The Top 5 Tips for Getting Your First Class Teaching English Online
Getting that coveted first booking is one of the biggest challenges teachers face when beginning a career teaching online.
The first class is most definitely the hardest to book. This is because you are brand new in your company’s pool of teachers. When parents look at your profile, you have no experience and no social proof from other parents who have reviewed your classes. So, parents who DO book you are taking a small risk. Because let’s face it, they pay good money for these classes.
But once you are able to get that first class, it quickly turns into a second. And then a third. And if you do a good job with those few, and get a few good reviews from parents, you’ll soon find yourself able to book any time slots you want.
I know that when I first started, it took me a while to get my first class. I wish I had known then what I know now. Learn from my mistakes and implement these five tips for getting your first class and you should be off to the races in no time.
#1: Fill out the experience section of your teacher profile
Chinese parents LOVE to see your educational background. They want to know what degrees, diplomas, and certificates you have and they like reading what schools you got them from. It doesn’t matter if the school isn’t a famous one. Aside from the internationally-known universities, most Chinese parents don’t know the difference between schools, but for some reason, they love to see them listed there.
Be sure to list the official titles and granting institutions of all your relevant degrees, diplomas, and certificates. Also, be sure to list ANY experience you have with teaching or with children in general. This can include coaching, mentoring, counselling, care-taking, and babysitting. Don’t be too long-winded with this next one, but you can also write a sentence or two (in plain English) about your approach to teaching.
#2: Take a decent profile photo
You really don’t have to visit one of those professional photo studios and make a super-fake, glossy professional headshot to be successful in this regard. However, you should put some time into getting the perfect shot. The perfect shot would likely involve you in your online classroom, wearing your company colors (or something that looks professional, but not stuffy), and successfully conveying your personality. You can do this with your computer’s webcam if you have a decent one.
If you’re a super-animated teacher who loves to use decorations and props and hats, be that person in your photo. If you’re a more serious teacher who prefers teaching grammar concepts, be that teacher. Whatever your style, be SINCERE.
Take a bunch of photos, narrow them down, and ask some family and friends which photo portrays you the best. You might be surprised; the photo you think is the best might not come across that way to others.
#3 - Shoot a decent intro video
Again, it doesn’t have to be super fancy and look like it cost a fortune to make. The biggest thing here is to record yourself in your class, with a nice, tightly cropped camera angle, wearing your teaching clothes, and being sincere.
Please make sure your lighting is not dark. This is a big turn-off for parents. Borrow a bunch of lamps from other rooms in your house if you have to, and angle them in such a way that there are no shadows on your face. Check out this simple triangle lighting technique used by professional photographers and videographers.
You can simply introduce yourself, talk briefly about your education and experience, say a sentence or two about your teaching style, and thank the parents for taking the time to watch your video. Make sure you use some TPR.
If you use a Mac, you can use iMovie to add a little bit of text and music to your video. If you’re a PC user, you used to get Windows Movie Maker free with any version of Windows. However, it seems as though Microsoft has stopped including this in their Windows updates and no longer updates the software itself. If you still have Windows Movie Maker, it’s more than enough. If not, check out this article for some easy-to-use and free replacements for Windows Movie Maker.
If you’re the type of person who loves to go over the top for this type of stuff, consider using webcam software like ManyCam. This will allow you to have picture-in-picture, use animated masks and backgrounds, and use green-screen technology.
If you have zero technical skills in this area, don’t worry. You can still make a great intro video without all the bells and whistles. Just use the tips outlined above.
The experience section of your profile, your photo, and your video are where parents of potential students will get their first glimpse of you. If you don’t have any reviews from parents yet, this is the ONLY thing they have to go by when deciding to book you. Make sure you leave a good impression.
#4: Open as many time slots as you can (including off-peak times)
I have been teaching and helping others with their online teaching careers for a few years now and many teachers are terribly afraid to do this at first. I was, too. They worry that they will get overwhelmed by bookings. I have not seen a brand new teacher get an overwhelming amount of bookings when first starting out. And if it DOES seem like all the slots are booking quickly (consider yourself lucky), simply close out any remaining unbooked time slots.
It's important to open as many peak time slots as you can. Each company has their own peak time slots depending on where their students are located. These are the slots that are most likely to get booked.
However, these are also the times at which most other teachers are trying to teach. If you are trying to book your very first class, we also highly recommend that you open as many off-peak time slots as you can. This is because there are fewer teachers available at these times. And with thousands and thousands of students, you are bound to have a few that want classes at odd times. These students are more likely to book brand new teachers because there are fewer teachers available.
*Note: be sure to only open slots that you would actually be able to teach, if booked. Getting a “teacher no-show” in your first few classes will have you fighting an uphill battle.
After you have a few classes under your belt, your profile is going to appear higher in search results. This leads me to my next point.
#5 - Politely ask for feedback
Having feedback scores on your profile will also place you higher in search results and make you MUCH more visible to parents. Parents will also be more likely to book you because there is social proof of your worth.
Yet, this is another thing that new teachers are worried about. They fear they will come across as sleazy or needy. It took me me a while to get over this.
Getting feedback scores is so important for building up your bookings, as well as getting contract renewals and raises. Fear not - I ask for feedback after EVERY single class I teach. Many parents realize how important it is and won’t think of you as being needy. Simply indicate to the parent that feedback scores are important to your teaching career. Tell them that you would really appreciate a good review if they enjoyed the class, and tell them you always want to improve and are open to receiving constructive criticism. Try something like this:
“Thank you so much for booking a class with me today. Feedback scores are very important to teachers here. If you enjoyed the class, and if it’s not too much trouble, could you please leave feedback for today’s class? I am always striving to become a better teacher, so please let me know if there is anything I can do better next time. I hope to see your child in my class again soon!”
For extra credit:
Make sure you blow them away in your first few classes
In the beginning, you are going to be a bit nervous and unsure of how it all works. I know I was. Be prepared, practice the lesson, and gather a few good props (don’t go overboard, it’s distracting). Be your best self, without coming across as “extra”. Smile, be patient, be enthusiastic. Stick mostly to the curriculum, but extend where appropriate. This is what is going to get you those first, crucial reviews.
After you have a few classes under your belt, you’ll be able to “walk” into any class, with a few key props and do a great job - without rehearsing or doing much prep beforehand.
Getting your first class will highly depend on the quality of your profile and the sheer amount of time slots you are able to open. For some teachers, they get their first class in the first weeks of becoming a teacher. Personally, it took me a few months. But that’s because I didn’t know all the things I’ve shared with you here today.
Eventually you’ll be booking every slot you want to, entertaining and educating like a pro, writing student feedback in your 5-minute break because your timing is so good, and reaping the benefits of your new-found flexible income source.