The following guide to teaching English Online to Chinese Students is guest authored by Darah and Garrett.
How can we travel the world and still make money? We asked ourselves that question over and over while working the 9-5 back in the States.
After tons of research and setting off on our adventure, we eventually wound up teaching English online to Chinese students. It’s been quite an experience and one we’d like to share with you. In this post, we talk about how we got started and fill you in on how you can too!
Whether you’re wanting to travel or just make some side money at home, teaching English online provides some great income and awesome opportunities for travel abroad.
Teaching English Online to Chinese Students
In the Begining…
The plan wasn’t always to teach online. Our first destination abroad was Taiwan and we were going to stay there for one year, teach, then travel.
However, we were dreading the idea of working six days a week for a school in Yilan, Taiwan. No time off means no travel. Yikes!
We hadn’t signed the contract yet (thankfully) but we had given them enough interest to start training us. In the midst of our uncertainty, we were trying to figure out what to do. We had left our steady jobs with vacation time and benefits back in the USA. Teaching in Taiwan wasn’t exactly what we expected and we wanted out.
Thanks to Google and our frantic research, we found our next move through teaching English online to Chinese students. We landed a job with SayABC and started looking for our next destination.
Fun story: we ended up spending three months in Taiwan before leaving Asia because we loved it so much. We hope to return soon!
We’ve now been to almost 20 countries in Asia and Europe, all while teaching English online to Chinese students. It hasn’t been the easiest ride (especially when our internet doesn’t work!) but it has been an unforgettable experience.
We’ve seen so much, ate so much, and have memories to last a lifetime.
How to Land a Job Teaching English Online to Chinese Students
In the past, it was much simpler to get an online English teaching job for a Chinese company. However, China has now passed laws to make the requirements for online
English teachers the same as those teachers who physically teach in schools in China. While it has gotten stricter, there are still a lot of companies to choose from that have various requirements. Let’s begin!
Things You Need Before You Start Teaching Online
Like we just mentioned, Chinese laws have gotten more strict. That said, it’s hard to find a lot of transparency when dealing with Chinese law.
We’ve been informed by our company (based in China) about the changes. We go into detail below about some of them. For a brief rundown of the main changes, check out Chinese ESL company ALO7’s blog about China’s new regulations.
- Bachelor’s Degree
- This is part of the new law in China. Teachers used to get by with a partial degree but no longer, unfortunately. If you’re a few months from graduating, it’s not a bad idea to go ahead and reach out to a company you’re interested in.
- TEFL, TESOL, CELTA, or a Relevant Teaching Certificate
- English teaching certificates are a requirement now too. It’s always been a good idea to have one for ESL teachers (we earned ours before we left) but it’s now a requirement in China. Thankfully, these are easy to get and don’t have to be expensive. You can use MyTEFL, which is who we earned our TEFL certificate with. It just took a couple of months of reading and test-taking. Easy! (PS – Get a discount here for your TEFL certificate)
- Native Level English
- This means you need to be from a Native English speaking country, like the UK, USA, Australia, etc…. However, some companies, like Palfish, will accept non-native level English teachers. You just have to do your research!
- Teaching Experience
- Technically a requirement for most online schools but many schools still hire teachers without experience. We used our experience as tutors, nothing official, for our application.
- Up-to-Date Computer
- This differs widely among the plethora of Chinese companies out there but having good specs on your laptop or desktop goes a long way. For instance, SayABC now requires 8 GB of RAM (memory) and a recent generation i5 or i7 processor. Some companies are okay with 4 GB of RAM.
- If this stuff sounds confusing no worries! You can always check the specs of your computer. If you need help then read up on a guide for Windows or Mac.
- Lastly, you’ll need a webcam, whether integrated or attached to your computer and a headset. Earbuds with a microphone are okay but to score more points in the interview use a headset!
- Fast and Stable Internet
- It’s kind of hard to teach English over the internet if you don’t have a good connection in the first place! This is the biggest hurdle we’ve faced while traveling. Sometimes we’re led to believe the internet is a certain speed by our Airbnb hosts and then it turns out it’s terrible. Luckily there are coworking hubs, different Airbnbs, and other options to make sure we can teach our classes.
- Our company requires us to be directly plugged into the router via ethernet cable. That said, always make sure you have access to the router! Some companies are not as strict on this but if you have patchy wifi then there will be a problem!
- To check your internet speed, you can do so at speedtest.net in a few seconds. It will tell you download and upload speed, both of which Chinese companies require a minimum speed. For us, it’s 20 mb download and 4 mb upload, which is high in relation to other companies.
An Exception to These Requirements
There are some schools that are based outside of China that don’t have to follow Chinese laws. For example, Cambly doesn’t require any teaching experience or degree but they pay significantly less than the schools who are under China’s law.
