Swift

Teaching English Online for the Cruising Sailor

I'm standing at my desk, singing "I love my family". My student sings "This is my granddad, I love my grandad!". She is 5 years old. My desk is on a sailboat, anchored off a pristine, uninhabited island in the Bahamas. My student is being driven through the streets of Beijing, China. We are over 7,700 miles away from each other. We live in different cultures and speak different native tongues. My student is learning English at a young age from a qualified native speaking teacher. This language will serve her, personally and professionally, for the rest of her life. I'm doing a job I truly love, from wherever the wind takes me. The internet connects us and allows for this fabulous exchange. 
Teaching From Powell Cay, Abaco Islands, Bahamas
Teaching English online is a fabulous way for cruising sailors to have meaningful work and earn money while traveling. How much do I love it? Let me count the ways! 

The Students
I teach students from the ages of 5-12. Sure, every once in a while they'd rather be watching cartoons, but these kids are awesome. They learn English every day in school (in a class with 50 other students), and do lots of English homework, but I'm their opportunity to actually speak the language, one on one, with a native speaker. A lot of my students bring their own props to class;  having fun makes the time fly for both of us. 

The Class
Each class is 25 minutes long, and the curriculum PowerPoints are pre-loaded for you. The portal shows the PowerPoint (both the student and teacher can draw on the screen), your video feed, and the student's video feed. Your job is to guide the student through the lesson. The goal is to have the student speak and read in English for the majority of the lesson. 

Money! Sure, I love this job so much I'd almost do it for free.....but everyone needs money! I make $21 an hour, work 22 hours a week, and average $1800 a month. 

Schedule
Peak teaching times are evenings and weekends, Beijing time. For me, in the EST time zone, I work from 5AM-9AM, 5 days a week. I actually take 2.8 days off a week....my weekends start at 9AM Wednesday, giving me all day Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday to play! Don't forget, I also have 9AM onwards each day to move the boat, read books, paddle board, or pursue other employment. 

Flexibility
Crossing an ocean? Don't open slots and let your regulars know you are taking vacation time. When you get connected again, you can re-open your schedule and start teaching again. Bad weather have you pinned in port? Open extra time slots and make extra money! Boat projects and expenses weighing you down? You can teach extra classes and pay down the debt. As long as you don't cancel already booked students, your schedule is totally up to you. 

Connection
As you may guess, I'm not connected to a high-speed fiber optic cable. Cell data works! I check tower locations before we decide on anchorages. As long as I'm within a certain distance from a cell tower, I can teach from anywhere! I have a cell booster that really improves data speeds. I've taught for over 6500 minutes and never had a teacher IT issue.(Although I did have a mini-crisis when rolling blackouts turned the power off to a cell tower. We were able to sail to a new cell tower before my next class started)


I've found teaching English online through VIPKID to be the absolute perfect job for me as a cruising sailor. I'm able to fund our travels, have plenty of time to paddle board and read, and I love making a meaningful impact in the lives of young people half a world away. 
Bring Your Dog to Work Day
VIPKID is listed as Forbes #1 remote job. It's listed on Fast Company's Most Innovative Companies (along with SpaceX). It's a real job, creating a win-win-win for teachers, students, and employees. 

Requirements
VIPKID requires a Bachelor's degree and teaching, coaching, or mentoring experience. They hire teachers who are eligible to work in the USA and Canada. You do not need any Chinese language experience. The class is 100% English immersion. 

If you are interested in teaching with VIPKID, please use my referral link. This will connect us in the VIPKID system so I can help you through the hiring process, and I get a bonus for each new teacher I refer. It's a win-win!  

There are tons of opportunities to teach English to children and adults online. English is the language of business and the internet and is, worldwide, the most sought after second language. The Journal of Nomads (not affiliated, just a great site!) has published a list of various apps and websites you can teach English through. 

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16 comments

  1. Amazing! What a great remote job.

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    1. Thanks Bill! Working from the boat seems too good to be true. I almost can't believe it "works"!

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  2. This is so great, Lucy! I love the win-win situation, and the money and flexibility is awesome. I will definitely look into this more, when I need a "real" job in the future, as I love teaching and it appears I am - luckily - qualified for this job opportunity, as a Belgian teacher by profession having a greencard in the US. :-)

    By the way, I can totally relate to your panic when the power outage happened. We had cell connections disappear on us often in the Pacific and, I have to be honest, having to move all the time to get connected grew old. Of course, times have changed now and there are better internet systems and cell towers available. Awesome balance and well done!

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  3. Oh, a few questions: is the curriculum provided? Do you need time to prepare the classes? Do you have repeat students?

