How a Digital Nomad Teacher Works from the Road
Joanna Szreder was born in Poland and lived in London for 10 years. After that, she decided to move to Thailand, where she was an online English teacher for 3 years. She now travels, teaches English online and writes about her adventures on The Blond Travels blog.
Can you introduce yourself? Where are you from? What is your background?
I’m Joanna and I’m an online English teacher and a travel blogger. I’m originally from the north of Poland, a little town called Leba. I lived in London for a very long time and I even got British citizenship, which helped me a lot with getting jobs. A while ago I decided to move to Thailand, where I spent 3 years teaching at a local school. Only recently I’ve decided to become an English online teacher, which gives me a lot of freedom.
Where are you now?
At the moment I’m in Kraków, Poland and I’ll stay here until November. I am then moving to Thailand again.
How did you get involved with online English teaching?
A friend introduced me to it. She once was an English teacher in Thailand. When we met I was at a point of quitting the job at school, but I had no idea what to do next. She told me about English teaching and I thought I would apply and see how it goes.
How did you land your first student or online teaching job?
Before I met Amy, the friend I mentioned earlier, I applied for various online teaching jobs. I didn’t get them because the recruiters were a bit concerned about my accent. It’s not so strong, but you can hear that I’m not a native. I thought about opening my own online teaching company, but to be honest running a business is a very demanding task and I’m already working on my blog, so I don’t have that much time. Amy told me about one of the American companies she worked for. She gave me their details and I contacted them. I had to go through quite an intense induction programme, but I managed to get the job. The good thing about working for them is that I don’t have to worry about not getting any students as there are always plenty of classes for me to take.
Do you have any advice for people looking to get started teaching online?
You can get a job as an online English teacher at one of the companies, just like me. There are plenty of them on the market. There is even an app that you use so Chinese students can call you to chat about everything and nothing. Working for a company like that is good as very often you don’t have to prepare lesson plans and everything is ready for you.
You can also open your own company. There are special platforms that you can ‘rent’ on a monthly basis and you can create virtual classrooms. I know that many people teach by Skype and in this case you probably need to be more creative with how you share documents with your students etc. When you have your own company you earn twice than if you work for someone else.
What are some unrealized challenges online English teachers might face that you have dealt with yourself?
I think one of them could be loneliness. If you have a partner, or a family, then that’s not a problem, but if you are alone you really might feel a little lonely sometimes. You talk to people online, but make sure that you have some sort of social life outside of work.
Another is repetitiveness – because my classes are ready for me, I don’t really have anything to say about how and what I teach. I sometimes end up teaching the same things 6 hours a day.
If you are a nomad then internet might also be an issue. You do need to have a good one, so connectivity problems don’t occur so often and you can actually complete your lesson and get paid.
What is your average day/week like? How much do you teach, lesson plan, etc?
I usually work 5 – 6 days a week, up to 6 hours per day. Each lesson is 45 minutes and I have everything ready for me, so I don’t need to prepare anything. The company has a platform with classes that they make available to book for teachers a week in advance. When you enter the class the students are waiting and the class is ready. These are normally PowerPoint slides, which you go through, one by one, talking to students and correcting their mistakes. In general it’s an easy job. After each class each student gets a grade and a constructive comment.
What is your teaching setup like? Do you try and work from an office? Co-working spot?
I always work from home. I only work on my blog at coffee shops. I can’t do lessons from there as it is too loud. Co-working spot would be good, I guess, but only if you can rent a room and that might be a little too expensive.
I live and travel with my boyfriend. When we rent a place we always look for something with 1 bedroom and a separate kitchen, or another room. I like to teach when there’s no one around and he sometimes finds it annoying to listen to me repeat the same thing all over again for 6 hours a day 🙂
Where is the coolest place from which you’ve taught? The worst? Why?
As I always work from home, I can’t really answer this question, but in general the coolest place was probably Chiang Mai. I had a fast internet and it’s just an amazing city. The worst was Da Nang – mostly because of the internet, but also because the humidity was so bad there.
And finally, what’s in your bag?
Nowadays I think I pack less and less. I always take my laptop and a camera. I keep them in my hand luggage along with my documents. I think the most practical are backpacks, even though the one I have is so old and doesn’t look good, it’s still better than having a suitcase. I usually roll my clothes and put them side by side, which saves space.
I don’t have that many clothes and I don’t shop very often. I’m trying to be practical, besides I hate shopping.
From other things I take with me are: mosquito repellant, sun lotion, sunglasses, a mug I got from my sister for Christmas once (I’m pretty sentimental) and a picture of me and my best friends – it was taken when we were 18 and it just reminds me of good, old days.