The Travelling Teacher: An overview of some of the essentials to consider whilst teaching and travelling
What’s it all about?
This week’s blog is an accumulation of some of the travel tips I’ve mentioned in my blogs as well as a few extra important bits of information and guides. If you’ve read some of my previous blogs than there may be a few of these that sound familiar but there are also some new extra tips that I haven’t mentioned already.
Or, perhaps you’re thinking about travelling and teaching or just want a bit of insight into how it all works, then why not have a read of today’s blog?! I’ll be mentioning how to balance your income and expenses, the types of contract that you have to consider when teaching and travelling as well as scheduling and setting up your learning environment whilst on the move! Before travelling I was teaching in a mainstream primary school and this was a whole new world for me, so this blog will give some insight into what I discovered along the way.
One of the perks of travelling, especially being from the UK, meant that I could often live MUCH more cheaply than I could back home. However, to be able to live I also needed income to support payments for transport, accommodation, food and any other costs.
As a flexi buddy whilst travelling, I knew that my income would vary from each week as I would be teaching different hours or days but I also ensured that I would have enough income to survive and pay my dues!
What was also great for me being from the UK was that my wages were paid directly into my bank account at the beginning of each month. As invoices for flexis are sent at the end of each month, I knew that I would receive my payment for the previous month just a few days into the new month. It is important to remember that if you are thinking of becoming an online teacher, you won’t be paid for the month of teaching until the following month so plan your finances appropriately.
To be a Flexi or Contracted Buddy?
First off, let’s explain the term Flexi and Contracted Buddy. This simply means –
Flexi Buddy – You update your schedule each week and can select any days or slots to work.
Contracted Buddy – You update your schedule each week with the same days or slots BUT you can also opt for some overtime.
It’s very important to consider whether being a Flexi or Contracted Buddy is the best option for you and your timetable. If you opt for contracted whilst travelling, you will have to commit to the same days and hours so it is important to carefully consider if this will be achievable with the countries you want to visit. If, like myself, you know that you will going to lots of different time zones and there will be times that you will travelling within a few days of moving to somewhere, then consider becoming a Flexi Buddy.
If you believe that you would be able to commit to a certain number of hours each week then great, you could always become a Contracted Buddy (the minimum amount of required teaching hours for this is 5) and then apply for overtime as and when you need it/ it fits around your schedule. This would help you to ensure a guaranteed regular income of a particular amount and then any extra overtime would be a bonus!
As a Flexi Buddy you will still receive bookings and it is very likely that you will see lots of the same students, but it is unlikely you will have regular students as they are more likely to be allocated to teachers who can guarantee particularly days or hours. I often found that as a Flexi I would see some of the same students popping up but would also receive lots of taster classes. Taster classes are great because they are also an opportunity for you to gain MORE income. For every successful taster that leads to a Bready signing up, you receive an extra 20GBP. Woo!
Timing and scheduling
If you’re moving a lot or even if you’re not but you have a day of flights or of using transport, then it is important to consider travel times. Be realistic! Often there are delays, traffic etc. so give yourself plenty of time so that you don’t have to panic or cancel classes. I found that when travelling, I would often try to avoid working that day. That way I didn’t have to panic about being late to a class or missing a class and it meant one less stress whilst travelling.
One thing that often made my mind boggle, was the time differences. You have to bear in mind that the lessons are listed on your work schedule at the UK time. Also, when booking in your slots for the week, if you’re moving to a different time zone you have to factor that into your bookings or you could end up teaching at some really unsociable hours! So, always research the time difference between the UK and your destination BEFORE updating your availability.
If you’ve got a particularly long journey or intense trip that you’re going on, also factor that into your schedule. Though work is important, it’s vital that you can bring all of your energy to class (as many of you will know already!). Following a long day of travelling or full-on day of exploring, I would try to avoid working the next day or at a push only work the following evening so my body had time to recover and I could ensure my practice was up to standard.
By this point, some of you might be thinking – well, if I keep having days-off and taking rest days etc. when will I earn some money? This is where you have to be savvy. If I knew I had a long travel day coming up and would be taking a day rest the following day, I would book in extra slots a few days before. That way I could still ensure that I was maximising my earnings but also making sure my body was getting the rest it deserved and needed!