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    1. I didn't realize you were a teacher! How did I miss that.....and how awesome! The curriculum is provided. When a student signs up for a class with you, you can preview the powerpoint you will teach. When I first started teaching, I prepped probably 10 minutes per class. Now that I know the material alot better, I just flip through the material the night before, about 5 minutes a class.
      I have about 80% repeat students and 20% random students. The parents pick the teacher, kinda like a dating app (lol). I try and keep the same schedule each week so students can re-book the same time. However, I know teachers who take 6 weeks off at a time and just come back and have different students each time. The company is constantly expanding and will be in a few countries besides China soon, so I'm sure they will keep on hiring. And, with your awesome Wirie, you shouldn't have any problems getting internet!

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    2. This is a pretty cute 3 minute video showing the portal, slides, and the student / teacher interaction: https://youtu.be/s0MGi3RZ8U4

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    3. Thanks for all the information, Lucy. It is very interesting and promising. I rarely talk about my “old life” in Belgium, but, yes, I was a primary school teacher there and taught in sixth grade for four years. :-)

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    4. The video was cute. I watched the next one as well, about how to apply, and here’s the problem (something I was afraid of): you need to have a North American accent... Not me. Initially, I thought they would require you to be a native English speaker (which is the issue if I ever were to teach English abroad in person), so I was happy you didn’t have that in your requirements on the blog. Not sure I can fake an American accent.

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    5. My accent is pretty British, and I don't fake an American accent. I am careful to say the words the American way, and I call trousers pants like an American. There are a few teachers I have met who have quite strong accents (originally from India, from Alabama, etc). There are also quite a few teachers who speak English as a second language (their original language is Spanish, etc) and I personally think it's a benefit as they understand the challenge of learning English as a second language. I think as long as you can be clearly understood, the accent isn't that big of a deal. DADAABC is a similar company but hires from other countries (U.K., etc). A blogger I follow, Cynthia, is from Belgium and teaches for Hujiang http://teach.hjclass.com/ , another Chinese company. This one is neat because they offer classes to children as well as adults. She breaks down all the English teaching options too, from phone call apps to videoconferencing. I like the idea of the app that just provides conversational English. (But, VIPKID pays the most). Cynthia's site: https://www.journalofnomads.com/online-teaching/

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  4. Thanks for the clarification and the info about other non-native English speakers teaching English. And the different companies. All good to know, and I'm glad I can keep it in the back of my head for when I "need" to find a real job! If I ever do so, with VIPKID, I'll be sure to let them know you referred me! :-)

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  5. Hi there! My name is Miriam. I recently joined the Facebook group on how to make money while living aboard and found your posts on teaching english to chinese kids.
    My partner and i are planning on moving to the Caribbean very soon and will be living on a sailboat. I'd like to teach english possibly for Vipkids as well! I have several years of teaching and tutoring experience.
    I'm wondering about your set up regarding internet on the boat. You mentioned in your blog that cell data works? We're looking into Iridium Go portable satellite hotspot but need to do more research.
    My partner is curious to know where are you anchored presently? And is there a northerly swell presently?
    Thanks in advance!

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    1. Miriam, Thank you for reading and checking in! In the US, I was using Verizon and the data speeds were very fast. I have an unlocked phone, turn on the "use my phone as a hotspot" option, and plug the phone directly into the computer. We have an Iridium Go and paid for the service for a year. It is 100% useless for any kind of work or connectivity requirements. It will download weather data which is great when you are in the middle of a passage and have no other source (no phone service). It will send a short text email. It's not fast enough to connect to any website or even access Facebook. We actually cancelled the Go package recently because we rely on our phones and radio and aren't planning any long passages. The Bahamas has really good cell coverage! We are currently anchored in Marsh Harbour in the Bahamas. There isn't a swell in the harbour today, but we did see some swell in here over the last few days. Uncomfortable, but manageable.
      Where are you guys based at the moment?

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  6. Thanks for the info. Your posts are really interesting and informative!
    We're based in Quebec Canada and Grenada in the winter. My partner must sell his current boat (2016 Boston Whaler Outrage) first in order for us to buy a sailboat and begin our sailing adventure. He has years of sailing experience and i have none!
    I love teaching. I taught 3 years at the highschool level and was also an ESL teacher to youth and adults. I also spent several months traveling in China and managed to speak a little Mandarin. How about i keep you posted if i apply to Vipkids and will use your referral link.
    Ps My partner lived in the Bahamas for 6 months at Elbow Cay.

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    1. It sounds like you will love teaching for VIPKID! It's such a great job, and it travels. Going through the process of selling your stuff, looking for a boat, and making the jump is so stressful. It's worth it in the end though.
      Elbow Cay is gorgeous - we are headed there next week. Keep in touch!

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  7. By the way, It's Miriam. Mira Atkins is my email name

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