teach-english-in-spain

Teach English in Spain: My Experience and Some Quick Tips

I was sent a request to talk about my time teaching English in Spain.

And as I was feeling in a good mood this morning, I came straight the office and recorded the following.

I talk about why I moved to Spain, how I managed to get a job straight away, how I got private lessons, what I liked, what I didn’t, and some advice if you’re considering moving to Spain or abroad to teach.

Here it is:

We had a blast in Spain. It was perfect for that time of my life. I had no responsibilities and we really enjoyed ourselves.

I taught for a couple of language schools. Firstly, I gave business English lessons in shipyards in Bilbao. Then, I taught in a language school in Valencia. I also gave private lessons in both cities during this time. Here is a post I wrote on that.

We loved the Spanish culture and made a lot of good friends. I had a lot of time during the day to do whatever I wanted to do. We went out on day trips and did a lot of exploring.

If you’re thinking about moving to Spain to teach English, here are some quick tips:

  • Get a teaching certificate (language schools want to see this)
  • Call around early to try and land a job (or interview) before going
  • Know that you’re not going to earn that much
  • Check out this program  if you’re from America
  • teach private lessons to earn more money
  • embed yourself as much as possible
  • choose a city that suits you

If you have any questions about teaching in Spain, leave them below. Also, please share your experiences too.

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Teach English Online: 16 Powerful Tips to Help You Earn a Living Doing What You Love

Teach English Online Tips

Thanks for stopping by!

Teaching English online independently is a way for you to earn more, teach the way you want to teach, and work from anywhere in the world.

You can choose your schedule, target learners who you love working with, and scale your business over the long-term.

Sounds great, right?

The problem is this: without online marketing know-how, it will be difficult for you to fill your schedule. You’re also going to need a plan of action to ensure that you make progress with this over the long-term.

This post will give you 16 powerful tips to help you get this right.

And if you are serious about doing this, take my free video training (sign up at the bottom of the page).

Let’s dig in…

1: Get clear on your teaching niche and how you teach

To teach English online successfully, you will need to do think about your teaching niche.

Some teachers are super-specific here. For example, you can teach IELTS speaking preparation to learners from Brazil through your own method.

Others offer general lessons to anyone who wants them. Either way, you’ll need to gain clarity on what your niche is.

Your teaching niche includes the following:

  1. what you teach
  2. how you teach
  3. who you teach

The clearer you are with this, the better you’ll be able to resonate with learners. You’ll be able to tell specific learners, with confidence, that you are the teacher for them.

You might not get full clarity straight off the bat. In fact, this will be an ever-evolving process. But consciously going through this – thinking about your current skills, what you enjoy, and who you would like to work with – will lead you in the right direction.

Don’t let this stage stop you from getting started. Get teaching as soon as you can (more on this later).

Take a look at this for an example of a teacher who got this right.

2: Create a website that is set up for conversions

teach-english-online-post-website-example

My website is at the center of everything I do

To sign online students up for your lessons, you’re going to need a website.

Most teachers set their website up incorrectly. They set them up for browsing, not for conversions. They have all this information for people to read, but there is no clear action to take. Learners land on their site, take a look around, and then leave, never to return again.

When creating your site, set it up for conversions. Know what action you want your learners to take and convince them to take it.

The action you choose depends on your current goals. But it usually means one of two things:

  1. downloading something for free
  2. signing up for a trial lesson.

Both of these allow you to follow-up with anyone who takes action and you can…

3: Send learners through a funnel to build trust and desire

What’s a funnel?

Let’s look at an example:

I make lessons on my YouTube channel for intermediate English speakers. At the end of each lesson, I include a call to action (CTA).

My CTA is a book that I give away for free. The learner enters their name and email address and I send them my book.

From there, I send further emails that give them useful lessons. I also build desire for what I offer (in the past, one-to-one lessons – these days, it’s my audiobook and online course).

I then present my offer and convince learners to sign up.

Why is this important?

Because if you send learners you don’t know you yet straight to your offer, you conversion rate will be very low.

Learners take lessons with teachers that they know, like, and trust. And giving away free content and following up through email is the best way to reach that stage with your learner.

This means you will need to…

4: Get an email list from day one

Email marketing is the best way to sell your lessons and build an audience over the long-term.

I use email in two main ways:

  1. To send specific subscribers through a welcoming / sales funnel (as we just learned)
  2. To send content and product launches to my subscribers

I won’t go into the finer details of why this is all important here, but know this: 95% of sales come from English learners who are on my email list.

Here is how to get started with email.

5: Use social media in the right way

Social media has changed everything. You already know that.

But for independent teachers, it means that we reach English learners through content that we create. For free.

Social media can be overwhelming. What’s more, online platforms are noisy places. That’s why, when we’re clear on our niche, we can cut through the noise and resonate with the type of learners we want to teach.

Additionally, use sites that you enjoy using. There is no need to join them all. In fact, if you do, then you’ll spread yourself too thin.

Finally, make content that is natural to the platform. Go to minute 3:05 in the video below to learn what this means:

6: Focus on what you do best and what you enjoy

When building an online English teaching business, you might get overwhelmed with all the different ways you can market your lessons.

