Lessons Learned while Teaching English on-line

Can I have a Witness?!*

What makes this blog different (=hopefully more interesting, entertaining, and informative) than other English language learning sites is that in addition to sharing my considerable experience as an on-line teacher, I will include my Christian perspective and break-down* church lingo* (like in this section header*).

What the *?  

An asterisk will identify expressions that may be unfamiliar to English language learners and/or people unfamiliar with some “Christian” expressions . The definitions  for these words and phrases can be found by following the asterisk, or as I cleverly described it, by Following the Star!* (This is a “play on words” because it is reference to the Wise Men who followed the star to find the infant Jesus).


“Watch and Learn, People! Watch and Learn!”

The title of this paragraph is an expression used by my six year old grandson recently.  As he was pretending to be a police officer arresting a “bad guy” he shouted, “Watch and learn, people! Watch and learn!” Meaning we should watch him as he showed us how it was done. This page contains links to each of the posts on My Virtual English.  Hopefully, you can watch and learn from my successes as well as my failures!  Happy learning, Michele

      My Virtual English Posts

Click on the titles to read the articles

FEATURED VIDEO  Double Bubble Train Your Face   It’s a workout for your face!  Learn how to blow a double bubble and strengthen your face and tongue to improve your ability to make the sounds of English.

A, An, or The?…THAT is the Question  Michele MVE 02 Icon 80 Percent JPEG FEATURED VIDEO Lessons learned. For learning and teaching how to use a, an, or the (called articles in grammar). This article includes The Butterfly Story.

Are You Coming or Going? Lessons learned using coming versus going.

Body Language: Expressions Speak Louder Than Words  Lessons on body language, facial expressions, gestures, and cultural and gender differences in communication.

Comfort Food, Words, and Women These are lessons on expressions using  the word comfort.

Cursing: Using inappropriate words appropriately! Is it okay to swear?  This article will help you decide when and if it’s appropriate. This is a lesson learned regarding the importance of honest feedback.

Did I Forget to Mention…Ellipsis? This article explains ellipsis. What ellipsis is, how ellipsis is used and how understanding ellipsis will improve your English skills.

Especially Strange! These are lessons learned about using the word especially in English and suggests that there may be confusion between especially and specifically.

Frickin’ Fricatives  Lessons explaining fricatives and the importance of developing an English persona to make fricative sounds with confidence and power.

Just Peachy! A love story  Expressions using peach and peachy,  as well as my love story and my firsthand experience of how God takes us from the pits to a life that is peachy.

Let Me Qualify That! (Qualifying Statements) This lesson explains the phrase, “Let me qualify that statement” and explains how to qualify statements in a variety of ways.

Look! Watch out!  These are lessons about the difference between look, watch, and see. This article explains when to use each of these words.

Not Scary This Halloween post examining word pairs like scared/scary, frightened/frightening, and loved/loving is informative, not scary!

Rest Assured I’ll Reassure You  These are lessons about using assured versus reassured and the expressions, “Rest assured,” and “Let me assure you,” as well as a discussion about our relationship with God.

Say it isn’t So! This article introduces expressions using such and so, and explains how and when to use them.

Shoot! Expressions and uses of shoot, and shot

Talking Naturally about Nature  These are lessons learned while teaching about nature. It explains how to talk about nature and natural things naturally.  This article feature several photographs by the author paired with quotes about nature.

Take Your Lunch and Eat it Too!  We say eat lunch or dinner not take lunch or dinner. This article includes a slide show about the idiom, “have your cake and eat it too.”

The Art of Small Talk  Tips for making small talk and asking engaging questions.

The Challenge of Using Challenging  A lesson on how to use challenge, challenging, and challenged.

The Word? Word! How English and Christianity are related and what The Word, the word, words, and Word! all mean.

This is Confusing. Isn’t it? An explanation of how to use and answer tag questions, which are statements followed by a question.

To and Fro with To, For and From Michele MVE 02 Icon 80 Percent JPEG FEATURED VIDEO Lessons learned. For learning and teaching the differences and uses of to, for and from. Includes an original poem.

Tough Topics: Aging and Death First in the Tough Topics series.  Aging and Death is about Western cultural ideals and explains how to talk about aging and death.

We’ve Got to Stop Meeting Like This! These are lessons learned while talking about meeting people (for the first time and beyond) and formal meetings.

All content (unless otherwise identified) contained in this blog 
© 2015 Michele W. Snider. Do not re-post without permission. 
Header art by Guy Robert Wallace. This blog is powered by WordPress.

