Here at Teacher Indie, we talk a lot about the business of online teaching. We hope our site serves as a valuable resource in growing your online teaching business and in pursuing the digital nomad lifestyle.
But sometimes we’ve got to turn the mic over. This is one of those times, as we’ve roped two of the top Live Lingua online language teachers into taking part of this installment of the TI Interview Series.
Linda Ross and Matt Houtsma are online English teachers with Live Lingua. Teacher Indie spoke with them about getting into the field, acquiring students, and the learning curve involved in building an online career. Both are long-term teachers with the company. They speak from experience, having learned a thing or two about the world of online teaching. Their story is especially pertinent for those wanting to travel while working or take their careers abroad.
Matt and Linda highlight similarities that spring up during the transition into online teaching as well as throughout the process of building it into a full-time gig. For those working freelance or as independent contractors but considering making the move to working for an online school or business, Matt and Linda show how this can be a stable and consistent way to go.
How did you first get started with teaching online?
Linda: About six years ago, my husband, Matthew, got his TEFL certificate and started teaching English online. I enjoyed listening to his classes, getting to know his students and occasionally, commenting from the ‘peanut gallery’. Therefore, it was a natural transition, from making comments during his classes to conducting my own classes.
Matt: After I finished the TEFL course, I considered the best way to work because, during the course, we were told that one of the main complaints from teachers was the amount of traveling required.
What were some of the reasons for choosing a job like this?
Linda: When we moved to Europe ten years ago, my options for employment were limited. Unfortunately, like most Americans, I am monolingual. Becoming an English teacher was the best choice. I had the advantage of listening to my husband’s classes for years, which was excellent training. I liked the idea of speaking to people from all over the world and the exchange of culture and ideas involved. Also, I enjoy advocating for people and helping them achieve their goals.
Matt: I ultimately decided to teach online because traveling takes a lot of time, reduces the amount of time you spend teaching and can be exhausting.
What were the biggest challenges in moving from a traditional classroom or office job into online teaching?
Linda: My background is not in teaching. I am a textile designer, by trade. For 25 years, I had a small batik studio where I designed, produced and marketed a line of silk scarves and men’s neckwear. During those years, I also did a lot of freelance work, as a photo stylist, a location scout for major motion pictures and as a colorist for a small Chicago company that designed and manufactured men’s neckwear. The biggest challenge for me was that I had to completely switch gears and change my focus.
Matt: As a trader, I worked on a telephone setup that had 120 different lines, some outside lines, and some, direct lines to various exchange floor operations and brokerage houses. On an average day, I would talk to over 100 different people while transacting business. Online teaching is like a longer version of these types of conversations.
What are your favorite parts of working online?
Linda: The best part of teaching online is that it has given me the opportunity to meet many wonderful people, of all ages, from a variety of countries. All of my students are bright, motivated and interesting. They all have different needs and goals and it has been challenging and fun to design classes to meet their needs. I also have several conversation classes and I enjoy the exchange of ideas and perspectives on current events and other topics.
Matt: The flexibility of living where I want and the ability to work when I want. You also speak to people from all over the world and each of them has a fascinating story to tell.
Do you see online teaching as a sustainable long-term career?
Linda: Absolutely! Teaching online has been a very rewarding experience and as long as I have a good internet connection, I can conduct classes from anywhere in the world.
Matt: I believe that online education is the future.
What software/apps/tech tools do you use and prefer? (Skype, Asana, Google Drive, etc.)
Linda: For classes, my students and I use Skype exclusively. Google search, maps and images are very useful tools and I sometimes use short videos on YouTube, especially for my young students. It’s also convenient to have instant access to my “Lessons” file.
Matt: Skype is a very stable, consistent platform and I prefer it.
Thanks to Matt and Linda for their time. Check out Live Lingua for learning your next language (we make a great employer for online language teachers, as well!)