Wanna know what it’s really like to teach English online with iTutorGroup? Well, you’ve come to the right place.
I worked as an iTutorGroup (or TutorABC) “consultant” for 6 months at the beginning of this year. It was generally a positive experience, as I loved working at home and the flexibility that came with it.
But when I started, I had no idea what to expect. There wasn’t too much info online and my recruiter “Jerry” was a little unresponsive once he’d lured me into the iTutorGroup team.
I wondered, what’s the work actually like? Will I be earning the big bucks? Are the students going to be as adorable as I’d been led to believe? And, most importantly, how likely am I to get screwed over by this strange foreign company?
So I thought I’d share my own experiences here, for any other newbies who want to know what to expect from this unusual job.
To make it nice and simple, I’ve very kindly split my thoughts up into 5 pros and 5 cons of teaching with iTutorGroup. Let’s start with the positives.
1) The Money Is Good (Usually)
Ah, the most important part (for many of us). Yes, the money is pretty good.
This depends on your contract, but I earned £7 (~$9) per 25 minute lesson, which is £14 (~$18) an hour. This increased to £16 (~$20) an hour if I taught more than 50 classes in a month – which was easy to do as iTutorGroup was my “full time” job.
£16 an hour is great. Almost double what I would make in a normal minimum wage job. From working just 4 hours a day, I was taking home as much as I would make working 8 hours a day at Tescos. What could be better?
2) It’s Pretty Flexible
Yes, you’re expected to work on weekends. And yes, there’s only a select number of day-time hours you can work to be in tune with the Chinese peak times. But the crucial thing is you can choose your own hours. You can even work through the night if you really want to.
Being in the UK, the Chinese peak hours were actually quite practical. Especially if – like me – you’re only looking to teach for a few hours a day. I would usually teach from 8:30-13:30, with a nice hour break in the middle. Cushty.
It’s also super easy to book time off, unlike every other job I’ve had. Feeling unwell? Take the day off. Family wedding? Go ahead, book off a week. Going on holiday? Fine, take a whole month off (like I did). No problemo.
(There’s a bit of a conspiracy that booking time off makes you less likely to get your other slots booked up, but I don’t think this should stop anyone living their life to the fullest.)
3) It’s Rewarding
While some of the children (and adults) might bring you down, you will definitely teach plenty of lovely students with iTutorGroup. And you’ll have some really heart-warming experiences.
That moment when a struggling student finally remembers the name of that thing you use to draw a straight line. Or the time they perfect their pronunciation of the word “giraffe”. It’ll make your heart melt, and remind you that you’re actually making a difference to these kids.
You’ll also get some regular students who you can build up a real rapport with. I had about 5 students I’d teach on a regular basis and it was so lovely to get to know them properly. I’d always look forward to their classes, and it was great to see their English improve. That’s what it’s all about, right?
I’ll never forget you, Kitty and Xiaoqiao.
4) It’s Easy
OK, not everyone will find it easy. You do need to be confident and enthusiastic to get by here. But as jobs go, I found iTutorGroup pretty easy.
There’s very little prep required. All the slides are pre-made for you, many lessons give you precise teaching instructions, AND you’ll end up getting to know a lot of the lessons pretty well anyway.
Of course, you will want to look over the lessons in advance to get an idea about how you’ll induce conversation. Especially for 45 minute classes, which sometimes provide painfully few materials. But, this will never take more than a few minutes.
Teaching English – a language we already know like the back of our hands – in English. It’s certainly tiring, but it’s not rocket science.
5) Great Online Support Network
Working for a foreign, online company certainly has its drawbacks, including difficulties in contacting the organisation, sorting out problems and getting to know any fellow employees.
Thankfully, the iTutorGroup community has managed to overcome some of those issues with the creation of multiple Facebook groups that offer advice and support to fellow teachers.
Groups like iTutorGroup Teachers, TutorABC Consultants and iTutorGroup British and Irish Teachers, were a godsend when I had any questions about teaching, taxes, time off, or anything vaguely related to the job.
It was also great to have a space to discuss the best and the worst parts of the job with people who really understand where you’re coming from. These groups make teaching online feel a lot less lonely.
But, as with every job, there are plenty of reasons why teaching with iTutorGroup is NOT always fine and dandy. Brace yourselves!
1) Ratings System
Now this one’s a biggie.
After each lesson, the children (or adults) rate you out of 10. Even if they’re extremely young, they get the chance to write comments about you and choose your best and worst teaching traits. And sometimes it really hurts.
When you put your heart and soul into a lesson, working so hard to engage your student, and they rate you a 4, it makes you feel pretty crap. Especially if they leave a nasty comment about you, which I’ve seen countless times on the Facebook groups.
