Before leaving the USA in April of 2018 to travel indefinitely, I took a TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) Course at the International TEFL Academy in Chicago. It was one of my many when I run out of money but don’t want to come home yet, back-up plans.
I had no idea where, or even if, I’d teach English.
Seven months into traveling around Asia, I needed to make some money. I met an online English teacher who graciously helped me prepare for my interview with VIPKID and land the job!
Over the past year I have taught English online in Thailand, Bali, and most recently, back home in Chicago. People reach out to me all the time with questions about teaching English online so I created this post to help answer them!
The information I share here is based on my personal experiences teaching English online with VIPKID and GoGo Kid, things I’ve witnessed and conversations I’ve had with other teachers and travelers.
Requirements for VIPKID & GoGo Kid
- Bachelor’s Degree (any major)
- Native English Speaker
- Canadian or US citizenship
- TEFL Certification
- One Year of Experience (any teaching/ childcare environment)
- Clear Background Check
If you do not have a Bachelor’s Degree, are a non-native English speaker, or are not from Canada or the USA, don’t get discouraged! There are a lot of online English schools, all with differing requirements. If you would like more information about other online English schools, please reach out to me and I will do my best to get you connected with someone who can assist!
Application Process for VIPKID & GoGo Kid
The application process is forever changing as these companies grow and evolve. You will most likely have to do a video chat interview and a mock lesson. The mock lesson may be live or pre-recorded. Regardless of the format of your mock lesson, remember this:
- TPR (Total Physical Response): This means be extremely animated with facial expressions and body language. The weirder and more ridiculous you feel, the better!
- Background and Props: Have something on the wall behind you. Preferably something colorful and education related. At the bare minimum, have a colorful sign with your name on it. Be sure to use at least one, but preferably two, props in the lesson. (White boards, flash cards, stuffed animals etc.)
- It’s normal not to pass your first mock lesson: I didn’t. If you don’t pass, don’t freak out. Take the interviewer’s tips and advice, watch sample classes online, practice your routine, and try again. You got this!
VIPKID & GoGO Kid Hours
Each class is 25 minutes long with 5 minutes between each. I teach about 12 hours, or 24 classes, per week. I know some people who teach far less (there is no minimum requirement) and some people who teach way more (up to 10 classes, or 5 hours, per day). Plan on unreliable bookings for the first few weeks, to the first few months, while you are getting the hang of things!
The companies I work for are based out of Beijing and run on Chinese time. Check out these handy little charts to get an idea about when the peak teaching times are in your area:
Summer = March through November
Winter = November through March
The base pay is between $7 and $9 per class, or $14 to $18 per hour. On top of that there are incentives offered regularly. This means teachers often make over $20 per hour. Personally, I almost always make $20 per hour and never less than $16 per hour.
Currently, I teach about 10-12 hrs per week which yields about $750 per month (before taxes). This is probably a good time to mention I am a 1099 employee and am responsible for paying my own taxes at the end of the year.
After teaching online for a year, this has only recently become a reliable source of income. For me, teaching English online is supplemental to doing hair, babysitting my nephew, and my future in-person teaching jobs abroad. I cannot fathom a scenario where I could make enough money teaching online to support myself in the USA. Maybe I could live on it in certain countries abroad, but I wouldn’t feel comfortable depending on it as my sole source of income.
A strong internet connection is important! An Ethernet connection is ideal, but I often work from WiFi and know many others who do as well. I use speedtest.net to test the internet strength. I am not super techy but have learned that the higher the download speed and the lower the ping, the better. A download speed of 10 is doable, but aim for 20 or higher. A good ping is below 100.
While traveling, it is best to ask your host about the internet speed prior to booking! Keep in mind that in many countries, especially island nations, the infrastructure is not as reliable as we are used to in the USA. This may mean random power outages and spotty internet connections. If the internet does go down, it is possible to teach using your phone as a hot spot, I did it Bali and on Koh Samui. It wasn’t ideal but it worked!
Teaching & Materials
All the lessons I teach are provided by the companies I work for, via interactive slides. The night before, I go through the slides, grab props that pertain to the lesson (such as an apple or a USA flag) and jot down notes to guide my instruction and pacing.
After the lesson, I write feedback to the parents about their child’s performance. Other than that, little outside work is required.
Good lighting is a must! Natural light is better, but sometimes that isn’t an option. If you can, teach facing a well lit window. Right now, in Chicago, I teach before the sun comes up (5am -7am). This means I need lots of extra light. The ceiling light in my room and the desk lamp, positioned on an angle in front of my computer (pictured in the classroom photo), works just fine.
I do not travel with the desk lamp so I have to get creative! Both of my apartments in Thailand had adequate lighting (with a little rearranging) and in Bali, I spent $10 on a desk lamp.
An Important Note on Race and Appearance
When I applied at VIPKID and GoGo Kid I had bright purple hair, half of a shaved head, and a nose ring.
Both companies hired me.
I can’t be sure if this symbolizes diversity, or white privilege?
Many people around the world picture native English speakers, and therefore qualified English teachers, to be white, with blonde hair and blue eyes. This assumption is clearly absurd, but it is an unfortunate truth that anyone interested in teaching English abroad or online needs to be aware of.
I met a native English speaker, born and raised in the USA, with dark brown hair, tan skin and green eyes. (One of her parents is white, and the other Indian.) While teaching English in Thailand, she discovered she was making less money than her fair skinned, blonde haired, blue eyed, counterparts, who fit the image, but were less qualified.
In Vietnam, I was shocked to see a job listing for an English teacher that blatantly said No Blacks. Between this anti-black messaging and the glorification of white skin (through the popularization of whitening creams and in media representation) it is clear that whiteness is idolized in Asia.
I am not saying any of this to discourage people of color, Black people, or anyone else who doesn’t fit the image, from teaching English abroad or online. I am sharing this to be honest about the pervasiveness of white superiority around the world and how it impacts this field of work.
With that said, there are many Black people and people of color with successful English teaching careers, both online and abroad! Read this article by Edward Young, “an African–American male with tattoos, a beard, and dreadlocks, who very happily taught English abroad in Japan, South Korea, Oman & Saudi Arabia for over 7 years.” Follow Allen, @travelingcrumbs on Instagram, a Black man teaching English online while traveling Asia on budget and Krystle, @krystle.can_ on Instagram, a Black woman teaching English and living in Taiwan, for travel and teaching inspiration!
Interested in Applying?
I made over $1000 in referral bonuses during my first few months with GoGokid. These referral bonuses are a perk, but I must admit, making so much off them was a fluke! At the time, GoGokid was offering $300 to all new hires. I posted about the $300 incentive, and attached my link, in a few travel groups on Facebook and people flocked to my page. It was a classic case of posting the right thing, in the right place, at the right time.
Now, I only drop my links when talking to be people about teaching online (like this). Any other amount of hustling people to apply makes me feel like a used car salesman. I’m not about that life.
Also, check out the Instagram story take-over I did for ITA while I was teaching English online in Ubud, Bali. I just re-watched it for the first time since it aired and am cracking up at how I roll my eyes when I talk about teaching the younger students. It’s obvious I prefer teaching the higher levels/ older students. If you have any questions regarding levels and ages, let me know!
Please feel free to reach out to me at email@example.com with any questions you have about teaching English online! If I cannot answer your question I will try to get you in touch with someone who can!
Leave a comment and let me know about your experience teaching English!