The Pros and Cons of Teaching Online

Everyday, I spend four hours teaching English to little kids in China via my laptop. As with any job, it has its positive and negative aspects. Here they are:

Pro – The Commute

I teach in my room, which means I have about a six foot trip from my bed to my desk to get to work. There’s usually very little traffic, except for the one day that there was a spider on the floor which did cause some serious delays.

Con – I Have No Control Over the Kids

Usually, the parents are somewhere in the periphery of the room, so their child is well-behaved. But sometimes they’re not in the room, which means that the kids can pretty much do whatever they want as I have no disciplinary action other than yelling in a language that they don’t understand.

One time a kid just got up and walked away for 10 minutes, and then wandered back into the screen stark naked. As we hadn’t gotten to the lesson on clothing yet, my suggestion to “put on some pants” was duly ignored.

Pro – Class Preparation Time

There is none. The company provides a PowerPoint for each class that has directions at the bottom of each slide for what to teach.

I suppose I do have to spend a little time getting dressed, but even that prep time is sliced in half because the camera only shows me from the waist up. There are few things quite as liberating as teaching an English class wearing nothing but a shirt. In case my employer should ever happen upon this blog, I’d like to clarify that that was a joke – I’m not a pedophile. I wear basketball shorts. Please don’t fire me.

Con – It’s Tremendously Boring

I’m teaching 5 year old kids from China how to speak English when I don’t know any Chinese, and they barely know any English. So how do these classes even function? By intense rote learning. Everyday is a variation of the same thing, “T is for Tiger, tuh-tuh Tiger (As I say this, I lift my hands up and claw the air while simultaneously making a pitiful “rawr” noise like a tiger).”

And the songs. Dear god, the songs. Every class I have to sing one of a handful of cringey numbers like this one that is to the tune of “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star”: “I have feelings, so do you. Let’s all sing about a few. I am happy, I am sad. If I keep doing this, then I’ll go mad. I have feelings, so do you. Let’s throw ourselves off of the roof.” I may have ad-libbed a few of the lyrics at the end there.

Pro – Student Names/Mistakes They Make

The company encourages students to choose an English name. Generally, the names are your standard Sarah, John, George, or Stephanie. But sometimes, the parents let the kids pick whatever name they want, and the results are phenomenal. My favorite class so far has been when I taught Megatron about animals: “Alright Megatron, this is a giraffe. Can you say giraffe? Megatron, look at me. Megatron, this is a fox. By the way, what was it like working with Megan Fox? Any chance she needs English lessons?”.

As far as mistakes go, the one that gets me to chuckle the most is when they try to say ice cream. They tend to say “ass cream”: “I really like ass cream”, “Ass cream is my favorite”, “I lick ass cream”. Part of me doesn’t want to correct them just to make their first trip to Coldstone in the U.S. hilarious, but as I am a consummate professional who certainly does not teach naked, I correct them. Again, please don’t fire me.

Pro/Con – Improved Chances of Surviving World War 3?

That’s right. China’s a big fucking deal, because China. And if World War 3 ever goes down, my vote is on them for global ruler. Did you see the Beijing Olympics opening ceremony? The powerful images, the majestic pageantry, the seamless mass coordination! What aren’t they capable of?

The point is that after a long and terrible war, the Chinese will take over the U.S. And as we’re all being lead to our respective concentration camps, I’ll look up and see a fully-grown Megatron who is now General of Evil Stuff or whatever the position is called that’s in charge of concentration camps.

I’ll shout, “Megatron! Remember me? It’s your teacher! T is for Tiger. Tuh-tuh Tiger.” And a flash of recognition will go through his eyes, “Yes, hi teacher! That’s a good idea! Feed him to the tigers.” “No, Megatron, that’s not what I meaaannnttt.” And then they’ll drag me away to become tiger meow mix…

Screw you, Megatron. Guess who’s not getting corrected the next time he says ass cream?

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About the author

Hi my name is Nick Holke

I'm 24 years old and I'm from California. Currently, I'm teaching English in Madrid.

If you wanna know a bit more about me and the website, click here.

4 Comments

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  • Yep, not only are the songs inane at times, my older students have even looked at me pleadingly as if to say, “PLEASE do not make me sing this!” Sorry BaoBao. Rules are rules! Of course, now when I go to the teach the “feelings” lesson, this song is going to be playing inside my head. If I bust out in uncontrollable laughter and lose a student, I’m blaming it on you!

  • Yes! I want to rewrite the songs so they aren’t so terrible! I have an older student who I’ll sing the song for, and then I’ll say, ‘Do you want to sing it?’ He always says no, so I just move on. I’m not going to make them sing this stuff if they don’t want to!

    In the lessons themselves, I think there’s enough variety that it’s not too boring. The fact that I can be teaching the ABCs in one lesson and then teaching about insects in the next is pretty cool…and the kids themselves lend variety. 🙂

    • Yeah, the kids can be great sometimes! But the lessons get real repetitive. I feel like I’ve taught them all 20 times each.

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