For example, you’ll hear people say that you need to blog, start a podcast, join every social media channel, make videos for YouTube etc.

You don’t.

Go with what you enjoy doing and focus on that right now. For example, I have a Twitter account, but I never use it. If I spent time using it, it would work for me. But I prefer to spend my time making videos and writing blog posts.

7: Connect with your learners

creating-videos-teaching-english-online

Even if it’s just one, get a video on your site

Going back to your website, make a connection with your learners.

The best way to do this is through video. Your potential students want to know who you and see you in action.

It doesn’t have to be long. It doesn’t have to be perfect. Just get something up there. A simple one-minute welcome video on your homepage can make a huge difference.

If you’re apprehensive about putting yourself out there, read this.

And if you want to learn how to create videos read this.

8: Get teaching as soon as possible

Maybe you have years of teaching experience. Maybe you have never taught before.

Either way, get teaching online as soon as possible. Make this a priority.

The earlier you get started, the better. A lot of learners are looking for conversational lessons and error feedback. This is something you can offer right now. And if you decide to take formal training, you’ll have context for the theory.

If you’re an established English teacher, get used to teaching one-to-one online using the tools available. Ask a current student if they want to jump online with you and take things from there.

9: Always be improving

This goes for teaching and marketing.

With teaching, take relevant courses, read blogs, read books, watch videos, get feedback from your learners and other students, and review your own lessons.

With the business side of things, learn how to market your online lessons, take action, and then refine.

A benefit of digital marketing is that you get constant feedback on what works and what doesn’t. For example, if you advertise on Facebook or Google, it tells you how many people clicked on your ad and, if you set it up correctly, how many people converted.

If you don’t get the results you want at the first time of asking, make changes. For example, ask yourself how you can improve your ad headline, image, text etc., how you can the page people go to when they click the ad, and how you can improve the sales process.

Don’t say, “This doesn’t work.” Say, “What do I need to change to make this work?”

10: Set a deadline for when you want to do this full-time

deadline-picture-for-teach-online

Set goals with deadlines

If you’re serious about moving online, set a deadline.

Say, “Six months from today, I will be teaching English full-time online.”

Without a deadline, you will keep putting things off. You won’t make it a priority in your life. Don’t do this someday – have a specific date in mind.

With this date, you can then set yourself mini-deadlines. These might include:

11: Know that you will need to hustle to get learners at first

Earlier, you learned that learners click the link at the end of my YouTube video to download my book. From there, they go through a specific sales process.

This all happens on autopilot.

Thousands of learners watch my videos every day. Hundreds download my book each week. But it took me a while to get to this stage.

Making videos on YouTube is a great example of what I call a long-term marketing method. You won’t get results in the first few weeks or maybe months, but once things start gaining momentum, you will attract learners passively over time.

At the beginning, however, you will need to hustle to get learners.

Get that email list set up and then:

  • help learners on a one-to-one basis in groups on social media and include a CTA
  • get in touch with old students or anyone you know who would benefit from your lessons
  • post on relevant websites offering your services

This is just the tip of the iceberg. But know that you will have to work at this to make it effective.

12: Don’t worry about getting your pricing right straight away

pricing-online-lessons-teaching

Don’t get stuck when pricing your lessons

“How much should I charge for my lessons?”

Many teachers get stuck here. But let me take the pressure away…

… you can be flexible with your pricing. What I mean by this is that you can:

  • increase your prices
  • offer different prices for different learners
  • offer discounts

In 2014, I doubled the price of lessons for new students. I had a high demand for lessons at the time and the price increase didn’t affect my schedule. In fact, charging higher prices is a way to attract learners who buy based on value rather than cost.

If you are flexible with your pricing, don’t include numbers on your website.

As for what type of salary you can expect from teaching English online, this varies greatly. But know that you can scale this to wherever you want to take it (more on this soon).

13: Don’t worry about bad apples

A big concern for new online teachers is not getting paid for their lessons – that a learner will take a lesson and then disappear without paying.

Always ask for payment up front and explain to your learner that their lesson is only reserved once you receive payment.

You’ll get learners that request a trial and don’t show. And learners who come to your trial lesson without any intention of paying for future lessons.

This makes you feel like you’ve been taken advantage of. Here is what to do:

  • see if there is anything that you can learn from this experience and make relevant changes
  • forget about it and concentrate on the bigger picture

Certain learners will try and get as much free help as possible. How you respond to this depends on you. I talk more about free vs paid lessons here.

The key is to not let it affect you.

Here is a video that talks about this in-depth:

14: Make connections

In 2013, I made it a priority to connect with as many teachers as I could.

When I was starting out, I saw other online teachers as competition. But one day, I got on Skype with a fellow teacher and we talked about what was working for us and what we were struggling with. From then, I made it a priority to connect with as many teachers as I could.

Connecting with other teachers helps you in several ways:

  • you can learn from others and get support from those who have been there and done it
  • it helps online teaching feel less isolating
  • you get your name out there and your content shared widely

There are countless groups on Facebook to join. Just make relevant searches, join them, and get involved.

