Three things I learned teaching English online during the Covid pandemic

The last couple of years haven't been easy for TEFL teachers, but I've managed to survive and thrive through the worst of the travel restrictions and lockdowns.

Updated on
March 8, 2022

It might seem like a strange time to teach English online and travel. Global response to the COVID-19 pandemic has led to an ever-changing web of travel restrictions, complex vaccine and testing requirements, and diminished social opportunities.

Some teachers packed up and headed home, choosing to weather the storm with their family and friends.

But a lot of us are still out here, myself included. Here are three things I learned over the past 2+ years.

Demand for online English teachers has never been higher

In spring of 2020, just a few months after the world learned of the new virus, schools and universities around the world transitioned to online learning.

At the time, I was working for a small online program based in Beijing. The public and private school closures, along with children having more free time at home, sent parents rushing to book online teachers.

I was teaching more classes than ever before, and the increased demand led to higher pay.

Demand stayed strong for more than a year and a half, until the Chinese government announced sweeping changes that effectively crippled the private tutoring market in China.

Teachers in other markets are still going strong, and the demand is so high that most of the teachers who focused on China (including me) were absorbed into other platforms and markets (such as Japan, Korea, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, and the growing online English tutoring scene in Europe).

Slow travel is your friend

Slow travel means spending a chunk of time in one place, usually a few months depending on visa requirements, before traveling on to a new place.

It's a lifestyle well-suited to online teachers, who often need a short-term hub to setup their teaching space for a while before moving on to the next adventure.

It's also cheaper and more interesting to travel slowly. You'll find better deals on apartment rentals, learn to shop and eat like a local, and maybe even pick up some of the language.

Save your money

Let's go back to the spring of 2020 when the coronavirus first set off a wave of school closures and travel restrictions.

I was in Tbilisi, Georgia, in a gorgeous (and quite reasonably priced) apartment near the city center.

The sudden suspension of air travel left me stuck. I withdrew cash from an ATM, loaded up the pantry with essentials, and hunkered down with my fiber optic Internet connection.

The class bookings poured in, and I had nothing much else to do other than teach.

And teach I did, sometimes as many as 10 hours a day.

But aside from monthly rent and late-night food deliveries, there wasn't much to spend my money on. The shopping malls were all closed anyway.

As lonely and stressful as it was, and as much as I hated seeing the effects of the virus on people and their families, I was very fortunate to be able to make the best of a bad situation.

Wearing a mask through three flights and 20 hours of travel wasn't fun, but I made it!

Teaching English online allows you to:

  • Continue earning a living with minimal interruption caused by travel restrictions, bad weather events, natural disasters, or political conflicts.
  • Minimize your personal contacts by working from home.
  • Move to a safer area, if necessary.
  • Save money for your next adventure.

The next chapter

It's 2022 now, and COVID-19 still lingers over our heads.

Maybe you've had a couple of bad years. Maybe you lost a job, a home, a business, or a loved one. As the world slowly opens again, I hope we can all look forward to a future with less disease, more travel, and the opportunity for essential human engagement and companionship.

The world is still your oyster.

As for me, I'm currently watching the sun melt into the blue waters of the Ionian Sea from my apartment in Sarandë, Albania. Later I'll have dinner with a few of my expat friends, and we'll talk about how lucky we are to still be here.

Stay safe. Keep teaching.

Please note: I am not a health expert. Nothing in this article is meant to serve as health advice. Always consult the latest government guidelines before making any travel decisions.