Today we are joined by a successful TEFL Teacher to tell her story; the good, the bad and the ugly. Learn from her successes and mistakes.
Kate obtains a BA in Education from UCC, as well as a TEFL and CELTA qualification. She has worked as a teacher since 2013 where she worked in Malta, Istanbul & Germany for 5 years. Since then Kate has taught in 32 different countries and 4 different continents.
Hi Kate. Let’s start by telling us a little bit about how you got into the world of TEFL.
My story starts back in 2010 when I decided to study for a degree in Education. My initial plan was to continue into Primary school teaching. However, that changed in my final year of my degree. As part of our final result, we need to undertake a placement in an educational setting. I decided to do a Primary School placement in Malta (very lucky, I know!). After spending 3 months in this beautiful country, I decided that once I graduated I was going to do a TEFL certificate and teach abroad for a little longer. A little longer turned into 5 years, 4 countries and a lot of life experience.
In 2017, I took the leap into the world of online TEFL teaching. Although I loved my time in language schools across Europe, I wanted a job that allowed me to hop from country to country while still making an income. I spent a lot of time travelling, working and visiting countries like Fiji, Australia and Peru. Currently, I work as an online teacher at home in Ireland but this line of work allows me to live a life with a lot of flexibility choosing to jet off when I feel like it! Dreamy!
That’s quite an interesting turn of events! How did having a B.Ed. help you get to where you are today and would you advise everyone to do the same?
Even though I initially had different plans, studying a degree allowed me to know the pressure of deadlines, hard work and consistently. Even more so studying a degree in Education allowed me to learn about methodologies in Education that has furthered me along in my career.
Along with those benefits, having a degree allows you to get work permits to certain countries a lot easier if you plan to travel and work abroad. My advice to everyone reading this blog is to get a degree if you can! The interesting thing is that the degree can be in any discipline.
Can you tell us a bit more about your time abroad as an in-classroom teacher?
My time abroad has been very versatile – teaching in beach huts in Fiji, teaching in small local cafes in Istanbul to teaching in Language schools in Malta and Germany. Each county and each culture have different ways of teaching and each have different curriculums. Gaining experience in different countries and environments can be hugely beneficial.
Top tip: research the methods, curriculum and etiquette of the country you plan to work in to ensure you are fully prepared!
Can you tell us more about your time as an online teacher / digital nomad?
I’m super grateful to say that teaching online has allowed me to teach in 32 countries and I’m still counting! Teaching online has been my main source of income for a while now and it is total freedom!
When you consider teaching online, you have to consider what company you are going to work for. Salaries can vary company to company. What happens with the majority of them is that you build your way up to a bigger pay scale. The more lessons you have, your “rating” goes up and so on and so forth. This is why it is important to deliver the best lessons possible and you will be rewarded.
What age groups do you teach? How do you manage your schedule?
Through the years, I have taught all ages and all nationalities. At the moment, I am mainly focusing on teaching adults with a particular focus on Exam English (IELTS and TOEIC exams).
Funnily enough, even though I teach online, I am still very much a pen/paper person so I definitely need to write all my lessons down on a calendar so I can organise my time around this. However, most online companies you work for will have a schedule/calendar system that will generate emails to you a few hours in advance to remind you that you have a lesson coming up – Technology, eh? We don’t even have to remember.
What were some of the biggest challenges as a teacher so far?
Without a doubt, the biggest challenge for me in terms of online teaching is isolation.
Learning at home can be isolating. It’s no surprise that without the buzz of the classroom and the company of their friends, some learners might develop a strong sense of isolation, which in time diminishes their motivation to learn.
Especially in the last two years, students have missed a classroom environment when the alternative is being cooped up at home at a desk.
As teachers, many strategies we take for granted in our classrooms might be affected by remote learning. If we aren’t careful, group work, class discussion, and collaborative activity can become a distant thing in the future, along with the related levels of student engagement and rich learning that those experiences give.
Fortunately, there are a few things you can do to keep the momentum up when teaching online:
Use chats, discussion boards, or cloud collaboration tools to coordinate virtual group activities.
Consistently using video or audio recordings, show your face and let students hear your voice.
If you have the capacity and resources, schedule regular check-ins with students via email or chat. Pay special attention to individuals who are at risk of becoming disengaged.
Set aside some time to learn new communication methods and stay updated on all the latest trends of teaching online. Online TEFL Teacher Facebook groups are a fantastic place to start!
What are you focusing on these days?
After working with a couple of online companies over the last few years, I decided to start my own online teaching business. Check it out here – Everywhere English. Fortunately, I can now say that this is a full time gig. At the TEFL Institute, you can find several blogs and webinars that look at running your own online business that I’ve been involved with in the past through the YouTube channel.
Read more about how to become a freelance TEFL teacher here.
Indeed, a fact about the TEFL Industry is that every teacher’s story is different and that is the exciting thing about it all!