My TEFL Online Survival Guide

Be Prepared and Be Organised

I have only been teaching online since January and I have been full time since March, however I already have a few things I can’t live without in my day to day TEFL life! The first and most important thing I’d say, especially if you’re self-employed and working for multiple companies, is a good planner/ diary. I use my Google Calendar to manage all my different teaching appointments. I think its really easy to use and I can easily see when I’m booked up and when I have free time available. I can also colour code lessons by company etc. so I can quickly see how each day looks at a glance. I am open to suggestions too…so if you’re reading this and have an amazing diary/ planner that you like and works well for you, please let me know and I’ll check it out! Another reason the Google calendar works well, is that it syncs to the cloud, so I don’t have to worry about losing any information!

Now the next one depends on who you’re teaching and the platform you’re working on, but for me, is essential. Props. Props are a vital part of my daily teaching life on Palfish, especially with the younger students. Teaching children ages 3 and up, props really keep the children engaged in lessons and helps teach the vocabulary. I have all kinds of props and flashcards. I have toys and teddies – my panda or tiger teddies are my favourite go to if the student is a bit distracted from class to get them back and engaged in the lesson. Flashcards, along with props are key for my Palfish classes. I have so many flashcards for all different topics! From colours, animals, the weather, shapes, food, and clothing. I’m not really an arts and craft person, however its quite enjoyable spending an afternoon or evening cutting and sticking flashcards onto cardboard. It takes me back to my childhood and is a nice activity to do that takes you away from the screen. Of course, you can use props with adults, but again it will depend on topic being taught, but adults will most likely appreciate realia/ real life items rather than the child friendly toys and teddies!

Next on my survival guide list, water. I always make sure to have some water on hand for in between classes. It’s important to stay hydrated especially when having back to back lessons and there’s minimum time for a break. Also, if you have a longer lesson, maybe an hour/ hour and a half lesson, you definitely want to have access to a drink after all that talking. Along with water… snacks. I have yet to manage fitting snacks in between my back to back classes, but I would definitely try to have some little snacks on hand for if you have a last minute cancellation or no show – a quick sugar boost or pick me up will always help to boost your energy levels before the next class.

Another vital piece of equipment for a TEFL teacher – headphones. I use my phone earphones at the minute, and they work really well. I will likely upgrade in the next few months and maybe treat myself to some wireless headphones…suggestions or recommendations welcome! The sound quality and volume work really well on all my lessons on both my phone and laptop, and obviously they are a great gadget that stops the rest of the house having to listen to all my classes. I have seen my fellow TEFL teachers modelling all types of earphones and headphone combinations, and I definitely think it is a personal choice and fit with what works best for you. You need them to be comfortable, especially if you are going to be wearing them 7/8 hours a day. So maybe try a few different options first to see what you prefer and what works best before investing in a top of the range headset you haven’t sussed out yet.

Something that you kind of forget about (maybe that’s me?!) or something that seems really obvious – charging cable and socket. With my laptop, it’s really easy to charge, so it isn’t really an issue. It’s usually plugged in most of the time when I’m teaching (but not always switched on – don’t worry, I’m not wasting electricity). However, when I’m teaching using my phone – Palfish lessons for example – I’ve noticed, as I have had more lessons and more back to back lessons, about how quickly the app drains my battery. So, a few times I have been teaching and had a mad panic about the battery life lasting for the duration of the lesson. So I would definitely say to make sure you have a charging cable on hand you can easily plug in if needed so your lesson won’t be interrupted and your students will be non the wiser when your phone is flashing at 5%.

The final key thing I think all TEFL teachers should have on hand is a notebook and pen. This is really handy so you can make all kinds of notes about your students. For the children for example, things/characters/ films they like so you can use relevant props and make lessons more personalised, areas they need further help with and any ideas for future lessons. For adults and your own students, you can make notes on things the students have enjoyed in the lesson, any requests that have come in ready for next time, and any improvements or homework for you for next time you see the student. I have had requests from students for things like vocab lists, practice conversation role plays using vocab learnt in the lesson for example. So, a notebook and pen are key to make sure you meet you’re students’ needs and don’t forget anything. Its also handy if you have an idea while teaching and just want to write it down before forgetting – there is always something you’ll want to jot down in a lesson so its best to be prepared.

As I said at the start, I have only been teaching since January, but I have found these things to be key in the start of my TEFL career and keep all my lessons running smoothly and problem free…so far. It’s not an extensive list and there is always room for more, so if you have read this and think I have missed something glaringly obvious, please let me know!

About Catherine

I am a native English teacher and TEFL qualified. I provide English lessons online via a secure platform and based around each students individual learning requirements. I cover all aspects of English language and conversation ..