From China To America: How Online Learning Is Connecting Cultures
Online learning is not new. However, learning and teaching English across borders is still in its infancy, and continues to grow every day. There are a lot of fake companies out there, and it is in your best interest to make sure the company you choose to teach for is legitimate. At 51Talk, based out of China, American teachers are sharing their stories about lessons, culture, and even how they’re making money online at home teaching.
Below is an interview from one of 51Talk’s teachers, Jen G.
Jen, can you please tell us a little bit about your background?
I am a Canadian teacher, and I’ve been teaching French Immersion for 15 years. I spent two years as a French as a Second Language Consultant in my school board where I was privileged to attend high-quality workshops across the province to learn about best instruction for French as a second language program.
I shared my knowledge when providing learning opportunities for the French teachers in my system. I have always had a passion for incorporating technology in instruction. I take great pride in sharing my love for technology with other teachers and encourage them to use winning new strategies and informal workshops as part of co-planning and co-teaching.
Now at 51Talk, I put my second language acquisition training to good use in an online environment!
How long have you been teaching with 51Talk and can you please share your journey toward this role?
I stumbled on this opportunity when my husband was looking for a career change. I thought this sounds great for me, too! I was interviewed, hired and trained during March break of 2016. I haven’t looked back since!
What are two things that you enjoy the most about working with 51Talk?
I enjoy the flexibility of working from home very much. I’m a morning person and the time difference for Canadian teachers is ideal! I can choose to work mornings and/or evenings (my time). The opportunity to provide one on one instruction is fantastic! I have never seen so much growth in a student’s fluency as I have in this one on one learning environment! It makes me feel like a successful educator, and I love the connection I have with my students. I love to witness their daily successes!
Can you please share what a day in the life of a 51Talk English teacher may look like from beginning to end?
A day in the life of a 51Talk English teacher starts with a reliable alarm clock and a fresh pot of coffee. A quick feed to my baby, passing of the baby to my husband (I’m a mother of four), a quick dab of makeup, comb through my hair and a saunter downstairs to my home office.
I’m a morning person, and this is easier for me than it may sound. Once I click that button to connect with my first student of the day, the fun begins! I tend to do about four to five back-to-back lessons before helping my two school-aged daughters head to their bus stop for school.
Letters, flashcards, puppets, toys and picture books currently surround my home office computer. If an outside observer watched my typical morning, he or she would see me singing, reading, engaging in role-play and smiling, and genuinely enjoying teaching my students.
My husband is wonderful. He helps mornings run smoothly. On Saturday and Sunday mornings, my husband and I take turns teaching 51Talk students and caring for our own children. He is thoroughly enjoying the experience, too. We even share a few students.
One student, Michael, recently had a lesson about Michael Jackson with me. Whenever my husband teaches him, I make a point of making a quick “cameo” appearance. Michael gets a real kick out of seeing us side by side on camera! In my most recent cameo appearance, I sang “Beat It,” and danced to get a laugh out of Michael before quickly running out so my husband (Teacher Tony Antonio) could continue with their lesson.
Tell me about working with the Chinese culture in education. What have you learned?
I have learned that learning English is highly essential to Chinese learners. The language will give them a competitive edge in school, in the workplace and throughout their lives.
I commend Chinese parents for the opportunities they provide to their children. I have learned that my Chinese students have busy days with far more homework on average than North American children. I have also learned interesting facts about Chinese festivals and holidays. I learn new things every day, and it’s such a pleasure!
If you were to recommend this path for other teachers, what would you tell them?
I would tell them not to worry too much about the technology. The 51Talk platform is easy to use, and new teachers will learn how to troubleshoot any issues over time.
I would also tell them that they would love the one-on-one teaching experience.
How about tips for new teachers?
Rapport is paramount. If the student can develop a good rapport with you as the teacher, learning will be optimized. Also, I would tell new teachers to be patient with bookings. They should open their schedule at many different times at first to “bait” new potential students. Teachers will eventually be rewarded with many regular students, and if they put forth their best efforts teaching, word will eventually spread that they are great teachers.
Can you please share something special that we may not know about 51Talk?
Some people may not know that 51 Talk offers lessons to all age groups. There are phonics lessons for our youngest learners, and new adult lessons tailored to many diverse learning goals including role-plays for CEO’s of companies and travel English. Prospective teachers may not know just how well prepared the materials are, making them easy to teach. They are designed to elicit lots of talk. They are also highly flexible with room for individuality and creativity, which teachers value.
You mentioned that your husband teaches for 51Talk too. How is that going for both of you working in the same field for the same company?
My husband and I love working for the same company. We can share tips and tricks. When he started, he used to listen in on my lessons.
I was flattered the first time I overheard him teaching and incorporating some of my strategies. He started in September of 2016 and has really evolved! Now I purposely eavesdrop on his lessons and pick up tips from him. He is so energetic, and the kids just adore him! We create videos to share with the students such as Christmas and the Chinese New Year.
We make a great team and love to collaborate. We also make unique practice pages for our students based on commonly recurring themes like transportation and hobbies. The practice pages have topic related learning extensions such as additional websites to explore, game sites, songs, and videos. We created these together and share them in our lesson memos whenever there is a relevant connection. I believe in the importance of positive collaboration among teachers. I participate actively in the teacher forums and have recently set up a YouTube channel with professional learning and tips to share with my 51Talk colleagues. I’m lucky that I don’t have to venture very far to collaborate with my husband!
To learn more about Jen and her work, be sure to check out her YouTube channel.