Across the globe, ESL learners are supporting their language education with weekly conversation practice and planned business English meetings via Skype or other means of virtual communication. Filipino ESL teachers are cashing in on this trend because (1) we absorb American or British culture like a sponge; (2) we have a neutral accent; and (3) we are huge fans of English grammar. If you have been exploring jobs that you can do from home, then becoming an ESL online tutor might have crossed your mind. Before you jump in, would you like to know the pros and cons of the job? Then, hear me out.
The job of a home-based online ESL tutor seems easy at first glance. A daily routine looks like this: you turn on your PC, log on to Skype, build rapport with the person on the other line (i.e. starting a small talk), review grammar lessons, present a text, correct the learner’s errors, give feedback for improvement, and done. No sweat, right? In practice, however, this routine is much more complicated. You’re dealing with a human being after all.
But before we look at the downsides of teaching ESL from the comfort of your home, let’s make sure you pass the initial screening. It’s a good idea to test your Grammar knowledge by taking free exams online (e.g. General English exam, Cambridge English test, etc.) before you apply. Many ESL training institutes require professionals with TEFL certificates but some would be willing to consider those with a bachelor’s degree.
So, how do you get a job as home-based ESL teacher if you’re a Filipino?
Paid practice is what you are realistically aiming for when you are just starting out as an ESL teacher.
Get some hands-on experience. Most ESL teachers I know have started from the bottom: tutoring Korean or Japanese learners online or face to face for Php100/hour. South Korean ESL companies often pay the lowest while European companies often pay the highest hourly rate I know.
Once you have gained at least six months of experience teaching online, you will begin to understand what you need to take note of, what common mistakes or errors they usually make, how students like to be corrected, what topics usually engage a certain type of learner, etc. Your anxiety is lessened by this exposure. While you gather relevant experience working in an ESL company, do your best to learn as much as you can.
Here are other tips you can follow to get invited for an interview and ace the teaching demonstration:
- Spruce up your resume and write a professional cover letter. Have no work experience? The Balance has given five resume examples you can learn from (here). As for sample cover letters, the Monster.com and TheMuse.com have great resources.
- Before the phone interview, try to anticipate questions and prepare answers for them. The Muse has covered 31 of these common interview questions. Worth checking out here.
- Record your voice (using your phone) and listen to it. Do you speak clearly all the time? Or do you mumble when you get nervous? Lisa B. Marshall (The Public Speaker) has some great tips and exercises you can follow. We don’t like listening to our own voices, but you have to fight that internal cringe so you can evaluate your skills without bias. Beginners tend to overestimate their abilities so the best way to fight self-delusion is to get some proof.
- If you have no background in teaching ESL or any subject matter, use the PPP (Presentation, Practice, Production) model when doing the demo. Almost all interviews for ESL jobs require a teaching demonstration. SEE TEFL has a really good explanation of how PPP works. Check out what’s included in each stage here.
- Find ways to control your nerves because confidence (or the lack of it) is obvious on the phone.
- Read up about the cultural background of your learners. This will make the interaction interesting and pleasant.
- Want a bonus tip? Smile when you’re talking to someone on the phone. It makes you and the person on the other line feel good.
Basic Expectations of ESL Companies
Home-based ESL teachers often work remotely. Some ESL companies may have a physical address but many may not have an office near your area. So what is a work-from-home ESL teacher expected to do?
There are a few traits employers are looking for in a candidate. Here are some examples:
- Professionalism – Tardiness, lack of enthusiasm, and whining are all bad news. Imagine yourself in the shoes of your employers, would you like to keep someone with these unpleasant attitudes?
- Confidence – You run the show at every meeting. That means, you need to have a commanding presence. You take charge of the course of the meetings so be the boss that you truly want to be.
- Enthusiasm – Some learners come to your meetings tired, depressed, or discouraged. You need to be their sunshine. And your voice, if it’s not a video class, can say a lot about your mood. Set the tone of the meeting with a cheery voice. Just don’t overdo it, especially if you’re dealing with business professionals.
- Empathy – You won’t be able to hold this job longer than a month if you lack empathy. Granted, you are not their psychiatrist or guidance counselor but you will build a better rapport and a great relationship with the learner if you try to be a little more empathetic.
- Negotiation Skills – If you’re teaching adults, some might expect a similar format as a classroom setting but many would prefer a more casual atmosphere. Many adult ESL learners want to be an active part of their language acquisition so involve them when establishing rules for your meetings. Ask them how they want to be corrected, what they want to get out of the course, and what level of commitment they can offer.
On Technical Requirements
Let’s quickly touch upon the technical requirements of the job. The Philippines, unfortunately, has a reputation for unreliable internet connection. Don’t get disqualified because of your poor internet connection. If you have PLDT problems or issues with your Globe connection, fix them before you do the demo.
Many ESL jobs require some technical know-how for the reporting. The basic skills you need are typing, following instructions, and great attention to detail. Accuracy is a must when preparing reports for your meetings.
How to Keep Learning as a Home-based ESL Teacher
There’s a caveat to dedicating your life to teaching: you can’t stop learning.
If you stop learning, you become irrelevant, even indispensable. It’s also boring to know only the things that you knew yesterday or five years ago. To make your meetings and your life interesting, learn something new about the world, the English language or other languages every day.
You may choose to study your student’s mother tongue in order to communicate with them better. Listen to podcasts like Grammar Girl to find out how to explain things simply and how to give feedback and corrections properly. You can also check out Savvy Psychologist, Harvard Business Review, and other related podcasts to enrich your meetings. YouTube is another way to keep learning about your field of expertise. The list of free resources available online is endless. Stay insatiable!
Home-based Online ESL Companies that Accept Filipino ESL Tutors
51Talk claims to be leading global online English-education platform with 10,000+ home-based teachers around the world. The company mainly caters to children eager to learn English through 1-to-1 online virtual classrooms. It was established in China in 2011.
Acadsoc is another ESL company that caters to Chinese students. The pay structure looks like this: Basic Hourly Rate, Completion Bonus, Performance Bonus and other bonuses.
Bibo Global Opportunity Inc. is said to be a leading provider of online tutorial services in Japan. On its About page, the company mentioned that it has employed around 80 home-based ESL teachers from the Philippines since 2013.
Bizmates has a tagline that says it’s the no. 1 online business school in Japan. Click on the company’s about page and you will find plenty of Filipino Business English trainers. If you want to be one of them, you can send your application through their company website.
Rarejob is the top online English school in Japan, according to its homepage. Its mission is to encourage 10 million Japanese people to speak the world’s business language: English. Based on its website, the company was founded in 2007 and has employed over 10,000 Filipino ESL teachers since.
Recently, I became a part of two European companies: Babelia (Madrid) and Intercountry (France). Both language institutes started opening ESL teaching positions for qualified Filipino ESL trainers last year. Check mynimo.com and jobstreet.com for future ESL job posts from them.
I know that I haven’t enumerated all the disadvantages of teaching ESL online. That’s because I believe the perks of the job outweigh the pitfalls. Of course, it pays to know what you’re getting into (e.g. know the pay structure, reporting conventions, pay remittance schedule, etc.) to set your expectations right.
Now let me end this post on a high note by wishing you good luck in your job search.