So you want to start teaching English online?
Or, perhaps you already do, but don’t feel super confident with it?
If you’re a complete beginner, teaching English to students via the web can be a little strange to get used to…
Especially if you’re an introvert like me.
However, there are a few tips for teaching English online, that can make you feel more confident and deliver solid lessons that your students will love and want to keep coming back for.
Table of Contents
1. Create an Awesome Workspace
When your teaching online or doing any sort of remote work for that matter, you need to have a solid workspace.
This doesn’t just mean clearing a space on the kitchen table or finding your favourite part of the sofa…
This is an entirely dedicated space. Free of noise, clutter and distractions. A space specifically for teaching, and nothing else…
Your space should include the online teaching essentials:
- A good laptop/desktop computer,
- Solid headphones (with a mic)
- Comfortable seat
- Great lighting.
2. Do ‘Some’ Lesson Planning
How much planning you do before teaching an online English lesson is going to depend on two things;
- The company you’re working for and its requirements
- The amount you’re being paid for the lesson.
Obviously, the more established you are as a teacher, the more planning and preparation will go into each lesson.
If you’re a beginner, however, working for a low paying company, you’re not really being paid to plan for hours beforehand.
That said, it is super important to have some idea of what you’re going to talk about.
This could be a list of good questions you could ask or some interesting conversation topics.
This will also depend on the level of students you’re teaching and whether or not you have taught them before.
3. Dress Like You're Going To Work
There is definitely a lot to be said for dressing smartly for work. Even if you’re working from home.
And yes, that does mean ditching the PJ.s and slippers.
Dressing smartly before teaching online will not only make you feel more confident and comfortable when talking to students, It will also get you in the right mood and mindset for work.
Personally, I have to wear comfortable trousers and a smart shirt before teaching any lesson.
4. Relax Before Starting
When you first start teaching, it’s super easy to get into the trap of doing lots of hours at any time available.
Because tutoring English online is a job spread over lots of different time zones, you’ll likely end up working during the night or super early in the morning.
Lots of teaching platforms are based in China, so they work on Beijing time.
I’ve made the mistake in the past of waking up at 3.30 – 4.00 am and going straight into teaching! With no time to get myself ready.
I think it’s super important to give yourself time to wake up, stretch, have a coffee and generally allow your body and mind to ease into the day before work.
By doing this, you’ll be more focused and deliver better lessons.
5. Figure Out Your Max Teaching Hours
With online tutoring, it’s absolutely crucial to know how long you can actually teach for in one go!
When I first started teaching on a platform called Cambly, I used to sign up for 6-7 hours in a row with no break, other than quick toilet stops.
By the 5th hour, I was absolutely drained and had zero energy left.
I shouldn’t have been talking to anyone, let alone helping students learn English…
I would highly advise, stopping for a break (of at least 30 mins) for every 3 hours of teaching you do. At the very minimum.
If you want to deliver good lessons where your students actually learn, engage with you and want to come back, do your teaching in small chunks and have long relaxing breaks between shifts.
6. Actually, Break on Your Breaks!
Because you’re working online, the temptation to stay at your laptop to watch youtube and scroll through Instagram between teaching shifts is very tempting.
By continuing to stare at a screen through your breaks means you’re not actually breaking at all.
Take a proper break, by going outside, exercising or sitting down (away from your computer) to eat some nice food or talk with your family/friends.
You’ll come back to your students, revitalised, relaxed and focused.
7. Take Notes
You should be taking notes on every lesson you teach. These notes should include;
- Details of the student (age, country, hobbies, etc…)
- What you discussed/worked on
- What they could improve on
If you want to be successful in teaching online, you’re going to want students to book you again for more lessons.
By noting down everything you discussed will help you remember them (as this is really hard after talking with many different students all day) but also mean you can provide feedback and give them things to work on.
8. Improve & Develop Your Skills
As a teacher, you want to be constantly improving your teaching skills.
When you first start out as an online English teacher, your lessons will probably suck!
In fact, they’ll definitely suck (If you’re anything like me anyway).
But every lesson you teach should be an opportunity to better your teaching skills.