7 thoughts on “Lessons Learned while Teaching English on-line

  1. Hi, Michele

    I’m also a Skimatalk teacher and, alongside Skimatalk, I work with Spanish students through the online branch of a school called “Anglophone”, based in Almeria in the south of Spain. The combined income from these two, effectively part-time jobs, has thankfully enabled me to support my family over the past eighteen months or so.

    It can sometimes be quite stressful, however. Almost all of my Spanish students go on holiday during July/August and resume their classes in September. Regularly, I have 25 – 30 classes a week with my Spanish students. This week, I have five (just to offer some perspective). Consequently, during the summer I become much more dependent on Skimatalk.

    Skimatalk is scary, in the sense that nothing is secure or guaranteed. You don’t have a fixed monthly salary and you cannot force students to book sessions with you. All you can do is make yourself available and hope and pray that you will receive an adequate number of bookings. I joined towards the end of May, 2015. During August 2015, I think, I taught – literally – two sessions in the entire month!

    I never gave up, though, because I always felt that Skimatalk had potential. Two years later, I’ve now taught almost 2, 000 sessions. I have an average rating of 4.94 and, according to the stats, only eight other teachers have taught more sessions than me now. So, although I think it’s fair to say that I haven’t done badly, I still have this nagging feeling that I ought to have done a bit better.

    I first found out about Skimatalk, after seeing an advertisement on http://www.tefl.com
    That advertisement CLAIMED that the top teachers on Skimatalk could earn “in excess of $1, 000.00 a month”. Subsequently, the bar has been raised. An updated advertisement further claimed “in excess of $1, 500.00 a month.”

    Last month (July 2017) only five other teachers received more booked sessions than me and yet I earned a little over $800.00 – this year, so far, I average out at around $800.00 a month too. The money is certainly welcome and is appreciated but, despite my comparative success on the site, my earnings are still nowhere near the claimed $1, 500 or even $1, 000 a month.

    Michele, maybe you know better than me … firstly, is there actually an adequate amount/volume of students to enable the top teachers to work for Skimatalk full-time? Secondly, if so (although it would already appear as if I’m not doing too much wrong) would you care to share some thoughts about this, based on your own personal experience?

    In some ways, Skimatalk is almost an ideal job, but I’m not so sure if it even has the potential to become anything more than a bit of useful extra money on the side, so to speak.

    I’ve enjoyed teaching online over the past two years, but “time is money”. The trouble is; there’s no holiday pay. If you don’t teach, you don’t earn. It’s impossible for me to take a holiday and I even ended up in hospital once, partly due to sheer exhaustion, I suspect.

    I live in the Philippines (which is convenient for Asian-based students) but because of the 6/7 hour time difference between here and Spain, I regularly have to stay up until 01:00/02:00 a.m. in order to teach enough classes to make ends meet. My wife and I are considering our options since I don’t think my current lifestyle and way of working is sustainable. Previously, we lived and worked together in China for six years (my wife is also an English teacher) and we’re now seriously contemplating relocating to South Korea.

    We’re also both committed Christians, by the way. I’m currently redrafting an autobiographical testimony of my life, entitled “Testimony of a Madman”. My style of writing is classically British with a typically dry sense of humor, which might not always be the North American proverbial cup of tea, but you might be able to relate to some of it when I finally finish.

    Thanks so much for indulging my inane drivel, Michele. May God bless you and please accept the warmest of greetings from Baguio city, Philippines.



    1. Thank you for your message Jim. I am sorry for my late response. (I have neglected my blog this year to do some caregiving for family members) To answer your questions:
      1. Is there an adequate volume of students available? I don’t have any inside information as to the size of the pool of students. When I first started teaching on SkimaTalk I read through the tips which encouraged teachers to be available during Japan’s “prime time” from 7pm to 11pm and 7am to 9am. (I’m going by memory on these times). Japan is 16 hours ahead of me so 7pm is 3am Colorado, Mountain-time. I tried doing the late night, early morning thing a couple of times, but I quickly realized that for my health and marriage, I couldn’t keep those hours consistently.

      I decided to put up times that I would be able to commit to (which has really helped me establish a core group of faithful students who book my classes every week– sometimes several days a week). Additionally, I have prioritized my marriage and I don’t do classes after my husband gets home from work. I think this is a major reason God has blessed my work on SkimaTalk. – I have been making $1,500 or more a month consistently for the past two years. My classes are (in Japan-time): Monday through Saturday 9:30pm-12:30am, and Tuesday-Sunday through 6am- 9:30am (although twice a week I have to start my morning classes an hour later because of my family’s childcare needs).

