Business

Happy Teachers earn US dollars

BY DENNISE WILLIAMS
Contributor

Sunday, October 01, 2017

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After eight years of teaching English in Taiwan, Venice Irving came home to Jamaica but couldn't find a stable job. Or rather, a job with a salary that she found appealing.

Instead of being dejected she decided to replicate what she herself had experienced. That is, to utilise the skills she learned overseas to help others achieve financial independence through higher salaries.

And so her consulting company, BIW Consultants, was born in 2012. The mission was to place Jamaican English teachers physically at schools in Taiwan, Japan, the United Arab Emirates and China.

A couple of years into her consulting work, she started teaching English online and soon after she began to train other teachers in Jamaica to teach online. This meant that they didn't need to be an English teachers, they only needed to have certification to teach English.

And did we mention that online schools pay teachers in US dollars? Well, they do.

And so the mission of BIW Consultants expanded to include a brand called Happy Teachers which placed people online and offline to teach English.

The essence of Happy Teachers, as Irving puts it, is to simply make her clients happy. But this virtual online business has a problem – not enough teachers to meet the demand.

According to Irving, native-speaking English teachers from Jamaica are in high demand to teach in European and Asian online schools, and physically in Middle Eastern schools such as Dubai.

One of her partners from Poland insists that she will hire Jamaican teachers because they have a strong work ethic and are overall excellent teachers. People trained by Happy Teachers through BIW Consultants have been hired by online schools in Hong Kong, Taiwan, China, Japan and the Philippines.

Now not just anyone can become a Happy Teacher. There are requirements as Irving explains: “We are looking for teachers with a first degree in any area and at least a year's teaching experience. But most importantly, you must have an authentic joy and desire to teach.”

One of the key demographics that overseas recruiters are seeking is people who have work experience. And if you are not already a trained English teacher, you can become certified to teach English as a second language.

Irving explains, “If you are a current teacher then you could teach online in the evenings or on the weekends, depending on your schedule. If you are not an English teacher, then you could do a Teaching English as a Foreign Language (TEFL) certification. The time it takes to complete this certification is totally dependent on your free time.”

Irving notes that she has had motivated students who complete the online training in one week; however, the average time is about three months to do the 100 hours of work required for TEFL certification.

With regard to the range of salaries, Irving explains the difference between teaching online and travelling abroad to teach physically in a school. “Online companies' starting salaries are US$8 to US$10 per hour. Some companies pay US$22 to US$35 per hour, and then a few others pay US$50 and above for specialised English teachers. If you travel abroad you can usually make more than teaching online. Starting monthly salaries for teaching in a classroom abroad are US$1,500 to US$2,000 and above.”

Now all of that may sound wonderful, but we wondered if there are there any downsides to teaching English to non-English speakers? Irving then shared, “The greatest challenge is the culture that you will face. Because of this, the first thing I say to my clients is to get familiar with the culture of your students. It will save time and acclimate you faster to the class. Also, even though there are an abundance of jobs in the EFL industry, competition is great for the jobs as there are many native speakers and professionally certified teachers around.”

So culture and competition are the two key points to note if you are planning to teach online. And there is more: “In the brick and mortar classroom, the teacher is free to move the learners around, grouping them in different ways and laying out the class in a way that will make the activities run smoothly. The online teacher is usually stationary, facing a computer screen. Most online classes use conferencing software so they work best when they are kept with five or less people. Despite the differences between physical and online learning, in the hands of a well-trained teacher, both delivery methods can be used to achieve the same goals.”

It then comes down to the person taking on the challenge. Irving next shares her vision for her consulting business. “Our vision is to expand our borders beyond Jamaica to provide sources of income through job creation.”

And so it seems that the demand for Jamaican teachers abroad is in good hands.

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