Drain your energy to earn more when teaching English online?

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Maria.F, Online English teacher at Acadsoc.

Maria.F, Online English teacher at Acadsoc.

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My best friend, who is also an online English teacher at Acadsoc complained to me last week that she worked for a long time (12 hours) every day but still failed to cover her bill. She has 2 kids in kindergarten and several relatives who are asking her to borrow money. She cried in our phone call and asked me if she was not hard-working enough or she deserved such difficulty. To be honest, I could not answer her question and just kept consoling her.

The other day she sounded better but still frustrated. I tried to know more about her situation and asked if she could send her statement of bills and income to me. After viewing her family finance, she was suffering a severe deficit. Even she works full time, indeed overtime at Acadsoc as an online English teacher and her base rate is higher than mine, she still failed to cover the cost. Surprisingly, nearly 50% of her monthly expenditure is to support her relatives, including those she only met once or twice before. ‘You are draining yourself to support others.’ It is not a compliment for my friend, but a broader question for all breadwinners at Acadsoc: Are we benefiting or damaging by such working style?

At the moment, I am finishing my TESOL certificate online. But when I tried to persuade my colleagues to take such training (Acadsoc will cover the cost), they always rejected with a reason that they had no time for TESOL. Conducting more classes to earn more is apparently more attractive to them than taking training which is not paid. It makes sense because I know they all have a big family to support and a heavy financial burden to handle.

Frankly speaking, I was one of them when I first attended Acadsoc last year. I requested as many slots as I can conduct after probationary to feed my children. Unfortunately, my physical health would not allow me to afford such high-intensity work. I talked to my Chinese supervisor and begged him if he could waive the penalty after I cancelled half day’s classes due to a terrible fever and headache. He agreed to considerate my situation and remitted part of my punishment. He stopped me when I tried to negotiate for more consideration and let her know my financial difficulty, “The company never force you to work so hard. We only require 7-11 PM every day as your compulsory schedule.” I replied, ‘Yes. But the only way I can afford my bills is to work that hard!”…I could not remember too many details of that conversation, more precisely, an argument.

Yet, one sentence of my supervisor impressed me a lot till now during that quarrel, ”If you want to earn more with a shorter working schedule, what should you do?” I never considered this before, or honestly, we are all escaping from answering this question. Why IT engineers in Silicon Valley can earn much more than a dustman in the same company, both working 8 hours a day? Because they are of higher value to the company than other positions!

I made up my mind, to stop the suicidal working mode even I have to borrow from my friends for daily expenditure. Everyone needs a balance between work, relax and study. It is easy to understand if regarding opportunity cost when you select to work from 10 to 11pm at night, you give up the opportunity to read a book, watch a movie or take a bath in that period. In the short term, we can breach and ignore this balance, i.e. to work/play/study for all day long. However,  if it continues for more than 1 month, apparently, you will feel sad that your strength and ability might never catch up with your plan and ambition. When I was working crazily, I planed of an expected monthly income based on my calculation and expected performance. Sadly speaking, I never achieved my goal due to a fluctuation of my proficiency, unstoppable facing complaints from students, cancelling classes due to sudden illness or oversleeping and being late for my class. I didn’t even have time and patience to carefully follow my supervisor’s suggestions before hurrying to next class.

After confirming the conditions and requirements of being a top tutor at Acadsoc, I had a clue what to do next. I spent 1 hour and carefully reviewed my students’ feedback for yesterday’s classes in the morning. Not to satisfy my vanity. Instead, it is the best way for me to find out my weakness in teaching. By doing so, I gradually realised Chinese culture and what exactly a student is looking for in an online English teacher. Happy moments and laughter in your class mean nothing to the student until they learn something in the 25 minutes with you.

For other spare time, I would either watch top tutors’/experienced teachers’ class records and experience sharing on YouTube or sent by my supervisor. Like pouring cold water on my face, I was aware of the distance between them and me. They were seriously taking it as education when I was just making my living. To catch up with them, I read the trending news every day for a more up-to-date expansion of material in my class, I imitated their teaching methods (TPR and PBL) and practised with my kids, I purchased whiteboard and hand-puppets, and I exercised hand motions against a mirror.

All my sweats and effort finally paid return early this month. I was promoted to top tutor and enjoyed an increase in both enrollment bonus and base rate. Now, I can earn the same amount as conducting more than 12 hours’ classes per day before with only 8 hours’ classes. And I successfully paid off my debts with the first salary received after promoting to top tutor. In the future. I plan to further increase my level of base rate and bonus by acquiring English teaching certificates and more enrollments from my classes. Now, I finally understand the principle of working smartly. If you spare yourself some time and patience to study from others and learn new knowledge, they will pay you back very soon.

Every company, no matter in which country or industry, would prefer an employee who is making progress every day and keep obtaining new skills throughout his/her career. Working as a robot will make you quickly replaceable by fresh blood in the company. Imagine you were the boss, would you be willing to pay an old employee more than new employees if they are performing with the same proficiency? No, you would dismiss the old one and start training the new one. It sounds cold-blooded and inhuman, but unfortunately, that’s the nature of business and employment. You deserve more payment in a company not because you have served this company long enough, instead, your value is highly appreciated by the company.

DepressionAs discussed above, there is a balance between work, relax and study. Don’t underestimate the essentiality of sufficient relax and rest after working and learning. Research has proved and broadly acknowledged that high-quality sleep and relaxing can help boost up the efficiency of your work and study. Even computers need a shutdown and recharge, why not pardon yourself some regular relaxing every day? Take for an instance, stand up and do some stretching every 60 minutes after your class, go outside and breathe fresh air with a 30 minutes’ break or apply for a holiday to go picnic with your family.

Worried about your payment and want to take full advantage of your free time? Trust me, you can earn more if you really enjoy your spare time instead of spending them for working or studying. I know someone who committed a part-time job out of her full-time one. We met last month in a cafe, and she told me she had been diagnosed as depression. What’s worse, she has to rely on the antidepressant for a very long time. The cost of treatment and medicine is far more than her income every month. The cause of depression is mainly her working pressure and almost no time left for relaxing.

Our mind is like a garbage bin, where we put pressures and negative emotion to show a positive outlook when facing students. And we have to regularly empty the container in case some junks might decay or ferment in it.  If it goes out of your control and the self-regulation system of your body, you are possibly caught by mental diseases. Beyond a massive cost of money, such disorders may eat you up and keep you away from many job opportunities in the future.

The prior consideration of any employee should be healthy in all occasion. No matter how much the boss is willing to pay you, you must ensure the work is safe, and you will be able to handle the working pressure. Without a healthy body, there will be no place for any dreams and ambitions.

Overall, draining one’s energy for anything is always radical, harmful and meaningless. Being addicted to work or spending a long time doing the same task every day won’t bring you anywhere. Maybe you consider yourself as a great contributor to the company. But your boss only defines a contribution as a great contribution if it is unrepeatable. Opening 12 hours’ schedule a day is apparently not one of them, but having 12 new enrollments in a day is.

Working so hard when earning so few is not an angle for you to complain about your working policy and environment, it only indicates you are not unreplaceable enough.




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