After my first interview with Caroline, she explained that she had recently moved back to Florida after her husband accepted a job in Miami. Caroline was going to be an adjunct professor and teach part-time online classes while also juggling the responsibilities of a stay-at-home mom to their two beautiful little girls.
Although Caroline hasn’t had the opportunity to teach any in-person classes yet, she remains optimistic that it will happen soon. In the meantime, whenever she has a moment to spare from being a full-time mom, Caroline teaches online classes with Education First. Education First is a company dedicated to connecting students to international education and adventures.
Here is what she had to say about her experiences teaching online and using her language teaching methods:
What is online teaching like compared to teaching in person?
To explain this, let me mention a bit about Education First (EF) and their online language platform I teach for called EnglishLive. EnglishLive lets students all around the world take self-paced English courses online. They can take these courses either on their own or in addition to taking in-person classes at an EF English school in their own country. Some parts of language learning can be done without interacting with others. However, at some point or another you really need to speak with one or more people.
This is where I and hundreds of other native English-speaking remote teachers come to play. We give students an opportunity to practice their listening and speaking skills with a native speaker wherever they have Internet. They can take these conversational ESL classes with other remote students on their level around the world/ or as an individual. I am in love with EnglishLive – it’s a brilliant program!
I’ve had to make adjustments on how I rely on some of my language teaching methods. I typically rely on the following: (1) non-verbal cues of students to figure out what they’re thinking, (2) my relationship with students to figure out what I can and can’t talk about, and (3) routines to help students know what to expect and how to focus. I rely on these areas while teaching online and in person, but how I determine them changes. Let me explain some ways I’ve adjusted my language teaching methods…
1. How to Get Around Missing Non-Verbal Communication
I mentioned how much I rely on non-verbal cues during in-person teaching. I do this to figure out what students are thinking and how I need to respond when teaching. For example, a student who isn’t making eye contact but is instead looking at their phone is either bored or stressed. They are attempting to avoid the situation. Similarly, a student who looks at me while speaking then looks away is simply thinking. So much communication is not what we say but what we observe. I can’t rely on non-verbal communication as much in the online classroom.
In most cases, I can’t see the student. I can’t tell when a student is bored, stressed, or needs a bit more time to process and speak. I’ve solved this problem by asking students directly how they are feeling about activities. I also delay my response a bit in case a student needs more time to speak.
2. How to Get Around Missing Relationships
Secondly, our teacher-student relationships and established routines with individuals direct our conversations and what we teach. We know if we can joke, if we need to be serious, what subjects to avoid, or what subjects to discuss based off our relationships with people. In online teaching, we rarely see the same students twice and lack these relationships. I’ve solved this by asking students as many questions about their lives during the first few minutes. This way, I can determine their interests/personalities and use the first few minutes of class to bring out my personality as much as possible.
3. How to Get Around Missing Routines
Finally, when we teach someone on a regular basis we rely on a routine. We do this to efficiently cover as much material as possible, meet all four modes of language, and direct the students’ attention to specific purposes. Since students don’t know my routine, I try to explain it during the first few minutes of class each time. I also try to have my routine displayed at the beginning of class and also on our shared notepad. This way, they know what to expect from class and what activities they will do for that day.
What are the challenges?
Technology. Sometimes there are issues with the Internet (usually on the students’ end) and you can’t hear students. Other times, students won’t show up for class and you won’t get paid for the full time. Also, online teaching makes about half as much as in-person teaching.
What are the benefits?
Lots! For one, the EF EnglishLive product offers conversational English classes 24/7. You can work as often or as little as you choose. I like teaching early weekend mornings and evenings while my girls sleep. Secondly, there’s little-to-no prep work required and very brief grading – you just teach! The curriculum is provided. Thirdly, I teach students from over 100 countries. Many are highly educated professionals, so they are always teaching me something new. Finally, as long as the top half of you (the half that’s visible on camera!) looks professional, you can teach in slippers and sweatpants with little makeup!
Why did you choose Education First as your online employer?
First of all, I enjoy how I can teach their curriculum however I want with my own teaching style. Other online platforms are stricter about the words you use or the language teaching methods you emphasize. Secondly, I am more experienced with teaching adults than children, which is what the majority of online platforms cater towards. Finally, I like how you can teach any hour of day or night due to the school’s presence over all time zones.
What is a typical session like (length, content, structure of class etc.)?
Typically, I introduce myself to the student(s) and try to learn their reasons for language learning, their level, personalities, and any room for improvement during class. After the introduction, I supply a mix of conversational questions, grammar exercises, and vocabulary exercises. These are all focused around a theme and a task within the theme. Students usually do some kind of wrap-up activity or summary at the end related to the final task goal. Group lessons last 40 minutes and private lessons can either last 20 minutes or 40 minutes. I then write a brief assessment of each student’s progress.
Stay tuned for additional interviews with Caroline to find out more of her online teaching topics, techniques, and other benefits for taking online classes.