Everything seems to be moving online, and the pandemic has only accelerated the trend. People shop online, meet online, teach online. Perhaps one day they will also sleep together online, or have an “online dinner”. That would be a sad day indeed, but you never know in today’s world. Anyway, teaching English, or Spanish, or any other subject that doesn’t necessarily require any elaborate explanations and headaches, like one experiences when learning Math or Chemistry for example, has moved online to a huge extend, both in academic and private education.
Instead of advertising job offers for English (French, Italian) teachers as they did in the past, various institutes and companies advertise job ads for online teachers of the respective languages. Sure, teaching online has a lot of advantages for a teacher–no need to travel, you can do more hours in a day, teaching from the comfort of your office, or even from your bed. But each coin has two sides as they rightly say. Anyway, before you can get this job, you’ll have to pass an interview, which may again take place in the online world, with the help of programs such as Skype, Zoom, MS Teams, and similar.
Let’s have a look at 11 questions you may realistically face in this interview. I talk about English teaching in the questions, but you can change English for any other language in all questions, and for any other subject in some of them. The principles remain the same, as well as the attitude you try to demonstrate with your answers. Let’s start!
Why do you want to work as an online teacher?
You can point out the advantages of online teaching, from your personal perspective. Perhaps you are relatively busy, with family, hobbies, and everything. You’d love to teach online, from home, because it will allow you to save two hours each day, hours you’d normally spend traveling to work, or from one client to another. What’s more, it is safer during the pandemics–maybe it doesn’t matter that much for you, but for the students it may matter.
Second area to focus on are your online teaching skills. You know that teaching online is harder, because you aren’t with the student, you do not see what else they have open on their screen (their social media feed for example), and of course teaching online has some limitations when it comes to explaining stuff. At the same time, however, you believe to have the ability to gain attention of your students, without having to sit next to them. Communication skills belong to your strengths, and you should not struggle to reach the educational goals with your students, even when teaching online.
Summing it up, you find online teaching a great match to your strengths, personality, and also to your preferences, and at the same time you believe you’ll be able to reach your goals with the students.
Tell us more about your experience with teaching English online.
You do not necessarily have to have the experience to get the job, but it is better to mention at least something. Of course, if you’ve taught online for months or years, you can simply explain your target group of students, in terms of their age, language skills, educational goals. You can also mention your favorite teaching methods when it comes to online teaching.
Another option is telling them a story–one that sort of demonstrates your experience, and what you are capable of as a teacher. Pick a specific student you taught online, and describe your journey with them. The starting point, the goals you set for your cooperation, how you progressed, methods you used, challenges you faced, and eventually the goals you reached together, be it their acceptance to some foreign college, success in an interview in English, passing the exams, or an immigration interview, or whatever.
If you’ve never taught online before, you have two options. First one is not telling the entire truth. You can always say that you gave private lessons to this or that person, as a freelancer. Advertising your services online or in local news, you got some clients, taught online on Skype, and learned how to teach this or that subject effectively, even though you could not meet the student in person. Another option is telling the truth. Saying that you lack experience, you should always elaborate on your answer, showing confidence in your teaching skills. Maybe you have never taught online before, but you believe to be an excellent teacher and no doubt you can benefit from your face-to-face teaching skills in an online world.
Can you work with Zoom (Skype, MS Teams, etc)? What’s your experience with the software/platform?
As a rule of a thumb they will inquire about the platform/software that they use in their language school or institute. If you have experience with it, you can just briefly tell them how many hours have you taught with the help of this interface/software, and perhaps even point out one or two advantages it has, when compared to other solutions.
Lacking experience, I suggest you to focus on your excellent computer skills. Maybe you haven’t worked with the software in question, but you are tech savvy, have worked with a variety of programs and platforms in your life, and no doubt you will learn how to work with this one, in no time. Once again, it is important to show confidence in your teaching skills.
In your opinion, what challenges does online teaching presents when compared to traditional teaching?
The biggest challenge is undoubtedly the constant distraction. Once the student has their laptop or tablet or smartphone open, and connected to the internet, all sorts of notifications and pop-ups will take their attention away from the lesson.
Second challenge is cheating. We live in the world in which you can find answers to most questions online. Everything seems to be just a few clicks away… Testing students, you can never be 100% sure that they are not cheating, simply benefiting from the information online.
Another big challenge is your limited reach. Let me explain. The first dimension of this challenge is keeping discipline. Once you teach someone face to face, or in the classroom, you can always approach the students, check whether they are really doing what they are supposed to do, and reproach them if needed. You may even send someone outside of the door, if that’s the best thing to do for the rest of the class. Teaching online, you do not have any of these options.
Another dimension is explanation. Verbal communication isn’t everything, and though you may have a whiteboard in your room, you aren’t going to walk in the room with the camera to make sure they can see what you have written on board. Sure, you may try, but it is not the same. Once you are done with listing the challenges, do not forget to elaborate on your answer. Online teaching is challenging, but you still believe you’ll be able to reach your goals with the students…
What are your favorite teaching methods when teaching online?
The key here is to show that instead of seeing technology as an enemy, you actually try to benefit from the tools it offers to teachers. You can talk about using virtual whiteboard, including video presentations in your lessons, interactive educational games, or even incorporating platforms like Duolingo in your teaching. Recording screen is another option, something we cannot replicate in offline teaching. Once you have your student “on the tape”, you can revisit the material together with them, pointing out mistakes they made, and working on improvements.
Another alternative is talking more about English teaching in general. Maybe you prefer direct method, Callan method, communicative language teaching, or you prefer to put emphasis on listening and reading. All of these concepts can be applied in both online and offline teaching (with certain limitations of course).
Another alternative is emphasizing individual approach to each student. At the end of the day that’s what best teachers do. Each student is unique, with their strengths, weaknesses, goals, and level of discipline. As a skilled teacher you can apply a variety of teaching methods in your classes, and will always try to find the best method for the student. It may take some time, you may need to experiment at the start. But eventually you will learn what works the best with this or that student, and will apply the knowledge in your lessons.
Other questions you may face in your online teaching job interview
- How will you make sure that students really pay attention, instead of checking something else on their screens (social media for example)?
- In your opinion, what is the maximum size of the student group if we want to maintain the quality of online teaching?
- Student complains that the lesson is lagging, and they cannot hear you properly. What will you do in this case?
- What are your strengths and weaknesses when it comes to teaching?
- How do you adjust your expectations on students when teaching online?
- What precautions can we take when it comes to cheating, while giving our students online tests or other forms of exams?
Online teaching is becoming a new norm, not only in language education. And though many people may not like the trend (me including), online teaching is hear to stay, and you may face some questions related to it in any teaching interview. As long as you prepare for them in advance, however, they aren’t particularly difficult, and you shouldn’t find it hard getting the job. I wish you best of luck in your interview!
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