What Times Can I Work Teaching ESL Online?

It comes up in conversation: Someone is curious about teaching ESL online, and asking me questions based on their experience teaching offline – questions about prep, lesson planning, materials… At some point, the topic of time comes up, and I explain about peak demand time.

Peak demand time is the highest demand period for teachers. That is to say… these are the hours when most parents are booking classes for their children. In China, the highest demand time for online English classes is between

  • 7:00 PM to 9:00 PM, Monday through Friday, and
  • 9:00 AM to 10:00 PM on Saturdays and Sundays.

This makes sense – the students are out of school, and on the weeknights, parents have had time to get home from work and usually everyone (hopefully) has had dinner. Makes sense, right?

But… remember… this is BJT (Beijing Time). I live in the Central Time Zone – which (most of the year) is 14 hours difference. So… 7:00 PM BJT is actually 5:00 AM CDT*. In my time zone, the peak demand hours look like this:

  • 6:00 AM to 9:00 AM, Monday through Friday, and
  • 7:00 PM Friday night to 9:00 AM on Saturday morning, and.
  • 7:00 PM Saturday night to 9:00 AM on Sunday morning

Big difference.

When we’re having these conversations, this is often the point at which the other person loses interest. That might be a good thing! If you really can’t teach during these times, this job won’t work for you. It’s smart to move on.

However, if you don’t have any truly unyielding circumstances, I encourage you to give it a second thought. You see:

I do not teach overnights. Period. I don’t need to, so I don’t.

I set my own schedule. 6 to 9 AM works great for me and my family.

Remember, you don’t need to work ALL those hours. You pick and choose the ones that work best for you.I work three hours a day, six days a week. That meets our financial goals and still allows me to be fully present for our family during the day. I could pick up more classes if I wanted to – and there have been times when I have.

That’s one of the things that’s so awesome about the opportunity to teach ESL online – you can arrange your own hours.

When I finished graduate school, I was really anxious to get back into the classroom with children (I’d been teaching undergrads, but that’s not the same!). However, I had some other opportunities open to me – to continue as an adjunct instructor as well as to head a community based instructional program. In the school district I lived in at the time, there were no part-time teaching positions. When I inquired, they were very proud to tell me all the positions were full time. And while that is great in some ways, there was no opportunity or room for flex time. Teaching ESL online allows me:

  • To work from anywhere. If we need to go out of town, I don’t need to take a day off. I just take my laptop along.
  • To work when it works for me. Most evenings, our family is involved in classes. When we have the odd evening off, I can open slots and pick up two, three, or more additional classes.
  • To work on my terms. True, I am a contractor with a company and they have their policies, practices, and procedures. However, there are many companies available to work with. I work with the companies that are compatible with my goals and teaching philosophy.

To that end – there are ESL companies hiring native speakers to serve students outside of China. On one hand, that gives you other time zones to work in. On the other hand, at this time of writing, you will find that the wages can sometimes as much as 50% lower than what you can earn with a company based in China.

Think about it. Maybe you’re a night owl, and working into the evenings or overnights is a perfect fit for you! Maybe you’re like me – more of a lark and happy to work with students in the early morning hours. Maybe your time zone is a little more compatible – during Daylight Savings Time, peak hours in China are 7:00 to 10:00 AM. I’ve love those hours! And weekend and vacation morning classes in China start at 5:00 PM in Pacific Standard Time. Don’t dismiss this opportunity out of hand when you hear the hours – they may be more compatible with your lifestyle than you think.

*China does not observe Daylight Saving Time. That means that the peak times change for those of us in time zones where we do. For example, since I live in Central Time Zone, peak hours are 5:00 AM to 8:00 AM for me November through February, but they change to 6:00 AM to 9:00 AM March through October.

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.

I’d love to hear from you! Click here to send me a message.

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