Myths of Online Teaching
My teaching career happened rather accidentally. I was sitting in a political science class and my professor asked to speak to me afterward. He wanted me to guest lecture about ethnic cleansing after hearing about my experiences with genocide as a child in Bosnia. As a former refugee, I was pained with the task of having to share my story to a group of people I’d never met–at least 100 eyes all on me at the same time. It was hard to not be biased and just present the facts.
The first few times I lectured, I knew I didn’t do well. I wasn’t very confident at public speaking, and never really looked forward to any kind of performance. Engaging with large crowds often made me feel shy, embarrassed, and ultimately mess up whatever I was attempting to present. Thus, my early lectures on the subject went horrendously. Learning how to speak to a group of people in a professional, understandable, comfortable, and credible way took time and effort as well as a deep desire to control and conquer myself and my thoughts. That must have been eight years ago, and since being a guest lecturer at my university, I never thought I’d seriously make a career out of teaching. Yet, here I am, and the proof is in the writing and the work that I do now.
I have now taught as an elementary teacher for two years in South Korea, and have taught students online as well. When I tell people that I’m an elementary school teacher, they find that to be fascinating, especially because I’m in Asia. They tend to respect what I do. It’s not the same story when I mention my online teaching past. It seems that despite the fact online courses, degrees, and instruction are more common than ever, some lingering, negative attitudes persist about online educators. I’ve narrowed my list of the top five myths people believe about online educators and address why they’re all false.
You Aren’t Really Teaching
While I most certainly agree that I wasn’t only teaching–I had other duties like submitting lesson memos after each lesson, assigning homework, keeping students on task, providing feedback on sentences, correcting grammar and word choice, etc.–teaching was the bulk of the work.
Yes, when you teach, whether it is online or in person, you are responsible for students conduct, making sure they come to class, and making sure they do what they are asked. And yes, lessons have to be fun based on the age group you’re teaching–but it isn’t an online babysitting job. In many cases, students can select their own textbooks so they can learn the subject material they’d like. Often, they can change the textbook or lesson they want to learn at any point before their classes. Students also don’t have to be exclusively elementary level. At one point, I gave English lessons to a nursing professor and a pediatrician. They can either be one- on-one classes or group classes, and if you think that teaching a regular classroom is hard, consider an online group. The job requires you to be more adaptable, flexible, and resourceful.
It Doesn’t Pay As Well As Normal Teaching Jobs
I should specify that I am not a professor, so my experience in teaching online is limited to international students who are learning English to pass foreign language tests or to acquire proficiency in a foreign language, so I’m writing with that perspective. That being said, in the industry, there is no standard pay set. Every company offers different pay for different work. Sometimes, teachers online are considered independent contractors. Very rarely are benefits or retirement plans available through a company in this type of online education. There are online teaching companies all over the world, and they are all unique.
While it is true that working full-time will give you a modest income at most online companies, there are a few who pay better than others or pay a really great wage. You can’t really assume how much a teacher makes just from the medium they use to deliver their lessons.
You Don’t Have to Be Qualified to Teach
This must be considered on a case-by-case basis. Some companies will accept someone with an associate’s degree. Others accept recent college graduates with no teaching experience–a few companies will make exceptions for students who have training experience or management experience. However, the best paying jobs require a bachelor’s degree, at least some teaching experience (a year or more, typically), and a TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) certificate is a bonus. Thus, there are solid requirements for anyone wanting to become a teacher online. Don’t believe the hype that you don’t need to have some experience or be qualified to teach. You, at the very minimum, need some type of degree and transferrable skills.
You’re Basically Paid to Have Fun
Teaching can be fun. That much is true. You have an excuse to incorporate games and toys to reinforce lesson goals. That sounds pretty fun, right? However, it is far more complicated than just having fun. Teaching can be frustrating. There are some students who, no matter what you do, simply don’t want to learn, and those toys you purchased for class purposes? They are coming out of your paycheck. Once the fun is over, you have to write a detailed report with feedback, suggestions for future learning, and homework. Objectives must be met. Students must be learning. If all you’re having is fun, then you’ll have a pink slip before you know it.
It Isn’t a “REAL” Job
Some of the negative attitudes toward online jobs need to change. Freelancing, teaching online, interactive tutoring, whatever you want to call it, is a legitimate and stable job that offers more money and sometimes, a bit more security than a regular “9 to 5” position. Teachers are expected to come in and work a set number of hours each week if they don’t want to be penalized or fired, and there are punishments for missing classes or teaching at a subpar level. There are performance bonuses, among other bonuses, just like an office job.
So, next time someone tells you that you don’t have a real job or that your job is nothing but fun and games, show them this article. If you’re on the other side of the spectrum and want to know what online teaching is really like and the expectations placed upon teachers, now you have a resource.
So, what do you think? Is online teaching something you’re considering now if you weren’t before? Tell us in the comment section!