Last November, I started teaching English online for a company called PalFish.
Working remotely has totally changed my life, but, in the beginning, I was a bitttt unprepared… (more on that in just a sec)…
In an effort to help YOU learn from my mistakes, here are all of the travel friendly props and other online teaching essentials that (now!) I don’t leave home without!
So why was I unprepared?
Other than just because of who I am as a person…
Well, long story short - When I first heard about PalFish, I’d been living in Sweden for about six weeks.
I hadn’t had much luck on my job search since moving here, and, to be honest, I hadn’t really been looking that hard. I didn’t want to get just ANY job. If I was going to get a job, I wanted it to be something I enjoyed… something flexible that would allow me the free time to keep travelling and working on my passion projects.
PalFish ticked all of those boxes… so I applied immediately!
I completed my interview just before leaving Sweden for a month long trip around the Christmas markets of Europe. It was my first BIG gig as a freelancer, and I was pumped! Two days into the trip, I woke up to the news that I had been accepted to PalFish… and also EIGHT trial class bookings!
I hadn’t expected to start teaching until I got back to Sweden… annnnnd, therefore, was 100% unprepared. I didn’t want to cancel so many classes right off the bat, so I improvised as best I could.
I taught my first classes on PalFish from a hotel room in Vienna… an AirBnb in Poland… a hostel in Budapest… my aunt’s house in Ireland… and various other random rooms in random places. It was amazing! Having the flexibility and freedom to work on the road like that was everything I’d hoped for in a job… buttttt, I still wish I’d had (and known) then what I do now.
// flashcards //
The one thing I MOST regret not having when I started is flashcards.
In your first few weeks as a PalFish teacher, you will generally only get trial class bookings. Trial classes are exactly as the name suggests. Students are trying out the learning platform for the first time, and, depending on how the lesson goes, may or may not decide to sign up for the course.
Using flashcards in these trials is really important, especially with beginner students. They enhance your teaching and make lessons more fun and engaging… for both you and your students! Using these props also shows the sales team (and parents) that you take the job seriously… This leads to trial sales ($), more bookings ($$), and helps you build regular students ($$$)!
In the PalFish app’s training section, you can preview ALL of the trail lessons. I highly recommend going through these lessons and preparing flashcards for the key terms and concepts in each level. It might seem like a lot of work, but, it’s a ONE time investment of your time that will really pay off in the long run.
I prepared flashcards for the first six trial levels, which I store in the makeshift, index card mini-folder pictured below. It’s small, travel friendly, and contains everything I need for justttt about any trial lesson. (I didn’t bother with level 4 or 5, because I’ve taught them ONCE in my nine months on PalFish).
It’s a good idea to create flashcards for as many trials as possible, so if you ever have an unexpected booking or a student who needs to go up or down a level, you will already prepared!
Speaking of being prepared, I should probablyyy go ahead and make flashcards for levels 4 and 5, too… just in case I’ve jinxed myself.
Pro tip: Use flashcards in your demo lesson… because teaching to no-one is super awkward. Using flashcards will show that you’re prepared, (and it’ll give you something to do with your hands).
// work t-shirt //
As you can imagine, teaching online is much more informal and laid back than teaching in a traditional classroom setting. When I’m at home in Sweden, I teach make-up free in shorts or sweatpants from the corner of my kitchen… and it’s great.
One of the only requirements for many online teaching companies is that teachers wear a certain color shirt during lessons. For PalFish it’s blue, though this isn’t strictly enforced… (at least it wasn’t when I was on my Christmas market trip without a SINGLE blue article of clothing in my backpack).
Even if it isn’t a requirement, you should still invest in your teaching “uniform.”
Whether it’s a solid colored tee or something with your company’s logo or branding, wearing a work shirt will help you look and feel more professional on the job.
Shop: Hello PalFish T-Shirt
// stuffed animals //
Monkey and Tim the Elephant are my in-class stuffed animal friends.
I use them in my Hello Monkey trial classes and all of the other lessons about animals… which is a lot.
Having toys in your classroom isn’t technically required, but they are a great way to keep younger students entertained and engaged. They can even be useful in more advanced lessons when teaching things like animal habitats, body parts, and how to describe something’s appearance.
Unfortunately, these two aren’t exactly “travel friendly,” so when I’m on the go, they stay at home.
// white board //
You would be surprised by the number of things you can use a white board for in an online classroom.
