has your ITA TEFL certification helped you with teaching English online?
Many online schools require a TEFL certification as well as a bachelor’s degree, so having my TEFL certification has definitely opened up so many opportunities that I wouldn’t have had otherwise. Getting a TEFL education has also made me a confident teacher. Knowing how my students learn has helped me teach them effectively.
What is your favorite thing about teaching online?
My favorite thing about online teaching is that I have complete freedom over when and where I want to travel. If I decide one day that I want to spend a year backpacking through South America or Southeast Asia, what’s to stop me?
Another thing that I love about teaching online is the opportunity to develop relationships with people from all over the world and learn about new cultures. It gives me great joy to help people from all walks of life achieve the same goal that I have of connecting with the world through language.
Would you recommend teaching English online?
Absolutely! If you want a flexible job that allows you to work from anywhere in the world, I would definitely recommend teaching English online.
In addition to the freedom that teaching online brings, it is extremely rewarding to have a hand in bettering people’s lives in this way. You have the unique opportunity to shape someone’s entire future. Imagine being the reason why someone is able to get an education, a job, or other opportunities in their home country or abroad that couldn’t have been possible if they hadn’t learned English.
To me, there isn’t a better career that I could’ve picked. I’m confident that if you decide to teach English online, you too will get to experience the immense joy, satisfaction, and freedom I’d been craving all my life.
You can find out more about Joelle and her teaching online adventures over at her blog, https://teachlearngo.com.
Joelle Mulzac is an online English teacher from Connecticut, USA. Craving a life of complete freedom rather than one in a cubicle, she turned away an opportunity to become a software engineer to teach English online to kids in China. Her dream has always been to travel the world, which her new career has now made possible.
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