Being an English Teacher is not always a walk in the park. As I enter my second year of teaching English as a foreign language, I continue to learn that being skilled at explaining English vocabulary and grammar structures is not always to the most important part of teaching students. I have found that setting learning expectations is key. Sometimes students feel that they will be able to accomplish more than their schedule will reasonably allow them to. While this may be a hard pill for them to swallow, it is crucial for a teacher to help students understand their current level of English comprehension and fluency. This will help prevent students from being unsatisfied with their progress and will help prevent a lot of headaches for the tutor. Wishful thinking has never helped anyone in the TEFL world.

I started my TEFL journey in the fall of 2020. The pandemic had already been in full swing since the spring, and I was looking for a way to work from home while I studied remotely for my bachelor’s degree. A family friend had recently mentioned that they had completed their TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) certification so that they could start teaching Chinese children English online. This perked my interest. I had never explored TEFL before as a way to work from home.

A few weeks later, I found myself enrolling in an online TEFL academy in order to achieve my 120-hour TEFL certificate. Additionally, I had opted to earn a 40-hour TEYL (Teaching English to Young Learners) certificate. It took me around 6 months to finish the program, all of which was done at my own pace and remotely. As soon as I received the email that I had passed my final written assignments and passed the course, I applied to be an online English teacher with one of the popular TEFL teaching online platforms. I was surprised at how quickly I received a response. Two hours after submitting my application and video intro, I was accepted! I guess I was very fortunate. Periodically, online TEFL companies go through hiring freezes, and with the particular company I applied to, some candidates did not hear anything back for months.

After completing training, I started working a week later. It was overwhelming at first. I wasn’t very confident and would sometimes stumble over my own words (which is not a good look for a teacher!). But gradually, as I became more experienced with the platform, my ratings improved and I started to get regular bookings from students. Thankfully, I did not have to prepare much in the way of lesson plans or activities. Most students either wanted to have a free-flowing conversation in order to practice their speaking skills or a structured theme-based lesson picked from the company-provided catalog of lesson plans and slides. There was definitely a learning curve in regard to navigating the online teaching platform, but I was able to grab the hang of it relatively quickly.

After being an online English teacher for more than one-and-a-half years, I can definitely testify to the very real problem of TEFL burnout. It takes a lot of effort and a lot of patience to be a teacher, and some students can be very demanding. I have had to step away from teaching for a week or two on multiple occasions. Thankfully, teaching isn’t my main source of income. One of the things that keeps me motivated is knowing that my current teaching gig isn’t my end-all-be-all. I have plans to move on to another higher-paying company once I finish my English Degree, and eventually, I plan to teach overseas. Another thing that keeps me sane is not being obsessed with the teacher rating system. I have a high rating on the platform I teach on, but it can fluctuate, sometimes quite significantly. I just keep on giving my best to my students and weed out the ones who aren’t satisfied. Finally, I have learned to not take everything so seriously. Learning to just enjoy the flow has been especially hard for me because I tend to be a perfectionist. However, the best way to feel in control is to only worry about the things you can control. And that’s what I’ve been doing lately.

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