      I may have a niche group – I truly have no idea of the size of the student pool (although I just acquired my 300th follower on SkimaTalk, but that number includes a couple of other teachers who are following me).

      Another thing that I did after I had been teaching awhile is I raised my rate to $10.50 (I was at $8 for quite awhile then went to $9). Above $9, your classes won’t be available to students who are a part of the “everyday English” program. – and I did loose some students when I raised my price. But think about the number of classes you have to do to earn $800. How many more would you have to do to earn $1,000? -now re-do the math increasing your rate by $1 or $1.50 It would also be important for you to find out how many of your students are on the “everyday English” plan before you change your rate.

      The other thing that I do to protect my family time is, I set a timer. I allow myself 10 minutes per assessment (occasionally it takes a bit longer with a new student), but I was sometimes spending more time on my student feedback than the session itself!

      May God bless your efforts to teach and help others and I pray that He provides richly for you and your family. Thanks for reaching out! Michele

  2. Hello Michelle,

    I came across your Blog while looking into Skimatalk. Your name pops up as the the best teacher in the rankings. Congratulations!

    I tried to teach on Skimatalk for a while but never managed to get much traction on the platform. I’m now teaching somewhere else that I won’t mention here, but they have a scheduling team that have made getting new students easier.

    I feel like I should rise up to the challenge again and I was wondering if you had a path to success that I may follow. It would be very generous of you if you could share some insights.

    Peace and Blessings,

    1. Hello Alex!
      I am happy to share my “pathway to success” on SkimaTalk. First of all, the number one consideration is sustainability. When I first began teaching I was working late into the night in order to match the active hours of most SkimaTalk students. But I quickly realized that I wasn’t able to commit to working until 9pm or later each day. So, I put up a schedule that I could sustain. I work the same 3 hours every morning and the same 2 1/2 hours every afternoon Monday through Saturday (Sunday is my day off). That works for me and I can plan and do other things outside of my “class time.”

      The second tip relates to the first: Get on the “featured teacher page” and stay there! How do you do that? I’m pretty sure their algorithm looks at three criteria: 1. your rating by students (you have to be at four stars or above), 2. your availability, and 3. your dependability (zero no-shows and very few cancellations). SkimaTalk now has a feature which allows you to put your availability up for two months. Take advantage of this and add your future availability daily in order to claim a spot on the front page.

      The other things I do are: 1. Take the job seriously. Dress for success! People will respond better and feel like they are getting a better service from you when you look and act professionally., 2. Make it memorable! I start smiling even before the student answers my call. The first image they have of me is positive and inviting and it sets a great tone for the session., 3. Keep individual notes for each student. I keep all my notes along with the student’s Skype ID and SkimaTalk student profile info. Most of my students are regulars- I establish a rapport with them immediately and can remember our conversations and important details about them by keeping my notes in front of me during our session.

      Lastly, offer a good value. Before I became a popular teacher, I would sometimes have what I called a “fire sale!” For example in honor of the Fourth of July I offered all my classes at just $4. This increased my experience level and boosted the number of sessions I was doing very quickly! – Some SkimaTalk students value quantity over quality however- so when you raise your rate they will book other teachers offering bargain prices. Offering a good value means going above and beyond too. I have accumulated a wealth of resources by looking for material to help my students. When I first started teaching sometimes the time to write my feedback took as long as (or longer than) the session itself -because I was looking up material to send them or to supplement future sessions. Currently, (remember my sustainability rule) I set a timer and spend no more than 10 minutes per assessment.

      Good luck to you! If you decide to give SkimaTalk another go, please follow me! As a follower you can see the messages I send every once in awhile. I share interesting English facts and tips (another way of adding value).

      I hope that helps! Thank you for your excellent question!, Michele

  3. (left the same message on a site called “elt-reourceful”, where I found a link to your own)

    One of the greatest problem in comprehension / expression for students of a foreign language is that they are often taught to speak as the grammar they learn and thus expect that native speakers will do the same.

    My spoken French (and my understanding of that language) only improved (or sounded more natural) after I learned the actual structures used when native speakers talk. They can be very different from the grammar I learned but, come to think of it, why should they not be ? It is the same in English and I suppose in any other language.

    So I should think language schools should put more emphasis on conversational language patterns to get the students to actually use the language they are being taught

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