15. Save time by using ready-made lesson plans (and get organized!)

A common question I receive is this, “What lessons plans can I use in my online lessons?”

What resources you use depends on your niche. If you’re teaching IELTS preparation for example, then you’ll need materials specific to this.

For general conversational lessons, there is so much out there. For example, Film English has lesson plans based on short films. Breaking News English has in-depth resources based on latest news. Do a search for ESL Ted Talks and you’ll find countless plans. And if you want ready-made lessons that are interactive, check out Off2Class.

Over time, you’ll build up your own library of resources. Use Evernote to help you organize them.

16. Know that there are many ways to earn

Teaching English online isn’t just about one-to-one lessons. You can also:

Over the long-term, most teachers look for ways to earn more of a passive income. This has been my experience too.

It’s worth thinking about what you want to create over the long-term so that you can the necessary steps now to achieve those goals.

BONUS: Take action and get started as early as possible

Earlier, we talked about the different ways to make this transition.

No matter when you want to make this your full-time thing, start today.

Look at your goals (and your deadline for achieving this!) and then be smart about what you should focus on right now. For example, if you want to build for the future, start growing a following by email and social media.

Put stuff out there, learn, and make changes.

Online teaching has changed my life. I am in control of how I teach, when I teach, where I teach, and my future earnings.

Sign up below to learn how you can do this too.

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Reasons Students Dump Their Teachers

The Three Biggest Reasons Students Dump Their Teachers

Reasons Students Dump Their Teachers

The following is a guest post by Ryan Viguerie. Take it away Ryan…

“So why did you choose me?”

Every student who walks through my door for the first time hears this question.

I’ve been a private teacher for about eight years so I’ve heard a lot of different reasons.

Usually – not always, but usually – it’s because of a problem with their previous teacher.

You see, I’m not the cheapest teacher in Prague.

Which also means I’m usually not their first choice.

But when cheaper doesn’t work out, they come to me, and then I hear their complaints.

And these are the biggest – the ones I hear over and over again.

Learn from other teachers’ mistakes, make your students happy, and keep the cash rolling in.

COMPLAINT #1 – “We just talked”

Students tell me all the time, “I just need to talk more.”

But then they complain about their former teacher and say, “All we did was talk.”

What’s going on?

I think the problem is what they want to do is talk, but what they want to pay for is lessons.

It probably feels weird to describe the highlights of last night’s hockey match, evaluate the physical merits of the new secretary, complain about your lazy kids…and then hand over some cash for what felt like an hour chatting with a friend.

SOLUTION: Show Them The Plan

Before the student has bought any lessons, and we’re talking and having coffee for the first time, I pull out a piece of paper that says “Lesson Structure.”

I explain that this is the structure I follow in my lessons.

It’s nothing fancy or groundbreaking, but it communicates right away “I have a plan. I know what I’m doing. You’re paying for more than just conversation.”

Here’s what it looks like. Feel free to rip it off or adapt it to your style.

Minutes

1-5 warm up – easy conversation

1-5 review vocabulary from previous lessons

30-40 discuss article/video/topic of the day

5-10 record and discuss new vocab

1-3 plan for the next lesson

It’s a balance.

You’ve got to give them what they want, but wrap it in something they feel good paying for.

COMPLAINT #2 – DEAD GRANDMOTHERS

One of my students likes to tell the story of a former teacher who often cancelled lessons at the last minute.

After a while, the teacher began to run out of reasons, so he started to use the dead grandmother excuse.

Then he started to run out of grandmothers. But that didn’t stop him, he just kept going…and so did the dead grandmothers.

Other variations of this guy are the teacher who –

  • Is chronically late
  • Cancels often
  • Shows up hung over
  • Walks into a high-priced law firm wearing ripped jeans and dirty sneakers
  • Sits down and asks, “So what do you want to do today?”
  • Hits on his female students and makes them feel uncomfortable

SOLUTION 1 – Upgrade Your Wardrobe

If you look like a teacher…if you look successful…if you look like you’ve got your life together…it’ll carry a lot of weight.

Be a disheveled poet, rocker, cool guy in your free time. But when it comes time to pay the bills, leave the house in your ironed shirt and expensive shoes.

SOLUTION 2 – Teach From A Base

Being two minutes late is one of my bad habits.

But that suddenly came to a stop when I started teaching from my apartment.

I discovered it’s incredibly hard to be late when you’re already there.

But if you live in a haunted house or your pet iguana doesn’t like meeting new people, you could set up base in a coffee shop. Get an account at calendly.com and mark the same chunks of time every week as ‘available.’ 

COMPLAINT #3: “Neverending Story”

For some reason, my Czech students have taken the title from this 80s fantasy movie (and incredibly cheesy music video) to describe their main frustration with English: slow or no progress.

Here’s a better analogy from “How To Learn A Foreign Language” by Paul Pimsleur:

“Learning a foreign language is like filling a bucket from a slow-running tap. If you keep looking in to see if it is full, you grow more and more impatient. You may finally kick it over and walk away. But if the bucket has notches that show when it is one-quarter full, one-third full, and so on, then you can take pleasure in watching the water rise from notch to notch. The filling time is the same, but the psychological effect is different.”