Not only are rest days important but so are breaks! Remember to schedule in breaks. If you are fully booked you may often only have a few minutes to get to the next lesson. This is also your time to get to the next classroom and check that everything is working well. This time soon goes! Then, before you know it, you’re 4 hours into teaching and busting for the toilet or so hungry that you prey you don’t have a lesson where you have to talk about food! Make sure you schedule some breaks. Give yourself some rest-bite. This could just be a time to go and stretch, give your eyes a rest, have a snack, go to the toilet, put the kettle on or whatever helps you to re-coup. This time is so important! If you don’t, you could up burning yourself out, which would then lead to you not being able to work as much as you had hoped and anticipated. I know that I thought I’d be fine working back to back and it was only once I experienced it for myself that I learnt my lesson, so take the advice from someone that learnt the hard way!
Remember that you’re travelling for a reason. Perhaps to see the culture or explore etc. so make time to do the things you want to do. Make sure that your teacher schedule fits in around what you want to do and again be realistic. I know I was really lucky during my travels that I often could explore in the day time and then work during the evening. This gave me the perfect balance of exploration in the day and working at night. Remember to know your limits though! I knew that I could not work past a certain time at night and would never book in slots later than I could handle as I knew I wouldn’t be at my best.
Setting up: Connectivity
Before booking accommodation read the reviews about the WIFI and if need be, contact the accommodation provider and ask them about their WIFI services. You may also want to check that the WIFI is free. One thing you can never have too much of as an online teacher is WIFI! But, unfortunately there are places that say ‘FREE WIFI’ and then when you read the small print, you only get a measly amount. Don’t let yourself get caught out.
One of the first things I would always do (after checking out the rooms, cupboards and drawers of my new accommodation) would be to run a connectivity test. This way if there are any issues or if the internet speed does not meet the 20mpd download speed I had time to contact the accommodation provider or make alternative arrangements. Alternative arrangements could be identifying a local internet café, or a nearby restaurant, café or library that offers WIFI. It may also mean investing in a local sim card. I would highly recommend ALWAYS getting a local sim card and there are often some great deals to be had on the data rich sims. I relied on these many a time when teaching online and in many cases found them far more reliable than the WIFI in some places.
Setting up: Background and environment
Whilst travelling I purchased an A4 sized clipboard folder that I could safely keep my teacher background images in. This kept them from getting creased and meant I didn’t have to try and find access to a printer everywhere I went. Though there were times that I did not have a wall or area I could add images too, in many places, there were often walls where I could stick up a few pictures to create a much more aesthetically pleasing background for my students. Just as with in any other lesson, you still need to have a background that is tidy and well organised. So even if you can’t add some images, make sure that what can be seen is organised. You might be travelling but that’s no excuse for pants and bikinis sprawled out over the floor.
There may even be times where the table area in your room or accommodation isn’t big enough. This is where a little imagination and improvisation comes into play. You just have to make sure that what you create/ use to teach from is at the right height and stable. You do not want a wobbly teaching environment – that would make it really off-putting for the student. My top travel tip is using the ironing board as a table. I found I could adjust the board to different heights, it was stable and also meant that I could spread some of my props over the rest of the area. Perfect.
You can always consider teaching outside too. What could be more of a conversation starter than a beautiful natural background? This is a great way of encouraging and developing speech and conversation with Breadies and what a great talking point! All that you need to make sure of is that your environment is quiet and free from too many distractions.
Once you’ve set up your teaching base the next thing is light! Now I know it may seem obvious but where you can, avoid having natural light behind you as this often causes a shadow over your face! Try to get set the desk lamps close to you and sit close to the main lighting. It’s essential that your face can be seen clearly.
Some of you might remember me mentioning investing in a wheeled travel bag during my travels. Now if you do, you may remember me saying that this bag was not a good-looking bag by any account but the ease that came with this purchase made it priceless! What’s also great about having a wheeled luggage bag is that you can take some weight off your feet! I was previously putting my laptop into my rucksack, holding it or if desperate packing it in my main luggage and hoping for the best.
This travel bag changed things for me. The bag was also really well concealed. It didn’t look like it would homing a laptop but inside it had a laptop slot – perfect. Not only did it make life easier but also didn’t make you a walking target showing off your laptop.
The wheeled travel bag I invested in was small enough to be carried on as hand luggage, another luxury that meant I could keep the bag with me at all times so if I needed to do any work I could. It also meant that, if waiting around for a flight, I could charge my laptop. I also used it to store lots of things so I had them to hand, like my charger and wireless mouse. For me, the biggest perk was that if I were to lose my main luggage I would still have the essentials like my laptop and bag. I would also carry a small box of props, just some of what I consider the ‘essentials’, like a few coloured objects, a puppet and a whiteboard and pen.
Want to know more?
If you’re considering going travelling and want to know more about how to make online teaching work for you or perhaps you have some advice or stories you’d like to share with me, then send me an email to - firstname.lastname@example.org