- On 30 May 2020
- Tags TEFL Florence
Teaching Online: The Good and the Bad
During this new season of COVID-19, many English teachers have joined ranks with all types of educators around the world and are suddenly transitioning to teaching online. At Via Lingua, we are also navigating how to meet the needs of our trainees from afar until the day that we can learn and collaborate together again face to face. For some EFL teachers, this virtual workspace is nothing new. For the rest, this has been an exercise in constructing the plane while it is flying! Whether you are a seasoned Skype teacher, still figuring out your rhythm, or considering this as a career option in the future, we can all see the benefits and empathize with the challenges that we are facing in this period!
- Location Flexibility- Teaching English lessons online gives you a lot of flexibility regarding where you teach from. During this time where pandemic lockdown measures regulate our movements, it opens up the possibility to work from home when we can’t meet students in person. This is a comfortable option, but when your computer serves as your classroom, you can even work from a space of your choice: maybe a coffee shop, a coworking space, or while you’re traveling!
- Convenience of Time- When you don’t have to move from your home to a workplace or meeting place to conduct English lessons, you save a lot of time! It’s not necessary to rush out the door in the morning, you don’t have to scramble to get lunch before your next appointment, and when you are done for the day, you simply need to shut your computer. Eliminating the commute frees up time in your schedule. This makes more time either for lessons that weren’t possible before or opens up more time for you amidst your teaching schedule.
- Online Platforms- There are lots of platforms that exist if you are interested in teaching online but aren’t sure how to find students. During the Via Lingua training program, we discuss with our trainees the range of programs that are available for interested teachers. As a teacher, you must complete some type of application and do some type of interview and onboarding if you are accepted. But these are useful tools to consider if you are not sure how to get connected with students.
- Meeting People from Different Cultures- Cultural awareness is a critical pillar to the certification program at Via Lingua. We recognize that exposing yourself and intereacting with other cultures and ways of life is an invaluable way for us to help promote cross-cultural understanding and a global mindset. This factor could be the pinnacle of why teaching online is an attractive option for EFL teachers. Teaching English is a career that often attracts people who are already curious about other cultures and who are interested in working with people from around the world. If you establish yourself as an online English teacher, you have the possibility to connect with students you may never encounter otherwise! One minute, you could be talking to a student from Brazil, and the next, someone from Russia!
- The Technology- Technology seems to make our lives easier and more efficient in so many ways. But when it doesn’t work, we are left at a loss! Technology that doesn’t work the way you want can be a real interference with providing high quality and enjoyable lessons. Sometimes connections are unreliable and inconsistent, sometimes it’s the sound or the camera. In addition, not all students who want to take lessons may have the necessary technology or internet connection. And if they do, not everyone is technologically literate and may have difficulty getting everything to function in the optimal way.
- The Planning and Prep- All of your lessons, in person or online, require advanced thought and preparation. But if you’re used to teaching face to face, teaching online is a little bit different. Your student might not have a textbook, so you need to consider what materials, images, or videos you are going to use beforehand so you can share them with your student in advance. You might not have a whiteboard where you are teaching, so you must think ahead about how you will display “boardwork.” Think through how you intend for everything to happen in advance, and then test them out. You don’t want to be caught stumbling over these things mid-lesson!
- The Cost of a Platform- As mentioned above, there are plenty of platforms and programs online that can help you find students, but most come at a “cost.” Make sure you’re aware of how the company “benefits” before you jump in. It could be that teachers are required to do free trial lessons, that the company takes a percentage of what you earn, or that you have to pay a fee if you need to cancel a lesson at the last minute. Not necessarily things to be scared of, but only aware of!
- Lost Interactions- Interactions between you and students or among a group of students in a class are different in the environment of video calls than they are in person. As we know, there are many aspects to communication (like gestures, facial expressions, nonverbals, interruptions, etc.) that don’t quite carry through in a video call. Silence also feels heavier, and as the teacher, you run the risk of unintentionally increasing the teacher talking time to try to fill it. And finally, as teachers, we value the relationships we create with our students, and that our students create with each other! It is certainly possible to connect with people online, but there is a certain level of connection that can only be acheived face to face, chatting before or after a class, or interacting outside of the confines of the start and end of a video call.
In these weeks and months ahead, we will all have to continue making adjustments to whatever new reality is presented to us. We are confident that successful Via Lingua trainees are highly adaptable professionals, and we hope that being mindful of these factors that we are facing will help you acclimate better to whatever your new situation is. Whether you are an EFL teacher or working in another field, these contemplations are applicable as all of our workplaces transition to being a bit more virtual than before.