My Experience Teaching English Online to Kids in China
A Facebook Ad Got My Attention
In the summer of 2017, I began to see ads on my Facebook page that were from a company looking for teachers who would like to work from home. Perhaps because I travel to China frequently, Facebook targeted my page with an advertisement recruiting teachers for an online English program for children in China. It sounded intriguing and I took the bait. I learned that the company is one of the leading Chinese online education firms that offers an American elementary education experience to Chinese students aged 4–12.
The ad read something like this:
- Teach English online to Chinese students. Stay at home and have the luxury of creating your own schedule.
- Get paid up to $22 per hour.
- Minimum of one year teaching experience
- A BA degree or higher
- A computer and headset
- High speed internet connection
- Eligibility to work in the US or Canada
How to Apply:
- Apply on the website for VIPKID
- Book an interview
- Watch teacher prep videos
- Conduct a mock class
This looked like something I could do in my retirement years to bring in a little extra income. From the ads, it sounded like fun.
The Application Process
I thought, “How difficult could this be?” After all, I taught school 50 years ago when I was quite young. More recently, I tutored Hispanic children in an inner city school as a volunteer for the Jewish Coalition on Literacy. So, I applied to VIPKID and set up an interview. I failed miserably because I did not prepare. I thought I could just “wing “ it with my own “brilliance”. That was quite a humbling moment. Shame on me for not preparing. Nevertheless, I was not totally discouraged. I re-read the material provided by the online company and thought again about my teaching experience. I practiced, studied, and submitted a new application.
The second interview went much better than the first attempt. I had done my homework this time. The interviewer was very professional. Now I was on my way to becoming a member of the VIPKID online teacher community. I arranged my little office space to make it look like a schoolroom. Finding props was an adventure which included trips to the dollar store and ordering a few things from Amazon.
The next steps were to create a short biography for the company website and open a class schedule. China is 12-13 hours ahead of East Coast time, which meant that one could start teaching very early in the morning. I opted to start my schedule at 6:30am. I set my alarm for 4:30am to give myself time to shower, get dressed, wake up fully, have breakfast and get to my desk by 5:30am to review, prepare and be ready for the first student of the day.
My Virtual "Classroom"
Difficult First Month
It was a dismal first month! I had very few students signing up for my classes. I thought perhaps I was too old or that my classroom did not have the right look. The advice I received from other wonderful teachers was to have patience and faith that with time students would start booking.
In the meantime, I took instructional workshops, became certified in ESL and TESOL. I also became certified to teach various levels. Time passed quickly and within 2 months many parents enrolled their children in my classes. My booking schedule was full.
Pros and Cons of Teaching Online
As much as I am enjoying this experience, it is not for everyone. There are some negative aspects to this contract work. The online teacher works as an independent contractor and not as an employee. It takes a while to develop a following. A great biography sketch, a nice picture and a short video introduction are required. Teachers must have high speed internet and a reliable computer. Props are also important and can become costly if you are not careful. One needs to have an entrepreneurial spirit as well as perseverance.
With most online teaching companies, the teacher is an independent contractor, paid in US dollars and deposited directly into a US bank account. There are no benefits for an independent contractor. I have found VIPKID to be very responsible with regard to payments. I am always happy to see that deposit in my account by the 10th of the month. It is my understanding that many of the online language companies operate similarly,
My experience with VIPKID has been very positive. I feel well supported by the staff. I have had a marvelous experience with the students and parents, and have learned to like getting up early in the morning. The company is strict about their rules on cancelling classes, but that is for the good of all.
Students Present Projects for Each Unit
The Parents Give Feedback
The parents submit feedback after the class and these remarks are translated from Chinese into English for the teachers. My first feedback gave me the coveted 5 Apple reward, but the comment did sting: “VERY OLD TEACHER. " I decided to laugh it off and keep trying!
One of my favorite comments came from the father of a 12-year-old boy who lives in Inner Mongolia:
“Because of my business trip, I missed my appointment the other night, and I chose Shelley ZX the night before, and very good teachers, kids really like teachers, and they have a couple of minutes to chat with their kids after the class has ended ahead of schedule. Even if the child does not speak clearly also does not give too much pressure to guide the child to express the courage to speak out and correct the very good teacher!”
You can see that the feedback translations from the original Chinese are not particularly smooth, but I find the spirit of the message to be very encouraging. The children are 4–12 years of age. I can’t wait to see them in the morning as they truly light up my day. The classes are one-on-one, lasting 25 minutes. I am amazed at 5-year-old students who are reading very well in English as a second language. Sometimes they act just like you would expect a young child to act: bringing their toys to class and doodling on the screen. But invariably, they are charming and delightful.
Would I Recommend Teaching English Online?
I Love This Job
I highly recommend teaching English online as a meaningful experience for active retirees who have the required qualifications and would like to supplement their retirement income! It is also great for younger teachers who have additional full time jobs and use their online income to pay a mortgage or car payment.
As for me, I have opted to teach 10-12 hours per week. I am currently making about $900 per month, which is a nice addition to my social security check. Many teachers work more hours than I do. Most are making $20.00 per hour. Each teacher sets their own hours, and the flexibility for designing one's own schedule is a very nice feature.
Last year, I was fortunate enough to travel to Beijing and meet one of my 9-year-old students. That was certainly an awesome experience for which I am so grateful. Never in a million years did I think I would be having such a wonderful time at my age.
Meeting My VIPKID Student in Beijing!
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
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© 2019 Shelley Horsley Cruz