“Make money working from home!” reads the spam in your junk folder.
As classroom teachers and education specialists who spend our days teaching students in physical classrooms, the prospect of legitimately earning an income from our laptops and living rooms seems like a fantasy—but it’s not. In fact, it’s exactly what many teachers are doing as they teach English to native Chinese speakers. I talked with some of the educators working part-time as English instructors for 51Talk’s American Academy Program to get the straight scoop on how they’re making extra money teaching online “from home” and how it all works.
If you’re worried you’ll be passed by for a job with 51Talk because you don’t speak another language, don’t be. The 51Talk program is full English immersion, so knowledge of Chinese is not required. New instructors receive a several-hour new teacher-training course along with ESL materials, plus ongoing professional development. You’ll connect one-on-one with Chinese students via a video-conferencing platform like Skype, and communicate visually and orally to help them learn English.
Current 51Talk instructor Santiago Tejeda says that although he’d never before worked as an ESL teacher, the transition was an easy one. “The 51Talk on-boarding is good, and the online system used is really plug-and-play. They provided a lot of training sessions that made it pretty easy.”
Experienced ESL instructor Travis Jackson was also impressed by how easy it was to get up to speed with 51Talk. “They offer a lot of workshops and webinars to help the teachers gain tools to do a better and more efficient job as an online teacher. And the best aspect of 51Talk is that they really have student-focused material that makes teaching English enjoyable.”
It may be shocking to our students, but teachers have lives too—and while we may want (or need) a part-time job, it can be pretty tricky to figure out how to fit it into our lives. Maybe we can never seem to make it out of school at a reasonable hour, or maybe we just don’t want to give up that 7 p.m. yoga class or miss out on our own kids’ after-school sports. 51Talk teachers appreciate the opportunity to make their own hours and choose a number of hours they want to put in.
Full-time classroom teacher Jen Gaetano loves the flexibility and has recommended it to her teacher friends. “Several of my colleagues and friends have jumped aboard the 51Talk teaching experience,” says Gaetano.
For teachers who may not currently have a full-time teaching job, such as parents who decided to take time off to raise their children, 51Talk can help supplement their family’s income. Tejeda took a permanent leave of absence from his classroom-teaching job due to medical reasons, but he can still help support his family and engage in his passion for teaching. He recommends this route for other teachers who need to take a hiatus for their health or families, or for full-time teachers seeking a flexible second job. “You not only get to teach enthusiastic students and learn about a different culture, you can be your own time manager and book your own teaching slots. When I had surgery last month, the 51Talk team bent over backwards to accommodate my schedule so I could heal.”
Jackson appreciates the flexibility of the time commitment 51Talk instructors can choose. “I make my own schedule. If I need a day off, I just don’t post any available times for that day. I am in complete control of the hours and days that I work.”
51Talk instructors supplement their income working part-time and make between $16 and $22 per hour. Teaching certifications and education levels determine your starting rate, but your performance in the program can increase it. Each class or time slot available is 25 minutes, so you can take on two classes per hour.
If you’ve always wanted to try teaching a different grade level—or you like the idea of teaching a range of grades—you’re in luck. Gaetano says that she most enjoys the chance to teach a variety of lessons and student ages. The researched-based lesson materials provided make switching between skill levels straightforward. Tejeda has taught young children, teens and university students, all coming to the online class with various comprehension and oral masteries of English.
The word “rewarding” came up often when talking with 51Talk instructors. They all spoke about what a positive experience they’ve had working with Chinese-speaking students online, and how the one-to-one style really lets them get to know their students. Besides getting to know their students, instructors also get to know the Chinese culture when they virtually “visit” their students’ homes during lessons—making it a true learning experience for teachers too.
Tejeda loves seeing his students’ laughter and aha moments via their computer connections. Jackson says, “The most rewarding aspect of teaching for 51Talk has been the exposure to Chinese culture.”
“I have had a really good and interesting experience being invited into all these Chinese homes (via the web) and the experience is definitely something different and unique,” Gaetano agrees. “Seeing the learning and progress of my students is so rewarding. It is a privilege to play such an important role in their learning. English is opening up so many doors for them. I have the most amazing students!”
Want to give online teaching a try? 51Talk is an established and successful business (they’re publicly traded on the New York Stock Exchange) that’s currently looking for native English speaking teachers with a clear North American accent and a four-year bachelor’s degree. Education degrees and ESL certifications are a plus. Since many 51Talk students are ages 4 to 12 with no prior English exposure, experience working with K–6 young learners is also a plus but not required.
Have you ever taught online? What did you like about it? What was challenging? Share your tips in the comments.