You want to be doing everything you can to help students learn and improve their English.
This could be through learning; teaching tips and techniques, communication skills, how to give feedback or doing an English teaching course, such as TEFL.
Having a TEFL certificate is super handy as it allows you to teach for lots of different companies and gives you some solid teaching knowledge.
I did mine with ‘Premier TEFL’ which was a super easy process.
9. Be Punctual & Consistent
Showing up on time and being somewhere exactly when you say you’re going to be, should be fundamental to any type of work. Especially for online classes.
As a tutor, ALWAYS make sure you show up to lessons on time and make reliability a habit.
This means never (or very rarely) cancel any scheduled lessons/reservations you have with students.
Over the long term, this will lead to more bookings and a higher chance of making a full time living from your teaching.
10. Find Your Favourite Teaching Platform
There are so many different online English teaching platforms out there now!
Some require a Bachelors Degree, whereas many just require a TEFL certificate.
The platform you choose is going to largely depend on your skill level, experience, qualifications and whether or not you meet a companies requirements (some platforms only accept tutors from a few countries).
There are even one or two platforms that don’t require any skill or previous experience. For example; Cambly is a great place to get started as a beginner.
11. Buy Good Equipment
There is nothing worse than trying to teach (or do anything) online with sh*t equipment!
It really does just suck.
Invest in good equipment that’s going to last you a long time.
If you’re going to be making a living online and doing English teaching full time, it should be a no brainer to get solid equipment. Invest in;
12. Focus On The Student
Whenever you teach a student, always adopt the following mindset;
‘How can I help you and what can I do to ensure you learn and enjoy this lesson’.
Then, do everything you can to achieve this.
This could be simply by asking the student what they want to learn at the start of a lesson, what they would like to improve, and anything they want to talk about during the session.
You’ll find aksing this goes a long long way in retaining students over the long term.
13. Confidence Is Key
Coming across confident and knowledgeable can be very tricky when teaching, especially when you’re a fresh tutor.
I can remember being super nervous before my first ever lesson and was on a video call to a lovely lady from China who I couldn’t see the whole time – due to a bad internet connection (more on this later).
So, I just ended up very awkwardly asking question after question, changing randomly through topics after each answer. I’m still embarrassed about that lesson today, but luckily I learned what to do for the next call and used it to improve.
To stay confident –
Remember, your (probably) speaking your native tongue, so a lot of questions you get asked, you’ll already know just from being a native speaker of the language.
Try to relax, think in the moment and if you don’t know something that a student asks, you have the power of the internet right there at your fingertips!
Just politely respond to the student by saying; Sorry I’m not too sure, but let me quickly find out for you.
If you feel nervous or out of your depth, just be sure of what you know already and be honest if you don’t know something.
14. Have Good WIFI
For teaching online, having good internet is ESSENTIAL.
Video calls take a tonne of bandwidth to run smoothly and bad internet simply isn’t good enough to support them.
I’ve unfortunately struggled through many a bad lesson due to terrible connections. This can be through your connection, your students or sometimes, both.
Having a lesson, where you can’t hear the student or where you keep losing connection is the most frustrating thing ever for both you and even more so your student.
Obviously, you can only control the connection from your side, but make sure you have good wifi that’s fast and reliable before doing any online video lessons
15. Get To Know EVERY Student & Arrange The Next Class
No matter what English teaching platform you tutoring on, you should always be aiming to teach students again.
At first, you’ll be meeting lots of new students, but over time you want to be developing a base of regular students.
This will give you consistent work on a regular basis.
It’s also epic to develop friendships with students from completely different cultures!
It pays to genuinely take an interest in the life of every single student you teach and set up the next class.
Get them excited to want to learn and speak with you again.
Online English Teaching Tips Summary
So there we have it, a solid list of tips for teaching English online, that will hopefully set you on the right track for becoming a better online teacher.
If you want to get started with online English teaching, I would strongly recommend Cambly as you’re more or less getting paid for conversations while still helping people improve English.
Teaching English is truly one of the best jobs for full-time travellers and If you need any more help with your tutoring career, please feel free to reach out!