Katharine, can you please tell us a little bit about your background?
I have been teaching English as a Foreign Language since 2003, so over 14 years. I finished my undergraduate degree at the University of Massachusetts in 2002. After finishing I decided I still had a lot of the world that I wanted to see, so I enrolled in a TEFL course in Guadalajara, Mexico. Upon completion I was offered a job teaching English to business managers at an international company and worked there for a few months before being offered a job teaching children and young adults. This job is where I realized that teaching English is what I truly want to do. I was very fortunate that I was able to travel and teach English all over the world. After Mexico I moved to a small town in China, then to a suburb of Moscow in Russia and finally back to China (Shanghai this time). My husband and I met while working in China. Our next move took us to Chicago, Illinois. We started our little family there, but after three years we moved again to my husband’s homeland — Scotland. This is where we live now.
How long have you been teaching with 51Talk and can you please share your journey toward this role?
Having taken a few years off to be with our kids I was keen to get back to work. Because I have three children and a husband that travels regularly for work, I needed a job that was flexible, paid decently and that I could do well. I reached out to a friend who had told me that she had been teaching English online for 51Talk and had really been enjoying it. I had to know more. Everything about the program was professional from the start and with thorough training, I quickly felt comfortable using the online format. It was the beginning of a fresh start for me… and after four months I have not looked back!
What are the two things that you enjoy the most about working with 51Talk?
The first benefit of working with 51Talk is interacting with the fabulous students. I have taught quite young children right up to university and mature students. I love getting to know my regular students and being challenged by the older students. Sometimes I have to be creative to get a point across. Having kids at home is great because I always have a lot of toys at hand demonstrate vocabulary. The second thing that I like about working with 51Talk is being able to develop myself as a teacher. I am able to challenge myself and have long-term plans to develop my abilities within 51Talk. I find the support fantastic. The person who did my original training is still in touch with me regularly to check that I do not have any concerns. If I need any questions answered there is always someone available to help.
Can you please share what a day in the life of a 51Talk English teacher may look like from beginning to end?
My two older children are at school, but my youngest is still home with me during the day. Monday to Friday when he naps, I have three classes. On Saturday I wake up and let my husband take care of the kids. I am up at seven, have a quick breakfast, start my computer and am working by 8am. I usually try to get in 3-4 hours. It may not seem like much, but it adds up! I average about 10-12 hours a week.
If you were to recommend this path to other teachers, what would you tell them?
I would say, “What are you waiting for?” The school is completely flexible, so it would be suitable as a complement to a regular teaching job. On the other hand you are free to take on as many classes as you can sensibly manage and could be a great new career path!
Can you please share something special that we may not know about 51Talk?
One thing you may not know is that although the class takes place between the teacher and the student, there are lots of other people working behind-the-scenes to make sure everything goes smoothly. I was worried when I began about what I would do if there was a technical difficulty during class, but there are enough safeguards in place so that the teacher rarely has any issues. If there is a problem there is always someone you can contact in real time either on Skype or through their new IT support team website. Also if the student has a problem, there is a designated number for the teacher to provide them to call and receive support.
If you are interested in learning more about becoming a teacher for 51Talk, please apply here!
Katharine McAllister has been a TEFL teacher since 2002. She graduated Cum Laude from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst in 2001 and went on to earn her certificate in TEFL from Via Lingua in Guadalajara, Mexico. Since then she has taught English on three continents, but now enjoys teaching as a home-based teacher from Glasgow, Scotland. When she is not looking after her three children, she thrives on challenging herself and has just completed a Diploma in Legal Studies from Robert Gordon University in Scotland.