Hello and welcome to my teacher Q&A post!
I thought it might be interesting to do a kind of “get to know you” post using some of the questions that I’ve been asked about life as an online teacher. I don’t really like doing tag posts, because I never know who will be interested, but if you want to answer any of these questions and share your experiences in the comments, please do so. Also, if you’re a blogger and you want to take part, it would be great if you mention this blog as the place where the questions originated, then feel free to drop the link to the post with your answers in the comments.
1. Why did you decide to become a language teacher?
I’ve always loved languages. English, French and German were my favourite subjects at school, and I have now found a way to combine my love for language with my interest in working with people and my desire to speak German (I work predominantly with German speakers, and some of the organisation and occasional grammar explanations take place in German).
As a child, I always wanted to be a teacher, but not wanting to work with children in a school soon put an end to that idea. Later I realised that adults need training too, and the idea for an online English teaching business was born.
2. What is the hardest thing about your job?
Possibly the marketing of the business – at the beginning I didn’t realise it would be such a big commitment. I thought I’d spend all my time teaching, and that’s not the case. I think the hardest thing about marketing is that you often don’t see results straight away, so it’s hard to measure the effectiveness of each activity until you’ve given it some time to take effect. Still, I like a challenge!
3. What is the funniest thing that has happened in one of your lessons?
One of my students had a bird in the same room as her. He must have got tired of the lesson, because he flew down, perched on the iPad and ended the Skype call. The bird that didn’t like English lessons!
4. Where is the most unusual place that you have given a lesson, or what is the most unusual thing that you have been asked to cover?
I was at home, but one of my students was so eager not to miss a lesson that she logged into Skype from her balcony while she was on holiday in Spain.
5. How many countries have you taught in?
I’ve only lived in England, where most of my teaching takes place, but I’ve also taught whilst on short trips to Sweden and the Netherlands. I’ve taught people in Germany, Switzerland, Austria, Russia, Turkey, Chile and China. Not as impressive a list as some, but I tend to focus on the German-speaking market.
6. What makes you happy?
Seeing people grow in confidence and use the skills that they learned in my lessons. People who were shy about speaking telling me how they have had a good conversation in English. Polite and friendly students who pay and arrive on time! Oh and being sent chocolate in the post also makes me happy!
7. What is your least favourite thing to teach?
Probably punctuation, because it’s necessary, but more of a challenge to make it exciting!
8. Who inspires you?
That’s difficult. My students inspire me, because some of them are so committed to their goals and enthusiastic about achieving them. Some of the small business owners in the Facebook groups in which I take part inspire me, because they don’t give up, and they keep coming up with innovative ideas to develop their businesses.
9.Knowing what you know now, what would you do differently?
Knowing what I know now, I wouldn’t have wasted money on a course that was not as good as it was marketed to be, but I like to think that I learned some valuable lessons all the same about communication, customer service, reputation management, and the way I want others to see me!
10. Can you think of something that you tried in your business or in a lesson that you’d never done before?
Producing the podcast was a challenge at the beginning because although I’d been listening to podcasts for years, making my own was something I’d never done before. I am glad I tried it though and I’ll soon be producing episode 100!
11. How do you get support from other teachers?
I don’t work in a school with other teachers, but I am in a couple of Facebook groups for online teachers, and I have also connected with teachers on Twitter.
12. What advice would you give to a new online language teacher?
Don’t feel that you have to do everything that everyone else is doing. I am a blogger and podcaster. I do not like making videos. Other people are having real success with videos, but if you hate doing something, it won’t be your best work, and people will see that. Let your business reflect who you are and don’t feel you have to copy other people. Of course it’s great to follow good advice, but stay true to who you are, don’t let people make a pushy salesperson out of you if that’s not what you want to become, don’t be told that you’ll never be successful if you don’t follow the herd. My visual impairment means that I do a number of things differently by default, but as long as I get the job done, who cares that I don’t use the same tools as other people? Everyone needs to work out what is right for them – it’s your business after all!
If you want some more tips, you can have a look at my 15 things I wish I’d known before becoming an online English teacher post .
13. Where do you go when you have questions?
Google is my friend! I’ve learned a lot from my friend Google about web design, social media, tax returns, and how to self-publish a book. If I’m looking for human advice, I have built a network of teacher friends and other people with small businesses. My partner is also a fantastic sounding board for new ideas.
15. What’s your favourite way to connect with people online/where can we find you on social media?
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Achieving results online with adult language learners
If you enjoyed this article, you may also be interested in my book about teaching English to adults online. You can find the book, “Achieving results online with adult language learners – by Kirsty Major” on Amazon or iBooks, or you can read more about it here.
In the 40 chapters of the book, you’ll find several articles that I have published online, along with exclusive content that can only be found in the book. I talk about my experiences of setting up an online language teaching business, what I’ve learned, and how I’ve dealt with a variety of challenges, both in terms of organisation and running the lessons.