Teacher Feature: Living in China and Teaching Online


In this interview, we’re chatting with Kacie, an American teacher living in China while teaching English online.

Learn about what it’s like to live in China, what a day in the life of a teacher looks like, how much the salary is, what qualifications she needed to get hired, and the pros and cons of the job and lifestyle.

Here we go!

Hi Kacie! Please tell us a bit about yourself.

I grew up in a small town in Southern Illinois. My family traveled quite a bit, but only in the United States. In college my husband, Derek, and I had the opportunity to study abroad in Italy.

After university, we settled into full-time jobs, but quickly realized that we wanted something different in life. We both loved our time in Italy so we decided to make traveling more of a focus in our lives.

Over the last few years we have been living off of our savings and trying to build up remote work so that we can become location independent!

I decided to look into teaching online, but most companies require that you have teaching experience.

Kacie teaching at the school
Kacie teaching a class in China. She now teaches online

So I got my TEFL certification and took a job teaching in a classroom in China! Now I teach English online as well with two companies, plus some blogging on the side about our travels and life in China.  

What made you decide to become a teacher? Did you have any prior experience?

I was looking for a flexible way to earn money remotely.

After a brief career in banking and customer service, I didn’t feel like the skills I had were very marketable for remote work, at least not the kind of work that I wanted to do.

So I looked into a ton of different options before trying out a whole new career opportunity.

After teaching at a brick and mortar school in China, I applied to a few different companies to teach English online.

As I mentioned, these companies typically require that you have experience, but what I didn’t realize early on was that that experience can come from anywhere!

It doesn’t have to specifically be experience from teaching English as a second language.

Do you have experience babysitting? Kids of your own? Worked at a school in your country? Volunteered at a youth summer camp?

Any kind of teaching, training, or experience working with children will help. You don’t have to live abroad before you can teach online, but that is certainly a great way to get experience, too!

Where in the world are you currently teaching online and what’s it like living there? 

Derek and I currently live in a development district of Nanjing, China.

There aren’t many foreigners on the outskirts of town where we live, and we don’t speak Chinese very well. So there were definitely plenty of challenges navigating the city in the beginning.

But the people here have been so kind, welcoming, and helpful. We visit the same restaurant almost every Sunday, and the owners talk to us through translation apps on our phones!

Eating fried rice at our Sunday Restaurant
Kacie enjoying fried rice at their favourite Sunday Restaurant

The online teaching companies that I work for primarily have Chinese students so it’s great to learn about their lifestyle and culture first hand.

And being in the same time zone that they are is awesome. It makes teaching online so convenient!

How did you find a job teaching online? 

I spent several days researching the most popular online ESL companies. I decided that I wanted a company that didn’t have a minimum availability requirement, as well as one that offered 1 on 1 classes.

I first applied at VIPKid, but they rejected my application because I hadn’t included all of my experiences teaching and working with kids.

After refining my resume I applied at GoGo Kid and was hired in just over a week. I absolutely love it!

My sister was a former brick and mortar language arts teacher in the USA and she had recently started teaching online with Qkids.

Qkids didn’t meet my initial requirements in an ESL company, but after hearing about her experience working with them, I decided to apply, too.

Can you tell us a bit about the online teaching companies that you work for?

GoGo Kid is a parent-booked company. That means that the teacher has to set up a profile to market his or herself to the parents.

Bookings will be sporadic and probably pretty low at first, but over time as you build up reviews and repeat students you will find yourself settling into a routine.

GoGo Kid does require that the teacher use at least two props as well as a secondary reward system in the class.

There are so many great ideas out there on the internet for classroom equipment and props, and most things can simply be printed and cut out. 

Pro tip: If you don’t have access to a printer, you can buy a couple of children’s activities books and cut out the graphics as props. I spent about $10 to buy a few books, and that’s all I’ve been using since I started.

These requirements do take a little bit of prep time, but it’s one of my favorite things about teaching these classes. They really can be so much fun!

Classes are 25 minutes long and they are 1 on 1. You will also need to write reviews for each of your students after class. The reviews don’t have to be more than a paragraph, but they do need to be personalized so they can be a bit time consuming for new teachers.

Kacie's ESL classroom
Kacie’s ESL classroom

GoGo Kid has an amazing training program for new online ESL teachers. I think I would have been a little lost getting started if it wasn’t for their online academy training and live workshops!

Qkids is about as different from GoGo Kid as it can be!

It’s a company-booked platform so once you give them your availability, they will take care of scheduling you. You will rarely see the same student twice.

They do require that teachers have a minimum of 12 classes of availability each week, but this isn’t a guarantee you will work them. You are, of course, able to open up more classes each week, too.

The minimum required availability really isn’t an issue since their teacher cancellation policy at Qkids is so forgiving.

You will also have a coach at the company who may give you feedback and help you adjust to teaching with Qkids. Some coaches are really great to work with, but others not so much. It’s just luck of the draw, but if you get a coach who isn’t working out for you, I hear you can request another one.

The majority of classes are 1 teacher to 4 students. The classes are 30 minutes, and you do have to enter the class 3 minutes early to greet the students. It can be pretty exhausting for an introvert like me, but there are many things I like about Qkids as well.

They don’t require props or secondary rewards, but you are still welcome to use them if you want. Evaluations are brief multiple-choice questions that you answer for each student at the end of class.

Even though their actual class time is longer, I spend less time overall for each of my Qkids class than I do when prepping for, teaching, and writing feedback for my GoGo Kid students.

