Teach English online, six tips to be a great online English teacher

The title picture shows Elena, one of our graduates, teaching English online.

Teach English online

Do you want to teach English online?

To survive as an English teacher, you need to know how to teach English online. The Covid pandemic has made this crystal clear. There may be fewer face-to-face classes, but the number of people wanting to learn English online has increased. In addition, many English language learners have realised that they can learn as effectively from the safety of their homes. The result is that there are loads of English learners looking for online English teachers.

The downside is that many English teachers want to teach English online, so competition is stiff. As a result, only the best online TEFL teachers will find work.

If you want your students to carry on booking classes with you and paying you a decent rate, you need to be a cut above the rest.

If you want to teach English online, here are six helpful tips to make you a great online English teacher.

1 - Be professional but friendly

Teaching English online requires you to look professional. The advantage is you can wear a business jacket or a presentable shirt and pair it with your summer shorts or jogging pants. Make sure, though, that the video is off when you stand up to get a coffee!

The best online English teacher is the one who can combine friendliness and warmth with the responsibilities of a teacher. It is best to be friendly yet competent enough to teach grammar, correct errors, model language and give feedback.

You need to relate to your students and have fun with them, but still let them feel like they are getting their money’s worth.

2 - You have to be realistic

You may be an experienced physical classroom teacher; however, even experienced teachers need to adapt. Every class is different. Teachers are like actors. The classroom is your stage, and just like actors, teachers are never sure about the audience and how it will react.

Even if you have experience teaching, you will need to adapt to be a successful online teacher. In a face to face class, we can use material and activities that make our classes effective. However, these activities may not work in an online classroom. Some activities are only effective when the students are in the same classroom. For example, you won’t be able to use the nursery song “Heads, Shoulders Knees and Toes effectively” online.

As long as you plan your lessons and choose your material to suit an online classroom, you will be fine.

3 - Your relationship with your students is crucial

When you teach online, you feel that you are not with your students. There is a feeling of disconnection. They could be in the next building or thousands of miles away. However, forming a close relationship with your students is vital to effective learning. Try to remember your students’ names, where they are from or what they do.

A tip from many experienced teachers is to do a roll call on the very first day. Use it as an introduction session as well. A roll call gives them the structure to introduce themselves. If you don’t, they may go off tangent and start talking about their pets, holidays, or any other topic that takes up teaching time. Ask them to say their name, where they are from, their profession, or their university studies. The teacher notes down all their answers and refers to them by their first names.

Refer to your list for their backgrounds so you can make comments that show them that they are not just numbers to you. For example, you can say something like, “So Jaskaran, how did your local elections go?” You can ask a question like this because you noted down on your list that he is from London. As you keep up with local and international news, you know that the UK just had their local elections the week before. In addition, we recommend that you read up on some international news, so you have a few suitable ice breaker activities.

Forming and maintaining close relationships with your students is crucial to creating a comfortable, effective learning environment.

4 - Reflect, recycle and keep innovating

It can be easy to fall into the trap of teaching the same lesson repeatedly with different students. While you can certainly do this for a few classes, please don’t do it too often because it will bore you, and you will become frustrated.

As a great online teacher, you will reflect on each lesson you teach, adapt your material and activities to the needs and abilities of your students.

5 - Show up for your class before your students

Showing up late or forgetting to show up for a class makes you look unprofessional and untrustworthy. Make sure you are on time for your classes and a reliable teaching staff member. Your students will appreciate your professionalism. They will consider you a good teacher and ask your school for future lessons. Teaching English online can be a great way to earn money. You can do it as a part-time job, or if you like it and have many students, you can do it full time. There are many online English teachers at the moment.

You need to stand out from the rest and show the language schools and your students that you are one of the best online teachers, if not the best around.

6 - Know your technology

You need an excellent working knowledge of the software you use, and your technology setup must be reliable. There is nothing worse than waiting for the person (in this case, you as the teacher) fumbling around to find the right button to click or file to share. It wastes time and makes you look incompetent.

If you use ZOOM or similar virtual meeting software, make sure you practice with it before you teach. Your technology setup is critical to your success. Your internet connection must be quick and reliable enough for live-streaming video and audio. You and your students want to hear and see the class without frame freezes and poor sound quality.

Finally, when you teach online, have a large enough screen so that you can see all your students. Trying to teach a live-streaming online class using a smartphone or tablet is a waste of time. Finally, your technology enables your classroom environment.

Make sure you have a well-constructed virtual classroom because a poorly constructed classroom distracts from learning.

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