This week's blog is written by Jenna, who currently teaches ESL while living abroad. From beginning her journey with the TEFL program in Prague to teaching English online through VIPKids while traveling through Europe, South America, and, soon, Southeast Asia, she's found an awesome way to live and work all around the world.
If you're interested in doing similar work, email Jenna at firstname.lastname@example.org, check out her VIPKids link here, or use her code: JENNA0047.
This series will be featuring people who are working online, volunteering for their stay through sites such as Workaway, getting free stays through house sitting, are self-employed, etc.! We hope their stories inspire you to create and share your own! If you have found a way to travel long term and would like to be featured in this series, please email email@example.com.
Hey, y'all! My name is jenna.
I graduated from the University of Texas with a Bachelors of Arts in May of 2016. I first got started traveling in college when I did a summer study abroad program in Rome. Like most who study abroad, I loved it! Despite the fact that my Italian was sub-par and my host mom was not afraid to share that with everyone... I was hooked and wanted more. I began telling everyone that one day I’d live overseas, and that it would be something I would always regret if I didn’t do it. Of course, people thought I was crazy or unrealistic. But flash forward to today and I’m working on year number three!
My life abroad officially started a year after graduation when I decided I was ready to take the leap. I wasn’t 100% sure how I wanted to do this but I’d heard about many people who teach English around the world. So, I started asking around. Eventually, I landed on Prague, and after much research I decided to pack my bags and move. Solo. I was ecstatic! My parents, on the other hand, not so much. In September of 2017 I boarded that plane and have yet to look back. I began my foreign adventure by taking a 4 week TEFL (Teaching English as a Foregin language) course in person in Prague. I figured this would be a great way to meet people and get started in a new city. This certification process taught me how to teach English. Which may sound silly to native English speakers, but how many of y’all actually know ALL of the tenses in the English language or how to explain why it's a big blue chair and not a blue big chair? Don’t get me wrong, I'm sure someone here does, but I definitely didn’t. I also had no clue how to teach English to beginners nonetheless to explain conditionals to more advanced students. The course taught me how to do just this. Every day I went to class in the historical center of Prague, ate lunch at local markets, and later held my first classes teaching REAL students. By the end of the course I felt prepared to teach, despite the fact that I do not hold a degree in education.
After four intensive weeks, I was out on my own. Time to put what I learned to practice and get a job. Let me tell you, starting in Prague was one of the best decisions I could have made. The unemployment rate is very low, and unlike in the US I found a job within a week. I started off teaching private lessons to Czech students in their homes or in nearby cafes. Then, I heard about online teaching. This is what I currently do. I have maintained this job for two years and it has funded my travels. I have now been to 23 countries and have taught in 7. Last year, I was working in Spain in two high schools and at the moment I am traveling around South America. After a holiday back in the States I plan to hit Southeast Asia!
WHAT I DO
I currently work for a company called VIPKid. I have an extremely flexible schedule which I love! Want to take two weeks off and travel to Italy? Andiamo, let’s go! Want to spend Easter in Budapest? Sure, why not!
I work as an independent contractor. This means I am able to set my own hours and therefore, my own time off. In Prague, I worked VIPKid full time with private lessons on the side; in Spain I did it part-time. Now, I work as I travel.
WHO I TEACH
Most of my students are Chinese. I have occasionally taught students from other countries or even Chinese students who live in other countries, but normally my students come from China.
The age range is 5-14. So, yes I teach littles and it can be fun! I also teach older kids which I enjoy more because you can have real conversations. My students can change daily, but I also have regulars who I have taught since I started. And seeing their progress is amazing! You get this feeling of “Wow, I taught them that!” Of course, they have English classes at school but still. It’s pretty rewarding.
There are no set hours so you don’t have to work a certain amount of hours per week. My schedule often changes as my life changes.
You earn USD which can go far in a lot of places! In Prague, I felt like a queen. I was able to work, travel, and save. You can make up to $22/hour with basic pay. You start with a base rate between $7-$9 per class which depends on your experience and interview with the company. Then, you can add incentives. Finish a class? Cool, that’s $1 extra per class. Teach 30 classes per month that’s an additional $0.50 per class. Teach 45 classes in a month and earn an extra $1 per class. Teach a trial (a student who is new to the platform), convert the student, amazing! Add $5 for that class. And finally, open a time slot within 24 hours, book it, teach it, and that’s an extra $2 per class. It may seem like small amounts but trust me it really can add up. For example, say I make $8 per class and finish 45 classes this month. My pay before additional incentives is $20/hour. Now, say I had a short-notice trial and my trial converted. Add $7 and that’s $27 for an hour of work. Not too shabby. Oh, and one last thing... you get paid even if the student doesn’t show up!
Work from Home
Y’all no joke, I work in my pajamas. The commute from my bed to my desk is excruciating. I can no longer complain about traffic or stress about making sure my uniform is pressed (TBT to my old job). As long as you look professional on camera then you’re good to go. For me, that means a nice shirt or even a plain t-shirt and my pajama pants. Working from home also means you can take the job anywhere! All you need is a stable internet connection.
Choose Which Levels you Teach
Simple as that. Do you like teaching the kiddos? Great! You can certify for levels 1-3. Enjoy teaching more advanced students? Aim for levels 4-6. Do you like pronunciation? Certify for the supplemental course. You get to choose which levels and extra classes you want to teach!
WHAT MY CLASSES ARE LIKE
I teach 25 minute lessons and, on occasion, 50 minute lessons (for the older students). I am paid per class. Each lesson is prepared for you by the company. There is no lesson planning! Amazing. For all my teachers out there I’m sure you can understand the benefit to this. The company creates powerpoints to use for each class and they have their own platform. My classes include a range of phonics, grammar, reading, vocabulary, and conversation. Often, I teach the kids simple games such as tic-tac-toe or hangman.
REQUIREMENTS FOR TEACHING
Hold a Bachelor’s degree in any field
Be a resident of the USA or Canada
Have any formal or informal teaching experience
Mentoring, tutoring, alternative certifications, coaching, etc.
Have a laptop or tablet to teach from (Chromebooks no longer supports the teaching app)
Overall, I am very grateful for this job! I have fun, work short hours, and am able to travel when and wherever I’d like. Do know that because I teach Chinese students I work on Beijing time. This is wonderful when you are in Europe or Asia but can be difficult when you’re in the Americas. However, it’s doable! I love the fact that I am able to finish working for the day in the early morning or afternoon. I’ve woken up, been productive, and have had the full day ahead of me. The job is what you make of it. It can be full time, part-time, or just a side gig. You choose! I’ll be honest, there are days when I get great kids and days when I don’t. But, the beauty of online teaching is that after 25 minutes you exit the classroom and poof! They’re gone! If you’re interested in applying or have any questions feel free to let me know! I am more than happy to assist with the application process or to give you more information about TEFL and the program I did in Prague.
For now, happy travels!