If you don’t have a bachelor’s degree then this is a viable option for you. That said, you could be teaching kids or adults in China or they might be located in Brazil.
The Hiring Process
The hiring process for teaching English online to Chinese students is pretty similar across all companies. First and foremost, practice! Every hiring process deals with a mock class interview, meaning you’re going to teach an example class for a little bit to a recruiter; you’ll have time to prepare beforehand.
It’s a little weird teaching an adult and pretending they’re eight years old but you’ll flow into it after the first minute. Of course, the recruiter will also ask some basic questions about your experience and try to get to know you a little better.
Again, prepare for your interview but most importantly, smile! No one wants an angry face teaching their children.
Some Online English Teaching Schools
We’ve worked at SayABC for over a year now. The pay is great and has funded our travels. We even put money back into savings while visiting cheaper destinations.
If you want to know what it’s like to work for SayABC then check out our SayABC review.
- $13-$15 per class plus bonuses
- Teach up to 6 students
- 40-minute classes
- $18-$30 per class plus bonuses
- Teach 2-3 students
- 50-minute classes
- $17-$22 per hour (including bonuses)
- Teach 1-3 students
- 25 or 50 minute classes
- $7-$9 per class plus bonuses
- Teach 1 student
- Only 25-30 minute classes
A Few General Tips For Teaching English Online to Chinese Students
As far as teaching online goes, the more energy you bring, the more engaged your kids are. However, a lot more goes into teaching than just you, so let’s discuss some of those things.
1. Good Background
This matters more for certain companies out there, like SayABC, and less for others, but it’s always a smart idea to have a good background. Having a sign behind you with your name, colors, the alphabet, numbers, something school-related always helps it feel more like a classroom than just a blank wall. Unless you’re teaching adults, of course.
Also, when in your interview, be sure to have a sign with the company’s logo on it behind you as well. Bonus points!
We’ve mentioned this already but it’s so important we need to say it again. No matter your mood that day or whatever’s going on in your life, try your best to smile when teaching class!
Kids will lose interest fast if it’s obvious you’re not interested!
As well as a good background and a good persona, having useful props can help boost your class participation as well as give you more bonus points in the interview. Having a whiteboard and several colored markers is very helpful. You can keep score during games and help students with sounds/spelling.
Flash cards, puppets, even real world things like a coffee cup, pencils, whatever is around you, can be helpful when teaching these students in China. In fact, using real world props usually gets the kids very interested and they’ll find something similar in their house and show the class.
4. Be Open-Minded to a New Culture
As you’ll be teaching these students in their homes in China, you’ll be seeing into their lives through a webcam. Seriously, we’ve taught kids in every room in a house, even a bathroom! Yes, they take their tablets to the bathroom at times (very rarely).
Students have been naked, family members have been in their underwear walking in the background, people are talking so loud you can’t hear the student, the list goes on. All that’s not so bad as our company thankfully has a “turn off camera” and a mute function.
The worst thing we’ve witnessed has been a parent disciplining their child. It was a little extreme and very uncomfortable.
We’ve seen quite a bit we didn’t want to see the past year. That said, nothing has really conjured up that “I can’t do this anymore” moment. It’s a different place in the world with a different culture and our advice to future online teachers is to be open minded!
Hopefully, all that doesn’t scare you away. We’ve had so many great moments with our kids!
5. Don’t Have a No-Show!
Well, this is obvious. While it’s very apparent you don’t want to miss class as a teacher, we’d like to drive this point home. Some teachers we work with have made the mistake of not showing up to class!
They often lose their regularly scheduled classes because of this and it becomes even harder to schedule more in the future. Whether you’re traveling around the world like us or making side money at home, don’t miss a class!
That said, having a “no-show” is different from communicating with your company ahead of time about an absence. We’ve missed a few classes in the past year but we communicated to our company beforehand and we still have our regular classes.
This post has covered a lot! From the requirements, some different companies, and tips for the classroom, we hope this has given you a solid idea of what it’s like to teach English online to Chinese students. If you’re thinking about traveling around the world and need a way to fund your journey, this is a great way to go!
Will you be applying to teach English online to Chinese students? Which school? Will you visit China? Let us know in the comments! Happy teaching!
We’re Darah and Garrett from Where Food Takes Us, two mistake-prone wanderers, with a mad love for food. We quit the 9-5 life to move abroad. Now, unexpectedly, we’re digital nomads who teach English online. Life is full of surprises!
We believe in sharing budget-friendly advice and seek to offer a unique point of view on travel destinations around the world. We hope our fellow wanderers can find our words useful and in turn feel inspired to travel and eat the world!