What You Should Know About Teaching Online: A Chat with Kelly from 51Talk
This is the 8th interview in our thought-leadership series with 51Talk. Quite often, when we look at job reviews from different places online, we tend to forget that there are many reasons behind each review-including good, bad and personal. Most of the time, as it is with the news, we hear negative stories. However, there are thousands of positive stories that we don’t typically hear about. Below is one example of how an online teaching job at 51Talk made a vast difference in the life of a teacher. Please stop by for more stories from teachers who work at 51Talk in the near future, and be sure to see our prior interviews linked below.
If you have any questions, please reach out or leave a message below in the comments.
We are happy to introduce you to Kelly Carson, who works for 51Talk as an online educator.
Kelly, please tell us about your education background. Did you teach in public school first? If so, please tell me about the transition.
My degree is actually in Deaf Education and Elementary Education. I went to a small college in North Carolina called Barton College. While I was there, I was able to gain classroom experience in a Deaf Education classroom and in a fourth-grade classroom. During college and after I graduated, I also worked for a tutoring company where I taught kids of all levels in a small group setting.
Soon after that, I received a job in a deaf education setting that was based in a public school. I taught in that setting for two years before transitioning within that school to a fifth-grade reading/language arts classroom. After three years of full-time classroom teaching, my husband and I moved to a different state where he began his teaching career. At that time, we decided that it would be best for me to take a break from full-time teaching and just become a substitute teacher. I loved teaching, but I needed a significant break from the paperwork.
As a substitute, I was usually in a different classroom with a different grade level every day. I did not really get to teach as much, but I also did not have much paperwork. In the span of about a year, I took on 3 different long-term substitute jobs. That meant that I was able to teach more, but that I also had a ton of paperwork.
After I completed the last assignment, my husband and I decided that I should not work as much, so I took a bit of a break. The long-term substitute assignments all took place while we were dealing with infertility issues, buying a house, and getting a pig and a puggle. Before the last assignment, I was informed that without significant medical help and expenses, it would most likely be impossible for us to have children.
At that time, I honestly needed something that not only allowed me to stay home and emotionally heal, but also allowed me to make money. Before finding 51Talk, I tried to start a direct sales business. The business itself was unsuccessful, but it helped me heal and eventually lead to me finding 51Talk.
How did you find out about the opportunity to teach for 51Talk?
I found 51Talk through an ad on Facebook. While we were dealing with infertility issues, I did not use Facebook; however, in order to be successful with the direct sales job that I was trying, I needed to be active on Facebook. After many months of being unsuccessful in business and being out of the classroom, I needed money and missed teaching.
“When I saw the ad, I was skeptical, but my husband and I decided that I would give it a shot. It was one of the best decisions that we ever made.”
What does a typical teaching day look like for you?
For me, a typical teaching day starts very early. I wake up at about 3:00 am and start teaching at 4:00 am EST. I teach until about 10:30 am most days. I am actually a standby substitute with 51Talk for the first few hours of my morning, so I usually start the day off with many students that I have never met. I have to be on my toes as I have not had the opportunity to review the lessons since I am subbing last minute (though I have taught most of them).
After I do that for a few hours, I take a break and then transition into teaching my regulars. I have students ranging in age from about 4-years-old to about 12-years-old. Occasionally, I teach adults during my last time slot. I teach my heart out with each student for 25 minutes, and then I quickly complete the memo and get ready for the next class. It is perfect. I get to teach without the paperwork.
What should other teachers know about this type of role and how it differs from teaching in a live classroom?
Teaching ESL online is much different than teaching in a classroom setting. I am in a one-on-one setting with each student. That means that there are few distractions and that I can really get to know each student. Each day is different, so it never gets boring. There are occasionally some technical issues, but I’ve become quite adept at troubleshooting, so they usually don’t last long. And, to be honest, with the way that classrooms focus on technology now, I have had worse technical issues in a live classroom than with 51Talk. The issues are just different. Overall, this setting is more conducive to learning and very rewarding.
What is the most important advice you would give to other educators who would like to work for 51Talk?
If you want to work for 51Talk, you have to be willing to work hard and roll with the punches. To be honest, it would probably be good to teach in a classroom environment first. Some people can become overwhelmed with online teaching and 25-minute classes if they have never felt the urgency and pressure of a classroom setting. After feeling that pressure, 51Talk seems easy for skilled teachers. Also, take it slow. I may teach 12-15 classes a day now, but when I started, I only taught about 7 with at least one break. Lastly, build relationships. It is the most important part of the job. Kids learn more quickly when they like you and are having fun.
Finally, what is your favorite thing about working across cultures?
I truly love to learn about how the American and Chinese cultures are different and alike. If all of my teaching experience has taught me one thing, it is that we are all so much more alike that we realize.
Please add anything else you’d like to share with us.
“51Talk truly saved me.”
It has allowed me to fulfill my desire to teach without being physically and emotionally overwhelmed by being a classroom teacher. It has allowed me to be present with my family and to stay home and heal from the emotional turmoil of infertility. It is absolutely the best job I have ever had.
My name is Teacher Kelly Carson. I have worked with 51Talk since August of 2016. I live in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina with my husband, pig, and puggle. My degree is in Deaf and Elementary Education. I taught full-time for 3 years and as a substitute for 3 years before starting my career with 51Talk.
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If you are interested in teaching for 51Talk, please stop by their information page.