Six Reasons NOT to Teach ESL Online


  1. You think teaching online will be easier than teaching in your brick and mortar job. It’s not easier (just different). Kids are still kids, and English skills are still English skills.What is easier is that your entire job is… teaching. Uh-huh. No lunch duty, no playground coverage, no bus line. I actually enjoyed those times, but let’s face it – I can use that time better right now in my life. The company pays me to teach. Sweet.


  2. You can’t or won’t commit to the hours.Look, China is in a different time zone. If you’re going to teach when children are available, that means when they are out of school and awake. I’d love to teach at p:00 AM my time, but that’s 11:00 PM in China (and I really, really hope my students are asleep at that point). Summers and weekends can flip upside down – instead of early morning our time/evenings there, Moms and Dads want to schedule classes during the day, when the kids are out of school. In July, 9:00 AM in China is 7:00 PM in my time zone, and most weeknights, we are taking our children to extracurriculars (just like the parents of my students in China). For me, teaching from 5:00 AM to 8:00 AM is perfect because I can take care of business before my family is really up and about. If you can’t work during the demand hours, then this is not a job for you.
  3. You are not open to questioning your own cultural biases
    One of the things that has delighted me in working with Chinese families is seeing, in spite of the language barrier, just how much we have in common. Being a mom or dad in China has the same joys and heartbreak as parenting anywhere else in the world. That said, parents in China are under many pressures that is it difficult for Westerners to relate to. Many parents really, I mean, really push their children to excel. These parents aren’t heartless. Like us, they want the best for their children, but educational opportunities are more scarce and far more competitive in China. What can appear like extreme “Tiger Mom” overbearing parenting to us may be what it takes to ensure the student is competitive enough to qualify for high school, and, of course, high school is one stepping stone to college.
    It’s not all bad news. Parents in general are highly involved with their children. If the parent is not in the room during the lesson, with my younger students, they are often in the next room, listening and available to assist.

    But some aspects of the culture are different, and if you aren’t comfortable embracing, or accepting these differences, I suggest you move on.

  4. You aren’t willing to invest yourself (your time, your money and your heart) 

    In this position, you will need to maintain the same professional standards as a brick and mortar job… and maybe more. There is no tenure. Your bookings – the classes you teach – will depend heavily on how you teach and who you are when you teach. 

    Most companies will provide the curriculum, and you will not need to write lesson plans. However, until you are familiar with the materials, you will need to review them prior to classes. Most of the lessons I teach, I can now prep super fast because I’ve already taught them. Trust me – it’s no fun to work with a student with materials that are unfamiliar to you… and the parents will take note if you seem disoriented or ill-prepared.You do not need the top of the line computer from NASA to teach. You do need decent quality equipment and a reliable internet connection. If you have something thrifty that works – great! But if you’re trying to skim by, and you start experiencing IT problems.. the companies will likely be unsympathetic.

    I’ve noticed something interesting in the past year on social media. Like much of the rest of the world. social media (especially Facebook) is where ESL teachers meet up. It’s the ultimate teacher’s lounge, where you can zing through and touch base in your three minutes between classes while you sip on coffee. But… I’ve seen some, well, interesting statements there. Teachers who openly admit they will “fake” an IT problem to avoid dealing with a student, or because they don’t want to cancel a class. Teachers who comment with (to me, but I’m a PollyAnna) shocking scorn and disparagement about their students and or parents.

    Y’all… the companies have people in these groups. When there is a mass hue and cry of teachers whose bookings drop off, whose contracts aren’t renewed… is it any surprise? Because whether the companies targeted these folks for their comments or not, the comments are outward evidence of an inner truth: Their heart isn’t in the job. If your heart isn’t in the work, it’s going to show in the quality of the work.


  5. You want to be an employee, not a contractor.Understand this: YOu will NOT be an employee. The best comparison is to being an independent contractor. (I’m no attorney, but I read what an American attorney in China shared about their labor laws. It’s slightly different, but for our purposes, basically the same.)

    No insurance.
    No taxes withheld.
    No union.
    No retirement program.
    No paid vacation (Oh, wait, we’re teachers, never mind!)

    That is all up to you to manage. I cannot recommend strongly enough that you work with a tax professional (I do). That said, I know there are plenty of teachers who manage it on their own.


  6. You don’t have the energy resources. 

    This takes energy. It is energizing, but the hours are at odds with our time frames. And remember – it IS work. 

    If you have a financial goal, and it will require working 7 days a week…. How long can you sustain that? Don’t fall for the line your mind whispers, “As long as I need to.” That’s a lie our brain stems tell us to get us to keep moving forward. The truth is that you can sustain it as long as you can sustain it. Personally, I swore I’d never work seven days a week. Then, I did it (you know!) temporarily. It took six months to achieve that goal, and I was really surprised at how tired I was at the end. Oh, I was okay while teaching. But the fatigue showed up in the rest of the day – in faltering stamina in my martial arts class, in my (lack of) patience with my children, in the quality of time with my husband. It’s good to know that if we really, really needed it, I could do it… but frankly, it wasn’t worth the toll for me. If I had to do it again, I’d create a plan that took more weeks and gave me a day of rest weekly.

Sorry if this seems negative, but I realize this job isn’t for everyone. I love it, but you’re not me. And sometimes there are things you don’t discover until your in the situation. I hope what I’ve written can provide some clarity for some of you.


This website is written by me – Sandra Girouard.

I’ve been blessed with a long teaching career – first as a music teacher, then an instructional technology manager. When my family’s needs meant traveling and later moving around the country, I began the adventure of homeschooling and eventually working online. Teaching online has allowed me to return to passion my of working with children (besides my own), and lets me spend time each day with students and parents at home and across the world.

Questions? Comments? I’d love to hear from you, Click here to send me a note

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