Digital Nomad Teachers: 7 Helpful Tricks
to Make Your Life Easier
If you teach English Online, you can do so from anywhere in the world. As long as you have access to wifi, you can live and work in... Indonesia, Thailand, Japan, Morocco...you name it. Many people use their new found location independence as a way to see the world, spending a couple of months in a new place before heading along on their next adventure. But is it easy to teach English online while backpacking through South America or temple hopping in South East Asia? I've been doing it for over two years now so it's definitely possible, but here are things to watch out for and some ways to make your teaching-travelling life easier.
Do I have to carry my classroom with me?
Yes and no. Online ESL teachers should always have a few essentials with them when travelling. You don't need tonnes of teaching supplies and props but you should have some. Many ESL schools require that their teachers use a child-friendly backdrop when teaching. This could be two posters with the alphabet, colours, animals or numbers, which can be rolled up and brought along in your backpack. Add some cut-out stars, stickers and a small cardboard cutout of the school's logo and you're good to go.
When it comes to teaching props which you can use on-the-go, the smaller the better. Finger puppets and small teddies are great and you can buy these online very cheaply. You can also put your DIY skills to the test by making your own masks, wands and signs, using cardboard and glitter.
Prop your smartphone or laptop up on a table, bed, chair or anything else at eye level, and voila, you have yourself a virtual classroom.
Teacher Evelina teaching from Bali, Indonesia.
Is my wifi strong enough to teach online?
As English lessons are done via video calling over Skype, Zoom or other video calling platforms, you need to have a stable internet connection. Most online ESL companies require that you have an upload and download speed of at least 2 MB per second. It does change from school to school though, so you can check the internet requirements for individual companies in our FAQ guide.
Test your internet connection at speedtest.net. No matter whether you're staying in hostels, guesthouses or airbnbs, ask in advance how strong the wifi is, get staff to send you a screenshot like the one below, and check sites such as Hostelworld and Tripadvisor for reviews which mention the internet.
Always have a back up plan during English lessons.
You should always have an extra internet source in case the wifi in your apartment, hostel or co-working space cuts out. If you are living in a low cost country (such as Thailand) mobile internet plans are very reasonably priced. You can get unlimited high speed internet for as little as $5-10 per month. Just make sure you get a mobile internet speed which is quick enough to make high quality uninterrupted video calls. Your phone will also need to be unlocked in order to use it with a sim card from a different network.
Once you arrive in a new country, shop around for the best plan. When your wifi goes down, simply tether from your mobile phone to your laptop.
So, where can I teach English from?
Let me rephrase what I said earlier. You can teach from anywhere as long as you have wifi AND a quiet space. This could be a quiet room in your house, a Skype booth in a co-working space or any private corner where you can set up a teaching space and not be overheard or interrupted by others.
If you're staying in hostels, Air BnBs or guesthouses, ask ahead about the internet and get them to send you a screenshot with the wifi strength and speed (upload and download speeds!)
There's nothing worse than having to teach a class and being surrounded by backpackers playing beer pong and shouting loudly over the latest remix of a Justin Bieber song. Here is a list of hostels and other short term accommodation worldwide, which have strong wifi and designated private spaces which you can use to teach English online. This document can be edited so feel free to add your own if you come across any more gems.
If you're looking to meet new people and immerse yourself in a community of online workers, you may choose to join a co-working space. Many co-working spaces have private Skype booths and meeting rooms which you can use free of charge. The main benefit of joining a co-working space is that you can network, connect with like-minded individuals and socialise with others between classes.
Coworker.com is a handy resource for finding co-working spaces in your area. You can check if the space has a Skype booth or meeting rooms and you can often get a free one day trial pass.
When will I teach my students?
As always, it depends what online school you are working for and where your students are based. A lot of online ESL companies operate from China and have peak working hours between 6pm and 10pm, Beijing time (GMT +8). if you're living in Europe, such as the UK, then your main teaching hours would be between 10am and 2pm. If you're travelling through South America, you will probably be teaching in the early morning.
Not all online ESL schools operate between 6pm and 9pm though. Some companies have hours available all day. With ABC360 for example, you can work any time between 6am and midnight. For more information like this, specific to the different ESL schools, see our FAQ guide.
If you're confused by time difference, time zones, daylight savings time or just don't like doing maths, you can use this time zone converter. Just plug in the time of your classes in China (or wherever your students are based) as well as your current location, and it will tell you what time your classes are at!
What software do I need to teach ESL online?
Most online lessons are done over Zoom, Skype or the video calling platform owned by and specific to each ESL company. You will need to download whichever one your company uses.
If you want to see which one that is, download our Online ESL Companies info bundle here.
ManyCam is a really useful piece of software which makes teaching English online so much easier.
Due to the mirrored effect of many video calling programmes, any background signs or writing on the teacher's end will appear backwards for the student. ManyCam solves this by flipping the camera, enabling you to spell out words using cut-out letters and to use props such as whiteboards. You can also add a screensaver image or logo to your screen that your students will see as they wait for your lessons to begin!
If you want to play YouTube videos or songs during your class, ManyCam helps you to play audio through your laptop for your student even when you have earphones connected. You can also use it to record your lessons and watch them back later, if you're looking to improve your teaching skills.
Click here to download ManyCam for free.
Think you're ready to start teaching English online?
About the Author:
Laura is the founder and director of Online English Teacher, an ESL recruitment and training company which helps people to start teaching English Online. They have a free job placement service, providing online teaching positions for hundreds of people every month. You can join here for free.
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