So how do you put notches on the English bucket?

SOLUTION – A Vocab Notebook

As soon as a student agrees to buy one of my lesson packages, I tell him, “Your first homework assignment is to buy a notebook.”

Then every lesson I make him write down the new words.

Soon he’ll have pages and pages of visible proof of what he didn’t know before he met me.

About Ryan

Ryan is from the US but has lived in Prague since 2004.

In addition to teaching, he also runs the website Teacher-Creature.com

If you think there’s a need for a similar site in your city and if you’d like to be one of the first teachers on the site, you can write Ryan at office@teacher-creature.com.

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Rob Howard Guest Post

How to Deal with Learners who Want Everything for Free

The following is a guest post from Rob Howard. Take it away, Rob…

How many of you have ever been introduced as an English teacher at a party and the first response is “Can you help me?” This is nothing new. Doctors are always asked to look at a strange lump. Lawyers are always asked for free advice. Nothing new here. But now, you have moved to or are planning to move online. You ain’t seen nothing yet.

As soon as you start advertising, if you are lucky enough to get visible amongst the myriad of online English teachers, you will open the floodgates to every Tom, Dick and Harry that has an internet connection looking for something for free. My advice, get ready for it.

The Questions

Everybody wants something for free. You would not believe the numbers of people out there that think we are saints and are just here on this Earth to provide free services to them because they have taken the time to contact you. I am messaged on Facebook, contacted through SKYPE, asked through LinkedIn, get emails through my website and at least once per month, I get a phone call through WhatsApp, Facebook or SKYPE. Here are some of the questions I get:

“How is my English?”

“Can you tell me what my level is?”

“Is this right?”

“What does this word mean?”

“How do you translate this word to English?”

“Can you translate this paragraph for me?”

“Will you write my CV for me?”

“Which one of these five sentences is the best and why?”

“Can you write my essay so I can win this contest?”

“Can you tell me how to do well on the TOEFL/IELTS exam?”

“Can you rewrite my Master’s thesis for me?”

“I know you will help me improve by talking with me all the time.”

“Will you just practice with me a little every day?”

“It will only take you a minute.”

“Can you explain the difference between the present perfect and the past perfect?”

“Can you give me hints to get more fluent?”

“Can you give me materials to get better?”

“Can you send me all the grammar differences between British and American English for my Master’s thesis?”

“But you’re a teacher!”

The last is my favorite. I don’t remember taking some type of “Hippocratic oath” stating that it is my duty as a teacher to let no student go untaught… for free. But they think we have. I don’t know of any other profession where people are so adamant about their right to call us at 3:00 am to ask for help. Well, one other. I was married to a doctor. But at least those calls came from paying patients.

How will you respond to this without making an enemy? Remember, what social networking has given you, social networking can easily take away. These people are your market. They are your “likes”, your “sharers” and your “commenters”. The best marketing is word of mouth, or in this case, word of Facebook. You need them. Maybe more than they need you.

The Response

There are so many to choose from and so many you want to say. Here is where your inner conscience needs to kick in. Of course, there is “no.” Plain, simple, to the point. Good luck making friends with that one. There is “I’m too busy.” They keep coming back. You can try “I don’t work for free.” They will whine about how they are from the third world and support a family and can’t afford to pay. Then I whine and say so am I (I’m currently in Brazil) and tell them that I work to support my family too so I can’t work for free. This starts a debate that almost never ends, or ends well.

My favorite, which I used at 3:00 am after being awoken by a sweet girl from the Far East, “Ok, while I’m doing that, you can come over and clean my house for free as I can’t afford a maid.” She unfriended me. I still feel badly about that, but it worked and yes, it felt good at the time.

The Solution

The best solution of all? I started a Facebook group, “ENGLISH STUDENTS.” It’s a place for students to post questions and for teachers to post their blogs and tips and sometimes, answers. When people ask for help, I refer them there. They join, they like, they share, they comment, they help each other and best of all, they don’t ask again. Some have since sent me paying customers.

Many have helped spread the word. An ex-student of mine in the group started a WhatsApp group on the side so they could talk and practice with each other. Problem solved. This is by far the most logical, sane and productive solution. Feel free to send needy students to the group.

Social Responsibility

Now I’m not completely heartless. I try to always have one or two students that I teach for free. The two students I am currently working with don’t have the means and are really working hard to improve their lives. I am proud to be a small part of that. Some of my past free students have gone on to get jobs as a result of their English. One was hired at an international oil company as a receptionist, another at the second largest TV network in Brazil as a producer. Others have received promotions due to their ability to interact with foreign clients.

This is how I give back and I wholeheartedly recommend that every teacher in the world take on at least one student for free. I do feel that it is our duty as humans to give back to society, even in some small way, and it warms the heart to be a part of someone else’s success.

It makes saying “No” that much sweeter too.

