When I finished teaching at kindergarten, something I had done for nearly 20 years, I found myself needing to replace the lost income.
I had assumed that I could get some private students, but living 5 kilometers from the nearest train station, and only being available on weekday mornings really limits the potential for that. So I looked online.
I was surprised to see how little the big companies pay tutors ($5 per 25 minute class), but I figured I better just jump in and get something started. I wasted a couple of weeks waiting for Cambly to reply (they never did) before applying to a company called Engoo, which turns out to be the international name for DMM Eikaiwa.
Registration and Training
Signing up was easy enough, and then I had to follow a few automated steps that tested my system and internet connection were compatible with their teaching platform. As soon as that was done, I had to answer a couple of English language questions on camera (retakes were possible) and then wait.
Within a day I was sent links to all the training materials and invited to an online training session which included giving a 15 minute demo lesson to a trainer. It was very straightforward, although I was a bit nervous. I simply followed the steps outlined in the training notes, had her repeat after me as I read a provided news article, and then explained a couple of words she pretended not to know.
When that was all done, I had to provide a photo and introduction video that students would see, and finally attend an orientation session to learn how to use the platform. Unfortunately for me, they hire so many tutors that all the orientation slots were booked. I decided to take the plunge and skip orientation altogether. It was optional, after all.
My Teaching Setup
I have my desk in the corner of the classroom facing the window to get some light on my face. I wheel my big whiteboard behind me to use as a clean background, and sit down with my old Mac Mini. I bought a cheap monitor, which is really just a screen that stands up in its case, just like a tablet. It’s easy to hide away before my real, in-person classes start in the evening. I also bought an AfterShokz OpenComm headset, which has been fantastic, although the audio quality can sound a bit fuzzy, probably because the sound goes through the bones in front of you ears. As for a webcam, it’s a Logitech HD Pro Webcam C920 that I’ve had for years.
What are the lessons like?
As I write this, I’ve taught 170 lessons on Engoo / DMM Eikaiwa. The vast majority of students have been from Japan, though I’ve had a few from Korea, Taiwan, Thailand, Turkey and India, too. The experience has been positive. All the lesson materials are provided and easy to follow so there’s no preparation required at all. Lessons start and finish on time, and the reports you have to write for each student are quick and easy to do in the 5 minutes between classes.
I’ve been surprised by how good most of the students are at English. When I think back to my days at ECC (last century!), we had to teach beginners through to advanced students. On DMM Eikaiwa, I assume the lower level students prefer to take lessons with Japanese English-speakers tutors, so us natives get the cream of the crop. That means I’ve had some great conversations, and those classes are very enjoyable.
It’s not all sunshine and rainbows, though. There are two types of lessons that make me want to hang up. One is the “surprise child” lesson where, without any warning whatsoever, it’s a child on the other end of the screen and they’ve selected a “Free Conversation” lesson. It’s okay with teenagers, but I’ve had this experience with girls as young as 5 years old. Given a heads up, I would prepare something, but out of the blue is such a shock. I no longer teach at weekends to avoid them.
The other problem lesson is when the student speaks too fast with an accent I’m not familiar with, and with a poor quality mic. I find those lessons very difficult indeed.
That said, those lessons are rare, and I’ve never had anyone be rude to me. It’s all just part of the job.
Is it worth it?
I typically teach four lessons every weekday morning, so that’s two hours a day. For that, I get ¥2,200 ($20USD). It adds up to over ¥40,000 a month, which doesn’t come close to what I was getting from the kindergarten, despite working double the hours. However, there are some positives to consider:
I get to work from home and it’s incredibly flexible. I usually turn on my computer at 9:30am, open some lesson slots for 10:30-12:30 and they’re filled within minutes. So long as I teach at least one class every 90 days, I can keep the job. There’s zero prep, which is a huge draw for me as lesson planning can be quite time-consuming. Finally, the students are motivated. They pay for daily lessons so are usually enthusiastic, and since so many of them are well-educated businesspeople, I find myself learning from them, too.
Would I recommend Engoo / DMM Eikaiwa? Yes, but only as a side-hustle. It fits well into any downtime you might have, and can be handy if you need a little extra cash at the end of the month.If you like, you can find me on Twitter at @nick_ramsay. I'd love to hear from you!