IQBar was my first foray into online teaching and my first professional experience of teaching. A year and a half has passed since I first signed up and a lot of lessons learnt! It can be a wild and crazy world out there online, but IQBar offers a safe and supportive space to develop yourself as a teacher. Here are four things I’ve learnt over this first year.

Don’t be shy to try out new ideas.

One of the best parts about working at IQBar is the way it provides extensive training and course materials, but with the intention that teachers shape it and make it their own. This means flexibility in how you teach, what tools you use and the time it takes to cover a topic. As each Bready (our lingo for students) develops and learns at a different pace, it means that we have the choice in how to teach them, and whether we cover one small part in great detail – such as the pronunciation of each vowel, or whether we cover a broader spectrum. The training and weekly seminars allows Buddies to bounce new ideas off each other and develop a grounding in the system, but at the end of the day you are in control of how you teach and how you pace it – as long as it’s not too fast!

Each month we introduce a new educational theory which teachers can put into practice. These theories offer the theoretical background into why certain practices work which I’ve found really useful in understanding the motives and actions of students.

An online team can be just as personal as working in an office.

One thing I’ve read time and time again is about how it can be lonely working online and from home. Whilst there have been times where I’ve felt a little lost in not having lots of people physically around me, one thing that IQBar has really tried to foster this year is a sense of community. The chat group online offers a constant network of people to talk to, and it’s likely that there will be someone who lives nearby you adding a sense of familiarity to the team. These past few months IQBar, having acknowledged that the initial chatgroup was getting large and certain people may feel reluctant or shy to speak in such a large network, have developed IQBar teams. These teams are more intimate and personal, making it a space where problems, queries or stories can be shared without a fear or judgement or unfamiliarity.

As communities have begun developing in different regions too, we’ve seen our first meet up organised by Buddies in South Africa. It was so nice to see everyone get together over a drink and make the online community more personal.

It’s one thing that IQBar really prides itself on, making sure that everyone feels listened to and that feedback is taken on board. Although everything is conducted through a screen, you get to know lots of familiar and friendly faces.

I’ve developed a passion for all things Chinese

A side-effect of teaching Chinese students is that I’ve partially gotten into the Chinese holiday calendar. Now, not only do I celebrate Christmas, Easter and New Year’s Eve, I also get to celebrate the Spring Festival, Chinese New Year, Tomb Sweeping Day and Mid-Autumn Festival with my students – it has made my calendar quite a busy one! I love hearing about what my students are up to throughout the year and what they’re eating. I’m determined to visit China one day to sample the dumplings and the moon cakes that my students so love. It has been a beautiful experience too, sharing the similarities and differences of our cultures, the myths and fairy stories, the role of the parent, and the amount of homework!

From working at IQBar I know:

  • What cities I want to visit
  • When is a good time of year to visit
  • What I should and shouldn’t eat
  • How to behave in China
  • How to say hello and goodbye

In this era of globalisation, these skills are arguably important to our everyday life and career development, no?

The students work so, so hard.

I know there is the old Asian stereotype that Asian students are hard-working and study all the time, and I will be the first to say that stereotypes are detrimental. But from my experience of my Breadies, so many of them put over 110% into the lesson. They are chatty, engaged and take on what you say and apply it instantly. Of course, sometimes you get students who are a little disengaged, sometimes the little ones get very sleepy if a session is in the evening China time, but over all it is a pleasure teaching Breadies who are so conscientious throughout the session. 

This also means that our sessions have to be fun, because our Breadies are put under so much pressure in other areas of their lives. There is no reason why learning English shouldn’t be fun as well as educational, so I definitely try to add in a number of games and make sure sessions are relevant to my Breadies’ lives as well as providing them stimulating activities. So many occasions, students have been grateful for the light nature of the class, and in turn put so much in to practicing pronunciation, remembering the entertaining new vocabulary, and running around during the session trying to find their favourite books, toys, or paintings.

The classroom and the content IQBar has actively promotes this, but there’s a big difference between just going through the material on the slides and having an inspiring lesson, so it’s down to you as a teacher to make sure that you take your student and their willingness to learn and combine it with your own drive to create, to develop a dynamic, fun, and memorable lesson.

So there you have it. If you would like to find out more about working at IQBar and what our working culture is like, you can visit our website iqbar.co.uk, or our Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/iqbar.co.uk  where many of us are found, interacting and sharing ideas.