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The Art of Teaching English Online: Balancing Education and Internet Safety for Young Learners?

The art of English teaching online, like most jobs, is rooted in understanding what your responsibilities are. As an online teacher teaching young learners, this means knowing not only how to successfully deliver online English lessons but also being able to ensure their safety. 

While safety measures are in place in schools across the world, online teaching opens up an entirely new can of worms, including the effects of distance learning on students’ academic performance. So, what exactly can you do to achieve that balance between education, internet safety, and mitigating the potential impact of distance learning on students’ academic performance?


What is TEFL?
Answering this question is the first step toward mastering online teaching. A TEFL qualification allows professionals from all walks of life to teach English, regardless of their prior experience, age, or nationality. So long as you are a proficient English speaker, it can be an excellent opportunity to pursue a career in education and travel.   

There are numerous ways to go about getting qualified, with in-person and online courses. Course lengths also vary. This flexibility means that you can ultimately decide how to obtain your qualification. Check out The TEFL Org’s page, which is focused on other forms of what is tefl, to make a more informed decision.

Teaching Online
If you chose to complete your qualification online, you may have already jotted down some ideas on how to manage and teach lessons, inspired by the methods implemented by your tutors and peers. For teachers that undertook their courses in person, observing fellow teachers teaching online classes and discussing and sharing ideas is an excellent way to start developing your own approach. 

In addition to this, supplementary courses aimed at online teaching can make you the most competent you can be. Experienced tutors will teach you all of the tricks of the trade, as well as how to promote your online services. There’s nothing quite like a professional’s stamp of approval on your online English lesson plan to give you the confidence you need to succeed.

Online Platforms
While you may feel more limited in terms of what you can do to protect your students when teaching online, knowing the online platforms you use inside out is one way to guarantee the safety of young learners during online English lessons. Whether you use Zoom, Google Meet, or any other virtual meetings platforms, the various features at your disposal can either undermine or contribute to your lessons. 

Some examples of things to look out for when teaching on these platforms are who, and how people, can join your meeting, as well as how to remove unwanted participants that may have gotten ahold of the meeting information. You might also want to have restrictions on the messaging options available to prevent class disruptions or even potential online bullying.

Double-Check Resources
If you are using resources that you have sourced online or from other teachers, be sure to thoroughly check all of the activities and vocabulary for how age-appropriate it is. Regardless of how trustworthy the source is, there can be oversights, and failing to double-check before using that material in class can lead to avoidable blunders. 

A foolproof way to ensure that your lesson is suitable for young learners is to only use the material provided by the company or school you are working for. Alternatively, freelancers can prep their own lessons. It will mean putting in some extra hours that could have been saved by just downloading something online, however, that additional effort comes with the promise of peace of mind.

Use Your Lessons
As an educator, you will have the possibility to teach and guide young learners. So, why not confront the importance of internet safety through lessons centered on that topic? Not only will you be able to give your students the language in English to talk about internet safety but you’ll also get the opportunity to discuss their concerns and thoughts on the matter. 

These are lessons that you could prep and adjust for any level and recycle with future classes so that internet safety is always part of your online teaching curriculum. Bear in mind, that despite the seriousness of the topic, your material can still be fun. By using internet safety quizzes and other games you could create engaging lessons full of information that students will retain.

Establish Rules
There is no reason why you cannot establish online classroom rules with your students from the get-go. This will help young learners understand your expectations as a teacher and prevent bad online-learning habits from forming in the first place. 

A few ideas include speaking etiquette and using reaction features to raise hands for their turn to talk; avoiding the use of mobile phones completely during class or using them only when asked to complete certain activities; keeping their video on; and participating in online lessons in quiet, distraction-free spaces that won’t disrupt other students.

Stay Up To Date
Unlike other teaching roles, as an online English teacher, ensuring your young learner’s safety online also means staying up to date with the legislation related to internet safety in your country and the apps and websites that pique the interest of younger generations. 

By no means will you be expected to know the ins and outs of how to create TikToks, but being aware of what your students engage with outside of class may help you spot any issues regarding their safety online during your lessons. These are then things you can flag for their parents.

Parent-Teacher Meetings
Regardless of whether or not you’ve noticed any concerning behavior during class with your young learners, touching base now and then with their parents or guardians is another great way to guarantee their safety online. 

Alongside strategizing ways to keep their children safe online together, you can also pass on your observations, such as students seeming distracted, the misuse of devices, including their phones, or failure to turn on their cameras during the lesson. While it could just be that the child’s webcam is broken, passing on this information to parents makes their child’s education and internet safety a team effort. 

Overall, balancing online English teaching and internet safety for young learners does not have to be a daunting task. So long as you take the necessary steps to be as informed as possible and have your students’ safety at the heart of all of your lessons, you too can master the art of teaching online. 

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By Susan Barlow

Dr. Susan Barlow is retired from academia after teaching business administration, project management, and business writing courses for over 20 years.

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