Andrea Wood is an online ESL teacher from New York City with a bachelors in English. She has worked with several online and offline ESL schools, and she just published a new book Work From Home, Teach English, which is available on Amazon.
How did you get into teaching?
I first taught ESL in 1996 for Berlitz and then later for another company before I began teaching online. I’m also an actress and writer, so I’ve taught ESL here and there over the years, maybe cumulatively four years before I starting teaching online.
My experience transitioning from offline to online was slow. I was teaching in New York City and my goal was to one day be able to teach online completely. At first I only took about six or seven classes per week online, and increased gradually online and decreased offline. I went through a period where I was working too much, because I wanted to give my offline job more than enough notice. And then one day, I was free from offline. I still love that school and the people there, but this is what my heart wanted to do.
I transitioned to online teaching because I love the freedom, the energy, the time and money I save.
Do you prefer online teaching to classroom teaching, why or why not?
Yes, I prefer online because I love to spend more time with my family, and use my energy for creative projects rather than commuting to and from work, which used to take me two-and-a-half to three hours roundtrip of running up and down staircases, buses, and subways
What are some of your teaching techniques?
When I’m teaching in a classroom, I’ve got to fill up a room of eight to thirty students with my presence. I’ve got to watch all of them to make sure they are not zoning out, try to make it interesting, hoping they all are comprehending the lesson, check in with all of them, write on the board, draw pictures, pantomime, whatever it takes, and get them all to repeat, and try to help them all pronounce things correctly. Not to mention answer individual questions. When I’m teaching online, I can quietly focus more on one to six students, use illustrations and photographs instead of draw (I’m a really bad artist), and use a whiteboard that they can easily see. I can see their faces and mouths closer up, so I can help them pronounce English sounds better.
What tips would you give to people new to the field of online teaching?
Do your research before you apply to any company. Learning about the industry and about the companies will help you get hired by a company you’ll most likely be happy with.
And expect the company you work for to have rules that you didn’t anticipate. Every company I researched has at least one different rule than the others. Find out what they are and see if that works for you.
What are the pros and cons of online ESL teaching?
The cons to teaching English online are that you don’t get benefits, and most companies don’t pay you for the timeslots you opened that they haven’t filled up. Also, you have to take care of your own taxes. The pros are freedom, energy, time and money, and being able to learn about and meet people from other countries. I fell in love with China. I’m now a Mandarin student, and I’ve researched many different places in China. I would love to visit and/or teach there.
There are companies that I particularly love more than other companies, but I have friends who love companies I don’t, and dislike companies I love. I applied and interviewed for over 25 companies, and I worked for a few of them, some of them even for only one or two days. In the book, I review 23 of those companies, and I detail what I like and don’t like about the companies’ structures, policies, quality, and/or attitude, and the story of what happened when I applied, whether or not I got hired, what the interviewers were like, to give people an idea of what to expect.
Do you talk about working for online companies in your book?
Yes, in my book I dedicate a chapter on understanding the different policies and procedures in these companies. I also explain why there is such a vast variety of rules due to the mix of Chinese and North American (and sometimes Filipino) cultures. I have sections on how to prepare for the interview, important things to put on your resume, say in the interview, and do during other parts of the application process, such as the demo class and video introduction.