I’ve taught everything from writing letters and numbers, to grammar and colors, and drawing shapes… plus drawing other things (namely horrible stick-figures).
I also use a whiteboard for my in-class reward system! I printed out a background, taped it to the whiteboard… then attach bananas, stars, foods (or whatever else) to magnets. This reward system can easily be used again and again… and is much less wasteful than paper sticker charts.
The PalFish classroom has a whiteboard slide, but it’s still nice to have one of your own!
It’s such a useful tool! Invest in one… I guarantee you’ll need it!
Pro tip: Use a whiteboard for your interview! Before teaching the demo lesson, you have to describe how you’ll show students how to “circle” on the screen. Using a whiteboard is a great way to accomplish this!
// Reward System //
The PalFish platform has an integrated reward system, but it’s a good idea to have an additional way to celebrate your student each time you give them a star during class.
Your reward system doesn’t have to be super elaborate.
It can be something you add onto your teaching background (like the star chart pictured on the background below) or you can use a white board (like I did in the monkey banana chart pictured above)!
Shop Now: Online Teaching Reward System
// Classroom Background //
My “classroom” used to be VERY minimal… too minimal. I had a few barely legible ABC, 123 printouts taped to the wall, a teeny colorful banner, and a picture of Freddy the PalFish.
Making anything more elaborate seemed unnecessary, but it ended up making a huge difference.
After replacing the random pictures taped to my wall with a classroom background like the one below, I saw a visible increase in my bookings.
Maybe it’s because someone on the sales team saw the effort I was putting into my classroom and decided to send more students my way… or perhaps it’s because more parents started requesting lessons with me. Either way, I saw a massive spike in class bookings (and pop-ups) once I started using a more fun, colorful teaching background.
The BEST part about this background is that (aside from the warm-up charts and character logo), it’s made entirely of felt. I can take it down, fold it up, and back it in my backpack when I travel, so, no matter where I am in the world… it always looks like I’m in the same place.
Consistency in the classroom is really important, especially for online learners, and the classroom environment you create with your teaching background plays a big part in that!
Shop Now: Online Teaching Backgrounds
And that’s the tea!
Those are all of my (mostly) travel friendly props and online teaching essentials!
It might seem like “a lot,” but preparing these things really only requires a ONE time money/time investment (that is an investment in both your job AND yourself). Once you have them, you’re set!
To be honest, crafting (and laminating things) is something I actually really enjoy (and, surprisingly, kinda missed)… But some people don’t like doing crafts… or they just don’t have time… and I totally get that!
That’s why I created my Etsy Shop!
If you want to up your classroom game, but feel like you don’t have the time to do it, this is the perfect solution for you! The shop is filled with ALMOST all of the props and essentials listed in this article! There are digital downloads of rewards systems and flashcards (including my PalFish Trial Survival Kit), teaching t-shirts, and even customizable classroom backgrounds - all at an affordable price!
I’m always working to create new, useful props and products to help teachers save time, so if you can’t find what you’re looking for in the shop, let me know! I’d be happy to discuss creating a digital download, background, or shirt that suits your specific classroom needs!
Here’s a look at what’s in store now!
Working for PalFish really has changed my life.
Not only has it given me the opportunity to spend more time pursuing my passions in writing, film, and photography (while still making enough to cover my student loan payments), I’m also able to be a teacher again, which is a job that I truly love… But, this isn’t just any teaching gig - it’s the PERFECT teaching job for me and my travel bug. I am able to make my own schedule and have the freedom to work on the go!
That being said, teaching online IS NOT for everyone… just like teaching isn’t for everyone.
Pro tip: If you don’t like kids in real life, chances are you won’t like them online either.
You should only teach online if you 1. like kids and 2. are genuinely dedicated to BEING a teacher…
Being a teacher doesn’t just mean showing up for your lessons and prompting students to “Repeat after me!” It means investing time and money into your classroom to make it a more engaging and enjoyable learning environment.
Utilizing these props and essentials in my classroom has helped me create that fun, effective learning environment… and it’s made me a more effective teacher. Plus, I’ve been getting a lot more trial sales and regular students!
Ya know what more trial sales and regular bookings means!? Well… a couple things:
Happy students, happy parents, happy sales team, happy PalFish. Andddd
Bigger paychecks + more travelling… which equals (you guessed it) one very happy Kirst!
Interested in teaching with PalFish?
Check out this article to learn more!
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