__________________________________________________________________

Rob Howard is the owner of Online Language Center, a live online course for C1/C2 level students.  He is a teacher, tutor, trainer, material designer and writer for ESL/EFL. He is also a consultant and has been a frequent speaker internationally regarding online retention as well as using technology in and out of the classroom. He is also the founder of EFLtalks utilizing social media to build a worldwide PLN for new and future language teachers.

You can reach Rob at rob@onlinelanguagecenter.com

Please join us on Facebook at ENGLISH STUDENTS

For more free advice from other education professionals, including Jack, check out EFLtalks.com.

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Three Mistakes I Made When I Started Teaching Online

When I first started teaching online, I made a lot of mistakes.

Luckily, I have learned from them.

And I want you to learn from them too. So, watch the video below and learn which mistakes you should avoid and what to do instead.

Watch in HD!

Not Connecting with other Teachers

I was a lone-wolf in the beginning.

When I saw other teachers doing the same thing as I was, I felt anxious. “What if my students see this teacher? They’ll leave me.”

However, we are all unique.

What you can offer is different to what any other teacher can offer.

Different learners connect with different teachers.

And, when we come together and share resources, our stories, our struggles etc., then we – us online teachers – can grow together.

Not Putting Yourself Out There

Moving online can be scary.

You need to put yourself out there. Use images. Promote your lessons.

This was daunting for me at first. I know it’s daunting for other teachers too.

I have talked about this before here.

But it’s something we need to do in order to connect with learners and convince them that we can help.

The good news is this: you can take baby steps…

The first picture on my site didn’t really show my face. I don’t think I even told people my last name. But I realized that it wasn’t that bad and started to do new things.

You will constantly be pushing yourself as an online teacher. And every time you do this, you’ll find that it’s not that uncomfortable to leave your comfort zone.

Not Starting an Email List Sooner

Email is powerful.

I won’t go over the reasons why you should start an email list again. I’ve done that here.

Just promise me that you will make this a priority.

Here is how to set one up.

Over to You

Are you making the above mistakes? What mistakes did you make when you first started?

Let me know if the comment section below.

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Advantages and Challenges Teaching Online

The Advantages and Challenges of Teaching Online

The following is a guest post by Elena Mutonono. You can find out more about Elena at the bottom of the post. Take it away Elena…

This weekend my almost-three-year-old son had his first language lesson … online. My son is growing up bilingual in a largely monolingual country. He goes to an American pre-school, talks to the majority of our friends in English, knows the entire English alphabet already and is learning to read… in English.

Since my mother tongue is Russian, I decided early on that I would talk to him in Russian only so he becomes fluent in both languages. As he is getting older though I’m realizing the challenge of keeping him bilingual and finding a face-to-face professional teacher who wouldn’t mind driving across the town to work with him for 30 minutes.

That prompted me to begin looking online. Being an online teacher myself I realize how insanely hard it is to teach teenagers online, not to mention kids! But I decided to send out my request to several teachers, and received two brave positive responses. We ended up going with one of them.

The lesson turned out to be so much more than I expected: my son was engaged, enjoyed meeting a new teacher and talking to him in Russian, showed all of his toys to him and even learned some letters of the Russian alphabet. Obviously, there were a number of limitations to such an online teaching experience, especially for a two-year-old, but in my case there was no other choice. The teacher did an excellent job, and he is definitely hired.

Diving into the Online Teaching Environment

I began teaching online in 2008 when a good friend from my hometown (about 70 km away) asked me to help her with pronunciation and fluency training. It was a similar situation where we had no other choice. I couldn’t be driving to my hometown every week, nor could she come all the way to see me for lessons.

So she installed skype, and we thought we’d give it a try. It worked. She began learning online and really enjoying the additional bonuses of such format: she was saving a lot of time and could have her lessons directly at her work place at the end of her working day. 

After a few years, I was laid off, and so again I had no other choice but to begin growing my online clientele. At the time I only knew one-to-one teaching via skype, but I would soon learn many more formats and become an expert in the business aspect of online teaching – something I’d never imagined myself doing.

The Similarities with Face-To-Face Teaching

Teaching may take different formats, but the essence of it still remains the same. According to the dictionary (dictionary.com), teaching means imparting knowledge or skill, or causing somebody to develop a set of skills or knowledge.

No matter where, what, who and how we teach, our goal is never the method for the sake of the method, it’s always imparting the knowledge and developing skills using whatever method appropriate for a specific age group and available at a specific time.

As experienced teachers, we know that there is a difference between teaching a child, a teenager, a College student, an adult or a senior. There are challenges and there are advantages. And certainly there is our own preference factor. But no matter how, our intention is always on helping the student achieve his/her results.

Online Teaching: Most Common Fears

When teachers consider switching to working online, there’s a series of questions that they keep asking themselves, and those questions are usually prompted by, what we will call, the fears of the unknown:

What if my Internet is down?

This certainly does happen, but it doesn’t make online teaching less reliable that way. Think of the times when you taught regular classes and you weren’t feeling too well, so you had to call in sick for fear of contaminating disease. When you teach online minor colds or temporary sickness/disability will not always keep you away from the classroom. Interestingly, colds happen more often than the Internet/power outages.

What if Skype doesn’t work?