Even worse, for some odd reason in the iTutorGroup universe, anything less than a 10 is considered bad. Oh, you were rated a 9? You’d better spend the next 4 hours watching patronising training videos. You got a 7?! You might as well give up now.
Worst of all, one 6 year old’s grumpy response to what they consider a boring lesson can actually impact on how much we are paid. On some contracts, your pay for every lesson is awful unless they give you a 10. For me, that was only the case for 45 minute sessions – which I’ll discuss more later.
It’s a ridiculously flawed system that repeatedly cons brilliant teachers out of the money they deserve for their lessons.
Sort it out, iTutorGroup.
2) Hours Can Be Unreliable
The amount of lessons you get booked per week can vary hugely depending on the time of year, your selected hours and (if you believe in the conspiracy) how much time you book off. One week you might teach 100 classes, and the next only 10.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, you only get paid if you teach. So if you’re sick, busy, or unable to get your sessions booked, you’ll be earning less. Or even nothing.
If you’ve got bills to pay and mouths to feed, this can be super stressful because it’s completely out of your hands. Something to bear in mind if you’re looking for a regular, steady income.
3) Nightmare Kids
While there are definitely some lovely kids you’ll teach on iTutorGroup, there are also some – and there’s only one way to describe them – little shits.
Kids that wont reply, kids that are clearly playing games on their computers/iPads/phones, and kids that are just plain mean. You’ll hear about it all the time on the Facebook groups. And I’ve certainly had my fair share.
I’ve had tonnes of unenthusiastic, distracted students, including ones who leave nasty comments in the feedback.
One that really stands out to me was when I had a 45 minute session with a very low level 8-year-old, who said nothing for the entire class. Every lively question I asked was met with a silent glare. For 45 minutes! It was so painful for us both, but quite hilarious in hindsight.
My partner and fellow iTutorGroup teacher repeatedly got scheduled with a boy, “Panda”, who just plain hated him. He would ignore him throughout the lesson and write mean things to him in the comment box like “Next time you no my teacher”. And yet, despite my partner’s pleas to the schedulers, he would be back week on week. When he started to hang himself out of an open window (threatening to jump????) their classes together finally stopped.
So yeah, it’s a mixed bag.
4) The Money
Yep, the money is both a pro and a con of working for iTutorGroup. Confusing, hey?
As I mention earlier, the amount you’re paid can vary massively. Your hourly rate depends on which country you’re teaching from, whether or not you’re a native English speaker, and, most importantly, the contract you sign at the beginning. So there’s LOADS of different pay grades and conditions.
My pay was mostly very good. But, as with many people, it could be very unfair. I mostly taught regular 25 minute sessions with children, for that very tasty £7-a-class rate. But when I taught a 45 minute session (usually with adults), the “base rate” pay was just £6.92. Less than minimum wage in my country for an hour’s work.
This would increase massively if the participants in the class rated me highly. I could earn over £20 for one class, if all the students gave me 10s. But that’s a big if. You’ve already heard about how naff and unjust the ratings system can be.
I would dread seeing an adult class pop up on my schedule, as I would almost always make significantly less than I would from two 25 minute sessions. And adults are scary.
It’s also a pretty crap deal if they make you do “demo” classes with potential clients. But thankfully I never had to do that so I don’t know much about those struggles.
5) The Company Can Be A Bit Dodgy
Finally, here’s a little warning: iTutorGroup can be quite unfair. Wait, not unfair. Brutal.
I’ve heard of people being sacked immediately if they’ve been spotted drinking coffee or using their phone in a class, even if there’s no student present. Or if they’ve had internet connection issues more than a couple of times. Or, if their average rating slips below 9.
When I eventually quit iTutorGroup to start another job, I was so distrusting that I waited until I’d received my last chunk of pay before I handed in my notice – because I thought they might fabricate a reason to hold back the money.
If they did, what could I do? They’re based in China so I could hardly turn up to the office and kick up a fuss if I felt wronged.
My sceptical thoughts: the company has enough teachers on board to be able to sack/mistreat anyone they like with little consequence. It’s hardly a positive work environment when you feel like you could be fired at any time.
My only advice here is to be wary.
So, working for iTutorGroup: is it worth it or not?!
Contrary to all those negative things you’ve just read, I would say… yes. But not as a long-term, full-time thing.
iTutorGroup is great if you’re looking to make a bit of money in a largely satisfying way, with the flexibility to choose you own hours and work at home.
It’s not so great if you’re looking to work 8 hours a day for a steady income, and also sleep at normal, human hours. But hey, I’ve seen people pull that off with some success so who am I to judge?
Anyway, I hope this recollection of my iTG experience will be of some use to any teaching newbies. Or, at the very least, a little warning of what they’re getting themselves in for!