Tag Archives: online income

Online teaching–Trial by fire

Camille Online

Me, hard at work by Clau Guzes

I waited anxiously over the weekend for my “onboarding” email to arrive. Finally, I received an email welcoming me aboard with the first training module attached. There were 6 training sessions in all and I didn’t have any problems reading and completing the “exams” over the period of two days. Each session took me about 45 minutes. I was compensated for my time.

Then a few days later, I received my meet and greet invitation. This was a required group session headed by my new instruction coach but also paid. That’s what I’m talking about!

I also watched ALL the example classes on YouTube to see how things worked. I was a little concerned though that the model teacher incorrectly corrected a student’s use of the word funnier. The teacher said he should use the word funner. FUNNER? Who uses that? Isn’t it more fun? Well, I guess I could do just as well as that guy.

I tried diligently during the week to pick up an extra class before I was officially on the schedule to get some practice in, but there wasn’t anything available. Finally, Friday came with my new schedule. I had 27 hours–WAY more than I was expecting. Furthermore, I was scheduled at all hours of the day and night, including hours when I was supposed to be teaching at the school. I panicked a bit and sent frantic messages to my instruction coach. I only requested changes to the 6 hours that overlapped my other job, figuring I would find a way to work the other ones. It wouldn’t do to be whiny the first week. I also mentioned that the hours I was scheduled were not hours that I had indicated that I would be available. Apparently, someone messed up when doing the scheduling. Those 6 hours were removed from my schedule and I was assured that the next week all my hours would be within the availability schedule I had submitted.

My first class was Sunday night at 11:30 pm. Then I had another one at 2 am. I didn’t think I could risk napping between classes since I was supposed to sign on 10 minutes before the shift to catch the JOIN button. So I didn’t.

I was nervous, to say the least. I really wanted it to go well, but I still felt underprepared, even after all the training sessions. I had to remember to log in, test my audio, allow microphone use for students, check in with them, see if I could resolve technical issues and teach the class. The topics were assigned and each class had multiple activities already set up, so I just had to direct the class and pick and choose the slides I thought would get the most interaction from the students. This took the hassle of planning out of the picture, which considering I plan 6 elementary classes and 3 kindergarten classes a day, was a nice reprieve.

There were 4 students in my first class. One student wanted to only listen in, which was fine. There was one student I never did get a response from, so I assumed she too was just listening in. Juan was from Venezuela and Maria was from Veracruz, Mexico and this was her first class.

I thought it went pretty well. After a bit of hesitation on Maria’s part when she began, both students were fully engaged during the class. The class was 45 minutes. Then I had time enough to do the student feedback before joining another class.

I was also supposed to fill out a self-evaluation form after my first class, which I did. I thought I needed work on the interactive tools and resolving audio problems, which I made my goal for the next class.

In the next class, there were some audio problems. The student, Marco, could hear me but could not use his microphone. It seemed he had a new headset and his computer wasn’t reading the microphone. I tried to help him set it up with the troubleshooting tip sheet I had received at the meet and greet. I probably wasted too much time trying to do that. Finally, I suggested that he type his responses in the chat box and I would go over the material so that he could hear it.

He was also very engaged. It was so nice to have students that were very motivated to learn and use their English. There are days in the elementary school that I just want to pull my hair out. The enthusiasm with these classes was very comparable to the kindergarten classes I teach. It was awesome!

And so and so forth. I had every type of class thrown at me throughout the night. Conversation, group, private, grammar, beginners, intermediates, advanced students. You name it, I had it.

I must have read the topic chart incorrectly because I was constantly surprised at the theme I was given upon entering class. So I pretty much had to wing it, every single class. Talk about teaching on the fly!

In between classes, I checked the google time chronometer obsessively. All classes are scheduled for Eastern Standard Time, and well, I don’t live in Eastern Standard Time so I had to make adjustments and calculations. Even with all that, I still somehow managed to miss a class. Oops.

I also must have had an out of body experience. Somehow I joined a class that I was already teaching. Or at least that’s what it appeared on the screen. I think maybe that was the class I had missed and the monitor jumped in under my name to teach it. Maybe.

I had a class or two where students didn’t show up. I wasn’t sure what to do, so I sat there in the empty virtual classroom and twiddled my virtual thumbs. All righty then. On the other hand, I virtually met people from all around the world, Uraguay, the Dominican Republic, Costa Rica, Mexico, Venezuela, Chile, Peru, Ecuador, Guatemala, El Salvador and so on. It was amazing!