They are both great companies, with very different perks to offer. It just depends on what kind of an ESL company you’re looking for. Or if you’re like me and you enjoy the variety, why not do both! You get the best of both worlds that way!

Did you need to have any qualifications to get a job teaching with them? 

Both online companies that I work for do require that you are a native speaker from either the USA or Canada, and you must have a four-year degree and some kind of ESL certificate.

I got my TEFL certificate through MyTEFL. It’s a text-based online program that I completed in a couple of weeks. It gave me a very basic idea of what to expect going into the classroom.

Prior experience will also give you a leg up over other applicants! Get creative with your resume and include anything that might be relevant.

For example, I included peer mentoring that I did briefly in college and training other employees at my banking job. Neither were directly related, but they still counted and helped me get hired!

SEE ALSO: Teaching Without a University Degree – Top 10 Companies That Pay

What does a day in the life of an online teacher look like? 

My students are anywhere from 3-14 years old, and they are mostly from China. Occasionally you will come across a student from another country, but it is rare.

Kids will be kids, so occasionally there are behavioral issues that may pop up, but overall the students are so sweet, cute, and eager to learn!

I may have anywhere from 1 to 6 classes a day, but depending on how you set your schedule you can have more. That’s the beauty of it. You’re in control of your own schedule!

It can be slow starting out, so I don’t recommend quitting another job to teach online, but over time as you build regular students or seniority (depending on how the company books the classes for its teachers) it should become more reliable.

Kacie's ESL Profile Pic
Kacie’s ESL Profile Pic with props in the background

However, there can be slow periods when the students are busy with their other school duties and there just aren’t many students booking classes. Just take it in stride and get ready for the next peak season!

Each company has its own requirements for the equipment you will need, but in general, you will need a relatively up to date desktop or laptop computer with an ethernet connection.

You will also need to have a headset with a boom mic for your classes. Although they don’t require an external mouse for a laptop, it’s almost essential! It will make your life so easier if you get one!

How much does an English teacher with GoGo Kid and Qkids earn? 

The two companies have very different pay scale systems that can be a little bit confusing and intimidating at first.

Salary With GoGoKid

GoGo Kid will offer you a base fee per class in the contract. This can be anywhere from $7-10 depending on your qualifications (master’s degree or additional teaching certificate, etc.) and experience.

They also have an incentive program based on your attendance and performance (ratings) in the classes that you teach, as well as how many classes you teach per day.

It took me about a month to start earning the incentive earnings on top of my base pay, but now I can earn anywhere from $17-22 dollars an hour teaching with GoGo Kid.

Teacher cancelations can severely impact your bonus earnings, but they do have an appeals process if you can prove that your cancellation was beyond your control.

Kacie at the Great Wall
Travelling around China while teaching online

Salary With Qkids

Qkids offers a base rate of $8 per class, but if you get good ratings from the parents you will earn an extra $1 per class.

Also, if you teach more than 15 classes per week, you will get an additional $1 per class.

So here you essentially will make $16-20 per hour.

However the schedule is a little bit different. They are 30-minute classes with 10-minute breaks in between (and remember you have to start each class 3 minutes early).

So it will actually take you an hour and 13 minutes to teach two classes.

Furthermore, you have no control over whether or not they will schedule you to work at least 15 classes each week. Sometimes you just can’t make the attendance bonus.

Qkids will not punish you in any way as long as you give at least 5 hours’ notice before cancelling a class. This flexibility really works well for some teachers!

What are the pros and cons of teaching online? 

Teaching English online can be really great! The pay is good, and the work itself can be very fun. Not to mention, you can work in your yoga pants from the comfort of your own home! It’s so convenient.

It’s also really amazing to see your students start to understand English and be able to share things about their lives with you. You’re helping to break barriers and cultural differences to connect with these wonderful kids from another continent.

Of course, every job has its downside too!

There’s a steep learning curve in the online classroom. Every company has its own tools, teaching techniques, and features on its platform. At first this will probably be pretty stressful, but after a few weeks you’ll feel like you could do it in your sleep!

The behavior issues can be so frustrating at times, but usually trying one of a few different strategies will solve the problem. I’ve taught dozens of classes now, and only three of them have been a real struggle.

Also, while teaching online helps to bring in “remote” income, it’s not exactly location independent.

You can teach from a lot of places, but you do have to have access to a strong internet connection and a quiet, private teaching space.

Kacie and Derek at the Temple of Heaven
Kacie and Derek at the Temple of Heaven in China

You are also not considered an employee, but rather an independent contractor.

You will have to handle withholding all of your taxes and traditional benefits like retirement savings on your own. It’s a bit of a headache at first, but a good tax lawyer or account can help you figure it out.

Any final advice for an aspiring English teacher?

No job is perfect, but teaching online can come pretty close. It requires very little risk to get started!

If you have a university degree, you can find the ESL certification course that works best for you, and you’re all set. You can print props or just use things you already have around your house.

You really have nothing to lose by giving it a try. If you think you might enjoy teaching in the online classroom, chances are you’ll probably love it!

If you’re thinking about joining GoGo Kid or Qkids, or if you just have questions about either company, feel free to email me at kacie(at)gobeyondtheborders(dot)com. And, make sure to check out our travel and lifestyle website, Go Beyond The Borders. 

Note: the lead image in this article was provided by Shutterstock — a website for sourcing high quality, royalty-free images and videos.

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