Bo is currently serving as a Center Supervisor at our JHB center. In 2016, he started out at EF as an online teacher. As soon as you meet Bo, you will see quickly that he is a very passionate person who has a genuine desire to help others grow in their journeys. I had a great conversation with him about his early days of teaching. I wanted to know what it was like for him as a new teacher, how he felt when he first started, lessons he learned, and skills that he acquired along the way.
Here are 9 highlights from our conversation about his journey that new teachers may relate to when they are first starting out as online English teachers:
You don’t need previous teaching experience to be an online English teacher.
Originally, Bo wasn’t considering a career in education. He studied sociology and social development. After graduation, he worked in events, marketing, and working on websites.Online teaching came to him by chance. “I was just looking for something new to do, looking for a new job and then and I applied with a few different companies.” One of those companies happened to be EF Teach Online. And the rest… is history.
You can “travel” to several different countries all in one day!
“The thing that immediately jumped out at me was the fact that I could connect with people from all these different countries all at once. I had never really experienced that much. A lot of my interaction had to do with either someone coming from another country into my country or me traveling elsewhere, so this was really different, to actually be in touch with students in different lessons, from different places, different cultures.”
It’s natural to be nervous when you first start something new
“I was super nervous. We had about two days of training so there was a lot of buildup. They trained us on how to use the interface and what we would expect in class and what we should do if we have any issues so I kind of knew how to approach the whole thing, but I was still really nervous on that first day. For the first 15 or so minutes, my mic was actually muted, and for the life of me, I had no idea what the issue was. Then, one of the students was like, “Um, Teacher, your microphone is actually muted. Did you notice?” So yeah, long story short, first lesson, basically a disaster, but everything else was smooth sailing from there.”
Nervous about private lessons? You will be ok!
“I remember the day that I got my first private lesson. I wasn’t even expecting it. One of my supervisors was just like, “Hey Bo, please refresh your schedule, you’re going to be teaching a private lesson today.”I was like, “Please just help me out! Is there any special prep that I need to do? Do I need to approach this in any certain way?” and she’s like, “Wait! Breathe! Relax! Just relax. Approach it the same way that you approach every single lesson. You’ll be fine, you’ll be fine. Just go ahead and do everything that you went through in training for private lessons. You’ll be fine, ok? You got this!”It turned out to be a brilliant lesson.”
Your students can become more than just students
“I have some students who I started with years ago and I’m still in touch with them and it’s beautiful because people do grow to be more than just your students. Some of them become your friends, and others have invited me to their countries. You need to get used to building those relationships. It doesn’t happen instantly, and you also have to give a little bit of yourself so that they feel comfortable.”
The key to building rapport
“I think the most important thing is to be genuine. I just think because you want to do so well, you almost put up certain walls – you’re holding back everything because you don’t want to be exposed but actually, that’s what makes people connect with you! The more you break down those walls, the more they connect with you. Throw in the odd joke or two, or a quote that you think will encourage them. It’s OK if you feel like you need to correct them on something if you really feel like it’s going to help them. Little things like that show that you are seeing them as more than just a client. You’re seeing them as a human being, and I think that’s the most valuable thing and that’s how you build a lot of relationships with a lot of different students.”
You will get better with practice
“Getting used to speaking to someone, connecting with them, getting feedback down, and also grading them at the same time; It actually blows your mind in those early days because you’re like, “Am I even gonna manage this?” Don’t overthink how you multitask. Just do what comes naturally to you. ‘Learning to balance’ everything properly comes with practice. “
You can help make your student’s dreams come true
“I used to have a student who was from Brazil. He really wanted to get a job in another country, especially in Europe. He’d been trying for the longest time. We did lessons for about a year straight every single week. In the first six months he had gradual progress. Then I suggested that he started watching more English content, whatever it could be; movies, series, anything like that. He grew a lot through watching series. He started telling me more about these series than even I knew. Then he was reading more. He was talking to more people in English. Eventually after that year was over, he was so much more fluent, so much more confident. He was able to take an interview with an international company based in Portugal. They didn’t even get through much of the interview, and they said, ‘You’ve got the job. Please sort out your visa, your kids, we need you ASAP!’ So, that’s just one example of how the more that you work at something and dedicate your time to your students and get creative about how you teach them, they can go far.”
Be open minded and leverage any interests or skills that you have
It’s really important to be as open minded as possible. Just be open to learn. If you feel you are closed minded, online teaching might be a challenge for you since you have students from all over the world. And leverage as many interests or skills that you have. It’s important to see yourself as a multifaceted being. Don’t box yourself in. You are a teacher but there is so much more to you. Try to leverage what makes you, you as much as you can!
Learn more about EF Teach Online here.