5 key skills for teaching English online

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An increasing number of language lessons are taking place online. If you’re considering teaching English online, it’s important to be aware of the key skills you need to bring to the virtual classroom.

Here are five essential abilities you’ll need to develop in order to become an online English teacher. 

Interpersonal skills

More of a set of skills than one specific skill, interpersonal skills are all about making yourself understood, as well as projecting warmth and personality in the virtual classroom.

It’s not easy. Many people are put off the idea of maintaining eye-contact with a webcam and find it hard to maintain enthusiasm in a virtual environment. It’s definitely a learning curve – once you’re over the initial feeling of being ‘disconnected’, you’ll find it easier to captivate your students.

Get the basics right – pacing, language control, tone and volume – and you’ll have the foundations to build a good rapport with your students. Expressive gestures are crucial too, more so than in a brick and mortar classroom. In time, you’ll be able to bridge the virtual gap and develop real empathy for your students.   

Technical know-how

It’s hard to perfect those interpersonal skills without a good knowledge of the tools you’re using. There’s nothing worse than flapping about in the middle of a lesson, trying to figure out how you managed to mute half the class and turn off your webcam at the same time. So, do your homework before you even think of assigning any for your students. 

Get to understand the platform you’re using. Find out its features and limitations, then test it out with friends and family beforehand. Make sure you’ve got the right equipment before your first lesson – whether it’s a microphone, headset or webcam – and make sure you’re comfortable with how they work.

Professionalism

Learning should be fun, no doubt about that, but projecting a professional demeanor is very important. Your students will have that extra level of respect and will get a lot more from your class.

Let’s face it… they’re paying customers. They deserve a professional lesson, which involves everything from the teacher and the environment to the technical quality of the virtual class. 

That means dressing appropriately, knowing your equipment (see above), getting the right lighting and backdrop, and making sure there’s no background noise during your lesson. Essentially, creating a professional virtual classroom that conveys an authentic learning experience to your students. 

Organisation

Being organised in any kind of teaching environment is essential, but none more so than when teaching online. With the extra technical element, there’s more to think about than usual. So, having a good, solid structure in place is crucial – in terms of lesson plans and all the bits in between.

If you’re teaching from home, it can be tempting to get a little loose and drift into a disorganised state. This is one of the biggest problems that online teachers face in the early days, so be aware of just how important it is to stay on top of things. Avoid burning out by planning regular breaks and sticking to them, factor in hydration and always give yourself plenty of prep time. 

Adaptability

Even if you’re the most organised person on Earth, sometimes things don’t go according to plan. Whether it’s a technical issue, a disinterested student or a knock at your door in the middle of your lesson, being able to adapt and keep your lesson flowing is a skill that takes time to master.

Consider making notes after each class about things that might have gone slightly wrong and think of how you could improve them in future. Also, try and anticipate what could go wrong and how you would deal with it in the moment. Being prepared to deal with a difficult situation will help keep your lessons run smoothly.

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