The night stretched into day. I never did get to bed. I finished my last class at 6 am (7 am EST) then piddled around in my classroom until my first elementary class started at 8:30. I knew that if I went to bed, I’d NEVER get up. I taught all my elementary and kindergarten classes and finished at 1:30. At 2 pm (3 pm EST) there was yet another training class. It was compensated thus so totally worth the effort I made to prop my eyelids open. My final class online was from 3:30 to 4:30 pm (4:30 to 5:30 EST) and then I was free to collapse into my bed. Whew!




Filed under Education, Employment, Teaching

Failing at your own business–online teaching

determined woman

Out of the blue in April, I received a response from an online teaching company that I had applied to in January. Well, HOT DOG! They paid in US dollars which is a whole lot more than more than measly pesos and averaged 10 to 15 USD per hour. Sign me up! 42 emails and 3 months later, I’m about to start.

So what happened? Well, I started with the screening test. It had a variety of grammar, vocabulary, and idiomatic expression questions. No problem. Then there was the voice recording attachment. That took me a little bit to figure out, but I did it. I apparently did well on the test and my voice was acceptable (not too much of an accent) and since I highlighted that I have experience working with Spanish speakers on my resume, I received the official job offer letter and I was invited to fill in the HR paperwork.

The first round of paperwork came with instructions on how to fill it out. I was to sign and return the job offer letter, the confidentiality waiver, the employee handbook, the pre-employment background check release form, and the handbook acknowledgment form. So I did.

It was the second round where I had some issues. The paperwork involved included a direct deposit form, an I-9 form verifying that I was legally allowed to work in the US, employee information sheet, W-4 and the optional payroll card enrollment form. Not one was correct the first time I turned it in. The easiest to fix were the employee information sheet and W-4. The company required a US address, so I gave them one. (See Trade Route Established)

The I-9 should have been a piece a cake. I’m a US citizen, right? Well, I am, but that isn’t good enough. I had to get someone to verify that I was. As I haven’t been in the US in some time, my driver’s license has expired, but my passport was still current. (See Renewing our passports in Mexico). As I would be a remote employee (not in the same state as the company) I would need to go to a notary and have my passport verified as authentic. Easier said than done. The nearest US notary was in San Miguel de Allende and I didn’t have the time nor the money for the trip. So I asked another person who also worked for this company and she said that she had gone to the local presidencia (town hall) and had them stamp the form. So I went and asked and they said no. I had to go to an official notario (notary) and they charged the big bucks. I took my Mexican driver’s license(Getting legal–license to drive), my US passport and my Mexican permanent residency card. (See Residency at last).

The notary requested the company letter requesting the verification to be translated, which I went and did. When I returned, he wrote the official identity verification letter for his files, which I proofed. He signed and stamped the company letter and charged me 1,100 pesos. Yikes!

The notary verification wasn’t enough for the company. A company employee needed to verify the notary verification and the passport. However, as I was still a remote employee, I was told to pick someone to sign the paper for me acting as a company representative. I requested a little more information on this and was told that it could be anyone, as long as I trusted them. Ok. So I had one of the kindergarten teachers sign off on it.

After all this, I scanned and sent the forms along with a copy of my identification to HR. Rejected! It turns out I had never signed my passport in the four years that I had it, so it was not valid. Ooops! I signed it and scanned everything again and sent it all along, again.

Then my direct deposit form was rejected. Apparently, foreign banks are not acceptable. So I would have to apply for the payroll card. So I did. Only I couldn’t figure out how to submit it. The fax number on the application form was incorrect. When I tried to get more information from the website, I was redirected. After repeated emails to the company, they responded that I could email the payroll card application which was nowhere to be found on the application. The company representative was so kind as to include it in her clarification email. So I emailed it. Then I had to wait for confirmation from the payroll card company. Once I got that I emailed it to the online teaching company. The card was sent to my US address. It took 10 days for me to get the card number since my trade partner was on vacation, but finally, I got it. I set up the virtual bank account.

The next step was to resubmit the direct deposit form with the virtual bank account connected to the payroll card. I was to submit it with supporting documentation. Unfortunately, now my printer was giving me fits. It would only print in black and white. Then quit printing altogether. It took two days to get it working again. Then it only printed in blue. Well, it would have to do.

But when I sent my direct deposit form, it was REJECTED. I couldn’t believe it. I sent an email asking what more they needed since I’d submitted every bit of documentation requested. The only thing I could figure was that the bank watermark wasn’t visible because I could only print in blue.

