This edition of the T.I. Interview Series features online English teacher Rose Breuer. Formerly teaching in brick and mortar schools, Rose has transitioned entirely to teaching online.
She recently released the book Teach ESL Online, a great resource for anyone working to build their online teaching presence or get started in the field. We’re going to walk through her process of transitioning from classroom teaching to online teaching, and uncover the best practices that worked to help her get there. Let’s dive in:
Growing up in Mexico, Rose learned Spanish and English. “I tutored some Spanish, and a little bit of English, at that time,” Breuer says. She got into teaching after college, teaching Spanish in a brick and mortar classroom. “After University, I taught Spanish at a University for a year and really enjoyed it. But I got married, had some kids, did other stuff for a while, and just got busy with life.”
Her career was put on hiatus for a while, but the passion for teaching never subsided.
The next step
Rose began the process of getting back into the teaching world. She took a Master’s Degree in Teaching and Learning, with goal of focusing on teaching her native language, English this time around. “I did some research to figure out what other certificates would help me, and discovered that I need to have the CELTA,” she says. She obtained the CELTA (Certificate in Teaching English to Speaks of Other Languages) from Cambridge University in 2012, and was ready to get back into the classroom.
Rose points out that the CELTA has actually been more useful than the Master’s Degree in this line of work. “I got the Master’s Degree because I wanted to make a full-time career of it for the rest of my life,” she says. “I was in my upper twenties at the time, and I thought that would be a good time to get a Master’s Degree. Honestly, I think if a person has a good command of the English language, not just that they’re a Native speaker but they’re aware of how the language is used and have a decent vocabulary and grammar usage, a CELTA certificate is enough.”
With her certifications in place, an opportunity came from a brick and mortar school in Turkey. She arrived in Istanbul, ready to teach.
The switch to online teaching
It didn’t take long for Rose to realize her desire to teach online instead of in a classroom. “I started working right away,” she says about teaching in Istanbul. “I loved it, it was great. But it was really overwhelming the first year. I was so overwhelmed with lesson planning and everything.”
The transition to online teaching began in 2013. “Initially, I was thinking I would do both, teaching online and in person,” she says. “I hoped I could transition to online teaching, but I wasn’t sure if it was possible. But I didn’t know where I’d find students. I didn’t know where I could work or what platform to use.”
With the desire to work solely through online platforms taking hold, Rose began researching the best ways to build an online teaching presence. She read about different ways online teachers were finding students and building their businesses.
Rose set out to find students on her own. It proved to be tough, and it wasn’t long before she decided to try online language learning platforms such as iTalki. “I was looking for students, and I didn’t have a network so I really could find people quickly,” she says. “There was also the paying problem: How do you get a student to pay when there’s no system set up?”
A lot of trial and error ensued as she tried different methods, platforms, and approaches. “It ended up being that, over the course of about a year, I was able to transition from working at a location to working online completely,” she says.
Rose believes that the increasing availability of online teaching platforms is making the transition to online teaching much easier. “If I’d known what I was doing, it would have been possible to shorten (the transition),” she says.
Rose is confident that, with the right certifications and enough market savvy, a teacher can transition into online work full-time in three to four months.
Tricks of the trade
On optimizing your marketability via online teaching platforms:
“I wasn’t aware that I could work for a company and set my own hours,” Rose says. “Eventually, I found iTalki and a couple different sites that I work for.”
She credits much of her success to having a strong profile and video that attract students’ attention, instead of her scouring the web looking for potential students. “They already have a student base, people are there learning. If (your profile) is professional and people like your introduction video, people will contact you.”
On lesson planning and curriculum management
“When you’re teaching in person, you have the book that the school gives you and you have to set up your lesson plans,” she says. “You use each lesson one time, then you have to create a new lesson for the next day and the next day. You are constantly planning.”
“That’s how my job is different,” she says. “I write the lesson plan once, and it takes less than an hour. And then I use the same lesson plan again for the next student, and the next student. It cuts my planning time way down, and that’s something that I love about the way I teach online.”
On personalizing lessons for students
“Each student is a different individual and they all have different ideas about how they want to use English,” she says. “Individualizing is really important. I do that by basically making three lesson plans in one. In each lesson that I write, I include a couple of different videos at different levels. There’s a basic one, an intermediate, and an advance one.”
During the planning, Rose includes the option to use any of the three in an informative lesson. “When I talk to the student, I decide on the spot if this person is going to be able to understand the intermediate one? Maybe I should use the lower one. The same goes for articles. I usually have an everyday article, something you might find on a blog, and also have something simplified for new learners.”
On what to focus on in each lesson
Rose notes that students typically are focused on either speaking, grammar, or writing. Most of her lesson planning is focused on speaking. “That’s what students get less practice time in doing and is more difficult to do on their own,” she says. “If a student wants to add a writing element, I have them do that at home and send it to me. I correct it with them in the next class.”
“As far as grammar, if I run across several of the same error in a lesson, I’ll correct it and review the rule with them,” she says. “Then, I’ll keep correcting them until they can spot the mistake themselves and start to self-correct.”
Grab a copy of Rose’s book here.