How to Teach English on Skype

#teach #esl #teachonskype #skype #tesol

While I was job hunting I kept myself financially afloat by teaching English on Skype. The reason being that it’s free to do, super easy, and if you work hard at it, you can get quite a good amount of dosh from it! I even know people who have Skype teaching as their main source of income! So, how does it work?

Choose a website

If you go onto freelance websites you will find lots of companies who will offer to give you teaching work on Skype. I use Verbal Planet because it is completely free to use, and the fee to use the site comes from the student side. It’s not that much and not a strain on the student.

Setting your price and writing your profile

My advice would be to set a low price to start with. I began with $10 per 45 min lesson, which is actually ridiculously cheap. As you get more reviews coming in, visitors to your profile will see how much of a great teacher you are, and then you can slowly up your price.

Your profile is also very important. If you have TESOL qualifications, list them, along with any teaching experience. If you have no experience, then list things you are confident in (for example, would you like to teach literature?) Students also like to know what kind of teaching style you have. There are some people who claim to have “the secret to language learning” and teach in a very Michel Thomas/Rosetta Stone style. Others like to focus on grammar and will run through drills with their students.

What I like to do is work through online articles. This way, I can correct their pronunciation and maybe edit their accent a little (most language learners want to get rid of their accents!) Then I work through the vocabulary and end the lesson with a discussion. I find this covers so many areas in the short 45 minute lesson.

Wait…and wait…

This is the hardest part. You need to sit there and wait for the little fishies to bite. For me it took about 2 weeks (so make sure you have something to do in that time!) Once you get one student, and they write you reviews, they’ll all come flooding in and you won’t be able to fit them all in.

Free Trial Lesson

I find that by offering the first lesson for free, you attract more students, and also you get a nice relaxed first lesson where you don’t need to plan anything – you can just chat with the student and get to know their level and needs.

Gather resources

As I mentioned, I work mainly through online articles. It’s real life English (as opposed to textbook English) so it’s great for the students and, as long as you pick the right level of difficulty for the student, articles make for great virtual classroom material. I use news sites like The Guardian, as well as Time Magazine articles and also things from The Fast Company, depending on what kind of thing the student is into. BBC News is good for lower level students because they tend to have shorter posts with slightly easier vocabulary. American sites tend to use more colloquial language, so you can get some great phrases there to teach.

Be culturally aware

One thing you have to be careful of when you’re teaching is cultural awareness. Have some idea about the situation in the country the student is from, because you don’t want to cause them upset when they are trying to learn from you. I made a mistake of asking my Libyan student what she considered “happiness” to be, and this started her off talking about the war in her country. I don’t like to talk about politics and so on in my lessons unless the student asks it. My Russian student is very open minded, and likes to talk about lots of different things. We had a great conversation at the weekend about an article from The Guardian that showed photos of dorm rooms in a Russian university. I said that the article was like propaganda because it wanted to portray Russia as being cold and mean to suit political interests, and she talked a lot about the kinds of propaganda media they have there in Russia.

Have you ever taught – or have been taught – on Skype before?

About My Emotionally Abusive Relationship

SONY DSC

For years I have kept this post in the blogging bank section of my brain. I’ve always wanted to write about this experience but have never really thought that I had enough distance from it all to be able to post something like this. After my friend Kate posted something similar, I thought I’d take the leap and finally write this up.

I fell pretty much as soon as I met him. Though we were completely different, in age, looks, background, I found his charm irresistible. He was a person who had done things with his life, who had really interesting interests, who knew things I didn’t know and would tell me with great passion about everything. [Read more…]

But Let Me Tell You More About Germany!

reverse1And I thought I was doing so well.

One month after coming back to the UK after having lived in Germany and Japan for a total of 6 years, a reverse culture tick hit me.

In the garden of a pub, I was sat with a nice guy, trying to charm him as I tend to do with nice young men. We were trying to find how compatible we are by asking each other ridiculous questions. He asked me what my favourite fizzy drink was.

“Uhm, well I’m not sure of the drinks round here but in Germany there’s this cola…”

To which he mock rolled his eyes, and poked fun at me for starting most sentences with “in Germany…” [Read more…]

My Biggest Mistake in Japan

mistake

Recently I was in a Japanese restaurant with some Japanese friends. The conversation was flowing, but then I stopped dead when I heard a certain song. It was a song I’d long forgotten, a song that took me right back to the school I worked at while I was in Japan.

