Today, Saturday 22February, is Mother Language Day. I just thought i should quickly share my thoughts. I celebrate my own mother language which is Shona! It is a language widely spoken in Zimbabwe. Zimbabwe is a country in sub Saharan Africa. About Eight million people speak this language. In Zimbabwe Shona is an official Language together with 12 other minority Languages.
One thing i have learnt over the past few years when i exposed myself to the International community, is that ALL languages are important! Nommatter how small that Language seems to be it equally has the same use just like those languages considered to be the big or majority languages. When i started teaching online,i tried teaching my second Language which is English but it brought me less success. When i decided to teach my mother Language the response was amazing. I had more students than when i was teaching English.
Take pride in your mother tongue but dont restrict yourself to it only. Master a second or even third Language. HAPPY MOTHER LANGUAGE DAY TO YOU ALL!
For so many years I had enjoyed teaching in the classroom in a brick and motor school. It had its own advantages that I enjoyed. I had never experienced teaching online, so I made the best out of the status quo. However, the information that I researched gave me very good reasons to quit classroom teaching and go for teaching online.
Justifying teaching in a classroom
In Africa, there is so much effort being done to keep children in schools, hence there is an ever-rising demand for teachers. This is a reason good enough to keep all teachers in the classroom and not think of teaching online. According to this chart by the world bank, many countries in sub-Saharan Africa have experienced an increase in student enrolment. From 2015 to 2019 there was a significant increase of close to 6% which meant many students within schools requiring more teachers.
The best 5 pros of teaching online
The first and most important (well, according to me) advantage for teaching online for someone in Africa is the flexibility of time and location of studies. I can’t help but smile when I mention this. When I taught online, I realized I had flexible time. I would teach in the evening, or early morning, or late afternoon with no restrictions attached to me. All I needed to do was to agree on a common time with my students. On location, I can conduct the lesson anywhere as long as I have internet and a quiet place. I remember at some point I traveled to my sister’s place, and I just asked for a quiet room to do my lessons, which I had on that day. I never had to worry about being in class or checking in at work! Teaching online does not have rigid boundaries or a strict routine that you follow religiously.
2. The second reason is that I get plenty of time to do other things I love. In a brick and motor school, I would check-in at 8 am and spend the day either seated or walking up and down waiting for my next lesson. With teaching online, I can do whatever I want during the lessons break. I so love baking, cooking, and writing but couldn’t get the time to do my hobbies because of the 8 am to 5 pm work in a physical school. Now that I am teaching online, I have plenty of time to bake and write. I made the time to write this blog possible, and I am so loving the fun! I try over 5 recipes in a week baking with no challenges to the lesson schedule.
3. Personally, I am an extrovert. I love meeting different people from different countries and cultures. I get my energy renewed when I talk to people! So teaching online has given me that opportunity to meet different people all over the world. That brings me to the third advantage, which is that I get to meet many people all over the world. My students are from the United Kingdom, America, Switzerland, Australia, and China. Each lesson with any of them is an adventure for me. I thoroughly enjoy the 50 minutes session and always look forward to the next lessons.
4. When teaching online most of the work is done for you by the company you are working for. However, this depends on the companies but most provide lesson plans and material to teach which means you as the teacher only need to show up for the lesson! Unlike in the physical classroom where I had to come up with a lesson plan for the whole term and the teaching material. That is cumbersome and strains the teacher a lot. With the companies online they make learning a simple procedure and much fun. There is just so much innovation and I customize lessons according to the student’s needs.
5. Now the fifth advantage is that with online teaching you get to experience and use different technologies. If you are tech-savvy as I am you will find this part interesting. Depending on the company I am working for that moment, I use live video calling in real-time on applications such as zoom and Skype. With these, you can do video calls and you can also do a group video where you host more than one student! You can also have plugins to use the whiteboard and marker. It’s so much fun and also keeps you abreast of the latest technologies.