In my 5 years of online teaching I only remember 3 epic skype outages. The first two made me panic. The last one was a breeze because by then I had a back-up plan (Google Hangouts) and was able to use it quite successfully.

What if a Student misses his/her class?

There are different ways of getting in touch with your students, and with the rise of portable devices, and phone-based internet services, my students can send me a quick text message if they are stuck in traffic or if there’s an emergency. Also, after a few months of teaching I knew I had to come up with specific terms and conditions so students wouldn’t “get used” to canceling their lessons all the time.

Today when a student signs up with me, he/she gets a document with terms and conditions, and he has to abide by them, and that means that no skipping-lesson excuse except for emergencies listed in the contract is considered valid. So the so-called no-shows are very rare.

How can I talk to a student whose mother tongue is different from the target language?

This one may sound like it’s tricky, but it isn’t for seasoned language teachers. If you know the mother tongue of your students you’ll be able to teach them from the beginner level. If not, you’ll just be there to help them develop their fluency.

Do I use ____________ (camera/headphones/microphone/iPad/iPhone, etc.)?

You can use all of the above, or very few of the above (just a headset and your computer). It depends on what you’re comfortable with and what your student can work with.

How do I teach a lesson?

The most common mistake is to think that once you begin your online teaching career there’s a set of many tools that you will need to learn how to use. It is true that over time your knowledge will most likely go beyond the use of Skype and Google, but you don’t need to know it all before you start.

My advice to beginning online teachers is to be as simple as you can: call via skype, use the chat window as your board and turn on the camera if you want your student to see the props that you have put together for the class. You can email the worksheets and the homework assignment prior to the lesson and use the relevant tools to make this process a simple one.

Most of these fear-based questions have to do with the technicalities, but they have nothing to do with the teaching itself. If you know how to teach, all you need to do is learn a bit about the basic online tools available for online teaching, and begin using them.

In What Ways is Online Teaching Superior to Teaching Face-to-Face?

Though there are some limitations to the online learning environment, I can think of at least 5 ways in which online language learning, for instance, can be superior to a classroom lesson. Naturally I’m biased, but I think that a lot of teachers are so put off by the fears and the slight learning curve involved that they forget about the generous benefits of online teaching.

Greater focus on listening comprehension skills. If you’re an online language teacher, working online with video camera off will prompt your students to be more alert and attentive, and thus develop their listening skills much faster than in a traditional classroom environment where listening is aided by other types of communication.

Greater focus on learning. In a traditional classroom, there are lots of distractions that may take away your student’s attention and then will take time to bring it back. It’s more difficult to do so online when a student is working on a task, talking or writing.

Wider range of materials, easily accessible on all devices. Having taught online for 5 years, I find traditional classroom somewhat limiting when it comes to retrieving information and accessing a wider range of assignments within seconds. There are plenty of resources on the internet, and that makes your materials more versatile and customized.

Better quality student support. Being online means you are more available than in the classroom and/or during your office hours. You will obviously have to develop some guidelines so you’re not writing/responding to emails non-stop, but better support means better results.

The time saving and comfort factor. There is no commuting involved into online teaching. It’s comfortable, convenient and easy for everybody involved. That increases the happiness factor, which makes the environment more conducive to teaching and learning.

The Challenges of Online Teaching

There are several big challenges to online teaching as well, but it doesn’t mean that they cannot be overcome. With the right training and basic marketing skills, you will be able to tackle those as well. Here are just the top two that I mostly write about when I participate in forums.

  • Finding and retaining new students.
  • Developing your own brand.

One of the best answers to these two issues is writing content. Content will bring people to your website, content will answer your readers’ questions, and content will prompt them to book your services rather than anybody else’s. Creating content takes time and practice, but as you keep looking and trying different means of conveying your unique message, you will find your voice that will speak and win the heart of your future customers.

I hope that this article has inspired you to test out the waters of online teaching and enjoy the pleasure that comes when you move your expertise beyond the walls of a traditional classroom and impact the lives of people all over the world.

More about Elena:

Elena Mutonono transforms traditional teachers into online teacherpreneurs. Visit www.elenamutonono.com for details and deals.

Want to become an independent teacher who is in control of their income and their teaching? Join TEOC today!

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Two Sigmas Review - Platform for Teaching Online

Two Sigmas: a Platform for Online Teachers

A few months back, I interviewed Teacher Diane.

It turned out to be one of the most popular interviews that I have done on this blog.

We have kept in touch since and a few weeks ago, she sent me information about a new platform she is using called Two Sigmas. Diane connected me with Alice from Two Sigmas and I tried the platform out.

The video below goes through why you might consider it for your online lessons.

A Review of Two Sigmas and How to Use It

To open a new lesson, just click this link.

You will be taken to a new room automatically. You can use this same link with your student moving forward.

You will see a chat box and your webcam. You can resize these boxes and move them around your screen.

The platform is all about pages. Click the box in the bottom left-hand corner to create a new page. From here, you can add text, images, pdfs, and use other whiteboard applications.

At the time of recording, there wasn’t an option to embed video or to share a screen. I have been told that they are working on this.