I worked at a junior high school, and in Japan, all JHS students should choose one club activity. It’s fairly hardcore, and the kids have to practise their chosen activity every day – even on weekends.

When I arrived at the school, I was told there was a baton twirling group. I couldn’t believe it! Of all the schools in the prefecture, I got the one that did twirling! From the age of 7 I was a majorette in a troupe called The Sapphires. We were the top in England…though I wasn’t that good myself. The winter months were spent planning our new routines, spring would be village fetes and carnivals to hone our moves then in the summer we’d travel all over the country to competitions – most of which we won.

So to have a team right there in Japan – I could show them all our training exercises and get them to be top of their game! They’d love me forever and we’d all live happily every after, right?

Wrong.

In Japan, it’s not the level of skill that you have that matters, it’s going through the motions. So, as long as you join the club and go to the meetings, it doesn’t actually matter if you put in any effort or not. You’re there as part of the team, not to be amazing at whatever it is yourself. Proving this cultural observation of mine, there are teachers assigned to each group, but the chance of them being an expert in that activity is slim, and they rarely turn up to train the kids. The kids train each other – meaning that bad habits are passed down from year group to year group.

So I turned up to their training session on the top floor of the school to find them sitting down, copying each others’ homework, playing with their phones. I asked to see their routines, and they were technically very very good. They’d been given some great tricks to learn – some of which I couldn’t replicate later at home when I tried… But their dances were set to slow music…love songs where the beats dragged on.

April came and the 3rd graders graduated and tiny little 1st graders joined the team. I saw an opportunity to start a new training regime and to oversee them practise so I could pick out any bad habits they were learning. The kids hated it. They hated me butting into their ‘downtime’, they hated me trying to change things, they hated the music I was suggesting for their dances. They just wanted to sit down with the team and chill out for a bit – even while the school’s famous sporting teams were showing dedication by training really hard outside the window.

I tried to show them videos of other Japanese baton groups who are just spectacular. I thought maybe they’d be inspired and want to be like them. They said that those girls were different. They were just country girls so they would never be as good as that. Then they went back to playing with their phones.

Around the time of me being exhausted trying to think of ways to make the girls be more passionate about baton twirling, some nasty bullying happened. A nasty 1st grader girl was picking on a slightly eccentric teammate. The bullied girl stopped coming to practice, and then stopped coming to school all together. I was fuming. As someone who suffered with bullying, I spotted the signs early on and told the Japanese teacher in charge. She said to leave it be, and the girls will sort themselves out. Of course, that didn’t happen and I felt rotten that a little girl was missing out on an education just because this wasn’t sorted out earlier, and more so that there was nothing at all being done about it. As a foreign teacher, I had no right to discipline the kids and I wasn’t even meant to be left in a room with students without a Japanese teacher there (though this rule was conveniently forgotten each time┬áthe Japanese teacher was sick and I was asked to lead classes alone).

The mistake that I made with my experience with the baton twirling group was that I, as a foreigner, can’t just come in and project onto the kids the things that I assume people strive for. In the west, we are taught to be the best that we can be. I am proud to say that I was in the top English majorette group, and I trained hard in my garden every night to try to be as good as the other girls. In Japan, they are taught to be a team. As long as they were together at the right place at the right time, even doing the least amount of work possible to qualify for that activity, then that’s OK.

I also can’t assume that education works the same all over the world. Bullying is dealt with seriously in the UK, but it isn’t in Japan. Me standing over a Japanese teacher tattle-telling on a spiteful girl won’t make Japan change its stance on how to deal with bullying. They are in charge of their own country’s children and I should treat this with an open mind, even when kids are staying home from school because of it.

I did a lot of good for the team, as well. After me prompting and then preparing them, they performed at the summer festival in the village, and were simply wonderful. Two of my favourite girls performed a duet and even pushed themselves to do much more difficult moves than they’d previously tried – which they aced on stage without a single baton dropped. They also performed at the local old peoples’ home, showing that just because they themselves chose the baton team to get out of much harder sports, they can still use their skills to make other people happy.

We expats go about the world and take with us ideas of how things should be, and what is right and wrong. It takes some failure to realise that you have to relax these jerk reactions in response to things that you think are wrong. And we can’t go into things like a bull in a china shop, as I did. This was my biggest mistake in Japan.

 

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