We can see new opportunities for teachers, as well as new sorts of problems.
A good example of such dualism is a job that 15 years ago was a novelty, yet now it is a huge part of the education market – teaching English online. Not only is it a source of additional income for school or university teachers, but for thousands of people all over the world it has become full-time employment, or to be more precise, self-employment.
No doubt, the advantages are obvious: flexible schedule, no need to commute, and no formal restrictions on how much you can earn. However, nothing is perfect, and at the other end of the spectrum there are quite specific problems, such as being cut off from the professional community and difficulty with continuing professional development, which is usually provided by brick-and-mortar educational establishments for their staff.
But what are you supposed to do when you work online from home solo? How can you deal with the challenges of day-to-day work with learners and there is no colleague by your side to help with advice? How about assessment and professional development? Sooner or later any teacher that chooses to go for this job will have to face these problems. I had to figure it all out for myself and these are the solutions I’d like to suggest.
- When it comes to finding a quick fix (the equivalent of “asking someone from the faculty”), the Telegram, or Whatsapp communities may be of great help. And here’s the thing: whereas I understand how helpful such groups might be (because I see how it works in the Telegram group Digital Learning (@npsonline) (for e-learning professionals speaking Russian), I have been unable to find any group of the kind for teachers of English, and freelance teachers online in particular. So, please recommend me some, if you know, and meanwhile I have created one of my own – Freelance Teachers Online (@freeteach_online) so, welcome if you are interested.
- The same as “a quick fix” plus sharing resources and networking is what you can expect to benefit from being a member of Facebook, or other social network, groups.
Some links that I have found interesting on Facebook: Teachers- sharing ideas and resources for the classroom! ESL TEACHERS For Teachers of English Language Learners. And here is a great directory of different sorts of Facebook groups for ESL teachers (not only professional development, but other important things for freelancers, e.g. ESL jobs, lesson plans). And one more group in VK for Russian speaking teachers of English (to my mind, the best one).
- Valuable insights often come from educational bloggers and websites like https://www.teachingenglish.org.uk/ and others are very well listed in this article by Larry Ferlazzo.
- You can understand the trends in education in general and teaching English in particular, network with colleagues and, again, get a lot of ideas from recognized providers of webinars and online/offline conferences.
Here is a calendar of major ESL events in the world http://www.tesol.org/attend-and-learn/calendar-of-events In Russia, for instance, the most interesting event for teachers working online, in my opinion, is EdCrunch, which is held once a year. One more example of a great online conference for teachers is ollren.com
- It is important to take a course from established teacher training providers at least once in two years, be it TKT, CELTA, DELTA or any other program that fits in your domain of teaching job, such as online teaching or blended learning. Even if a course is designed for teachers working with groups offline (e.g. CELTA), it is still useful and may give a good boost to your career: people do consider these certificates important even if they are looking for an online teacher.
Peer-to-peer and online teaching is becoming more and more popular, and definitely we will see a lot interesting things happening in this sphere in the near future. Considering the pace of change, it will be absolutely impossible for freelance teachers to remain competitive if they do not keep up with all these changes. In conclusion, I would like to ask you to share any other resources that might be useful for professional development of teachers working as freelancers online.