When I connected with Alice from Two Sigmas, the connection was fantastic. Very clear and no lag.

Over to You

Two Sigmas is a great alternative to other platforms available.

I particularly like it for its simplicity and because it keeps everything you have done with your student for the next lesson.

What do you think of the platform?

Try it out and let me know how it goes in the comment section below.

Here are other platforms that I have reviewed:

Skype
Google Hangouts
Zoom

Leave comments below. Thanks for reading.

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Build Teaching Business on the Side

How to Transition into Online Teaching while Working a Full-Time Job

Build Teaching Business on the Side

Each month, I speak to dozens of teachers about making the transition into online teaching.

While some are able to work full-time on their new business, others have other things – jobs, young children, university, travel etc. – that get in the way.

I often get asked questions like, “Should I quit my job and just go for it?”

In most situations, I don’t recommend doing this. I believe the better option is to build your online teaching business on the side and then make the transition when the time is right.

Before I talk about how to do this, I want to start with a story.

How I Transitioned into Online Teaching

When I was in Bilbao, I created a website called Inglés Bilbao. Although I was teaching in a language school at the time, I wanted to get some private students to earn extra money on the side.

I stuck up fliers throughout the city, posted on classified websites, and invested about $50 in Google Adwords.

After a few weeks, I had a group class of three (earning $50 an hour), and 3-4 other private students ($32 an hour – but usually 90-minute lessons).

As the year progressed, my website started to show up in the rankings and I got more and more requests. I received plenty of referrals, too. If we had stayed in Bilbao, I would have gone full-time with this. But we moved to Valencia and I started the process again.

In Valencia, I added a page for Skype lessons and expanded my reach to other cities in Spain and Italy.

To finish the story: I realized the potential for online lessons and started a new site that wasn’t restricted to Valencia. I built this up while I was living in Spain and then started full-time when my wife and I moved to the U.S.

I managed to build these sites and build up my online presence while working a regular teaching job.

And you can do this too.

How to Transition into Online Teaching

Hopefully, my story highlights that there are ways to get into online teaching without having to quit what you’re doing now.

Although there will be situations where ‘just going for it’ might be the best approach, I feel that for most cases, building something on the side and transitioning when the time is right is the safest option.

Here are some tips to make this process work for you:

Set a Date When You Want to Make the Transition

When I knew I was going leave Spain and move to the U.S., I had a specific goal (20 hours of online teaching) with a specific deadline (January 2011).

If you have something going on at the moment, it can be very easy to have a ‘someday’ mentality and keep putting things back..

For example, after reaching my initial goal, I had plans to expand my online business (products, courses etc.) but I kept putting this off.

It wasn’t until I started setting deadlines again for my specific goals that I actually made progress.

Write down when you want to make the transition and set a deadline for this. Create breakthrough goals too. This helps you break things down so that you can build momentum.

Use Project Management Software

Getting things down on paper (yes, I know, software isn’t technically paper!) takes the pressure off trying to rely what’s in your head.

I use Asana for every new project I embark upon. To give you an example, I’m writing a free ebook for English learners that will fit into my email responder. There is a lot to do here. However, all the tasks, ideas, files etc. are organized inside this app.

I highly recommend using Asana or a similar app to help you stay organized and on top of things. After going through your plan of action, create separate projects in your software and give deadlines for each one.

Build Your Online Presence and Your Audience

You will need an online presence if you teach online. The earlier you start building this, the better.

Don’t get overwhelmed with having to create a Facebook page, YouTube channel, Instagram account etc. right from the get-go. Instead focus on the basics: get a website/web page up there, a business email account (this will come with your hosting), and an email marketing account.

Start bringing people onto your site and into your audience and write for this audience on a consistent basis through email and/or a blog post.

What you write about will ultimately come down to the type of English you want to teach and who you want to target. Understand the problems your audience has and be valuable by solving these problems.

Get Teaching

Write down times during the week when you are available to take lessons. Then, get teaching.

You will learn so much from giving lessons online, even if it’s only one hour per week.

It makes everything real. It helps you practice what to say in a trial lesson. It will make you a better online teacher.

Use the methods that I used in Spain (I go into much more depth with this inside TEOC) and bring in your first learners as soon as possible.

Find Time to Work on This

A job, partner, kids, friends, hobbies, TV, sports… there is a lot going on in our lives that make it hard to work on building your business.

That is why I recommend taking a look at your schedule to find slots during the week that you reserve for this project.

For most, this will be mornings, lunchtimes, evenings, and weekends. You might find time during your working hours too – for example, if your student cancels, get to work. But I recommend setting boundaries, otherwise, your work could suffer.

There might be weekends when you spend hours working but, over the long-term, you will want to make it sustainable.

Beware of Legal Implications

I receive messages from teachers working for certain companies telling me that their contract states that they can’t do their own thing while working for these companies.

In fact, I heard from a teacher that one company bans anyone doing their own thing one or two years after leaving. Crazy!

You don’t want to find yourself in trouble further down the line. Therefore, know if you are legally allowed to do this while working your current job.

In most cases, it’s fine. But it’s worth checking.