So I begged the school secretary to print it out for me in color. I then rescanned everything and sent it again. ACCEPTED!

Next, I received an email that they urgently needed my state tax form. However, the state that I listed does not have a state withholding requirement, so there was no form to submit. I emailed that information to the company. Jeez! A lesser woman would have given up by now. But not me!



Filed under Education, Employment, Getting Legal, Teaching

Failing at your own business–Freelance Essay Writing

doing homework

Last year we had the goal of putting the second story roof on our house and, therefore, needed a bit of extra money to get’er done. The unearthly hour that my son started school in the mornings meant that I arrived at my own job nearly 3 hours before my first class. Since I was there and had internet access I started sending out my resume for online jobs. To my surprise, I was offered 2 jobs almost immediately. Eagerly, I accepted both and hoped I would have enough free time.

The first position was with a company based in China that indicated that I would be assisting non-native speaking students with their English essays. As I have quite a bit of experience with ESL learners, I was excited at the prospect of revising their work. My first assignment was a “sample” assignment that would pay $60 whether or not the client accepted the completed work. The topic was on gender differences in conversation. I was to decide if there were provable differences between the sexes or not and defend my point of view. I was sent 4 pages to read with a list of additional resources to include. I went to work, although its been years since my last college essay. I submitted an outline, however, it was returned with a different outline that the client wanted me to follow. That was ok with me. I changed my focus and wrote what I felt was a passable essay, complete with references, and sent it along.

Then I was assigned another essay and this one was a doozy. Explain why President Obama continued to use drone strikes and how it violates the international humanitarian laws. As I had no idea what the current policy for drone use was, this paper required quite a bit of research. It took me the better part of a week to just get the research done. Before I even finished, I was assigned another essay, but it was a simpler topic and shorter, only 2 pages. I was to go to a public area and observe young teens in their natural habitat. But the pressure was starting to get to me. I managed to meet the deadline for the humanitarianism paper but had some issues with the formatting. I didn’t know how to send the completed essay to the right person in China, so I attached it to an email. I also asked when I would receive the payment for the first completed essay. I received a response that said they needed my Paypal information to pay me and that I needed to resend the essay in Microsoft Word because the client couldn’t open the file. So I sent the revised file and the requested information.

I didn’t have time to go to a park until Saturday afternoon. I took my son and he met a friend to play while I did my observation. Then I had to hurry back and write it up before my next class. I wasn’t quite finished with it on Saturday, so I had to come back to town on Sunday to work on it. The paper was rejected on the basis that I had spaced twice after periods instead of once. The administrator “fixed” the paper since it was dangerously close to the due date in China, it being in another time zone and all.

In the meantime, I was instructed to download the program DropBox, which I did. It’s a file sharing program. I saved my latest essay in the indicated folder, but as there were no guidelines to names, I had named it incorrectly. I was admonished that I must submit the papers appropriately or I would not longer be working for them.

I sent an email expressing my concerns about the time zone differences and mentioned that I hadn’t been paid for the sample paper yet. I was also starting to rethink this job. I had gone into it thinking I would be correcting already written papers, not writing the entire essay for the student.

I was assigned another paper. This one had a client generated outline that I was to follow. The information I received also included the course syllabus so that I could double check that I was meeting all the requirements, which I did. The topic was on the United States interference in East Asian conflicts. I wrote what was on the outline and added an additional 5 sources. I had it done a full day before it was due. I saved it correctly in the DropBox folder. I only spaced once after periods. The administrator wrote that I needed to add another 2 pages. I explained that I had included everything on the outline and added a considerable amount as well, besides which the course syllabus indicated that the paper should be 4-6 pages, not that it needed to be 6 pages. I rewrote the ending, adding a bit, but apparently, it wasn’t enough.

The next morning I received an email that I had been assigned an essay, however, it was the same essay I had completed. Then a message that the administrator had finished the essay. I checked the page where the money accumulated for finished jobs, and the money was there. Then I received another email saying that since the company had not heard from me, I would need to send my Paypal information to be paid for the work I had done. I sent the information again and minutes later I received a deposit to my Paypal account. However, it was only the total for 2 jobs, not the 4 I had done. So I tried to log back into my employee account, only to find myself denied. Guess that was their way of giving me the boot!

Well, I wasn’t going to get all bent out of shape over it. I received a little over $100 and happily spent every last cent.




Filed under Employment