A Day in the Life of an Online ESL Teacher

Coffee, so much coffee.

Image via Pexels

If like me, you spend large amounts of time on the internet and are constantly bombarded with ways to make money online, you’ve probably noticed that teaching English online is making its way on to the lists of options that have long been dominated by blogging, transcribing, and affiliate marketing.

Being the curious and perpetually broke millennial that I am, and armed with some minimal experience with kids (who knew I would ever put summer camp counselling back into my cover letter after high school?), a few months ago I decided to apply to a few companies and give it a shot. I ended up choosing to work with Palfish as I can run the software off my phone or iPad, as well as change my schedule on a daily basis.

Teaching online very quickly became the closest thing I have to a full-time job, although I’m classified as an independent contractor, and have the luxury of not really having a boss.

Here’s a snapshot of what my average day looks like


Struggle to get myself out of bed. Hope that my supply of cold brew is still full, and thank my past self for being awesome when I’ve managed to drag myself to the kitchen and pour myself a pint of this magical liquid that sustains me with plenty of cashew milk. Contemplate the wide variety of non-dairy milks currently available and wonder if I should switch. Take my gummy vitamins. Return to bed to sip cold coffee under many blankets.


Coffee has worked its magic. Force myself to leave to joy of my bed and workout. Working from home can make it really easy to be a totally sedentary human despite pretending the walk from my office to my kitchen is a long one. I either jump on the bike trainer in my living room or find something on YouTube. Getting out of the house for a workout is nice in the summer, but it’s currently winter in Canada so I would rather stay in my hibernation cave.


Remember that coffee does not count as a meal and raid my fridge for real food. Major advantage of working from home means I have time to actually cook if I’m so inclined. Hello tacos.

5pm – 8pm

Putter around the house, hang out with my husband, read, catch up on Netflix, basically live my best life. During the week the earliest I start teaching is midnight, so if I want to go out or see a movie that’s an option, but on Friday’s and Saturday’s it’s the weekend in China so I usually open up my schedule for my first class at 8pm my time, or 10am Beijing time.

8pm – 7am

I keep my home office ready to go at all times with props so I really don’t have to do prep work before I start teaching other than a quick glance at my iPad to check when my classes are scheduled and what I’m teaching.

I love working for Palfish because all my curriculum is provided in a fun interactive slide show, I just have to embody the spirt of Dora the Explorer and go for it. I take a few minutes to make sure I know what I’ll be teaching, but I don’t have to take time to create any of my own course materials.

Within the time period I open up for teaching I usually have some open slots on my schedule, so I use my few half hour breaks to browse the web, have a snack, and refill my coffee.

I like to stay in my workspace ready to go in case another teacher cancels their class or doesn’t show up as all teachers get a notification for last minute classes as they become available and they get snagged pretty quickly.

We’re not paid for any open periods, so snagging these last minute classes means more money for me at the end of the month, and has been a great way to pick up extra classes when I’m not booked with my regular students. It also helped me to get a lot of students fairly quickly.


Finish my last class and write up all my end of class reports. This can take anywhere from 5 minutes to half an hour depending on how many classes I’ve taught, and if I caught up on finishing reports during an open slot or not. I use my laptop to take very brief notes during class on anything a student struggled with, and any big improvements, reports only need a couple sentences so this shouldn’t take too long.


Back to bed for me, my husband is just in the process of snoozing his morning alarms. I get comfy, start falling asleep, and occasionally stay awake long enough to remember getting a kiss on the forehead before he has to leave for work.

For more information on HOW to become a teacher with Palfish, I have a full step by step guide here!

1 part girl boss, 1 part designer, 1 part writer, and 1 part depressed potato.

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