|Remembering Corn Island|
The main reasons we were forced to leave the island were A: The time it took to make necessary trips off-island, and B: No job. We had no way to make a living on the island. We were able to scrape by selling pizza on the street, but it wasn't enough to cover the unpredictable travel and immigration expenses. I had to keep going to Costa Rica every 6 months, and extending my visitor visa in Bluefields ever 3 months in between. With each trip taking a week minimum that got costly fast.
Once we moved to Jinotepe I was able to get a job teaching English over the internet, which was quite a blessing for a while. Sadly the company I worked for gradually changed their policies and their contract (Apparently they have a different idea of what a 'contract" is). In the end I was making about 1/4 the income and doing 2x the amount of working hours. I won't mention the name of this company because they don't deserve the publicity.
The good news is, I've been hired now by a better company that offers about 4x the pay per hour, even more than I would expect to make per hour in Canada. They use the same type of software and teaching materials so its a really smooth transition. I will include a link later in the post to their application page for those interested in working for them. I will confess also, at this point, that if anyone uses my link to apply and gets hired I will personally receive a bonus, so if you're looking to work online please USE THE LINK ON THIS PAGE it will help me out a lot.
Below I have assembled a quick guide to how you can get started working online. I will specifically talk about my company DaDaABC, but the principles apply to most ESL teaching businesses you might apply for.
What you need:
A good headset and microphone
- I want to emphasize the word "good". in this case you really can't cheap out. The quality of the microphone is very important and makes a huge difference.
- Over-ear headphones tend to be better in my experience and help you understand the students pronunciation, which might be terrible so you need to listen closely to know what they are saying.
A good laptop or desktop computer
- Again you don't want to get just any computer. Your entire income depends on this machine so make sure it is up to the task. Remember that with computers more expensive doesn't mean better. I know a lot of people that teach with a Macbook and do fine, but a $300 windows computer might have double the processor speed and three times the RAM. A good graphics card also matters so make sure to know what you have. The custom applications used by DaDaABC and many other teaching companies actually demand quite a bit from your computer for live video feeds, interactive whiteboard and animations etc.
REALLY GOOD Internet
- This one is probably the hardest. We had internet on Corn Island but it wasn't stable enough. DaDaABC requires that you have UNLIMITED internet with a minimum download speed of 10 MBS, and upload of 2 MBS. It must also be a wired internet connection. Which means you have a router in your house with an ethernet cable connecting it to your computer. They feel that wifi is less reliable and require that you use ethernet. Claro offers a package in Tola with 10 MBS download and 2.5 upload for about $80 per month. Isolated communities do not have this service so that really limits where you can go, at least in Nicaragua. 3G and 4G are not permitted (aka the claro stick)
- If you're not sure what any of these numbers mean you definitely want to do some research, its important.
A Quiet place with lots of lighting
- Kind of self explanatory. You need a really quiet place to be teaching. There can't be roosters or dogs barking or traffic in the background. I'll be investing in a slingshot soon to deal with the former myself.
A UPS/Backup battery
- To work for an online tutoring company like DaDaABC you need to be more reliable than the services of the place you live. Power outages happen fairly often in Nicaragua and many other developing countries. You have to keep teaching, so having a backup power supply can be useful. Furthermore, standards for electrical work are different here. I've already had one computer get fried by faulty wiring and don't care to repeat that. A device known as a Utility Power System (UPS) can help. It plugs into the wall, and then has its own outlets for your important devices. It contains a self charging backup battery that automatically kicks in when the power goes out, so if you're teaching and your router, lights, and laptop are all on the UPS... you're students won't even know anything happened. Most UPS also protect against power surges and irregular voltages, thus protecting your devices as well. I got one for about $50 at maxi pali that lasts my laptop, the router, and a bright LED light well over an hour without power.
Those are my tips, Finally here is the company I mentioned earlier. They are called "DaDaABC". I don't know, maybe the name makes sense in Chinese. They are based in Shanghai, and they pay quite generously by the hour. The actual rate is based on your experience and qualifications (TESOL etc), but even their minimum rate is significantly more than minimum wage in most of Canada. Working hours are very early in the AM for the americas, so that means working 4-7 AM. It sounds horrific but its not that bad after a while.
I've only just started with them but I will say they seem very professional. There are two others in the congregation here in Tola working for them and they are very happy with their jobs. I was hired within a week of applying via a link just like the one below, and there was a lot less nonsense I had to wade through than with some other companies (i.e. hours and hours of training videos). They use their own software rather than Skype or zoom, which includes a whiteboard and lets you see the student, as well as their mouse cursor. They also provide ample lesson material so you don't spend much time at all preparing in advance for a class. More like helping them read slides and asking them questions on it, with the occasional grammar game/puppet show. Most students are children.
Click here to apply for DaDaABC: https://www.dadaabc.com/teacher/job/p0R2Y2G5o005
Once you apply, they will contact you on skype or by email and walk you through the rest of the process. It usually involves a skype interview and a demo class after watching some training videos.