The cons of teaching online from an African perspective
I have shared the advantages of teaching online using my experience. Now I will share the disadvantages I have also come across that make teaching online difficult, especially if you live in Africa.
For starters, you need to have an internet connection to do any work online. Not only a connection is needed but a reliable and fast connection to enable you to have lessons without interruptions. Most companies require an internet speed of at least 5mpbs and an upload speed of 3mbps. If you are reading this article and you are considering starting teaching online, you can check your internet speed here. I would advise that wherever you are, get the best service provider in your country. Another thing to note is to check the internet requirements for each company before applying so you don’t get disappointed when they reject you because of your internet speed. Companies that require a minimal speed of 12mbps rejected me and it is disappointing after all the effort.
2. When I started teaching online I found it very difficult to find a company that believed an African could teach and bring great results. Most wanted English natives. Despite the English background of some countries in Africa that were British colonies for more than a century, the world does not consider them as English natives. I know the biggest part of Sub-Saharan and East Africa consider English as their official language, but with teaching online, the story is different.
3. The pay or remuneration system is based on whether you are a native or just English proficient. That is another discouraging factor to teach online when you are an African. Usually, the English natives get double the pay as compared to a non-native yet doing the same job. However, with some companies, you set your own price, therefore; you don’t have to worry about being paid lower than your English counterparts. I found my way around this challenge when I registered to teach my native language online. I will share one day about this.
4. The fourth con is the lack of mentors with African experience. We perceive this field as a first world zone so few teachers from Africa will venture into it, which leaves a huge gap to teach online mentorship. I have opened my doors to fill that gap with the hope to familiarise the field to many African teachers.
5. The payment systems used by most, if not all, companies are cryptocurrency and online methods. One needs to be in the loop in terms of technological advancement to understand how this works. This is a strong reason many shy away from teaching online.
Now that I have discussed the pros and cons, I hope someone who is considering teaching online can now make an informed decision. I also shared my insights on my personal experiences, which made me want to teach online. You can read Why I taught online.
Lookout for my next post on what you need to teach online. I would also love to hear from those that are already teaching online. Sharing our stories will help someone who is considering teaching too.
So just like any young woman growing up, my dream was to be educated and have a stable job. I always wanted to return the favor my mum had done for me by sending me to school. The best way was to graduate and get a job and I did exactly that! It, however, did not take much time before I got annoyed by the long working hours, rigid work schedule and worst of it all, a boss on my back tracking deadlines! I felt there was something better. I did not know what, but it was there, I could feel it. What my family and everyone else around me knew was to work on a physical job 8-12 hours a day. I could get nothing besides the encouragement to work hard and to adjust because that’s all part of growing up. Well, I tried, at least, I worked for 5 good years being a teacher and trainer in different schools and institutions.
In 2016 I started browsing the internet for any information that could lead me to where my desire was. I got information in bits and pieces and could not comprehend exactly what I am supposed to do. I struggled and failed to find anyone to explain and advise me on a personal note. I had to find my time to do this since I was fully working somewhere from 8 am to 5 pm. Sometimes I would get home tired and drained from a hard day’s work yet my kids and husband wanted my attention too so it would leave me with no time or energy to go on the internet to search for more information on teaching online.
The break up point
This went on for the next two years, I would wake up and go to work and come home at 5 pm tired but would squeeze a little time to read different articles and follow several blogs for teaching online. I joined several pages on Facebook just to get more information. The company I was working for then posted me to a different workstation, which was 150 km away from my family. This was my break up point! I wondered how could they do that. I would go there on a Monday and come back home on a Friday. It was traumatizing, I should say. I left my kids under the care of a full-time maid. I was not comfortable with that arrangement at all. Each time I came back home I was a stranger to my own children. That broke my heart, and I knew my days on a full-time job were numbered. Within a few months, I tendered in my resignation. I just told myself I am tired, and I deserved something better!
That is when and how my teaching online journey started.