Enjoy it and Celebrate Your Successes

There are times when I do get stressed about my online business. When I do, I just ask myself, “How can I do this while having fun?”

Switching off from it all helps too. Turn off notifications and set boundaries for when you do your work.

Celebrate your successes no matter how small. And enjoy it. This is a lot of fun and I’ll never take the freedom that comes with having my own online business for granted.

Over to You

Have you made the transition into online teaching? Are you currently making this transition?

Please leave your thoughts in the comment section below.

Thanks for reading!

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Batching Tasks

Batching Tasks when Teaching Online

There is so much to do as an online teacher.

This includes the teaching, planning, admin, responding to emails, creating content, website setup etc. And with all this comes a lot of distractions.

In this video, I talk about how batching tasks will help you become more productive and focused.

Useful Links

How to Organize Your Time

How to Become More Productive (there is a link to the project management software I use)

Over to You

Do you batch tasks? If so, how do you do it?

Thanks for watching!

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Tools for Teaching English Pronunciation

Three Tools to Help You Teach English Pronunciation (and How to Do This Asynchronously)

Tools for Teaching English Pronunciation

I often get emails from teachers worried that online tools and resources are going to replace them.

My opinion is that this won’t happen anytime soon. Additionally, we shouldn’t see these resources as competition but, instead, as potentially useful tools to help us better help our learners.

And in this post, I want to look at three resources that you can use to improve your pronunciation lessons. I will focus on how I use them to help my students with English sounds but, as I mention later, they can be used for all areas of speaking.

Firstly, I want to go into how I approach this area of English as this will give you an insight into why these tools are so useful.

A Quick Summary of How I Teach English Sounds

One of the biggest problems English learners have is being able to pronounce sounds correctly. One reason for this is that there are 14-21 vowel phonemes in English (depending on the variant), many of them not present in other languages.

Therefore, learners will default to sounds in their own language if they can’t produce it correctly.

When working with a learner who has a problem in this area, I go through a three-step process:

  1. Show them what they need to do with their mouth to make the sound
  2. Create/give drills for them to build muscle memory
  3. Give feedback throughout the process

Online tools make this much easier and allow you to work asynchronously with your learner. Let’s look at step one of this process and the relevant tool.

Sounds of Speech App: How to Make Different Sounds

This handy app has an animation of what happens inside the mouth when different sounds are made.

Here is what it looks like:

uiowa

http://www.uiowa.edu/~acadtech/phonetics/english/english.html

This, along with any explanation, allows your learner to see what’s going on inside the mouth so that they can then experiment with their tongue, lips etc. to mimic the speaker.

I’ve found that this comes more naturally for certain students but, with enough practice, everyone will finally get there.

Outside of class, encourage your learners to play around with this app. If they struggle with certain sounds, then suggest that they start with those.

In addition to the visual representation, there is also a video showing a real person saying the relevant sound. This made all the difference for my Spanish-speaking student and his ability to correctly say the ‘w’ sound. I told him to watch the video, repeat after the speaker while looking in a mirror, and then to compare the two, and this solved the problem for him.

Let’s move on to stage two.

Audacity and File Sharing Apps for Drilling

In order for your learner to get this right over the long-term, they are going to need practice.

I prefer to make drills relevant to each student and, when I’m teaching one-to-one, I send over personalized audio based on the lesson/conversation we’ve just had.

This isn’t difficult to do. You just need 5-10 minutes, Audacity (or any sound recording app), and a file sharing application. To record the relevant drills, I go through my lesson notes and record sentences. I ensure that the sounds that we have been working on are included in these sentences, and will also add some specific pronunciation drills where needed.

Once I have recorded those sentences, I simply drag them into the relevant folder on my computer. This is linked to the DropBox folder that I share with my learner.

The student then downloads the audio and – in theory, at least! – repeats each sentence out loud during the week. This builds muscle memory inside the mouth.

If you create sentences, this not only helps learners with English sounds, but also with the different areas of pronunciation like stress, rhythm, intonation, and so on.

I also send learners to the drills over at the Mimic Method website where there are some really useful comparisons.

Using SoundCloud/Google Drive/DropBox to Give Feedback

There are two ways to give feedback: live in class or asynchronously. I’m going to focus on the latter here.

I’ve used a variety of different tools to give feedback asynchronously. SoundCloud is my first choice as you can leave comments at specific points during the audio.

In addition to pronunciation, I’ve used it to give feedback on IELTS speaking questions and on presentations.

SoundCloud

Giving IELTS feedback on SoundCloud

Another option is to use Google Drive and the Kaizena app or to have the audio sent to your DropBox using the DBinbox application.

Working asynchronously has a couple of benefits: firstly, it allows you to be more flexible with your schedule and, secondly, you can take your time with the feedback and listen more closely.

Over to You

In addition to teaching sounds, I also use this method and the relevant tools to help my learners with connected speech, intonation, rhythm, stress, other parts of pronunciation, and speaking in general.

I have used this both in one-to-one lessons, group lessons, and in my online courses.

If you have used other tools to help your learners with their pronunciation, please share them below. Thanks for reading!

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