One of the attractions for ESL teaching has always been the lure of foreign travel. If you have worked in the ESL industry, you will know that many schools across the world take advantage of this and offer the traveller-teacher subsistence level pay, little job security, and virtually no career development. As anybody who can speak English fluently and has an outgoing positive personality can become an English teacher by taking one of the short certificate courses on offer from Cambridge, Trinity and others, the schools are well aware that there will always be a queue at the door to fill available vacancies. Most language schools across the world have a very high turnover of staff from year to year because very few of the teachers see the job is a career.
Only a small percentage of those teaching English abroad consider themselves to be professional teachers of English. Faced with the prospect of a lifetime of low pay and little chance of career development, many of these aspire to becoming directors of established language schools, or to open their own school. If you love and have a passion for English, becoming a director will see you taken away from teaching to fill an administrative and business management role which has as its primary function the maximising of profit for the school owner. If you choose to open your own school, you must make a considerable financial investment, struggle to compete against existing established schools, and must work incredibly hard to avoid becoming another failed business statistic.
For the first time in the history of English language teaching, a new possibility has arisen. You can now choose to teach online through a virtual school that has none of the overheads associated with a real-world school and which can provide you with a rewarding and profitable small business opportunity. With a tiny drop from the virtually limitless and constantly growing pool of students on the Internet, you can develop your career as an online English teacher in whatever way you choose. You can specialise in aviation English, medical English, business English, pronunciation, exam preparation, or any other area of English language teaching that takes your fancy. You can be assured that, however esoteric your chosen area of expertise, there will always be enough students out there to keep you in work.
And it’s not just the opportunity to specialise in an interesting area of English that makes the idea of teaching English online so enticing. Online, you, the English teacher, are likely to find that your students are more motivated, committed and appreciative than those in the classroom. Because of this, you can look forward to being rewarded by your students making much faster, and more palpable progress in learning. If you are a flexible and compassionate online teacher, you will soon build up a loyal global classroom of students eager to learn with you as their guide.
Online classes, prepared and delivered well, are one of the most intimate and effective ways to teach a language. With relatively little outlay and a little technical knowledge, you can deliver effective classes to students anywhere in the world, providing they have access to a reasonable Internet connection, and millions do. Classes tend to be more relaxed for both parties than those in a classroom because issues of shyness, reluctance, and embarrassment on the part of the student do not arise in the intimacy of such close interactions between teacher and student that are possible using technology such as Skype.
You can look forward to teaching students in any country in the world without having to plough through the normal bureaucratic red tape you would have to face if travelling to the same countries. Being able to teach a student in South America in the first class of the day, a student in Russia in the second, that the student in Taiwan in the final class of the day is an enriching and motivating experience for any teacher. There really are no borders separating the online teacher and the online student.
Nor is there any misbehaviour in the classroom. While you may experience difficult students, and I’ll give you some advice on how to deal with these in a later chapter, there is none of the stress and classroom management of a real-world classroom with a dozen or more students. The online English student is likely to be at home, alone, relaxed and receptive to learning. They are also likely to be an adult paying for their own classes, and therefore keen to get the best value for their money.