After seven years, Betsy has found teaching English to be the perfect complement to her other work as a freelance writer and editor. We interviewed her on how she got started, the benefits of teaching English online, and how COVID-19 has impacted her career and travel plans.
Hi Betsy, can you tell us a bit about your background and how you got into teaching English?
My background is in business and entrepreneurship, which has been great preparation for me since I primarily teach Business English to adults. For me, teaching English online has been a great side job in addition to my other freelance work as a writer and editor because it’s so flexible. From week to week, I can teach more or less depending on what other work I need to complete.
You participated in The World Race, where you traveled for a year, correct? Can you tell us more about your experience?
The World Race is an 11-month, 11-country mission trip. I went on the race in 2013 and spent time in Central America, Eastern Europe, Africa, and Asia.
In many of our locations, we taught English to students from preschool age all the way to adults. We also worked in orphanages, helped with city-wide feeding programs, and did relief work after the typhoon in the Philippines. Overall, it was a life-changing experience, and I even met my husband.
Typically, we wouldn’t know what type of work we would be doing until we arrived in the country, so doing something like The World Race definitely required a lot of flexibility.
Was The World Race your first time teaching English? What did you learn?
Yes, other than volunteering as a conversation partner, The World Race was really my first experience teaching English. I remember being in El Salvador, waking up in the morning, and our host saying, “Oh, you’re going to teach today.” So, we really had to be able to keep some activities in the back of our minds so that we’d be prepared for anything.
As a teacher, it’s so important to be really flexible and willing to meet your students wherever they are. I love planning and structure so this was often difficult for me, but I’m also so proud of myself for stepping outside of my comfort zone.
The World Race sparked a love of travel that has now taken you to over 35 countries! What are a few of your favorites?
It’s so hard to choose! A few of my favorite places would have to be Italy, Austria, China, and our northern neighbor, Canada.
Where are you teaching now?
For the past six years, I’ve been teaching from my home office in Florida, with the company EF Education First. I’ve had a great experience here and would definitely recommend the company.
One of the things that I love about EF is that I’ve been able to work with students from literally every corner of the world, from Taiwan to Egypt, Brazil, Spain, and almost anywhere you can imagine.
Tell us what your current work schedule is like with EF English First.
On a typical day, I split my time between my teaching, editing, writing, and other freelance projects.
In terms of teaching, I teach both 20-minute and 40-minute lessons. The material is prepared by the company, so I just need to glance through the slides before the lesson, teach the lesson, and then afterward, write a short report recapping what we covered and any areas for improvement or things the student really excelled in.
Since you work with adults, what topics do you typically cover?
Most of my students are business professionals that either work for multinational companies, want to move abroad, or have English-speaking colleagues. Some of my students have a very structured lesson where we’ll cover topics like negotiation, project management, or financial planning. Other students just prefer to have a free conversation or want help prepping for presentations, writing research articles, or preparing for an English proficiency exam like the TOEFL or IELTS.
For many of my students, improving their English is intrinsically tied to achieving their big career dreams, like nailing an important meeting or getting a promotion. Being able to help students reach their ambitions can be incredibly rewarding as a teacher.
What advice do you have for someone who would like to get started teaching adults English?
My first suggestion would be to gain some informal experience for a few months, whether it’s volunteering to be a conversation partner locally or online. I did this for about six months before I started teaching and I learned so much about what topics I enjoyed teaching. This is also a good trial process to make sure that you enjoy teaching adults.
Find your niche
With adults, it can be helpful to have one to three areas that you really focus on. For example, test prep is a big market for teens or adults, so you could specialize in helping students prepare for the TOEFL or IELTS exams. Bridge even has a Micro-credential Course in Teaching IELTS Exam Prep that will help you with this. Or, if you have experience in a specific career or industry, you could work specifically with students in your field.
Choose your platform
What made you decide to take Bridge Micro-credential courses?
I love that Bridge offers such a wide range of Micro-credentials because you can expand your knowledge and skillset by going deeper into a specific type of student or topic. I really enjoyed the course on Health, Safety, and Mental Attitudes in the Online Classroom. Since the courses take around 10-20 hours to complete, they are completely doable even if you have a busy schedule.
The world is still dealing with the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. How has the virus impacted your job and your future plans?
The COVID-19 pandemic has certainly impacted the volume of classes. I’ve noticed that many students or companies are unable to renew their contracts, which reduces the number of classes available to teachers. However, I’ve still been able to continue working throughout the entire pandemic, which I’m really thankful for.
My husband has been in school for the past six years, and we had actually planned to take a one- or two-month trip to Asia in December 2020. Obviously, that wasn’t able to happen. But, even if it’s only for a week or two, hopefully, we can still make it to Asia in the next couple of years.